Author: bitspankaj

Learnings from Q1 @ b-school

I wrapped up first quarter at Kellogg and thought of sharing key lessons from the time here so far. While a lot of stuff mentioned would be biased by my personality and approach, I have tried to keep the filtering to a minimum and offer a framework for any incoming student to use to shape his/her own time at b-school.

There are usually three parts to the b-school experience – academics, social and recruiting. I have put the first two under the bucket “Experience” and classified “Recruitment” separately for reasons explained below.

1. Experience

Given the sheer number of things to take up in a compressed timeline of 2 years, your own definition of what you want out of management education can help get the most out of your experience. Whether you want to focus on academics, meet diverse set of people, get experiential learning (leadership roles, case competition etc.), learn about a completely new field, its up to you. But as with any choices you make in life, this also comes with opportunity costs and being intentional about those choices gives the maximum runway for the efforts put in. I have come across people who wanted to learn things outside their comfort zone or learn from diverse people and didn’t put too much emphasis on academics. They ended up getting their money’s worth primarily because they were clear about what they were seeking.


Personally, I came to Kellogg with the intention of utilizing the academics offerings as much as possible. This is partly influenced by the fact that I didn’t do a good job of it during my undergrad. I was directionless and wasn’t sure what I was trying to achieve. Also, my work experience in young and high growth startups established the significance of learning in academic setting as it always makes for a good starting point.

In my first quarter, outside of core courses, I ended up taking an intense finance course without having any background in finance. And while I struggled with it and had to overcompensate for lack of my knowledge by putting extra time, the delta between my understanding of the field before and after is highest for the course. I didn’t ace the course but that was never the point as my expectation on this front is purely on the learning part of it.


The spectrum of approaches of handling the social aspect of the experience is quite wide as well. Between your section, KWESTies, country/region specific groups etc. the frequency of social interactions is quite high especially in the first half of quarter. I am not a big fan of large-group social outings; for me it is as impersonal it gets. I abide by a simple rule on this: >15 people going to a bar? I am out!

Rather, I value one-on-one/small group settings where there is opportunity for meaningful conversations. Taking cue from an acquaintance who graduated from Kellogg recently, I scheduled 1-2 coffee conversations every week with interesting folks I came across through various avenues. A lot of such conversations resulted in one-off interactions while a few resulted in collaboration for study-prep, recruiting interview group etc. and helped develop meaningful relationships. Additionally, I organized/participated in lots of small group dinners that enriched social experience through some interesting discussions. I intend to continue doing these for the rest of the time here.

Moreover, it is very common to go down the hole of attempting to build social likability in a high caliber environment like this. In my mind that is a fool’s errand and doesn’t have any benefits in the long run. I don’t have a lot to say on it but that you have my sincerest wishes if this is your goal at b-school.

2. Recruiting

While recruiting is a key part of the experience along with academics and social, but in my mind it makes for a separate section because of the nuances attached to the whole process. If you are here you will certainly get a job/internship, though the approach you take can impact the outcomes significantly.

The 2-year program offers more flexibility if you haven’t completely figured out what you want to do. You can try an industry/role in summer and can re-recruit in second year if that doesn’t work. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have any direction or starting point in the process. It is OK to be in a situation where you are indecisive between 2-3 things and want to evaluate more closely before making the final choice. The summer intern or an experiential project can help figure that out. But you need to have those 2-3 things shortlisted, no resources would be able to help if you are figuring out between 10 things out there. It is common to come across people who are struggling with identifying the opportunities that they should go after and end up taking a “throw-everything-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks” approach. I think that compromises the outcomes for you in both short and long-term.

My approach to solving for this was taking as much primary inputs as possible to make an informed decision. During the summer before Kellogg I reached out to 50+ people across the roles and industries that I found interesting. One can underestimate how powerful this can be; if you are specific and genuine with your request people are more than happy to help. My success rate was around ~60% (might be a bit skewed as a large chunk of people that I wrote to are Kellogg alums) and that included getting positive responses from people at senior positions across marquee companies.

Specific conversations around the industry, requirement, impact and growth of the role provided high-quality primary data and insights. That helped shortlist 10-12 roles that I am going after for on-campus recruiting. It is possible that I don’t end up getting offers from any of those, but given the clearly defined role and industry target, I can pick pace on the off-campus search for the internship.


