23 Mar 2017 20:17 IST

‘To those starting your career, give yourself time to learn’

And don’t switch jobs in haste. Patience is definitely a virtue

With a PG in Mathematics, Sarada started off her career teaching Maths. After about four years, she decided to take a break and pursue her MBA at IIM Ahmedabad. She has been with the Sanmar Group for the last 20 years, where she is responsible for human resources, industrial relations, the technical training institute and corporate services functions of the Group. Here’s her MBA story.

How did the MBA help you in your corporate life?

Considering I am a post-graduate in mathematics, the MBA provided me a basic grounding in management. The course at IIM Ahmedabad, of course, helped. Without an MBA, I would not have had any relevant qualification to enter the corporate world.

What are the key learnings from an MBA?

Learnings from the MBA programme are not necessarily appreciated while doing the course. Some are. But some learnings dawn on you much later.

In reflection, the key learnings are:

a) The importance of defining a problem, examining data from all angles, working on alternative solutions and choosing the optimal one.

b) The ability to present one’s thoughts succinctly (what can’t be said in one page, can’t be said at all!).

c) The ability and necessity to integrate data and connect the dots.

d) Defining a goal and working on moving towards it.

If you had to revisit your MBA, what would you have liked to see as part of the course?

Some exposure to soft skills, such as communication and inter-personal skills, being made compulsory. Ethics and values too should be made integral to the course.

What would you say are the chief ingredients of your career success?

I can only analyse in hindsight and assume the following have made a difference. They are (not necessarily in the order of importance):

a) Focus

b) Setting benchmarks higher than others’ expectations

c) Perseverance and pride in my ability (high self-esteem)

d) Communication skills

e) Wanting to be a good human being.

What have been your best and worst moments in corporate life?

It is very difficult to pick one. There have been several highs and lows in a career spanning three decades. Also, in the initial years, after a fall, it took some effort to sit up and later stand steady. With age (or maturity?), one learns to handle these lows better. In the worst moments, the important thing is to learn and not repeat what has happened.

In a very good moment, too, it is about not revelling in it for too long and allowing yourself to slip. The environment is so volatile that we cannot assume the high will sustain.

What is your advice to young MBAs who are joining the corporate sector?

I would ask them to take their time and understand the organisation and its expectations from you. Give yourself time to learn. Don’t be hasty to switch jobs. Patience is definitely a virtue — one that will stand you in good stead in the long term. Give of your best and love your job!

Are you happy with the way the MBA is structured / taught today?

I have not had an opportunity to study the different approaches, but I do realise that the best of them have changed with time.

Any advice on what young MBAs should read?

Seminal books or articles in their area of interest and biographies of leaders. Reading one financial daily is important too.

What do you do for inspiration and ideas?

There are some people who have inspired me since my childhood. Periodically, I take time to reflect on whether my thoughts and actions are aligned with their philosophies. Would they be proud of me?

On ideas — watch and learn. There are ideas one can pick up from different people and varied situations. Observing people has been a hobby of mine since childhood and this helps.

Generating ideas happens for me at absurd times of the day — including in my sleep!