12 June 2015 11:28:31 IST

The road to success is not a straight line

Vivek Jain says taking the unconventional path holds much promise and fulfillment

My career is a case in point on how not to build a traditional corporate career. In 7+ years of experience, I’ve worked in 4 different companies, never spent more than 2 years in any and never played a similar role.

I worked as a Key Account Manager in a mid-sized US-based Telecom company. My key accounts were MTNL and BSNL and my job was to help put together the commercial terms in our bid as we responded to RFPs and tenders. Post MBA, I worked with Deloitte Consulting, the largest private employer in the world. I was providing Strategic and Operational insights to top Telecom and Technology clients, living and working in the US and South-East Asia. Next stop: An e-commerce startup in India in the women’s beauty and lifestyle space. We were the largest player in this segment in 2011. I was managing the P&L for 5 business lines, generating about 70 per cent of the company’s business. That done, post the company’s successful exit to FashionAndYou.com, I joined Google. The domain – Digital Marketing. Now I lead a couple of verticals that help our sales teams in the US sell AdWords to the largest spenders.

Keep moving

Do you see a link? I don’t. Do I regret these moves? No way! I am a firm believer in keeping oneself challenged. I cannot imagine retiring in the company I started out with. Far from it. If I were meant to be that stable, I’d be a tree. I am not. We are not! Humans are the most advanced race for a reason. We explore, we move, we fail, we move till we succeed and then we need a new challenge so we move again!

I didn’t always think like this. I was a simple engineer with a great job till I got bored and an MBA happened. That changed my life. I wasn’t the topper at IIM-A, never intended to be one, probably wasn’t capable of becoming one. As one of the school toppers and an above-average engineer, life was virtually a cakewalk till I stood exposed, academically, in this swarm of the most brilliant minds of the country. It is very easy for people to give it all up and accept failure. My B-school however, had different ideas.

An MBA is not about being the topper. Sure, it is one way to embark on a stellar career with a firm footing, but there’s far more to an MBA programme. The most obvious advantages, especially of a premier school are the brand name and the network. But all of these things – academic scores, brand name and network only give you a slight edge.

Round peg in a square hole

A B-school makes you stay and work with people from all walks of life. In their 20s and early 30s, most people are beyond their formative age and thus, fairly opinionated in their ways. Working with them while holding your own as you move towards your goal could be like fitting a round peg in a square hole. But you have no choice, you need to make the magic work. You need to respect people and their time and work along despite limitations of all kinds.

Second, with the plethora of non-academic activities on campus, a B-school really makes you a self-driven leader. You are allowed to lead teams and committees. If you happen to be a placecommer, you are essentially driving the careers of hundreds of peers, seniors and juniors so you better be prepared for a thankless second year while others chill it out in Europe on exchange. But you know the best part? These experiences are what differentiate a man from a boy. Ask any placecommer and they’ll choose that job over Europe over and over and over!

Produce leaders, not parrots

So does my MBA help me in my current job? Yes and no. I rarely use the stuff I learnt at school. Bits and pieces are useful but realise this – the courses at a B-school are a compact version of PG courses in Finance, Strategy, Marketing and Operations. You cannot really achieve in 3-6 months what a PG course will teach over two years.

Having said that, my education was invaluable. My two years at IIM-A really changed me. I owe to it, in totality, my attitude towards life and work. Will I do an MBA again if given a chance – Yes, a resounding yes! The only suggestion I’d have for the curriculum designers is to de-stress acads and focus more on producing leaders, not parrots.

The writer, a business manager with Google, is an alumnus of IIM-A, 2010 batch