One thing that I would highly recommend to anyone going for an MBA is to be clear about what you are seeking from the experience. During b-school, you need to take critical decisions quickly (recruiting does hit you before you think) and the outcomes attached are a function of how clear are you about taking those. While clarity helps in general in life but it becomes all the more critical in b-school when you have invested 2-years and upwards of $200K (not counting the opportunity costs).


I guess those were too many abbreviations for the blog title. But then that’s what I have lived through over the last one month.


In case it weren’t obvious in my last post, I was pretty excited for going to Costa Rica and Panama with a bunch of KWESTIES. And I must say the whole of the KWEST week over-delivered on my expectations, and by a huge margin!

We (25 of us including 5 trip leaders from 2nd year) spent 4 days in Costa Rica and 2 in Panama and did a bunch of interesting activities including zip-lining, getting drunk in hot-springs, trail around a volcano, more getting drunk in hot-springs, visit Panama Canal and did I say getting drunk in hot-springs.

The highlight for me though was “The Big Reveal”. Across all of the KWEST groups, we were asked to not share anything about us (country of origin, work-experience, relationship status etc.) but the first name with the rest of the folks. So for the first few days of the trip, you couldn’t figure out whether somebody is a student or a JV – (Joint Venture – partner of the Kellogg student  can come on the trip as well), what did they do before etc. During “The Big Reveal”, people form small groups to write down all those aspects of each person. And everybody was in for some surprises when the truth came out; it was a nice way of realizing how often we end up creating biases which are more often than not too far from the truth.

If you are coming to Kellogg, I would highly recommend to go for KWEST. You will get some life long friends, I know that I did.


Right after KWEST, we kicked off our CIM (Complete Immersion in Management) week that involved a bunch of activities with your section (Go Bullfrogs!), some fantastic keynotes highlighting Kellogg’s ideologies to prepare brave leaders for tomorrow and sessions (such as Case Method) to help transition into the way of learning to be expected for next 2 years. Overall it was a great week to bond with your section-mates, learn nuances about aspects that businesses should pay attention to now, and condition the mind for what looks like intense 2 years.


In parallel with CIM we took two pre-term classes: Leadership in Organizations (MORS) and Business Analytics (DECS). Pre-term runs for 2 weeks and both courses cover topics which would help you make the most out of Kellogg experience from learning point of view – both academic as well as club/social opportunities. It made for a good simulation before moving full time back into the student life during fall quarter!

Fall Quarter

They said b-school gets hectic pretty soon and I didn’t realize that before fall quarter started! I am taking four courses this quarter and between assignments, group-work, readings etc, two weeks just went by before I had time to take a step back and think deeper about the way I should approach this madness and make the most out of it. I am experimenting with a couple of things here to better manage acads + social + recruiting commitments and will post more detail as I go along.

This weekend, we celebrated Drag TG as a conclusion to Pride@Kellogg week showing our support to the LGBT community at the school and beyond. Drag TG is the most popular TG event at Kellogg and brings together the sections once again. Each section prepares a performance with guys dressed as girls and girls dressed as guys; and yours truly contributed to it as well. There are enough pictures from the event to compromise careers even before they started, I will anyway leave one of mine here.

Also, I have gotten involved with Kellogg On Growth for this year’s conference. This forum was something I was genuinely excited about much before coming here and glad that I got a chance to play a role. I will write more as this goes further.

More later.

Heaven + Evanston = Heavanston.

I am in Evanston already and I hope this is the longest break between two posts this blog will ever see. In my defense, I was busy wrapping up a bunch of stuff before I had to fly to Evanston earlier this week. Over the last few weeks, I

  • Wrapped up my work and bid goodbye to my amazing colleagues
  • Took a short trip with the wife thinking that it will make the away time a bit easier (it hasn’t so far)
  • Spent time with my parents who flew to Bangalore to see me off
  • Met some close friends who have been around through thick and thin

I took the flight from Bangalore on Sunday evening and, after 2 layovers and 30 hours later (with 15 hours on a seat with a broken reclining mechanism and no other free seats), landed in Chicago on 14th morning. I checked into my apartment in Orrington Avenue in Evanston which is a short drive from Chicago O’Hare Airport.

The apartment building is run by Northwestern University and is only for Kellogg students. It was built in 1980s through a gift from James McManus’56 and is quite functional (but not necessarily the most contemporary one)

McManus Living Center – Home for over 250+ Kellogg students

Over the last few days, I set up my apartment, took a local phone number and got the bank account sorted. Thankfully, the apartment building is located at the city center and pretty much everything in within 10 mins walk.

