New Manager

What a freshly-minted MBA should know

D. Shivakumar | Updated on March 12, 2018

On to the next phase: Students of JIM Lucknow at their convocation. D. Shivakumar is third from left.

From continuing the process of learning to paying attention to one's health and work-life balance, there are a myriad ingredients to professional success, which fresh B-school graduates need to know.



You are smart people and you will have an influence in the area you choose. You are starting your career in a decade that promises to be India's best economically, with real GDP growth a shade below 10 per cent. Does this GDP growth promise a successful career? No, a good tide can keep the boat afloat, but doesn't guarantee progress or direction.

How do I see the world in 2020? I see a world that is digitally more integrated but physically more protectionist as every nation will want to be that bit more appeasing and populist in the face of severe global competition. New digital brands, Twitter and Facebook, will be teenagers by 2020. India will be among the top ten dollar economies in 2020.

India presents opportunity and challenge in equal measure. For every fact about India, there is a counter-fact that is also true. It's this plurality that is exciting and confounding to observers. We are young, yet old. The average age in India in 2020 will be 29; we will also have at least 75 million people above the age of 60. We are rich, yet poor. We will have at least 50 Forbes list dollar billionaires; we will have a third of the country living under two dollars a day. We are educated yet illiterate. We celebrate an 8 pc GDP growth, but we don't challenge the unemployment number, which is also at a similar level.

That should give each of you immense hope for the future; however, it should not make us arrogant. A successful economy coupled with a humble, conscientious society will achieve much more! Your generation, more than any other, will be a truly global workforce — you have a global degree and a top ten global country on your side!

So, the next decade promises to be good. I want to talk about 10 questions or thoughts that you might have as you start what promises to be a great career.

The first is a thought about entitlement. An MBA is a degree, not a guarantee.

Last evening, I had the privilege of dining with the founders, the Dean, the faculty and leading-edge thinkers of Lucknow. I learnt that a third of you have taken education loans to complete this degree. Your parents have huge hopes of you, after you complete your degree; the media paints the MBA as the qualification with keys to the bank vault.

I have, over two decades, seen that an MBA opens at best the first and second doors; it is a not a guarantee for success. Success comes from a number of other things.

My second thought for you is about learning. This might be a surprise since you have just finished two years of learning. Most MBAs stop learning once they finish their degree. Your world will change much faster than ever before and an ability to learn and unlearn quickly will be crucial to a good career.

An MBA school and the workplace are two different things — you choose the subjects you like in a B-school, you cannot choose parts of your job to do well at work; you choose your friends in B-school and are not really bothered about the rest, at work you have to interact with all kinds of people, you cannot avoid them or delist them; in B-school marks are objective and define your standing, at work there are a number of subjective factors and there are no marks to fall back on! You have your own language and expressions in B-school; this language, I submit, is understood by 5,000 MBAs in the country, the rest of the world speaks a different language. I have noticed that MBAs who forget their B-school roots in less than six months at work invariably do well. So start learning, the workplace and life has a lot more to teach you now.

The third question you will have is about money. When you start, please do not measure your worth by how much you are earning and how much more it is compared to your classmate. Money is an outcome and not the only reason to work. If you look at successful careers, money is actually multiplied in the latter part of a career. However, sadly, most people tend to move jobs early in their careers for a few dollars more. If you are good, money will come to you; but having more money will not make you good!

The fourth question will be about work. I know a number of people talk about being smart and shrewd at work. I believe in what David Ogilvy said many years ago: ‘Hard work never killed anyone, laziness killed a number of executives.'

Work hard, learn a lot, that will only improve your self-worth.

The fifth question is about the definition of success and what it means to you. I submit to you that success is a purely personal definition. To use a flight analogy, it is likely that some of you will fly at 50,000 feet, some at 40,000 feet and some at 30,000 feet. It doesn't automatically mean that the guy flying at 50,000 feet is more successful. Success is what you make of it and what you are willing to do to get there, it is that personal. Once you've defined that, you can be happy that you've achieved your definition of success. A good career takes more than 15 years of strong reputation-building and is not a 15-month programme!

If you want a successful career, you also need oodles of good health. Young MBAs tend to put on weight and stop exercising when they start work because of bad and irregular food habits. Being physically fit is important to be mentally alert.

The next and seventh question is about family and work-life balance. It is likely that many of you will have a working partner. Managing one's career is itself a challenge, managing two careers will be even more so. Managing two careers, children and then thinking about work-life balance will be a tall emotional ask. A family is your emotional anchor; no amount of success can insulate you from that emotional anchor. When you start your career, your parents, some classmates, your professors, some people at work, and, maybe, even your boss, can be an emotional anchor. For most part of the journey, the family is the biggest emotional anchor and you should nurture that.

As you sit here one last time as a graduating class, look to your left, look to your right. You are possibly looking at a classmate, someone you know well. As you go through life, you will see the person differently. Each of you will have your own achievements and will leave behind your own mark in life. Keep in touch with each other. You are a lucky generation in that you have social media to keep you in perpetual contact. Every classmate is a huge asset and I would urge you to stay connected.

I have 96 classmates from B-school; I haven't met at least 25 of them after my convocation. I feel bad about that.

Thoughts number nine and ten are about your relationship with the organisation and on leadership.

It is a natural tendency to compare one's workplace with other companies; on some parameters, your workplace will score, in others it will not. There can be no workplace which is the best combination of all parameters — that's not an ideal any company will shoot for. For me, you should be proud of the place you work in and you should uphold and contribute to the institution-building process. If you are ever not proud of where you work, you should leave.

Find a place with the best fit. I worked in Hindustan Unilever for many years and every day I was proud of the firm and am still proud of it. I work in Nokia today and I come to work prouder every passing day.

Today, the Indian citizen has the highest faith in two institutions, the judiciary and the army; every soldier and every judge has to work hard to keep that faith, so should you in your organisation.

And finally, the last question, about leadership. I want you to think of leadership as contribution and not as control. I come across a number of CVs where people quantify leadership in terms of the number of people reporting to them. Think about your contribution to the company you work for, the contribution to the team you play in, the contribution to your alma mater, and the contribution to society. Leadership is about contribution. This will call for commitment and sacrifice from you. The journey of leadership is in itself a big reward to play for.

Today is not just an occasion; it is a truly special and emotional moment, where you start your journey. In this journey, you will travel far and wide, you will love and be loved, you will care and be cared for, you will lead and be led.

A lot of people, your parents, your professors, your classmates want you to make them proud, don't let them down!

(The writer is an engineer from IIT Madras and earned his MBA in 1984 from IIM Calcutta.)

Excerpts from a convocation address at the Jaipuria Institute of Management, Lucknow, on April 30, by D. Shivakumar, Managing Director, Nokia India.

Published on May 08, 2011

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

null
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor