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The high ranking MNC's with highly paid executives who go to offices enjoy a high profile life have always appealed to me. These people move about smoothly, however sharp, good and very attractive they are - it's all reflected in their body language. They convey a sense of achievement in both professional and personal life.
This has always appealed to me. This was the reason why I took up my Master's in Business Management. I used to think of myself placing in the shoes of such top ranking executives, charged up all the time. I came to UK with the sole aim of doing my MBA from a reputed business school. According to me, a business school means not just good faculty, good infrastructure and good learning material but a stepping stone to provide good exposure in corporate industry. Soon after my entry into the University, I started drawing plans to work in that direction. Basically, the plan was to work according to a schedule in each semester with a clear cut timetable, maintaining good communication with fellow students, faculty, and career office. I also planned to do some mini-interim projects that would give me a real life experience whilst I am studying. With no further look into my idea I felt that I have access to every thing that is needed, because I was hurry of interacting new people all the time. Things started taking different turn and in complete contrast to what I assumed. This academic year was the most busiest period of my life with exams, course works and presentations.
I felt that I lost with what I was doing and my thoughts have started drifting. I could not simply cope up with the rush of academic work that is assigned to me. There was no time left to my plans into action. However, after a period of time, I noticed that this was not true because my thought process is now slowly transformed into something concrete. I started learning how to question other people's facts, logically examine issues from different viewpoints, and understand the importance of not jumping to conclusions. I also noticed how primitive my thought process was before. And to my surprise, I am at the same level where I envisaged myself to be, bouncing with new ideas; constructing logical arguments that can help me hold my view point while negating others' etc all in a more professional manner. I also sometimes felt shy when I observed a typical type of smile in my faculty and my seniors when I tried to interact with them what how every learner behaves. They might have understood what we are actually thinking by observing our behavior sub-consciously which is like more like a process that a child undergoes. I now understand that the actual learning is slow and completely based on experience and acquiring the right knowledge. I can face the people and challenge them if need be with more confidence than ever. I understand that even the top executives have their own limitations, way above their common counterparts.
My current research topic is about the challenges faced by the ITES-BPO sector of India. I chose this topic because I have considerable experience in the BPO industry and I understand the intricacies of the BPO sector being an insider until recently.
Recollection of experiences:
My topic can be divided into three distinct parts: Firstly, choosing any country of our choice and identifying its export promotion programmes; secondly, critically evaluate such programmes to highlight their strengths and weaknesses; finally, propose a set of recommendations for tackling such weaknesses.
After a serious consideration of the project deliverables, I chose BPO sector as the subject of my study. As previously discussed, I have an insider's knowledge of this sector due to my association with it.
The first thing I did was to draw a plan of approach for my dissertation. I finally produced a GANTT Chart after playing with a couple of items that may go into the chart and their order. I started reading some books on Research Methodology even before the allocation of the project work. Hence, I had a fair idea of the timelines that will go into it.
Personal feelings and learning from the experience
My previous academic experience where I engaged myself in some mini-projects simultaneously while doing my semesters had helped me a lot with this. It is with these that I started laying foundation for my final research work as there were various presentations organized by my university, which gave me an idea how executives manage various issues that are critical for performance. We had to organize ourselves into groups to work for any such project. Some of our group members who wanted to do it in a different felt that their ideas were not being considered in their sense they felt that they were not being given consideration. Hence, in order to prevent them from leaving the group we need to expand space for ideas so that their ideas can fit in. The difficulties count because this is a part of our experience through curriculum. I was deeply involved in some projects like such and probably this was the first time experience in working with people and retaining their confidence. The output of the event was average this disappointed me a little as I expected that our group excels than others and get appreciation from the lecturers. Again confidence, this was the first event and there might be some reasons for performing up to the expectations of the group, we need to go through a number of such events besides having chance to improve ourselves. Apart from generating an appreciation of other people's point of view, we could successfully analyze the positives and negatives in others viewpoints constructively.
A motivating observation when I was entering last batch semesters was my maturity reached professional levels and this helped me to visualize how an executive or manager actually might work in real situation. This visualization had lot of difference with that before I entered the university; the earlier was with wonders how the professionals are given value in market and how crucial is their role in a MNC but it seems that I neared the shore of wonders with no feeling of wonder but a thrill of working directly.
