2014 ISB Career Shifts Q&A with Mr. VK Menon

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2014 ISB Career Shifts Q&A with Mr. VK Menon

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Linda AbrahamLinda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted and the moderator of today's chat. First, I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today. I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about the Indian School of Business and the resources it provides for those interested in shifting their career focus. It is critical to your decision-making process and your admissions chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask Mr. V.K. Menon, the expert on the Indian School of Business and the senior director of placements at the ISB, your questions about ISB. Thanks to everyone for joining.

This is your chance to ask questions about the Indian School of Business and its career options. But I'm going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask the first question. Mr. Menon, what does ISB have or what does it do to support people interested in shifting their careers?

VK MenonVK Menon: Thanks Linda. Thank you for the introduction and welcome all of you to the webinar. What we've seen is that a large number of people who join the MBA program, they look towards choosing careers which they aspire for, which means that they want to change their focus. If you look at the percentage of people who achieve shift in their careers, it's close to about 70%. You can shift in three ways. You can shift your function, you can shift your industry, or you can shift your geography.

Functional shift is as you're shifting from a sales role into a finance role or something. The industry shift is that let's say you're working in pharma and you can get into work in telecom. And the geography shift is, let's say you're working in the US and you want to work in Europe or Singapore or India. So these three shifts are possible and if we take the last class which graduated, around 70% to 75% of the students shifted one of these domains.

So again, coming back and taking a look at the MBA program, the MBA program allows you to get multi-functional exposure. So most of the people who join into the program have been working across a single function and the India program gives you exposure to multiple functions. The PGP does that and post the program you can choose whichever area you are aligned to. From the school, there'll be a lot of support for you to do that. There is a learning and development team, as we call it. These are all functional specialists who will work with you. Right from the time you come in, they try to understand your aspirations and then they will - who do you want to attract which will take you through what you need to do, to get where you want to go.

That's a continuous process and you will be helped by the alumni who will be visiting the school. You'll be helped by industry speakers who come in and spend time with you. So there's an entire infrastructure geared towards helping you to change careers. Because the point is that changing a career is not an automatic process. Let's say you've got about five years of experiences in a particular domain. Let's say you're working in the IT field. You've got about five years and you want to move into let's say business development. So while the company, the recruiter, accepts your intellectual quotient and your present ability because you're from a premier business school, but still they would like to know why they should recruit you into a domain where you do not have experience.

So you've got to build that into your profile and that is what ISB helps you to do, by guiding you to take certain courses, certain projects and interacting with people and understanding the lay of the land in business development so that you can make the transition. So that is the overview of how career change happens and now I look forward to your questions and go deeper into this concept.

Linda Abraham: The first question, provided by Bhomik is, "Hello, sir. I want to shift from my current CRM consulting pre-sales role to a brand manager. I would love to know how ISB will assist with that kind of transformation. Thanks." Excellent question, thank you.

VK Menon: So you see, Bhomik wants to get into brand management. So when it comes to brand management, there are certain skill sets that this company looks at. The company looks at your overall ability to conceptualize, to position the product, to segment the market, to target the segment, to target the position and then how to reach out. How do you work with completion, how do you work with the markets, what are the trends of the markets? There's a whole lot of things you've got to understand while you take on a brand manager's role.

So what we do is that, say Bhomik joins the program so he connects with the learning and development team. The learning and development team has within it a marketing specialist. Now this person has been there, done that. I mean he understands brand management. He is from a premium business school. So it is his role to explain to you as to what are the steps you need to take so that you can make the transition properly, so that you may have to take certain electives which are very aligned. You may have to take certain projects or experience learning programs which are aligned to your goal. So there's a sequence of steps which you can follow. When it comes to submitting the resume to the recruiter, when it comes to the interview process, there also you get support from the career advancement services team. So overall, through the process you will be helped to put your best foot forward. The rest is of course up to you.

Linda Abraham: We're getting some very good questions here. The next one is from Rajat . He writes, "Hi, Mr. Menon. How has the changing business scenario, Indian as well as global, impacted the placement outlook?" I'm going to guess that certainly the Indian situation should be addressed.

