Shikhar Sethi studied engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay from 2009 to 2013. He then worked on, and headed, client projects at Indus Insights, an analytical project consultancy in finance and e-commerce, before deciding to pursue a masters in management course at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore.
Delhi and Mumbai are two cities that are incredibly different, especially when it comes to culture, food and language. It is in these two cities that I spent my formative years after living in Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur in Maharashtra.
I attended six different schools and have seen the struggles of life in the smaller towns and in a metropolis. This exposure to such a variety of cultures has made me quick to adapt to changing environments and has certainly influenced the way I see opportunities.
Now in Bangalore — known as India’s Silicon Valley and notorious for its bustling streets — I will soon start my second year of a masters in management course at the city’s Indian Institute of Management, having completed a 10-week internship at the Mumbai office of private equity firm Blackstone Group.
While on my placement, I was pleasantly surprised that even as an intern I was involved in all the activities a typical analyst would be expected to do. My first year of the masters prepared me well for this.
First, the course taught me how to prioritise and manage effectively my time as I had to juggle several assignments and practical activities outside the classroom.
Second, as part of my programme I pursued advanced courses in finance to help me make the best use of the internship. I also took part in the Asia private equity investment leveraged buyout case challenge. A competition in which my team of four won first prize. So, my experience at Blackstone helped me put into practice all the things I had learnt in the classroom and during the competition.
My internship also taught me something else that is very important: enjoy your work, have fun with people and everything else will fall in place. It took me time to realise this during my internship, but it has been the most valuable lesson for me.
I initially trained and worked as an engineer, but decided to pursue a masters in management because I wanted to diversify and give myself a wider range of career options. I needed to develop my soft skills and communicate better with people. There is real market demand for people who have both technical knowledge and management skills.
One of the best elements of the course is its flexibility. In the first year we choose our elective courses and then decide if we want to specialise in them. Another plus point is the international exchange programme that allows us to work abroad.
The theory is well balanced with practical case studies and there are plenty of chances to get involved in competitions, such as the Asia private equity challenge that we won, which means we get to network with lots of different people and work on practical subjects such as public policy and business strategy.
On the flipside, I did not anticipate the level of dedication that a masters in management would require. I wanted to experience some student life, take a break from work and relax a bit. But it is nothing like that. I have had to push myself and in retrospect it has really prepared me for the corporate world.
Another downside is that competition among students is extreme. Everyone wants to be the best, which does help a lot of students succeed. But collaboration is important, so it can be difficult to get the balance right, particularly in group projects where you really need to work together, not compete against one another.
A career in finance seems to be the most exciting prospect at the moment, so I hope to pursue this path after graduation — I would not want to be a Wall Street trader, though. In the long term I would like to be in a senior management position.
With a couple of years of engineering experience and a year into graduate management studies, I find myself worrying about time constraints. I have learnt a lot about myself and make sure not to take on too much, but I do worry about meeting expectations.
I also have a fear of life stagnating. So far there have been constant changes that have kept the spark alive, but I worry that as life continues it will become a bigger wardrobe but with a limited variety of clothes to try on.
Yet I am very positive about the future, for India in particular. The coming few decades are a great time for me to join the workforce here and I hope to play a part in India’s growth story.