My experience should give me a research objective; this was the principle on which I opted to work. I was worried what impression I am make on others because others. I used to think behavior decides the degree of impression that others form on you. Again I had a feeling in my mind that it was my opportunity to cast a positive impression on others. I thought that this is the way that all of this is a part of learning; experience is learning which builds us. So far as my actions are confined more to the practical knowledge, this made deficit in theoretical knowledge, my fears regarding the theory increased as my semester exams are nearing. This necessitated the need to shift to the habits of a traditional student involvement in learning and reading. The pressure of semester exams mounted and I worked vigorously and resorted to physical exercise. I decided whatever quality that I submit in final research project I should give preference to semester examination as if I prepare well for the semester the theoretical knowledge for rest of the topics could be covered so leaving the few left over time for practical exposure and making assessment of all outputs of mini project works and adding their conclusion to make a thesis for research and then getting involved in practical exposure. My hard work helped me, I had done my semester exam confidently and the results are good.
Intact, when my semester exam have started, I was fully committed to make each examination the best, I had drawn my earlier experience of doing semester examination, The final semester exams were a little bit surprise for as they were primarily intended to test analytical, comprehensive and logical in an environment of a crisis so as to test natural ability of a student's response in crisis state, I had done the examination well showing that I had a natural talent to respond in an emergency state. I understood the nature of examination papers of final semester and evaluated myself how I had done by approaching what method I approached the emergency state. The output of my semester examination was good.
I assumed that I was the only one or one of the very few to make research objectives in advance and at a early stage in the university. But was not so when I heard people discussing on their research project. So it generated a sense of competition with them. It's funny to think that I can only think to have such ideas and I can excel with that ideas, but it was not so. Everyone has their own ideas and the problem is to bring those ideas to implementation.
Days passed in a similar way. Now I got maturity which gave me knowledge how I will get to where I want to be. We now got some interim projects from companies. I utilized this opportunity to involve in any project that relates to Strategic Management. The companies provide insider data of their companies and our job is to assess their performance and prepare a report to the company suggesting the company to take suitable actions. Thus the project I am now involved in helped a lot in understanding practical aspects of strategic management.
While I was feeling uncomfortable with the current project, my friends assured me that it would not be helpful in continuing in a single path and to pursue a wide range of issues. They prompted me to take up this project as a challenge. This gave me a kind of encouragement and helped me adjust to the new change of mindset. So then I worked for few days in library to gain sufficient knowledge of the current research topic.
The choice of project that we now do in university decides our final project work and ultimately our profession. This belief made to shoulder as many mini-projects relating to strategic management as possible.
The days I spent in the library helped me as they have given me sufficient knowledge on the new topic .I built my own opinion on topic, the intricacies involved in it, identifying market trends in product, knowledge of products by competitors. I consulted the academic staff to gain more knowledge and the information they shared with me was very useful. My colleagues suggested me to adopt a new line without worrying about the output. I remembered my passion with which I entered the university and this provided me with motivation. They encouraged me by appreciating my preparation for this project.
I have seriously struck to my course of action outlined at the outset of this project. I have made a promise to myself to stick to my schedules come whatever may. While going through the literature i.e. during the literature review process, I now started looking at them in a different way. Previously I used to score through them for information and data. Now, I have started to look at them with a different perspective. I try to identify what one point the author(s) wishes to convey, and then how the author conveys it. I also try to judge the logic behind coming to such conclusion or recommendations. The methods of data collection and analysis were given a close consideration to identify any loop holes in their arguments. However, on the positive side of it every journal article offers some invaluable knowledge. Most of the authors do weigh alternatives before coming to conclusion. And some of them offer scope of further research from where they have left. It was such a beautiful intellectual exercise that I enjoyed doing it for hours together.
Next, I started visiting some credible websites that would contain information more focused and concentrated than in the journal articles. The notes taking stage was a bit cumbersome. Because I read through a volume of data, the notes were piling up. Then I changed the course and started writing up in intervals. These materials can be revisited at any time later in the day to make a summary of the findings for the day and implications for the next day.
