Poonam, CEO and founder of myEssayReview, is publishing interviews of her recent successful students. This is the second in the series. Here is a chat with Balaji who was accepted into the part time Autumn program of the prestigious Booth in July, 2014.
Poonam: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What do you do now?
Balaji: Sure. I am originally from Hyderabad, India and that was where I completed my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. After my undergraduate degree, I moved to the US to pursue my Master’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. Currently, I work as a Project Manager for Morningstar, Inc. a leading investment research organization.
Poonam: When did you start thinking about MBA? Why now? What are your career goals?
Balaji: Initially, I wanted to pursue my MBA after completing my undergraduate degree. However, I decided to pursue my Master’s in Electrical Engineering instead. My interest for an MBA degree was rekindled after I joined Morningstar, Inc. in April 2012. I came across so many colleagues who had an MBA degree from some of the top business schools in Chicago. After speaking to several of them including the Director of Operations and Senior Vice President of the Software division, I decided that Booth was the best fit for me.
Within 2 years at the Morningstar, I progressed from a Quality Assurance Analyst to a Senior Quality Control Analyst to a Project Manager. In order to pursue my long-term goals of heading the Operations division, I felt having an MBA degree would be an added advantage, as it would provide me with the necessary skill set.
Poonam You applied only to Booth. Why Booth is your dream school? Why did you choose Booth? How is it the best school for you?
Balaji: I choose Booth School of Business because of many reasons. First, I live and work in Chicago. Second, Booth School of Business is a top-notch school and it was always my dream to pursue my MBA from one of the elite business schools. The flexible curriculum, the renowned faculty and the world-class education at Booth make it one of the top schools in the world. Also, my interactions with several of my colleagues at Morningstar reinforced my decision of applying to Booth School of Business.
Poonam: How challenging it is to manage school, full time job and family at the same time? Do you have any time management tips for the prospective students?
Balaji: Most of the part-time MBA students might say that with correct time management, one should be able to devote sufficient time to School, Work, and family. However, I disagree to an extent. While one needs to have diligent time management skills, at the same time, one might also end up sacrificing one aspect or the other. In my case, I had to sacrifice my social life to an extent. I don’t meet my friends on a regular basis. However, I made up for that by networking with a lot of Booth current students and also alumni. The one tip that I would like to give prospective students is (the Dean of Booth School of Business told us this during our orientation) to pay undivided attention to the thing you are doing or to the person you are with. If you are with your family, don’t think about school and vice versa.
Poonam Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it? How would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges?
Balaji: To me, the most challenging aspect of the school admission process was preparing for the GMAT. It had been a while since I completed my Master’s degree (~4 years) and to get back to the grind of studying for 3 hours every day was an uphill task. I made a strict schedule and had someone monitor me regularly to see if I was strictly adhering to the schedule. My advice is if you don’t think that you are confident of strictly adhering to the schedule, do not hesitate or feel ashamed to have someone monitor your schedules. We are all humans after all and do give into temptations.
Poonam: Do you have any admissions tips for applicants for Booth part time program( essays, résumé, recommendation letters, interview ) etc?
Balaji: Be cool, calm and focused while you are taking the GMAT. Plan well in advance such that you have enough time between your GMAT exam and the application process/deadlines. Devote at least 1-1.5 months in preparing for your admission essays and take professional help. Get your recommendation letters well in advance. Have 2 recommendation letters from Professional setting and at least 1 from social settings (extra curricular activities). This will add equal weightage to both your professional life and also extra curricular activities. Give mock interviews. If you know someone who is currently a Business school student or has already graduated, try having him or her interview you. This would help you ease in to the interview process.
In my case, I had only two weeks to submit my application to Booth after my GMAT. I chose myEssayReview because of excellent reviews and some of your students have had success with low GMAT score. You helped me refine my resume and essays in just two weeks’ time. Your suggestions on recommendation letters were also immensely helpful. I really appreciate your help and guidance without which this would not have happened also. It was a pleasant and refreshing experience working with you, Poonam.
Poonam Thanks so much, Balaji. The pleasure was all mine. What is your favorite thing about Booth so far? And if you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Balaji: The flexible curriculum and the wide range of networking events with both the Alumni and the current students make Booth School of Business very special to me. Given that I have just started, I am quite confident that I will have a lot many good things to say in the future.
Poonam What are your favorite non-school books? What are you hobbies?
Balaji: My favorite non-school books are Alchemist and The Kite Runner. I like to cook though I don’t do it quite often these daysJ
Poonam: Thank you, Balaji for sharing your story with us. Good luck on your Booth experience and your future career.
Note: You can connect with Balaji via https://www.linkedin.com/pub/balaji-ananthanpillai/4/ba7/937.