Harshveer Jain throws light on his journey from being a laid back IITian to becoming the CAT 2014 topper
From being just an ordinary school kid in Indore to becoming the CAT topper 2014, Harshveer Jain has indeed come a long way. This cheerful lad is a bank of skills and has proven it, time and again. An IIT Bombay graduate in Physics Engineering, Harshveer has a keen interest in exploring the various avenues available today. He is not restricted by his degree and is a firm believer in taking risks. Although MBA was not always a part of his agenda, his first-hand experience in the industry while working at Housing.com made him realize the importance of an MBA tag.
He is not the quintessential topper who would fence himself from the outer world. He is an engineer with a creative bent of mind. Harshveer has varied interests like writing, cooking, working out and meeting new people. He likes experimenting and boasts of his experiments with food. This football fanatic has been working on a fiction fantasy series of his own and lives by Lion King’s philosophy of ‘Hakuna Matata’.
HTCampus caught up with the CAT 2014 topper Harshveer Jain who shared his insights on the Common Admission Test (CAT), life at IIM and management in general. A few excerpts from the interview:
Q. Was MBA always a part of your career plan?
A. I wouldn’t be very certain about that. At best, I remember my mother mentioning an IIT-IIM combination being a fine deal when I was very young. MBA-thinking actually happened after I fell apart from Physics in IIT.
Q. What attracted you to the field of Management?
A. After working with Housing.com, I realized that I need to develop a set of skills that make me valuable. Technical was out of the question, that left me with management. Also, with the booming start-up scene, MBAs were the people associated with the growth of a company. Finally, I needed to go to a place that would transform me from a laid back IITian to a sincere and disciplined person. MBA seemed like the best boot camp for that.
Q. What was your preparation strategy for CAT 2014?
A. Practice! I was confident about my verbal. I focused on practice and time management in the quant section. As long as you can solve questions without errors and can work at your peak for 3 hours, CAT doesn’t remain as difficult. Theory is barely worth worrying about – unless you are not from a Math background. Then you might need to work on that as well.
Q. While preparing for CAT what was the most difficult phase that you had to go through?
A. I would say the uncertainty towards the end was eating me up. You have your national test series and all, but you know there is someone out there who has enrolled and you don’t know how good they are. So not being fully aware of competition was a problem.
Q. What is the ideal time one should devote to the preparation?
A. Spend three hours solving problems at a stretch over the weekends for about 3-4 months and you are sorted. But at a stretch is important – stamina is what differentiates top rankers from the rest.
Q. CAT is a smart exam. Can you list down 5 skills that are essential for individuals to crack CAT? Please justify each skill with its relevance.
A. The skills are:
1. Time management – You need to know how much time a question is going to take for you to prioritize them.
2. Acceptance – You need to get over your ego or worry and accept that you will have to let go of questions that look difficult.
3. Accuracy – You need to be accurate in the first go. For that, you need perfection in problem solving and not just a rough idea of how things are done, perfection right down to 2+2=4 of each problem.
4. Perseverance – You need to be at the top of your game for 3 hours, else you are doomed.
5. Memory – a lot of questions will require you to know solution templates, else it will take time to develop one on the spot. So memory is important.
Q. What will be your advice to candidates appearing for CAT 2015?
A. Work. Practice. Don’t worry too much about the pattern. In the end, it’s just question solving within a given time frame. Just make sure you are clear on the accuracy part. Everything else works out.
Q. Students are advised to go ahead with an MBA after gaining some industry experience. Do you think it really makes a difference?
A. It does. A lot of what we are taught here is directly related to work place. But it’s not necessary. You start getting a hang of it after a couple of weeks. It’s just that some terms and some concepts are better known to people who have dealt with them first hand. I would suggest working a year or two before going for an MBA though.
Q. Since you were also a working professional preparing for CAT, what word of advice would you want to give to other working professionals preparing for the exam?
A. Focus on the weekends. Half minded work done during the weekdays might not be as useful as a solid 3-4 hour block on the weekend. On the weekdays, read up on theory or something.
Q. What difference does an MBA tag make in your career?
A. I wouldn’t really know that since I am still under the process of acquiring it. From what I have been told though, like all tags, it adds perception value. You still have to back it up by your true self, else it becomes a burden. People do expect more and judge you accordingly.
Q. Tell us about your learning experience at IIM?
A. It is fantastic. The common perception is that the IIM journey is supposed to be supremely hectic, but it really isn’t. As long as you can be efficient and manage your time properly, it is a pretty fun and adventurous ride. Most people also believe that MBA education is mostly pointless and you don’t ‘learn’ much, but you do. Sure you won’t have much technical skills to acquire, but life is much beyond that and an MBA trains you for everything else.
Q. How has IIM changed you, if at all? What kind of value-addition (besides the regular curriculum & knowledge) have you attained?
A. Lots! In 2 months, it has made me more proactive, responsible and aware of the value of my time. It has also taught me to handle several tasks at a time, which means that I have to let go of the obsession to perform each task to its fullest – now it is about priorities and importance of the task. In one line, it takes you from a place where you were creating options to a place where you start exercising them.
Q. First IIT, now MBA, sounds like a perfect recipe for a start-up! Any plans in this direction?
A. (Laughs) I guess. I would like to work for a bit though. The market is hot and all, but I don’t want to jump right in without a grand plan. Plus, the world will always need awesome products and services. I will devote myself to an idea when it is really worth it. Till then, I will learn.
As told to Kritika Sharma