VK Menon: This is interesting because - let us just get back and roll back over one year. As we started last year, last year also the industry environment both global and domestic was quite tight and we had increased that size from 560 to 770. So were expecting placements to be a tough game last year. Now contrary to what we expected, we had a phenomenal year in the placements that just got completed. Just to give you statistics, 420 companies came in for recruitment. The previous year we had 310, so 420 companies came in for recruitment making 830 offers across all functions.

Linda Abraham: Pardon me for interrupting you. How many students received these 800 offers?

VK Menon: All students. I mean all the students who participated in the program took at least one offer.

Linda Abraham: How many students are in the program?

VK Menon: Seven-hundred-seventy students joined the program of which 740 wanted to sit in placements. The other 30, they went back to their own - they had their own companies or they joined their family businesses and so on.

Linda Abraham: But clearly every student had at least one offer and some had more than one.

VK Menon: Yes, that's right. Every student had at least one offer and some had more than one. So the thing was that after these placements got over, we set up a small committee to figure out what went right. See often when things go wrong you set up committees to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. For us it was the other way around because equally when something goes right, you've got to figure out what was done correctly.

You know if you ask me, what really happens in an environment is premier business school recruitment is kind of insulated from the environment to a large degree, to a larger extent because even when there's an economic downturn, there is need for talent. Companies want talent. A lot of people might be losing their jobs, but still there is a lot of demand for premium talent. The company's view is that if we get premium talents, we can turn around, we can optimize, we can reduce costs, we can kind of give better value and so on. So that is what happened, so more companies came in. Companies didn't take large numbers but they took a small number than the previous year. But more companies were eager to come and do the premier program and take people and that is how the numbers went up.

If we come back to this year, as to how we are seeing the situation. If you're following the papers, the Indian economy, the emerging market economy, there is the Southeast Asian economy which has taken a hit over the last one or two months especially in terms of devaluation of currency and so on. But if you look at the recruitment pattern which has got to do with what is the scope of industry in that particular country, if you take India, the Indian economy per se in terms of supply and demand is quite strong in many areas and that's where the majority or the large numbers are going to come from.

So when we went back to industry over the last one or two weeks to assess the actual demand, we were surprised. We found that there is no dip in demand, whether it is consulting, whether it is technology, whether it is finance. The feedback was that, as far as hiring from ISB is concerned, there is no drop in demand. Yes, the investment banking and the PE sector is taking a hit because they are deals that are kind of few and far between so there is a hit on that. There's a lot of people available in the market there which means that the supply is overshadowing demand. But otherwise, the demand perspective from us in the Indian context is good.

If we look at the international context, there again you've got to realize that ISB is operating on a very kind of a niche turf. We are not looking at large numbers from a specific country. How many offers do we get from Singapore? Maybe about 15, 20. From US it may be about 10, 15. From Europe it may be about 20, 30. From the Middle East it might be about 20, 30. So totally we get about a hundred offers. That's what we expect from the international market. These hundred offers will come because at the end of the day these are all from specific companies. We've got a long history of association with ISB so I don’t see a drop happening. Overall, I do not see a direct impact of the fluctuating macroeconomic conditions on, if you want to call it the micro-performance of a particular business school.

Linda Abraham: The other thing too, just from my perspective because obviously the United States business schools were very much affected by the 2008, 2009 financial crisis. Europe was very much affected by the financial crisis that hit about a year or two later and that is that obviously we live in a cyclical economy. While you don’t want to ignore what's going on in the economy, given that you are applying now and you will attend in approximately a year and graduate in approximately two years, things change very dramatically in that period of time and trying to time the economy is just extraordinarily difficult. So if the value proposition is there, it's probably going to be there. I don’t want to say regardless of the economy, but maybe despite the economy with a little bit of flexibility on the applicant and the students' part.

The next comment is from Abhishek. "How much of an importance is business domain knowledge if someone wants to move from IT technical work to management consultant in IT and can a year at ISB help with that?" Good question, thank you. That's a very common kind of move in the MBA applicant world.

VK Menon: That's correct. What you're saying is right, Linda. See actually, this is perhaps the most common change that happens especially at the ISB. Look at it from the needs of the recruiter. Look at it from the consulting company. So what does the consulting company, the management consulting or the technology consulting company want? The consulting company would like to have people who are intellectually strong, who can perfectly analyze situations, who can bring in new ideas, put it on the table and discuss with the client, who can implement these ideas, who can present these ideas properly, who can communicate well. So these are all the traits which the consulting company is looking at.

