Posted on July 5, 2020

Kelley Part-time MBA Shares Hybrid Learning Experience and Advice

Introduction: Paramvir Sawhney, a former MER (myEssayReview) client, is working as a senior staff engineer at Stryker Corp. He graduated from Kelley part-time MBA program last year. In a candid conversation with Poonam, Paramvir explains how the Kelley MBA program was the best ‘fit’ for him.


In this video interview, Paramvir talks about the following:

  1. His background
  2. Career goals/ How Kelley (PT) MBA helped him achieve them
  3. His Favorite thing about Kelly (PT) MBA
  4. Format of Hybrid Program
  5. Application of classroom learning at work
  6. Participation in Extracurricular activities at Kelley
  7. Work-life- school balance
  8. His insights into hybrid learning amid COVID-19
  9. Interest and Hobbies

And now presenting Paramvir:

Poonam: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Congratulations on graduating from Kelley.

Paramvir: Thanks, it has been a long time coming. I can't believe the last time we connected was back in 2017, and time flies for sure.  Thanks for all the help. I appreciate it. I think I would not have been able to get in without your help. That's for sure.

Poonam: It was a pleasure to assist you with your application. Can you introduce yourself to our viewers? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your pre - Kelley job? What are you doing now?

Paramvir: I am Paramvir Sawhney. I grew up in India, in a city called Chandigarh, where I completed my undergrad in Biotechnology and came to the US to pursue my master's in biomedical engineering in 2007. Most of my experience has been in Medical Devices. I have been in various Senior Engineer and Project Management positions in medical devices over the years. I graduated from my MBA from Kelley Business School last year. Currently, I am working as a Senior Staff Engineer at Striker Carb. I am also a private pilot.

Poonam: It has been a year since you graduated. Are you happy with how your career has shaped up post MBA? How did Kelly MBA help you achieve your short-term goals?

Paramvir: Well, I see myself in a product leadership role, preferably in the medical device space in the future. I can say that Kelley Part-time MBA prepared me precisely for the short-term goals that I was looking for. Kelley has not only equipped me with hard skills and knowledge that I will need actually to navigate the business and the corporate landscape but also soft skills to build relationships and become a better negotiator in different aspects of life-professional and personal. To climb up the corporate ladder, one needs soft skills as well as hard skills and technical expertise. In that aspect, Kelley has helped me become a better leader and a better speaker, which helped me land a new job after I graduated from Kelley. I am thrilled with the program.

Poonam: Good to know that. What is your favorite thing about your program?

Paramvir: The best thing I liked about Kelley was that it was a part-time program. It was a combination of online and on-campus instruction. Online lectures were conducted using Zoom sessions where the professor and the attending cohort were present in live discussions. This format enhanced and encouraged live discussions among participants, and professors generally moderated them. These live discussions and the entire session were recorded and provided for later review. Since I was working full-time, it gave me the flexibility to attend classes in the evening and work, completing my assignments during the weekends. That was a significant part of the program for me. Since it is a part-time program, it gave me the flexibility to apply what I learned in the class in the evening to my job the very next day. It was almost like following the experiential learning modal. So, those were the aspects of the program that appealed to me, and I am glad that I was able to apply what I learned.

Poonam: Good. Kelley Part-time MBA is a hybrid program, a combination of online and on-campus teaching. I am curious to know how this works. Could you please throw some light on the hybrid format of the program?

Paramvir: Yes, the program is in a hybrid format with on-campus classes twice a week and twice online. Also, depending upon the courses, the Professors try to balance by having half of the course online and the other half on campus for face to face interaction. It is a kind of 50-50 mix for each course. Online lectures are conducted using Zoom sessions where the professor and the attending cohort are present in live discussions. This format enhances and encourages live discussions among participants, and professors generally moderate them. These live discussions and sessions are recorded and provided for later review. If you have multiple courses, there are also weekend events, corporate events that are separate from your core courses.

Poonam: Is there anything about the program that you would like to change?

Paramvir: I wish I could spend some more time there and could take a few more courses, but overall, it turned out to be a great experience.

Poonam: What did you wish you had known before you started, and what was a challenge?

Paramvir: I wish I had a little better time management skill before I started this program. Being in a part-time program and balancing a full-time job can become a bit of shock as one enters the program. Initially, you take core curriculum classes, which sets the tone for the rest of the program, so adjusting quickly in a new routine becomes very important to make the best out of your program. If you are not good at time management, it becomes challenging. These programs are very condensed and fast-paced.  The people that you meet in your cohort are very ambitious. So right from day 1, you must bring your A-game. Time management is one of the most vital skills that you will learn in an MBA because you have your professional life, your school life, and you also have a little bit of your social and family life. So that was one skill that I wished I had developed out of the gate. Apart from that, I learned quickly, did my course correction, and as I went through the program, I was fine. The other thing that you develop in a professional program like MBA is the habit of saying 'no;' it helps you prioritize things in your life. If you are not able to say 'no,' the things that matter can just fall off; it enables you to prioritize things in your life and teaches you better time management skills.

Poonam: So this is the advice you have for the incoming students who would aim for any part-time MBA program, specifically Kelley?

Paramvir: Absolutely. You must come with an expectation. You must temper your expectation. The hope is that you really will not have your social life for the duration of the program. It is just because of the workload of the program, and if you are also doing a full-time job, then it does not leave you much time. So, my advice is - have the right expectation, develop your time management skills, and make sure that you have an open mind to prioritize what is essential in your life. Opportunities are going to come your way, and you just must have a belief in yourself and take a plunge. You learn from your failures, and things will fall in place. That is the confidence you need to have.

