“Cross-roads” Series – Anand Surelia

The “Cross-roads” Series is a guest “blog” series. This will feature some of my friends talking about their various career decisions and why they took it.

Today, the guest “blogger” is Anand Surelia. Anand studied with me at IIT, KGP from 1993-1997. After that, he was my room-mate at Bangalore, where he worked at Tata-IBM and then for 3 years in the Bay Area, CA, where we both worked together at Vitalect. He then left to do his MBA from the University of Chicago. Presently, he is working at a mutual funds company and is busy crunching numbers! On the personal front, he finally got married recently (Congrats Anand – that was probably the biggest decision u took) . He is an avid soccer fan, very well-read and an extremely good “bathroom singer” :).

Career Decision 1 – Not doing a MS right after IIT

I never thought I was doing anything different from my
peers when I didn’t go the school-MS-work routine. Not
that I didn’t see many people in engineering undergrad
working towards that. But then one has to realize that
a graduating class in a large school can only have so
many of academically minded students who would really
want to go on to do an MS. Most especially our class,
which the professors never stopped berating about how
stupid we were compared to the other batches of
geniuses that had passed before us. And if one had the
fortune of having an ecelectic band of friends around,
one would never realize they are missing something by
not going on to do an MS straightaway.

Moreover I always felt lost at the engineering
school,always wondering if I made the right choice by
being there. I came from a family of small time
business people who appreciated but never quite fully
understood excatly what I was being taught and what I
would do with it to earn a living later. I was already
feeling out-of-depths with an engineering undergrad,
an MS right after school would have only taken me
further along an unsure path. Also, a bad score in
GRE, probably because I was just imitating others
instead of really wanting it, also took out from my
mind any remaining thoughts I was entertaining about
an MS.

So I chose the practical road of getting a job, partly
by default, partly by not knowing or caring enough
about an MS, and partly out of sheer confusion with
what I should do with my life.

Career Decision 2 – Doing a MBA after 4 years of work experience

Why I did an MBA after four years of work is actually
an easier question to answer. To beef up my resume so
that I’d have a shot at a wider role. Not necessarily
more money, or greater career leverage, or train as a
businessman, but to gain a different vantage point in
life. One way I looked at it was that Comp Sci taught
me how to solve problems and the MBA would expose me
to problems I might like to solve.

It was definitely all that and more, exposing me to
stuff that would have otherwise taken years to come by
me. However, it wasn’t an easy ride. It was made
especially worse because my two years were right in
the middle of the tech recession and the 9/11
aftermath. There were no jobs, there were mounting
debts, and there was a sense of having been cheated
felt by many in our chohorts who felt entitled to a
six-figure job after graduating from a top B-school.
Wasn’t that the deal the articles in Business Week
were selling?

But it was good in a learning sense – one got to
experience the effects of the globalized macro economy
in a very palpable way.



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