While speaking about India and its future as an independent nation, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” The quote still stands strong today through all walks of life. Even in a learning environment, when people from diverse working backgrounds and learnings come together in a classroom, a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter develops. It also teaches individual students how to use their strengths and points of view to contribute to a diverse working environment.

When it comes to PGP, unity in diversity isn’t a farfetched idea. Diversity is the true flavour of ISB & every PGP class stands as a testament to inclusion, representation & learning. In a recent online interactive session, alumni from three different PGP batches and times at ISB came together to discuss “How can the diversity at ISB add new dimensions to your career?” Here are the three things future aspirants should learn and keep in while applying for PGP.

#1 Expect the Unexpected:

Before entering the PGP classroom, many students have preconceived notions about class composition which a typical MBA batch has and the kind of people one may study with. All these perceptions get shattered at ISB where you get the chance to study with a diverse set of people coming from a varied spectrum of industry backgrounds and experiences.

Speaking on the unexpected companions, Arijit Biswas recalls how mind-boggling and intimidated he felt during his time. “Like many other GMAT students, I read the Sentence Correction Book by Aristotle Prep for preparation. When I got into ISB, I was surprised to know that the writer of that book was a part of my class. Another surprise came in the form of a restaurateur who owned one of the oldest restaurants in Delhi called Pindi on the famous Pandara Road. Another batchmate of mine turned out to be a clinical research scientist who left her career in Canada and moved back to India to pursue a management course from ISB. Surprising it may have seen at that time, I can understand their reasons now,” he said.

Taking a note out of his experience, Sagar remembers how diverse his PGP class was. “I could see a 23-year-old who had presented a paper in Israel, a 30-year-old who wrote case studies for Harvard to another 30-year-old working with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and a 44-year-old pilot from the Indian Air Forces in the same class. The person who sat next to me had two books that were bestsellers and had already exited two successful startups after early investment before joining PGP. Such is the class diversity at ISB where you interact & learn with people from all walks of life. Leave aside the faculty & course, one can straightway get life-lessons from their peers itself”

Priya, who works in the impact investment sector, finds herself as the diverse elements of her PGP batch. “A lot of batchmates were people from the USA who were coming back to India. ISB helped them change sectors and functional roles. We had a fair share of doctors, army veterans and even a famous TV anchor in our batch. This gives a very well-rounded exposure and helps develop diverse perspective and business knowledge,” she says.

#2 With Great Diversity comes Greater Learning

One of the biggest USPs that comes with diversity is the different perspectives and knowledge one reaps from it. The interaction and conversation peers have at ISB can have a major impact and the career direction altogether.

Speaking on how PGP changed her career direction, Priya recollects, “Prior to ISB, I wasn’t aware of the impact investment space. In fact, back in 2010, it was fairly a new area in the country and only people from mainstream finance backgrounds eventually entered the sector. Impact investing is all about melding development & investing. I gained insights into the sector through conversations with cohorts who had prior exposure & experience by working abroad on impact investment funds. All in all, PGP helped me discover a new area of work which I had no clue about before and eventually ended working in.”

Arijit recalls how learning from the experiences of his PGP cohorts paved the way for him to become a successful entrepreneur. “When I wrote my application essay for ISB, I mentioned how I wanted to foray into the world of consulting upon completion of the programme. Most of my cohorts came from entrepreneurial backgrounds with few successes and failures in the startup ecosystem. ISB is the perfect place to learn from your mistakes and restructure your thought process. The conversations I had with them inspired me to take a leap of faith and venture into technology-based startups. This confidence comes from the safety net PGP provides. If you succeed the sky is the limit & even if you fail, you can always find suitable opportunities in the ISB network. These were learnings I implicitly implied from PGP that helped me become an entrepreneur.”

Similarly for Sagar, PGP helped him land up in a role that he never imagined. “When we talk about learnings at ISB, I can divide the entire experience into three parts. Firstly, I wasn’t aware of the career options I could fit into. For example, I never thought of getting into consulting as I wanted to explore everything available for learning. My batchmates were the ones who looked at my profile and suggested consulting to me which I casually ignored. They pushed me to go consulting opportunities and today am working in the consulting sector. Secondly, the conversations I had with my roommate and cohorts taught me the problems people face in the corporate areas especially in terms of gender, sexuality, class and even caste. These conversations opened a lot of understanding before entering the corporate sector & how corporate leadership needs to adhere to better standards. Lastly, the experience taught me the proper use of frameworks in everyday life. I can even tell my learnings from PGP in a more structured manner, all thanks to ISB!”

#3 It is Potential, not Achievements that Matter.

The admission process to ISB is not reflective of individual academic excellence and achievements but rather follows a more holistic approach for evaluation. One shouldn’t feel intimidated by ISB’s stellar alumni and discount their chances of getting into PGP. One should focus more on their individual potential to grow than focussing on the competition.

Speaking about the admission process and what it takes to get into ISB, Sagar emphasises why grades don’t matter that much. “Am I even cut out for ISB? I had been asking this question even before I applied for the programme. I didn’t have good grades, decent GMAT score, or anything extraordinary to show for. I was working with NGOs and writing poetry while applying for a B-School. After getting into ISB, I realised that the cohort is not a bunch of over-achievers but a band of passionate learners who put their hearts into their work and are able to tell a great story about it. One should keep in mind that ISB as a brand benefits less from your past achievements and more from your future potential.”

Priya strongly suggests steering away from bragging about achievements as they seem disingenuous while applying for ISB. “I believe the extent of your achievement doesn’t really matter, it is the learning that you derive and how well you put forth that is more important. Even if your achievement may seem small, what you learned from that experience and how it contributed towards your growth is the more significant.”

Adding his view to the subject, Arijit stresses on aspirants to find the sparks and strong reason to choose PGP. “One has to show how they can be an asset to the PGP cohort. It is not just about how you benefit from ISB but also about how you can give back to the programme, apart from academic brilliance. The admission committee values applications from the academic, professional as well as cultural lens.”

The above article summarises and presents excerpts from an online panel discussion organised by The Indian School of Business on the topic “How can the diversity at ISB add new dimensions to your career?” dating 28-07-2021 at 7:00 PM IST. Priya Nadkarni (PGP Co’2010) is the founder of Mrida Education and Welfare Society. Arijit Biswas (PGP Co’2015) is the co-founder of EnrichAI. Sagar Papneja (PGP Co’2020) currently works as an Associate Principal Consultant at Nagarro. The session was hosted by Yashwant Pulumati, Senior Manager- Admissions & Financial Aid at ISB.

Author: Paritosh Garlyal