Poonam: How well you were able to apply classroom learning to your work while pursuing your MBA?

Paramvir:  That is the beauty of the part-time program. Whatever you learn, you can translate that to your work-life right away. It is not only book learning. In my case, most of the projects that I completed as a part of my MBA related to developing a solution towards a work problem I was involved at that time. So, I could apply my new skills to the project I was involved in. It was a win-win situation for me. Secondly, all your batchmates and the cohorts are working professionals who bring in different perspectives from diverse industries and different corporate levels. So instead of just learning from books, you learn from others' experiences that give you many opportunities to think about the problem more broadly. One of the highlights of my MBA was an interview with the CEO of Ambu. It is during interactions such as those that one realizes the real value of an MBA as one can confidently and intelligently hold a conversation with accomplished leaders. Additionally, MBA gave me an understanding of how my role fits into the overall picture.

Poonam: As a part-time student, how often did you get opportunities to participate in any extracurricular activities (student clubs, organizations)?

Paramvir: Often, people think that if you are in a part-time program, you do not get many opportunities to socialize. But that is not true. It depends on how much you want to get involved with extracurricular opportunities. Again, prioritizing things is what you are challenged with.  I can give you an example of myself. Every Wednesday night, we had a class, and after the class, we had trivia nights and social activities of clubs. I was a part of a venture club, which had events every Thursday during lunchtime, so to be a part of that, I used to keep my schedule flexible at work. My involvement in the venture club allowed me to develop a professional network, which is essential to help you advance in your career. So, there are always opportunities available, and it just depends upon the individual if he/ she wants to get involved.

Poonam: Yes, some people are concerned that as part-time students, they will only be engaged in classroom learnings, and they will not be able to participate in any other activities. You have addressed those concerns.

Paramvir: Yes. If you talk to your Professors, there are always opportunities. You just have to seek out those.

Poonam: You pursued an MBA along with your full-time job and family responsibilities? What challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them? Can you share some advice regarding the work school-life balance?

Paramvir: Sure, as I have previously mentioned that time-management is the most critical skill one would need to master quickly to be successful. These programs are as demanding or maybe more as the full-time programs. One should be ready to give up any aspect of their social life while in the program, and they should be able to protect their time by saying 'no’ to a lot of things/events in their lives. It forces you to prioritize what is essential in your life. Additionally, it helps you become a better negotiator as you would need this skill with everyone, whether you negotiate with your boss for a salary or with your spouse forcing you to go to a social event. It also helps you become a better team-player among your cohort as you would be able to help people when they are in a crunch. Overall, I think it helps you develop into a better person.

Poonam: Given the chaos and uncertainty caused by COVID 19, the virtual format of education has gained more importance than ever. Since March, all educational institutions had to move to virtual classroom instruction and outside -of- class events. In the AIGAC virtual conference that I attended last month, representatives from European and US B- schools talked about phydigal environment- a hybrid world that combines both virtual and physical elements.

At Kelly, you went through a similar experience in the phydigal environment.  What insights you have to share regarding your experience with online learning? What advice you have for those incoming students who are considering deferrals or are just nervous about starting the fall semester in an online format.

Paramvir: I can understand the concern around online instruction. Initially, I also had reservations with online learning. But in hybrid classes, most of the lectures are recorded, and that gives you the luxury of learning at your own pace. You are not time-bound that you have to be in the class at a particular time while you are working full-time. So, that flexibility helps your time management and prepares you in a better way as you go through the hybrid part of the program.

In an online format, though you are missing out on the face-to-face interaction, these courses are structured in such a way that they foster a healthy discussion amongst the participants. The discussion part from which you learn the most is already present. The professors are getting creative in delivering these online classes. So, in my opinion, one should not be concerned about missing out on-campus learning. Moreover, in these exceptional times, when a lot of work, corporate structure, and organizational situations are also going to be moving online, we also have to think differently about the hybrid programs. The hybrid program prepares you to get into a new type of corporate world, where most of your work is possibly going to be on the laptop without being physically there. It will help future managers learn the skills to manage their workforce remotely.  The hybrid program equips the students with those skills. In this changing world, the skills need to be updated, and soft skills are much more important to pursue/promote your career. So I think people should not look at online learning as a negative thing; instead, they should look at it as something that will prepare them for the future workforce that they are going to enter. I found the hybrid format of learning very beneficial. It helped me give a little bit of freedom to balance things in my life.

Finally, the Hybrid program gives you much more face time with your cohort and builds a better relationship with them. You are not only dependent on-campus classes since you are interacting off-campus, too. So, it helps build those relationships much quicker.

Poonam: What are your interests/ hobbies? I know you are a private pilot. Would you like to share your experience with our viewers/ readers?

Paramvir: Sure. I am a private pilot. I have not flown for a very long time now. The last time I flew was after graduating because when you are in the program, you don't have time for anything except for studies and work. However, once I graduated, I had a ton of time on my hands, and since then, apart from getting a new job, I have dabbled in standup comedy routines and learned to play Ukulele.

Poonam: Is there anything you would like to share that I have not asked?

Paramvir: I think we covered everything in our discussion. The only thing I will say that an MBA is a big step for anyone so goes ahead with an open mind. Do not focus only on the hard skills. It will help, but an MBA will also help develop your personality. It will help you become a better person and a better leader. Apart from that, I would like to wish everyone the best of luck in their future endeavors and hope that programs prepare them to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Poonam: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am confident your insights will be a helpful resource for the incoming students who have concerns about remote learning in Fall. We wish you good luck and continued success in your career.

You can connect with Paramvir via LinkedIn

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Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped hundreds of applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

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