Amit Karmakar graduated from NIT Calicut in the year 2002 and had a TCS stint all though subsequently. Post his MBA from University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business in the year 2016, he is now employed as a Sr. Technical Program Manager at Amazon
Snippets of our conversation with him
1) What prompted you to get admitted into an MBA program?
My decision to pursue an MBA had multiple considerations, all of which were centered on my aspirations to transition to Product Management; an aspiration that comes from my passion to create products and experiences that make a positive impact. Many books have highlighted that product management at the intersection of Business, Engineering, and User Experience. A simple gap analysis to reach this goal made me realize that I will need the tools and framework that an MBA program offers. Coming from an engineering and project management background, it was now time for me to expand the horizon to a more holistic picture that starts with understanding end user problems through various forms of market research, and includes creating sales strategy and designing an after sales service. My research of MBA programs through visiting several schools and talking to existing students and alumni led me to conclude that there cannot be a better way than to learn from the experts. Joining an MBA program was important to accelerate the learning process in a class room setting which provides the unique opportunity to interact with world class faculty, who not only teach the concepts but provide insight into practical aspects of applicability from their own experience. Clichéd but true is the fact that I wanted to build and grow a network. Before joining, I attended classes and immediately appreciated the fact that sitting in a class of smart people from a diverse background will provide me perspectives that are not possible to gain by reading books alone. From that point onwards, it was a no-brainer why I had to do an MBA.
2) In retrospect, what has been your expected/unexpected and most cherished gain from your MBA journey?
The biggest and most cherished gain from the journey was the relationship I built with the cohort and faculty. Hands Down!!! I like to think of this network as a safety net to fall back to for any support – professional, business related, career growth, and personal growth. An icing on the cake, the MBA program has given me access to a very vast alumni network worldwide. This is a treasure.
From a learning perspective, this program has taught me to look beyond the surface of a problem and why it is important not to jump to a conclusion based on the symptoms but have to deep dive to root cause. It also taught me that running a business sustainably is more than just about bottom line – it is about people.
One other important and unexpected gain from the journey was the transformation and personality Development through leadership development programs.
3) What is your favorite aspect of campus life and why?
I was in an executive MBA program and did not have the typical campus life. I used to meet the cohort once in every three weeks on Thu, Fri, and Sat. But those three days of intense classes, after-class get together and late night parties were the best time of my MBA journey. The case discussions over a few beers, the group homework over dinner that led to arguments, catching up on work situation or simply hanging out to talk about family – everything counted.
4) How do you think life would have been different had you not opted for an MBA?
If I had not opted for an MBA, I would still have been doing project execution and engineering work based on someone else’s business decisions and market research. Now, good project management and engineering are extremely important for success but specializing in these aspects is not my aspiration.
If I had not done MBA, I would not have met my amazing cohort and the world class faculties. I would have completely missed out on the immense learning that has led me to appreciate or objectively criticize business decisions taken by my management.
5) Any words of advice for future MBA aspirants?
The first step to making a decision to pursue is to doing a gap analysis for achieving your goal and determining if MBA is the right choice for it. MBA will not help unless you are really clear about what you want to achieve from it. MBA is not a goal, it is a medium to help you walk towards your goal.
Next, choose the program wisely. Depending on where you are in your career, all programs may not be suitable. For instance, if you have more than 7 years of experience, an executive MBA program may be more suitable unless you have a specific reason to pursue full-time MBA program.
Lastly, choose the school based on your goals. Every school has its strength and specific focus. Make sure that your goals are aligned to that. Research about the Institute for a cultural fit – this is a very important aspect because you want your journey to be memorable and productive.