“Professors at PGPpro helped me become a devil’s advocate to my own work”
– Joy Sahoo, Brand Strategist at ByteDance and PGPpro alumni of 2018

We caught up with Joy Sahoo, PGPpro Co 2018, working as Brand Strategist at ByteDance, to get to know more about his ISB experience, and the difference PGPpro has made to his life. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation with him:

Joy, tell us a little about yourself, your current organisation and role, and your professional journey before joining PGPpro.

Currently, I am working as a Brand Strategist with ByteDance. It is one of the fastest-growing internet companies and ranks 79th in Kantar’s most valuable brands globally.

I started my career as a Research Analyst at Skotch Consultancy, which is a think tank working closely with some of the ministries in Government of India and top BFSI brands, concentrating the high amount of work into financial inclusion and public-private-partnership level activities. I had a good proficiency in dealing with numbers and thus, was taken up as a Data Analyst – doing media and marketing analytics for HeadHonchos (ABC Consultants) where I also took my first towards marketing planning. Subsequently joining companies like Sagacious Research (Patent Research Consulting), Biz2Credit (Fintech), Infogain (IT & Digital Transformation Services) before joining PGPpro. Post-PGPpro, I worked with Keventers (world’s 1st Milkshake brand) as Sr. Manager Marketing, before joining ByteDance.

One can obviously see a wide range of industries that I have served, the common strengths that have really helped me across places are number crunching, creativity, inquisitiveness and high willingness to learn and execute new things. That’s how I transformed into a new-age and digital-first marketing professional.

You seem to have been in the management role already prior to PGPpro. It seems like you didn’t really need an MBA. So what made you want to go for this programme?

Earlier my activities were reactive to the business requirements. I used to read and follow global trends and decisions were based on what either available data spoke to me mixed with a lot of intuition. It appeared to click a lot of time, but I felt incomplete and raw.

The feeling was primarily due to the fact that I was unable to see through the big picture. To add on, I was more into execution rather than understanding the larger frame and proactively plan for the business. Though I handled a large team, I always found myself as an amateur artist who is learning to ride on technology and its implementation.

This feeling of being incomplete led me to search for higher studies that can give me a greater sense of how leaders think. The objective was to understand how to carve out the larger picture and prepare plans that are effective and impactful from the business perspective.

And PGPpro helped me do that too!

I started implementing my learnings from consumer behaviour, game theory, negotiation analysis at Infogain itself. It resulted in the creation of quick prototypes for solutions for clients at Infogain.

Were you exploring any other executive learning programmes as well? Why did you choose ISB?

Yes, I had a few opportunities not for executive learning but rather for full-time programmes from EU and USA. I had received 2 offers from UK universities, along with an offer from a university in the US. While job opportunities appeared very slim in EU, the cost of studying in the USA was considering making a big hole-in-my-pocket.

It is during this time that I heard about PGPpro. My only expectation from a programme was that I get to learn from faculty who are not just from India but also from abroad and had a high amount of experience resolving real business problems of large brands. I enquired in detail about faculty who would come to teach us at PGPpro. Once I realised that I would get access to world-class faculty from global B-schools, I started seeing the value.

My decision to join PGPpro was based on:

  • Faculties who would mentor me
  • Cost of studying from the same professors in USA, EU
  • Being able to manage a stride for effective learning while at work. L-earning goes hand-in-hand.

Frankly, by choosing PGPpro I saved INR 65 lakhs or even more.

That is a great financial decision you took there, Joy! You talk about faculty being a topmost priority to you. How was your experience with the faculty at ISB?

Purely from a faculty point of view, there could not have been a better place to learn from. Professors at ISB are not just inspiring and motivating but also very approachable.

Negotiation skills were an area that I really lacked in my persona. With Prof. Dishan Kaamdar, the course will remain as one of the most memorable classes where no books were opened; no notes were made but 2 days of real-life negotiations with some pre-reads. The class was divided into teams and different situations were given for negotiations. Interestingly, we not only learned negotiation but also learnt a lot more about our peers – referring to a lot of hidden talents of peers. This course helped me understanding people, cross-functional teams and how to work effectively to achieve objectives.

While studying consumer behaviour with Prof. V. Kumar from Georgia State University, I learned about CEV framework for profitable customer engagement. The discussions were so relatable to my experience that we ended up discussing probable PhD under him. How many institutions have professors who take such deep interest in guiding and mentoring students?

Last and my favourite experience came with Professor Rajendra Srivastava himself. In the last course Pricing-Distribution and Business Models, we learned about innovative business models understanding Amazon, Microsoft business models, and most importantly, the value creation – value extraction model. His session helped me become a devil’s advocate of my own work. Prior to PGPpro tech-implementation, data analysis, and designing campaigns was a piece of art, but now it made more sense from a perspective of the growing business.

I still reach out to him sometimes when I need guidance. To be frank, he is considerably quick in replying, accounting to the gamut of things he is leading for making ISB really a learning experience for students like us.

Tell us about some challenges you faced as a leader before joining PGPpro, and how did the course help you overcome these challenges?

Understanding the big picture and planning backwards is the biggest change in my working style post-PGPpro. I will not say that I have excelled at doing that but it has put me into fast, progressive and a path with visible achievements.

Another lesson I have imbibed from PGPpro is that I have become more collaborative. Earlier I was reticent to delegate, believing that I am the best man for the job. Now I have a better sense of delegation and focus on more strategic areas.

Since we all know this is a year, unlike others… can you share some tips or advice for the candidates of PRO who would be joining this year?

It is difficult to comment, as like others I am in the same ship of uncertainty. When times are uncertain for anyone, it is better to upskill and upgrade to be able to face through any tough times coming up.

With ISB PGPpro, you will be a part of an extended family. The intent to progress should be from the individual even during tough times while the family can be your guiding light.

Joy, a lot of prospective PGPpro candidates are wondering if this is the right time to start this programme and likewise, a lot of organisations are wondering if this is the right time to sponsor a programme like this. What are your thoughts? Is this a good time to pursue PGPpro?

This is undoubted, the most beautiful time to join a programme like PGPpro. Given a chance to take up PGPpro again this year, I will not have any second thought in doing so. And yes, I know that I can go back to ISB and take some courses if I wish to, which I am planning to do as well.

The whole world is going through a new direction altogether. the difference between learning and implementation is slimmer in a situation when the businesses are witnessing rapid transformation.

The professors who will be mentoring the students are at the forefront of suggesting and developing the businesses in new-normal scenarios.

I believe organisations should take a greater interest in students who are willing to pursue PGPpro and discuss real-life business situations and problems. These problems can be discussed in a group which will include not only the professors but some of the experienced professionals as well. While studying at PGPpro, students will not just passively learn, but also actively be part of resolving business in this new-normal.

The ROI is more now than ever!

– Joy Sahoo, PGPpro Class of 2018, Brand Strategist at ByteDance.