Most consulting companies are not very domain specific. I mean the consulting company is not going to be looking at a specific - unless that company is operating in a specific domain, these companies are comfortable taking people from across various domains. So you come in with an IT background and you have the skills. You have the skills of analytical thinking or communication, analytical thinking, presenting solutions, thinking out of the box. If you have these skills then you are a good contender. Many of these are top-end, if you want to call it that, strategy consulting companies do look at how you performed in the program also. So if you have all these skills and if you worked hard during the program, you stand a very good chance of making it into these companies.

I might also add that these companies take a lot of pain to ensure that students are well prepared when they come to the interview. Practically, every weekend starting now actually, because now is the start of the process for the next year, every weekend, there would be senior people from all these companies coming in here, spending time over the weekend, over dinner, over breakfast, telling you how you should prepare, what you should do, what should your resume look like, how the interviews are going to be held, etcetera, so that when you go to the interview, you're pretty much prepared on the whole process. I mean the companies see to it that they don’t lose out on a good candidate. Remember that for the consulting company, the quality of the candidates they take is of paramount importance because that's the main assessment which they have to establish their supremacy in the market place.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you very much. We have a lot of very good questions coming in. Let me just get back to one I just read. "ISB has enough space for career shifts so how can an applicant be sure about his or her short-term goal during the admissions process prior to making the career shift at ISB if selected? On what basis does the applicant be evaluated in admission?" In other words, as I understand this question from Pavan. Is the realism of the short-term goal a factor in admissions, I think is what the question is here. How can an applicant assess whether the goal is realistic given an ISB education and their past work experience? Thank you.

VK Menon: I think it's a good question. Often there's a lot of myth around that question. Because when I read blogs and I read sites, I get the feel that the communication is going out to the prospective applicant. That the applicant needs to be dead certain about what he or she needs to do. But that view is likely erroneous because look at what happens once the person joins a very premium tight program like the ISB. So the person gets in. She's put into a small group of five people right on day one when the person joins. These five people work together and are graded together, which means each of them will have to pull weight otherwise the whole team gets stuck. They work in sections and they work in groups.

These groups are all engineered to be diverse so that each group will have say one technology guy, one finance guy, one army guy, maybe a doctor or something. So as you work in groups, you get diverse ideas and you're able to present various perspectives. That's how the program goes on. Since it's a large cohort, 770 students; 560 students Hyderabad and 210 students in Mohali, as you get to meet with more students, as you interact with faculty who is coming in from international business schools, as you interact with exchange students who are coming in, as you interact with administration and faculty at ISB, various view points are absorbed by you and that can actually make you shift your career while you are in the program. So I have seen many students who come in with A and gravitate to A and B or A and C during the program.

So as far as I see it, it is not mandatory for you to have a clear and cut-and-dried goal before entering, before admissions but having said that it is important that you do some sort of research and have your general direction in place. Because at the end of the day you don’t want to get disappointed with that program, so it’s good to have some sort of a general direction in place. It's good to meet some alumni, talk to people, talk to the school. In fact we have an entire counseling set up which is running everyday just for this. So you should clarify your questions, understand which are your likely options which you can go forward in and narrow down on that. After that, once you come in, there could be many changes happening. As I said, it can go to B. It can go to C.

Linda Abraham: Let's see. What else do we have here? Sachin asks, "How important is GMAT and is age a concern? In my case, I'm 30 years old, a software professional, having eight-plus years of experience. My purpose in doing an MBA is to continue in IT and manage programs as a portfolio manager and eventually start my own business. So will ISB help me achieve my short-term goal in IT and eventually start my own business not necessarily in IT?" This is a multi-faceted question.

VK Menon: This is easy for me as a placements director to handle. Because you see, on one end she doesn’t really want to change her career. She wants to be in IT for some more time. In such cases, it's extremely easy because look at the IT firms , the kind of companies that come in. Practically every company you can name would be in campus, whether it is Microsoft or Amazon or Facebook or Google. All those companies will be in campus.

Now if they find people who - she has eight years of experience and she wants to do the program and then get back to technology, companies will be more than happy to give her a fairly elevated role. Just to give you one data point, last year Amazon came in and took I think 26 product managers. That's a lot because product managers have very coveted roles. That's a very coveted role in IT and they took 26 product managers. So IT hiring for premier roles is extremely high. So for her, there is no question or any doubt on whether she will get a good jump on the role. I think that's a given.

Now the next part of the question is really interesting. She would like to start off on a role. First data point here is that over the last 10 years, as of the latest count, there are 330-odd companies which have been started and running as of now successfully. That's the score if you want on the success of entrepreneurs who have come to the MBA program. How this is achieved is that we have an infrastructure which supports entrepreneurship. There are schools which gives entrepreneurship as an elective which means you can take six courses in entrepreneurship and you can specialize in entrepreneurship. You can take specially-designed-entrepreneurship programs, which is over and above these courses. The Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship connects you with venture capitalists and so on.

But in her case she doesn’t want to get into entrepreneurship so that's okay. This can be done a bit later and you have an infrastructure which supports your enterprise all through. So as I see it, she does the program, gravitates into a job which she would like to do and then a couple of years down the line, she comes back to school in terms of - reconnects with the school and uses our connections to set up a business.

Linda Abraham: Okay, sounds good. Avanindra asks, "Placement scenario for healthcare, what roles can I expect after completion of one year PGP? I'm presently working as head of department dental services, dentist by occupation." That's a little different.

VK Menon: Again a good question. As you said Linda, I think the questions are quite interesting. Remember when it comes to placements, it's a real world. So in placements it's all to do with demand and supply. So one needs to analyze, what is the demand from the recruiter side and what is the supply from the business schools in a cohort against - ISB will be competing with a cohort of schools. It could be the Wharton's or the Kellog's or whatever globally and it could be a few schools in India, so that's the cohort.

Now, let us take a look at the demand side. Now he's a dentist and take a look at the demand side. The demand side, there are a various categories of organizations, industry and roles which are hungry for MBA talent. In this space, you have the pharmaceutical companies, you have the medical devices companies, and you have healthcare companies. All these are industry sectors which are hungry for talent. Then you have consulting companies who are operating in the medical space. All these people would, "I really like to have an MBA grad who has a grounding either in medicine or allied areas." Now even though this person's coming from a dental stream, the person is comfortable with medicine per se.

So the pharmaceutical companies would like to have you. They would like to have you in areas like creating strategy or for outreach or for business development and so on. You may have the healthcare guides, the healthcare change which are very, very fast growing set of organizations within India right now certainly for sure and for other emerging markets actually. So these healthcare organizations are looking for talent to manage their expanding chains. The consulting companies would like to have certain people who can actually deliver domain expertise. So doctors, to dentists, to healthcare professionals, to a pharmacy guy who is graduating, really has a very niche access to all these roles and can be away from competition because the people who do not have domain experience will find it more difficult to actually compete with such profiles. So it's a good profile to have in terms of the career which you want to make.

Linda Abraham: Sounds good. Let's go on to some other questions because we have a lot of good ones. "How effective is ISB's one-year program and this alumni network in assisting a candidate to have a successful career shift from IT consulting and product management to entrepreneurship?" And you kind if hinted at this in an earlier response but maybe you can address this a little bit more directly. Because the other question, she wanted to go into her own business later. This is from Anadiuty.

VK Menon: With entrepreneurship, okay. So I think pretty much if you go back to the last answer, so it's something like that. This person comes in. He's decided on entrepreneurship. The success rate as we discussed, we have about over the last 10 years, ISB has produced 230-odd entrepreneurs. The person wants to get into entrepreneurship. When he gets into the school, he goes through the core courses. There is no change there. He goes through the core courses along with all the other students. That is half the program, six months. After six months he has to choose electives. When he chooses electives, he can choose entrepreneurship as an elective stream and take a number of subjects on that.

And then, there's a center for entrepreneurship which will look at the business plan if you have any. If you don’t have a business plan they'll work with you to create a business plan for you. They will connect you with a venture capitalist but then after the connection you've got to sell your idea and they would also fund you for two years. It's called an EDI project which funds you for two years. Not a very extravagant funding but they will fund your board and lodging and they'd give you a specific per month monetary remuneration to take care of your project for two years. ISB provides you a safety net in the sense that at any point in time, you can come back into the placement process.