Also, I had ordered my laptop a few weeks backs and got it delivered to a friend who was already here. In total, there were no issues in settling in (apart from a terrible case of jet lag because of no sleep in a non-reclining seat, thanks Etihad!)

So far, I have had the chance to interact with only a few students as the majority of the class has yet to reach. I reckon I will be meeting a lot of them during the mandatory check-in on 18th August.

First Impressions

I walked a lot around the campus and the one thing that you realize immediately is – that it is gorgeous! The architecture is a mix of some quaint as well ultra-modern contemporary buildings and it all comes together well.

NU purple!

Global Hub – Kellogg’s new home

I have shared a bunch of photos on Instagram, you can check them out here.

People I have come across so far are really nice! Whether its the folks at the bank who helped set up the account, or the staff at the restaurants, everybody has been quite welcoming (with my confusion in figuring out stuff it didn’t take them long to figure out that I am new here!).

And of course the weather is at its best as well. I have been told by people (with fear and remorse in their eyes) that it will go to the other extreme quite soon and that I should enjoy this time while it lasts.

What’s next

So, I am fully set and functional now and can’t wait for the things to get started. As the next step, we have to spend the whole day on 18th August at Global Hub for mandatory check-in where we will be issued our name tags, lockers and get our professional head shots taken for the student directory. The international students need to check-in with the International Office to get some paperwork done.

In the evening, there is a welcome picnic scheduled for the incoming students as well their spouses to meet and get to know their class.

Later in night, I am meeting my KWEST (more about it here) buddies for drinks and dinner before we fly off to our KWEST destination on 19th early morning.

Where am I going, you ask?


Everybody has agreed that this is going to be the best KWEST trip of this year (OK, I might have made some assumptions there but you get the point). I am sharing a video that highlights the trip from the last year and if that’s any reference, the trip is going to be EPIC!

More later.


Hello world!

In January this year, I decided to enroll at Kellogg School Of Management for its 2-year MBA program starting this fall. This brought an end to the more than an year long journey of GMAT prep, resume building, essay writing, essay editing, essay scrapping and some more essay writing. But I am glad now that it is over and feel privileged to have 3 of the top most schools offering to take me in.

I decided on Kellogg because I found better fit with the school in terms of the overall experience and career opportunities that I wish to explore post MBA (and of course the gorgeous new building!).

Kellogg Admit Letter

Although, once the high of getting an admit got over, I have been experiencing sinusoidal emotions. On one side, I am quite excited about moving to a new country to start this new phase of my life along with ~500 smart folks from all over the world. And on the other side, I am anxious about taking such a dramatic step way out of my comfort zone and that too without the people and the environment which I had become habitual to. I think this emotion is summed up by the words of a fellow Kellogg mate which she shared when we were discussing on the topic “Life sahi to chal rahi thi (roughly translates to – I am having an okayish life), why push myself in fire“. I guess time will tell whether it was all worth it.

During the entire application process, I got immense help from the blogs of various b-school students (current as well as graduated) highlighting their time at the respective schools. From motivating myself to start writing essays to getting specific insights about the school to include in my application, the blogs played an important role in putting forward my candidacy to that school. I had decided back then that I will start my own blog should I get into a school and decide to enroll, and will share my own perspective on the madness that b-school supposedly is. And here we are.

I aim to blog (hopefully regularly!) with two key audiences in mind:

  • Keeping friends and family here updated about what’s happening in my life. Some of the posts will focus on them specifically and I do apologize in advance for that. Given that I am going to be time crunched (and ~12 hours time difference doesn’t make it easy) blog is certainly a good way to keep in touch with them.
  • Helping prospective MBA candidates (Kellogg or others) by providing a glimpse into the b-school life. Although I will not be posting about how to get into a b-school (enough webpages on the internet are dedicated for that already), I am happy to answer any specific questions that you might have (please drop me a mail on the address mentioned on the right).

Now that the introductions are made, let me highlight where I currently stand with respect to the move:

  • My visa is stamped and I have completed most of the school related paperwork; although some insurance and financial aid bit still remains but those are quite straight forward and I should be done with them in next couple of weeks
  • I have been assigned my apartment at McManus Centre (graduate housing for Kellogg MBA students on the campus); its a fully furnished set up (including internet, gas etc.) which I am quite glad about

And, for the most important part, I know where I am going for my pre-Kellogg trip! But more on that in the next post.

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