I followed this approach to eliminate the last moment exigencies that may prevent me from writing up the actual dissertation. However, once the line of action has been outlined, I started writing up the actual dissertation in bits and pieces. First I started with the Research methodology section as I have already formulated my mode of approach to the data and its analysis. Thus there was no contradiction in what I was studying and what I was writing. Once I narrowed down on the specific line of action, which continued to weeks before the final submission date, I stopped researching further for information. Then I started collating all the data into one place and forming a logical order from them. Once this has been done, the rest of the things were very easy. It took considerable time to type in a huge data of 12,000 words and another report of 3000 which is the instant one. Personally, the completion was a very enjoyable moment of my life.
Lessons for future projects
Project Management Tools - [Key Learning - Interactive Tools for PM e.g. MS Visio] Proper project management will deliver the project within time. However, the tools chosen need to be interactive. The GANTT Chart I chose to was a kind of time table on a piece of paper. It does not provide scope for any additions, deletions or modifications. Such a static tool will not provide the user with an idea of the current status without recasting it over and over. Now, after completion of the research work I strongly feel that I need a dynamic visual tool. I have two choices to make for further use. One is to use MS Excel and the other is MS Visio. I personally like the kind of visual images that are offered by MS Visio. Moreover I find that a lot of research management diagrams can be constructed using Visio. Further, it can be integrated with either MS Excel or MS Word still giving that rich look and feel of the dash boards. Hence, I have decided on utilizing more interactive tools in my further studies i.e. Ph.D.
Maximization of University Resources - [Key Learning - Deriving Full Value for Money]The University provides a wide range of study material. Along with this there are provisions to utilize interactive media as well. Academic staffs were also available for clarification of doubts relating to subjects. While doing the literature review part of the research, I noticed that I should have put the University resources to maximum use by dedicating more time which would have enabled me to generate a good idea of concepts even before I decided to work on my project. The data for which I was searching elsewhere including market research reports etc was freely and readily available in the form of University Resources. Further, I feel I have not interacted with the Academic staff throughout. Till the time I noticed what I have lost during the last few months, I was confident that I was going in the right direction by concentrating on self-study. This is a major learning for me since I am planning to go for my Ph.D. in the very near future.
Time Management - [Key Learning - Smart Allocation of Quality Time]I understand the principles of time management. Until I finished this project, my view of time management was simply scheduling. Later during the course of this research work I understood smart allocation of time is not the only element of it. It also requires quality time to be allocated to high priority work. Usually I study through the day starting early in the morning. I do my write up work late in the evening at the end of the day. I noticed that certainly this is not the time of the day for creative ideas. So I rescheduled my write up time between intervals throughout the day. This is an important learning for me as I understood where I am going on an hour to hour basis.
Holistic View - Initially I struggled hard and allocated considerable time to cope up with the current knowledge. For this I mainly relied on books. However, I came t know that books will be compiled, printed, marketed and then purchased, and usually this will have a time lag of 1-2 years. The knowledge by then may become outdated because of the newer developments in the field. Hence, I shifted my attention to Journal Articles. My personal opinion is these articles will be current, and peer reviewed to eliminate any bias in the ideas projected. Further, such research articles analyze, evaluate and consider various views before tendering any opinion. This view of approach to knowledge has particularly appealed to me. I feel journal articles, given their size (usually small) offer the reader a brisk reading time besides imbibing with the same level of knowledge about the subject where it is discussed elsewhere. From now on, I shall try to use books for theoretical base only and concentrate on latest journal articles for acquiring current knowledge.
Appreciation of other's views - I usually feel contended with the ideas I generate after a thorough reading of the literature. However, during my research process I noticed that I was searching for a different perspective. I could put pieces together more comfortably after discussion the same with colleagues. I understood that there is a need to appreciate other people's perspective as long as they make valid assumptions. Surprisingly, I noticed I get better ideas in the recollection phase i.e. after discussing an issue with a friend even though the person is not well versed with the subject. More so, the more the person is not connected with the subject, they can offer an entirely different perspective.