So with his profile, that is the IT product, consulting, etc., the number of startups as we know today in that space is so high, in the application space, in the tech space, in the product space is so high that I think he stands a reasonably good chance at making a product right during the program or after.

Linda Abraham: Wow. So you actually have like an incubator kind of program for your students and graduates, correct?

VK Menon: It's not an incubator per se but it's a - let's call it a limited incubator. It gives you two years of support.

Linda Abraham: That's pretty good. That starts while they're in school or after they graduate?

VK Menon: After they graduate. Two years after graduation.

Linda Abraham: That's fantastic. And I assume they have access or you facilitate meetings with venture capitalists, etcetera, and things like that right?

VK Menon: Yeah, that's very strongly organized because VCs, they come to campus, scouting for talent and really giving - in fact Linda, actually there's another thing and maybe not in context with this question but it's a new trend altogether. This year in placements, there were 42 companies which were VC-funded startups, mainly the US-based, VC-funded startups who took - 30 people joined them as co-founders, to business heads, to management of these companies. It's very interesting because these are all very strong startups and they're willing to bet on the ISB grads to lead their venture.

Linda Abraham: So it's almost like they're reaching out? In other words, American entrepreneurs are kind of reaching out to Indian entrepreneurs to partner with them specifically to ISB grads? Am I understanding you correctly?

VK Menon: Not necessarily American entrepreneurs. The venture capitalists come in from the US. I mean it's kind of VC funded from US, many of them. The people could be Indian guys or based in Silicon Valley. The management can be from anywhere and they want people who will join up at a co-founder level or like a business head level and take their industry forward, I mean that startup forward. It is so powerful that we gave it a new product name. They call it Startup First and that whole initiative really grew very quickly. This is the first time I was seeing such an interest from that community.

Linda Abraham: Wow, that is definitely news. That's great. Another question here from Abhishek. "Should someone prepare on certain aspects of skills or personality before starting his MBA which might help him in his post MBA experience" and I assume placement?

VK Menon: This is again a very good question and it's a question I'm kind of very passionate about because I feel that you really need to prepare now. I don’t think you need to wait for an MBA or an admission or during the program to look at improving skill sets. Now you see, the industry today has certain very clear demands and we just cannot overlook that. Demand for a good ability to communicate, demand for a good business understanding. So if in fact this question is asked, if you are looking in the Indian IT sector or if you're working in the US IT sector and if you're asked, what is the turnout of Infosys? You must have a ballpark idea. It does not necessarily that you know the right number or anything but you need to have a ballpark business idea.

So communication skills, presentation skills, business knowledge, that is at least reading the business part of the newspapers everyday, business knowledge, all these are prerequisites whether you get into a management program or not. And also the habit of reading, reading not necessarily books which are just domain oriented but books which are of different interests. It could be philosophy, it could be sports, it could be whatever. So these are all building blocks which definitely will help your career. Whether you go through a particular stream or otherwise, these are building blocks that will help and it's good to be on the block as soon as one can.

Linda Abraham: When I did my MBA, I remember when I started I basically was assigned the Wall Street Journal. It was considered required reading and I still subscribe to it and now I do because I enjoy it. I think whether it's the Economist or the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times or any really fine paper of international stature, I think that would be a really important element to kind of expanding your horizons and starting to see the world from a business perspective and not just from a technical perspective or from whatever perspective you've been looking at it, narrowly in your niche.

VK Menon: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Rohan asks, "What if I want to change industry being from a family business background?"

VK Menon: This is also another very interesting question because hidden in the question is another question. I am coming from a family business background. Will the companies kind of think that I may not stay with them? There are all kinds of fears which are there in the minds of people who are coming from that background. But what I have seen is, as far as the company is concerned, the company is looking for certain skill sets. That's number one. Number two is by and large, most companies these days promote an entrepreneurial culture. They want people who are risk takers, who can think differently, who can come up with solutions, who can take responsibility and move forward quickly in a flexible way. So all these are requirements.

