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Suman Sourav | Foster School Of Business

Posted on October 17, 2017

Can you tell us something about your background?


Same as every 2-out-of-3 Indian student you talk to – engineering graduate – IT professional for 4 years!


But if I must go on: I chose to study Science in +2 so that I could justify my good marks from the 10th Marksheet. I am from a small town in Odisha with not many options to chose from once done with the 10th grade. So, my concerned parents(I am grateful to them for this decision) put me in a residential campus in Vizag, which I remember as an ‘Engineering Entrance Plantation’ – kids around me were growing up for those national level engineering entrance examinations. That was the time when I discovered that I was highly adaptable. So, I blended in and started preparing for the IIT, AIEEE and all other exams under the sun. Some attempts later, I was ready to be an engineer from National Institute of Technology, Rourkela and I was to specialize in Electronics and Instrumentation engineering. 


Like everyone else, I focused on scoring good GPAs, getting into student clubs, taking initiatives and building organization skills, social work, hanging out in professor’s cabins now and then. During my placement years, I had bagged two jobs already before being recruited by Sony India.


During my tenure in Sony, I had an important realization. If I did everything like everyone else, I would be like everyone else.(Sorry, I am a late bloomer, this idea never dawned on me earlier.) So, I put extra hours into innovation(working on software RnD stuff for possibly new features of Sony Bravia, Xperia.) I put an active interest in identifying problems and not just solving them. I started understanding the organizational goals and aligning my focus areas accordingly.


In short, I was doing more (or different – depends on the perspective) than I was asked, different from everyone else in the organization.


So, with a good mentor(my manager) I got into opportunities like building teams, mentoring other people, minimizing costs, streamlining project delivery processes, establishing relations with clients from PlayStation Tokyo and San Francisco.


Amidst all this, I developed a macro-view focused approach to do things, which, I was struggling to improve in my current role as a lead engineer. 



What was your motivation behind choosing a Master of Science in Information Systems(MsIS) course over an MBA?


Everyone suggested me to start thinking about getting an MBA. I did get close to getting into IIM(K, I and S) and failed. This led me to question my real interests and honestly answered the question “Is MBA required?”.


To figure that out, I took a short break from work, feeling burnt out and unable to juggle between the work I did and the work I would love to do for the rest of my life. 


I had identified that I liked the IT work: especially, the organized approach to problem-solving, building tangible outcomes from intangible ideas and the all-pervasive nature of the industry. I decided to look around for other roles in IT itself. As I read and read more, sought experts’ advice, talked to strangers in LinkedIn, students and friends, I got more and more excited about the buzz around ‘data’. 


I looked back at my work experience: the decision making, strategy, retrospection, improvement ideas, and even the client presentation. Organized data(or information) was important in all these. I wanted to be able to gather, extract, analyze and visualize relevant data and make sense of the more significant questions. 


If I may explain vaguely, I want to be someone who can use data and drive the focus of an organization.  So, I chose to pursue a Masters in Information Systems. 


Long story short: Why MsIS over MBA? – For my interests and career aspirations for the next five years or so, MsIS seemed a better and focused fit. Definitely, MBA is a more one solution-fits all kind of a thing, but I wanted a more focused area. 



How did you go about preparing for the GMAT & How did CrackVerbal help in your efforts?


I read about the GMAT exam pattern, blogs, tips for preparation from the internet to get some awareness.


Initially, the questions seemed OK. So, I jumped into writing a full-free mock test and score in the 500s. I talked to people about getting advice and realized that it took around 2-3 months of dedicated effort and regular practice to do well. 


To force myself into a timeline and a plan, I enrolled myself in CrackVerbal (heard from friends) and followed the instructions, materials, contributed to the CrackVerbal discussion forums, practiced OG’s, wrote 6-7 mock tests. I did falter from my original plan due to an onsite visit from work. I wish I utilized the guidance, materials and instructions from CrackVerbal more efficiently.



How was your experience with CrackVerbal?


I liked the medium sized (no.of students) classes at CrackVerbal. The instructors are excellent at not only what they teach but also bring to the table interesting insights and relevant examples from their life, work experiences (My favorites – Shrikant Sir and Arun Sir). Personally, I feel this makes the class more interesting. I was able to reschedule effortlessly the classes that I missed. I made use of the quiet atmosphere there in the test-taking room on weekdays.



Was there a particular reason why you chose Foster School of Business? 


In decreasing order of importance: 

1. Cost

2. Brand name of the university and Location(industries in the location)

3. Fit(the avg experience level of classmates, avg scores, diversity, industry engagement)

4. Rank of the course


Foster School of Business is a highly competitive B-School under the University of Washington. The program was within my budget and admitted people with good work experiences. Seattle is a growing tech area after the Bay Area and the university has strong bonds with big local brands like Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Microsoft – all headquarters within 30 mins drive radius. A lot of start-ups have sprung in the area making it great for career changers, experimenters and tech enthusiasts to try out their interests.


Many people from India do not know about this university primarily because there is no Ms in CS program here 🙂



How was the Foster School of Business interview?


It was a video interview unlike the typical MBA interviews with a live panel of interviewers. The questions asked were the usual behavioral questions (focused around the work ex) we can expect in B-School interviews(say: IIM or ISB)


Ex: (Not the exact questions, but similar)

1. Examples showing your leadership skills.

2. Some teamwork related question – A lot of focus is given on team work in the MsIS program.


Essays are critical. If it is easy to explain, may I say it takes an ISB level essay writing to get selected for the interview.



How is life at Foster School of Business so far?


I just spent 1 quarter here. MsIS is a 1-year masters program. So, it gets hectic. Amidst all the class hours, assignments, side projects, exams, I keep myself busy in other career related sessions(networking events, career information sessions, workshops from other programs). 


I have classes only for 3 days in a week, so I am working for some minimal hours in the university dining as a student assistant to help pay my rent, food and beer :). I spent my summer vacation with 2 hikes to Mount Rainier, attending the Seattle Sounders football game(oh, it’s a big thing around here in Seattle!) and a lively musical concert with theme-lighting(Guess the famous English band, it has a song named after a color!). 


I spend more time on and around campus but that depends on the individual. Seattle is a happening place with a lot of sponsored and co-paid options to go hiking, yummy food events, social work, random meet-ups etc.


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