Poonam, founder and president of MER (myEssayReview), is publishing interviews of her successful students as well as first year and second year students. This is the latest in the series. Here is a chat with Saurav , a first-year student at UCLA FEMBA (Fully Employed MBA) program .
In a video interview with Poonam, Saurav shares his application experience, his amazing experiences at UCLA, reasons of his preference of UCLA over Kellogg, and offers valuable advice for the prospective applicants, regarding application process, campus life, work life school balance, GMAT score, and networking opportunities .
The transcript of Saurav’s video Interview is published in 2 parts. In this second and concluding part , Saurav talks about his goals, work- life- school balance, and importance of networking. He also offers advice to applicants with low GMAT .
Poonam: How has this program impacted your performance at work? Are you able to apply your class- room learning to work?
Saurav: Yes. In the first quarter, we learned about Data Analytics. I was already working on Data Analytics, but that was not the right way to do it. We had a brilliant visiting professor from University of Washington. who taught us data analytics. The amount of stuff I learned and the way I learned it, taught me the right technique of analyzing data. I could apply it immediately at work. Besides that, I am noticing very subtle changes in the way I function. I have now become more sorted, more organized than I was earlier. My work profile is not totally business oriented, but now I can now understand the reasoning behind some of the executive decisions being taken. I can analyze trends in the business-related news related in a much better way. Coming from non- business background, I had no idea how things work, but now if I am curious about a company, I can open their financial statements and understand few things which I would never have done before. We are learning finance this quarter, and I found myself calculating if I got the right rate on my car loan, and if I was making money or not. I am learning things that apply not only to my work but also in my life. This has made me a well- informed person, so when somebody uses financial terms in a meeting, I now understand them. For example, if collections team talks about AR, I know what AR is now. I might not have got a chance to apply them so far, but I understand things better now.
Poonam: You are growing constantly. Saurav, it must be really challenging for you to do MBA along with your full-time job and family commitments. How do you balance work, life, school, school’s work?
Saurav: I must say that my wife is a wonderful person with remarkable patience. I am not able to give her a lot of time. My advice is, if you are married and are planning a part-time MBA, you must talk to your wife to make sure you both are on the same page, because you will be going with your friends on Happy hour, you will be going away on the week-ends for class. If you have a kid or you are planning one, talk to your family about thoee things beforehand. You will not be able to call your parents regularly. I am not able to call my parents and in-laws, and I can’t be in regular touch with my friends. You have to give up a few things for a few years.
Talking of work life school balance, I have learned to stay disciplined. From Monday to Friday, I work 9 to 10 hours a day, come back home, and study. If I skip one day, then too much work gets piled up. I have learned that you can’t afford to procrastinate. You can’t think and plan; you just do it. I travel on Saturday early morning, attend school and return on Saturday evening. I sleep early on Friday night because I want to be fresh on Saturday for school. On Sunday, I don’t study much; I spend time with my wife, talk to my family. I think you need one day of down time, so you don’t get burnt out. The curriculum is manageable, but you must be extremely organized and disciplined and make sure that I stick to the schedule.
Poonam: Very true. What are your plans after graduation? Are your goals the same as they were last year when we were writing essays?
Saurav: My career goals are the same. I want to get into product management. I am thinking about other fields, though. B school gives you that chance to reevaluate your goals. I still have the same plans, but I am also looking at something else which will interest me. So that’s where the networking comes in to the picture. I am open to talking to people in networking events because the connections I will build and the people I will talk to, may guide me in a direction that is more exciting for me. Networking is the key if you are doing part-time MBA.
Poonam: Full time MBA students also emphasize the importance of networking .
Saurav: Why I stress it so much for part-time MBA program is because you are working full time, and after work, you go to school and that is the only time you can go to that networking event . The full time MBA students have some days dedicated to events when they can just go for that. Part-time MBA student do not have that luxury, so they need to be more cognizant of that and be very focused on it.
Poonam: Good that you have been able to go for networking events and are enjoying it . Saurav, is there anything that I haven’t asked, and you will like to share with the prospective applicants, specifically to part-time applicants to UCLA Anderson?
Saurav: Yes, Poonam. As you are aware, my GMAT score was in low 600s. I had that score for quite some time, and I didn’t apply first to many schools thinking I will never get in. And when I did apply, I was not confident of getting interview calls. I applied to four schools (Booth, Kellogg, UCLA, and Haas), and I got 50 percent hit rate. I received admit offers from 2 out of 4 schools. I would like to tell the prospective applicants that low GMAT score is not the end of the world. B schools take a holistic view of your application. When I interviewed at Kellogg, I felt that I had knocked that interview out of the park, and I knew I will get an admit offer from Kellogg, and I did. For UCLA, and this is something that I am not boasting, I submitted my application late, and I submitted in the last round. They had the last interview on-site interview round, and I couldn’t go for that. So, they did not interview me. But I still got an offer. When I tell people that I never got interviewed and I still got a call, they don’t believe me. My recommendations, I think, were amazing, because my VP and my boss wrote my recommendation letters. I am pretty sure they made the difference because I thought my essays were normal essays.
Poonam: Your essays were brilliant. You would not have gotten into two top programs if your essays were mediocre. Through essays, they want to know who you are, and your essays were a true reflection of who you are, and what you wanted to do.
Saurav: I am not talking from the perspective of the way they were packaged. I know you did a great job. But at that time, I felt that my story was just another story, and I didn’t have anything special to tell them, but after having gone through the process, I think differently. Now if somebody asks me, I tell them the same. I had posted my GMAT score at some of these forums online, and I keep getting questions from them- 'how did you get in these two schools with the low GMAT score?' I tell them not to stress so much about the GMAT score. Just focus on creating a strong application and ace the interview and you can make it happen.
To prospective applicants, I would advise that if you want to live in LA and experience LA, then UCLA is your school. It is an extremely social school that focuses on achieving student diversity. They are very big on initiatives related to, LGBT to. I am really impressed by the way they tackle different issues related to racism, LGBTQ, and how open they are in their views. It is a gorgeous campus, and part-time MBA program classes are conducted in the old university campus. When I go to the university every Saturday, I feel I am going to a big university.
Poonam: I am glad you are having an amazing time at the program.
Saurav: Yes. Thank you for the effort you put in; I was such a slacker. Thanks for making my essays look good.
Poonam: Thank you, Saurav, it was a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much for your time and your valuable inputs. I am confident that the prospective applicants will find your inputs highly useful. I hope your second year at UCLA is as exciting as your first year.
Saurav: Sure. Thanks to you for helping me make it happen.
Poonam: It was my pleasure. Thank you. Bye.
You may connect with Saurav via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/the-saurav-das/
Part 1 of Saurav’s Interview:
Background, preference for UCLA over Kellogg, the challenges faced during the application process, favorite aspects of the program and the learnings
Link to Video Interview with Saurav : https://youtu.be/7VpIFyG0U_M
For questions, email Poonam at firstname.lastname@example.org