Now what I have seen is, unless you are coming in from a family industry which is directly competing or something, which I haven't had many cases like that, but if you're coming from an industry, a family - a background where you have your own industry or your family has an industry, these recruiters are quite comfortable taking you because their assumption is that since you have your own industry or participated strongly in it, you will have this in-built characteristics, risk taking, responsible, flexible, move ahead fast, all these entrepreneurial characteristics which become very favorable. So I have seen a lot of people from family backgrounds get very nice roles.

Linda Abraham: We have a couple of questions. People asking about the energy industry, oil and gas, specifically, Abhishek asks, "What are the prospects of placement in global energy and energy consulting companies after pursuing the one-year PGP?" This individual is presently heading a maintenance department and an offshore oil and gas platform in the Indian offshore space.

VK Menon: First let's get the data and then we can analyze the data. Roughly about - I'm just putting a number here. I'm not exactly sure but I think it's about, 25 to 30 people get into the oil and gas energy sector. I think that's about the number which went in last time. There's a clutch of companies who come and recruit for energy. It could also be clean technology, clean energy and wind power, oil and gas. There's a spectrum. There are some global companies also who participate in that. BP comes for certain roles they use to recruit. You have some of these companies from the Asia-Pac sector which come in. So net, it's about 25 to 30 people who get into this sector and most of them get into downstream area which is distribution, sales, marketing, logistics kind of stuff so that's where they kind of move into.

Linda Abraham: We have I think a question that's on the mind of a lot of people here and I'd like your take on it. Bhomik asks, "I have another question. There is a notion that IT stream has the most applicants so there is a definite need for a higher GMAT score. Is that correct? And do classic goal and management consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey also consider GMAT score while finalizing their consultants?"

VK Menon: Interesting. Again, as you said Linda this is a common myth. To understand the myth or to understand why it's a myth, the aspirant needs to understand our process. Our process is like this. The application is submitted. Once the application is submitted, the entire docket which comes to about 30 to 40 pages is given to two independent people to read. When they read the application they're not required to have any peg or a particular point which they have to evaluate. So whether a person gets a 760 GMAT score or a 600 GMAT score, it is just one data point in the reading. The person reads the entire application, reads about the work, how he has performed in academics from class 12, to GMAT, to any of the terms they have taken, undergrad school, etcetera, reads about the work experience, how they progressed at work, what were the achievements at work, what kind of recommendations, what kind of essays he has written. Then on the basis of this reading, takes a call, just on yes, no, or maybe. That means call for interview, don’t call for interview or maybe. Now two people read the same docket. Once it's read, if it's yes, yes you are called for interview, no, no, you don’t call and if it's a maybe or a yes, no, it goes to the director admissions whether you should take a call.

Now the point I am trying to drive at is that it is not based on a single criteria at all. At best you can take it as three buckets; the analytical bucket, the leadership bucket and the personal bucket. The analytical bucket comprises your class 12 score, your undergrad score, your GMAT score, etc. Your leadership bucket comprises of what you have done at work, your progression at work, your achievements at work, your essays, your recommendations, your extracurricular activities, etc. And your personal bucket is at the interview level, how you performed at the interview, your communication, clarity of thinking, presentation, etc. So it's a combination of all these factors and these buckets are equally weighted in a way. So no factor plays a dominant role. However having said all of that, you can't be low, low, low on a bucket. You can't be low on class 12, low on undergrad and low on GMAT. If your class 12 and GMAT and your undergrad is low and you can't do much about it now, then you need to get a high GMAT score to establish your credentials that you can actually do the program well.

So the whole process is a qualitative, some quantitative assessment of the candidature and when it comes to recruitments, ISB has a grade nondisclosure policy. That means that no one from the school and not careers or anyone, in fact the career services department would not be knowing any grades of any student. It's a nondisclosure. The grades are only held by the academic services who has no connection with recruiters and the careers departments don’t know your scores. So you can choose to tell the company your scores but the school has a nondisclosure policy.

To an extent this question is valid because the companies that he mentioned, the McKinsey, the BCG, etcetera, places a fair amount of importance on academic performance. So you need to have certainly done well at ISB by and large. Unless you have some spectacular spike somewhere else, you need to have done fairly well at ISB and you need to have a fairly consistent track record in academics for such companies. But these are very few, out of 400 if you ask me it's about 10 or 15 max, not doing that.

