MBA is Not a Short-term Commitment Rather a Long-term Investment

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Pavan SathirajuName: Pavan Sathiraju
Graduation Year: 2015
Undergraduate Alma Mater: NIT Rourkela, India
Undergraduate Major: Metallurgy & Material Sciences


Pavan Sathiraju, an Ex management consultant from McKinsey, San Francisco office, is currently the Co-Founder of His firm provides free insights into foreign education through informational blogs and videos. 

Pavan has an MBA degree from INSEAD and Bachelors from NIT Rourkela, India.

What prompted you to do an MBA?

Even though I love solving engineering problems, my dream has always been to apply my learnings at an organizational level. My internships during undergrad exposed me to engineering verticals and made me realize that a formal education across all the organizational functions would help me build a firm business foundation. And MBA turned out to be the only logical choice.

Pre-business school, I volunteered to teach “Global Trade” to a diverse group of high school kids in Washington D.C. During the first two weeks, the importance and relevance of the topic did not resonate with the group. I had to change my approach and connect with the group personally so that they are not detached. The entire experience taught me the importance of crossing cultural barriers and being a strong leader to create impact. Hence, I opted for an international MBA where the learnings are cross-cultural with a higher emphasis on leadership development. 

Furthermore, I had the opportunity to interact with MBA graduates on several projects in my early days as a professional. These conversations made me realize the transformational impact an MBA could have on my personal and professional life. 

What were the steps involved in shortlisting your business school?

The first factor that I considered while shortlisting universities were the exit opportunities that schools offered. I was interested in management consulting as my immediate next step after MBA, so I focused on schools that are known to be consulting powerhouses. 

The second factor concerning my shortlisting was the location of the university. I never had any insights into European and Asian (outside India) markets and culture. So European & Asian MBA programs outside India were a top draw for me. 

The third and most important factor I considered was the personal fit. I had conversations with alumni, attended university fairs, and did a lot of internet research to understand the important aspects of the MBA programs outside the classroom. Insights on “Class size”, “Strength of alumni network”, and “Life outside the classroom” helped me assess the fit. 

Importance of GMAT exam in the application cycle and how did you prepare for it?

International MBA schools use GMAT primarily to evaluate an applicant’s academic capabilities. Prepare for the exam in the best way possible. A good GMAT score can also potentially compensate for a low undergrad GPA if that is the case.  

I prepared for GMAT after starting my professional career. Taking time out for GMAT preparation along with work schedule was a herculean task. I had to follow a structured approach to optimize the limited time I had for preparation.

I started with the official practice test and spend a good few days reflecting on my test results. More than the practice test scores (which were very low), I focused on identifying the areas where I had to spend time improving. And started spending 2-3 hours on a daily basis for my preparation.

I was never too stressed about my preparation or my practice test scores as I knew that I could always take GMAT second time if I am not satisfied with my scores. 

My advice to test takers: Give your best shot, but don’t be obsessed about it. If you believe that you can improve your GMAT, then take the required time, prepare and give it another shot.

Tips and advice for a prospective candidate

I attempted to get into the top MBA program in India but failed. After 3 failed attempts, I ended my obsession with MBA and moved to the US for work. However, I quickly realized that there are better universities such as Harvard, Stanford, INSEAD, and LBS around the world. And unfortunately, not many MBA aspirants from India consider these options. 

My sincere advice to MBA aspirants is to never lose hope. Rather, expand your purview and consider all the options including an international MBA. Don’t worry about the cost of an international MBA program right from the start. Once you start researching, you will find merit scholarships, educational loans, and other financing options.

I would also add that MBA aspirants should focus on doing something unique. Writing a book, building/assisting a startup, or maintaining a blog are some examples. This will go a long way and helps in standing out from the group. MBA is not a short-term commitment rather a long-term investment.

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