Inder Dhillon, alumnus of York University's Schulich School of Business, explains how his extracurricular activities strengthened his MBA experience and gives advice on how to get involved outside of the classroom. He also discusses his decision making process in choosing an MBA program that would allow him to switch industries.
What are some activities you were involved with outside of class? How did you balance your time?
I had the opportunity and privilege of representing the Schulich community as the Student Council President (GBC), which took most of the my time outside of classes and group work. In addition, I took part in other student led initiatives and varsity competitions, such as, assuming the role of Asia Vice President (2013) in the Graduate Business Forum (global network of student leaders from the world’s top graduate business programs); working as a consultant in York Consulting Group (the oldest student run consulting group in North America); and participating in external case competitions, which included winning the 2013 MBA games.
Balancing time during the MBA is, and will always be, a challenge! Personally, a combination of task prioritization and sacrifice of sleep time allowed me to culminate a very gratifying MBA experience. Needless to say, this doesn’t take away the credit from an amazing set of individuals that I was fortunate to have part of my Executive Council and case/project teams.
What were the biggest challenges of pursuing your MBA?
THE biggest of them all was time management. As the semesters progress, the individual and team workload is bound to only increase, and if it isn’t for prioritization, a candidate is setting themselves up for a setback. As aforementioned, I undertook multiple initiatives beyond the class workload, which brought along an added magnitude of pressure. It was imperative for me to break my day’s schedule into multiple fragments so that time can be allocated into completing a certain task in that fragment without being distracted with the multiple others action items at hand. However, when dealing with teams and long timeline projects, plans derail and that was when dealing with adversity was the name of the game.
With multiple responsibilities and titles came managing multiple stakeholders’ expectations. This was amongst the hardest things I learnt during my MBA. The Schulich program was designed to test this skill from day one. From course group work to extracurricular activities, I, as did my colleagues, had to dawn multiple hats and manage expectations of strong-minded and capable team members and bring about their best to reach thoughtful solutions.
What is it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students transitioning back?
Transitioning back into the MBA varies from individual to individual, and their past work experience. My first few weeks of an MBA and the month leading up to it were a mixed basket of excitement, anxiousness, and uncertainty. I had been out of school for about 3 years before I set my foot back into a classroom. Many of my colleagues at Schulich had been out of school for even longer, some for as many as 16 years.
So what does it really feel like to come back? It takes a bit of time adjusting to the pace of the MBA workload, which is a composition of classes, solo and group projects, and extracurriculars. For me, it took about half of the first semester just adjusting into the schedule, workload expectations, and the multi-faceted MBA environment. It also depends upon what you want out of an MBA experience when you graduate. For me, it was important to graduate without the thought of “I wish I had done …… during my MBA”. Thus, I wanted to stretch myself in leadership roles and extracurriculars more than academics, as early on as I could, and Schulich provided an ideal platform to do that within the first semester.My advice would be to recognize your capabilities and interests as early as you can so that you can prioritize activities/courses that will help you reach your goals.
However, most importantly, this might be the last time that you sit in a classroom with a diverse set of individuals before embarking on your careers so cherish and enjoy the time during your MBA because it will give you an opportunity to introspect and build lifelong relationships/friendships with many of your colleagues.
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice to students on how to make a decision?
I chose the Schulich MBA because of its reputation, brand recognition, Return on Investment, diversity of student population, and global network of accomplished alumni. In addition, I wanted to move out of Financial Services (my pre-MBA work experience), and thus chose Schulich’s offering of specializations in multiple industries/functions.
The criteria to select your ideal MBA may differ from the above depending upon whether you are considering a change in industry, a move-up in the same industry, setting up your own enterprise, or purely getting the MBA as a designation.
My advice to all prospective candidates is that you speak with a few current students and alumni of your target schools so that you get their perspective as well, and not make your decision based on mere publications and rankings alone. You can also consider making a trip to your target schools to get a first-hand vibe of the environment.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA? What inspired you?
I had decided that I wanted to pursue an MBA during my Undergraduate Degree, but it was more so a decision of when it would happen. That realization came while I was working at CIBC. Despite being a great brand and an amazing work culture, I wanted to switch industries and move out of Financial Services’ front office. The opportunity to do so came when I had to take some time (month) off work due to a person obligation. Since I was going to be home that entire month, I thought about putting this time into preparing for the GMATs and giving it a shot. The prep did pay off and I went ahead with applying to a few schools with the score I got. One of those emails back was from Schulich, and here I am, a proud alum.
Have your interests and passions changed since beginning your MBA program?
Yes. I strongly believe that an MBA from a reputed school teaches you far more beyond the classroom. One of those aspects was the opportunity to meet a multitude of accomplished, humble, and helpful guest speakers/alumni during the MBA. I learnt a lot from the plethora of information sessions and “coffee chats”, and ever since, it only ignites my passion to continue working hard in life, everyday!