Linda Abraham: Okay, sounds good. Let's look at some other questions here. Deepak asks, "What are the most offered functions in one, pharma and health industry, two in oil and energy and three, for engineering industry recruiters at ISB?" Pharma and healthcare is one. Oil and energy is two. Engineering is three.

VK Menon: The pharma and healthcare roles come in number one in terms of strategy in pharmaceutical companies, business development in pharmaceutical companies. In the healthcare space there is, profit center heads, as in administration. There is managing hospitals, managing hospital chains and also the consulting companies who are operating in the pharma space. So that's the pharma domain. In the energy domain, most of the roles which I have seen are bouncing roles which would deal with the supply chain, logistics, distribution, marketing and so on. In the manufacturing space, interestingly enough, most roles are in the optimization, to operations kind of space. Now this can take many other tasks. You can have for example optimizing the supply chain, the distribution networks, management and so on. You deal with these process management roles, project management roles. These are all the kinds of roles that happen in manufacturing.

Another caveat, in the manufacturing sector and that is very important is that again going back to consulting companies, there is a large demand stirring from consulting companies to take people who have specific experience in manufacturing because that's not a common to find - that actually is found in large numbers in MBA schools. So consulting companies look for people coming from a manufacturing background and wanting to - they would take them and put them onto projects which have manufacturing domain expertise.

Linda Abraham: Abhishek asks, "Is it true that in most cases the pay packages that companies offer to MBA grads are in some way proportional to how much they were earning before starting their MBA?"

VK Menon: Yes and no. There are two types of jobs that happen. Set one is a set of companies who offer a standard salary. All these premium consulting companies and much of these large companies who come in, they offer pretty much standardized packages which varies but varies very minimally in terms of the experience band maybe, but not based on the salary or the packages which the person was earning before coming into the program. The other kind of hires, and this happens especially at senior management levels, which is for example the person has got about 10 years of experience and you're joining a company at a lateral level, then it's almost like a negotiation that you would have outside an MBA program, where what you bring to the table, what you have earned, would be assessed before making an offer to you which is very much like a lateral job hunt situation which happens from outside.

So there are these two schools, school A which says, "We have these bands and we would place them straightaway so we don’t care where you came in from. We offer this." The other school which says, "We want to know where you came in from and we will give you a premium. Obviously we'll give you a much higher role but the salary will be commensurate to the role you do, plus we will also look at where you came from in terms of numbers."

Linda Abraham: Question from Taruneet. "I have often read about ISB students making career shifts after years of being in one position. How does the one-year program help students to make such dramatic career shifts? How does the school assist students in considering different choices?"

VK Menon: As we said at the start, around 70% of the guys shift their careers in some way. Either they shift their function or they shift their industry or their geography or they might shift two of them or they might shift all three. So that's about 70%, 80% of the people will do that.

The important thing is look at it from the eye of the recruiter. As we said in the previous question, the recruiter comes in. The recruiter says fine, you've got three, four years of experience in whichever domain you've been working in. We will give you credit that you have got to a premium MBA program. We will give you credit that you have done well in your undergrad. You kind of done well in the program too so we'll give you credit for all that. But now you should tell me why we should take you over somebody else we can get from the market who is coming from a similar experience background?

Now this is the question you have to answer when it comes to the interview. How ISB prepares you for that is again going back to the question which was asked some time back. Right from the time you join, you will be connected with learning - as we call learning and development experts. These are all people with vertical experience across verticals. That is sales and marketing, technology, finance, etc. and these people will handle and guide you through the process. They will tell you what you need to do to be able to answer that question which we discussed. They will connect you will alumni. They will connect you with industry leaders and experts. There are programs which are specifically designed for industry people to come and give you guidance. So this whole process is kind of orchestrated by the career advancement services group. So you are kind of in good hands.

Linda Abraham: Vaibhav asks, a follow-up question on your previous answer about salaries. Yes and no being connected to previous salaries, post PGP salaries. His question is, "What about someone who hasn’t been paid a lot with full-time voluntarily or for not-for-profits? Are they considered? Are they a disadvantage?"

VK Menon: Not at all. That's right. The industry understands and appreciates this kind of initiative which you've taken. So if you're coming in from a non-profit, it is kind of seen as a positive signal in a way on the sort of individual you are. You're kind of specific and you have taken positions which are out of the normal stream. So in a sense that's a good part. As I recall, people coming in from the non-profit sector, they really do not stand at any disadvantage while they get into the job market. In fact it is the other way around. They always are at an advantage. People would like to recruit such profiles.

Linda Abraham: Avanindra asks, "ISB helps a candidate to extract his ideas and provides a premium alumni, current and past, to help us achieve relevant positions in respective industry." I guess the question here, which is almost more of a statement is, "What role do alumni play in helping graduates get placements and get jobs?"

VK Menon: Alumni are obviously very critical in the entire scheme of things. There are two or three clear-cut interventions that they do. Number one is when it comes to preparations. While you are in the program, there will be alumni coming in giving you two kinds of inputs. One is input based on the industry and the other is input based on the roles. So these guys will come and spend time with you and they will take you through the finer points of what's best about this industry and what are the key success factors in a particular industry and what are the kind of things which you need to learn as you grow in a particular role. This is done in a standard basis. We have a particular product. We call it KTSA, Knowledge Transfer Sessions by Alumni. So they come and do that on a regular basis.

The second is that we have a system of mentorship. That means if you want to go into a particular area, you are assigned to a mentor alum and it's the mentor alum's role to guide you in that particular line of business. This is two. Three is that the alumni are the ones which support our CR or Corporate Relations team to reach to the right people in the industry, because our corporate relations management of industry is quite different from some of the other schools, because we act as consultants to industry because ours is a diverse group. Our experience level of our students is between two years to about 20 years of experience. So the corporate relations team needs to understand exactly what are the openings available in a particular company and what are the best profiles available in the class and match the two. So in this matching process, in this connecting the corporate relations into the company, the alumni play a very important part. These are the three things that are straightaway impacting placements and roles played by the alumni.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. I think we have time for maybe one more question. Let's see what we have here. You may have addressed this but it's a question that's very common so I'm going to pose it again. This is from Rahat. "Hello Mr. Menon. From someone who has had a tech support background for roughly 11 years," I guess in this case a tech support twist is not what we've dealt with, "with profiles varying in infrastructure support and core product support, high tech industry and banking industry, how would ISB help me make a career transition to product management with technology product companies like Microsoft, Google, etc. or into IT consulting?"

VK Menon: I think it's a simple and natural progression here. I don’t think there is any difficulty. He understands the environment. He understands the industry. He has got reasonable depth in the technology space. So the transition to product is - one of the skill sets you require, you require more dominant skill sets in understanding the markets, in going to work across markets and competition and so on. That skill set is what is provided by the ISB so as a company sees it, this profile is pretty good because 11 years of experience gives you depth. The ISB program gives you the tools required to manage a product management job and the product management jobs are quite plenty right now because it's an expanding market in that space. So I think it's a clear fit. I don’t see any problematic difficulties.

Linda Abraham: I don’t mean this in any kind of negative way. Do you see a support role as somehow a less desirable background in making a switch or do you feel that it still provides the expertise in a specific domain and with the ISB education, it will do what the applicant wants it to do?

VK Menon: It will because you see at 11 years of experience he's in a support role but even at the support role, he's operating very much at the customer sect. So his interface with the customer, his understanding of the customer and he has worked across multiple domains. He has worked in infrastructure. He has worked in banking. He has worked across multiple domains. So he's got some kind of domain expertise. He's got customer interface expertise and what he needs is the skill-set which is what ISB will give him which is how-to kind of things; how to manage markets, how to manage products, how to manage competition, how to manage price, how to manage value. That how-to will be provided by ISB so I think the fit is quite good.

Linda Abraham: Wonderful, thank you. Thank you all for participating today, special thanks to Mr. Menon for joining us. If you have additional questions for Mr. Menon, please email them to intladmissions@isb.edu.

We look forward to seeing you at future Q&A's and admission events. Coming up next, we have:

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Good luck with your applications.

Mr. Menon, thank you so much again. As usual you are very informative. Every word counts and I really want to thank you for joining us.

VK Menon: Linda, as usual you've been absolutely phenomenal. Thank you very, very much and good luck to all the people who attended the webinar. Thank you very much.

Linda Abraham: Thank you.

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