In the preface to her book What’s Your MBA IQ? A Manager’s Career Development Tool, Devi Vallabhaneni wishes she had had this book with her before she started her MBA at the Harvard Business School (HBS). Therein lies the inspiration for the book. Vallabhaneni, who got a degree in accountancy and worked for four years as a consultant with Arthur Andersen at its Chicago and Singapore offices, found herself struggling with basic concepts—outside of accountancy—when she began her MBA.
Vallabhaneni, who for nine years has been the president and CEO of the non-profit Association for Professionals in Business Management (APBM), remembers the drill of having to work two-three times harder to master areas such as operations or marketing because she was competing with engineers and marketeers in her class.
What’s your MBA IQ? A Manager’s Career Development Tool: Wiley, 353 pages, Rs399.
MBA, she says, is like mastering a language and that one year shouldn’t be used for just picking up the basics. This book, therefore, is a guide for students preparing for their MBA entrance exams. We met the author, who is in the country to promote her book. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Who is the book targeted at?
I started writing the book in May 2008 and completed it in June 2009. The book is targeted at students who want to take the GMAT or CAT, and basically anyone who wants to go to B-school and learn all areas of business management. The idea is to give a general overall knowledge of business management because at business school level, we are all specialists and management is all about going from specialization on to general and all-encompassing knowledge.
What inspired you to write this book?
This book is what I wished I had before I joined HBS as a management student. In the last nine years I have been a founder of a non-profit which educates business managers. We found people specialize naturally, but at some point in your career you need to learn about everything. By having exposure to different groups, you can actually make the most of your MBA.
In times when conventional financial systems are being questioned, how much relevance does the MBA, and for that matter your book, have?
The MBA is as relevant as you want it to be. It doesn’t matter what the financial context is, but you need to have a plan for your life after you finish your MBA. Given that, you need to know how to maximize on your MBA degree. Some of the feedback we got for the book was that being exposed to different areas in the book was so important. You can tailor MBA experience depending on your interests. Sometimes I really wish the MBA was three years instead of one or two years because there is just so much to learn.
You were writing your book during the recession. Did you change your tone or content because of the changing financial context?
No. These business principles are universal, and if anything, their relevance is heightened in the current times because what has really changed now is how people are viewing their careers. The tone/context of the book is as relevant as it would have been three years back, or three years hence. It is ultimately about management education and business principles.
Is the book aimed at the US or India? How do the different cultural contexts receive it?
The US and India are the top two markets for this book. The reason for this is the amount of people who value the MBA degree. In India, I feel, people are a lot more open to self-improvement and tools of self-assessment, especially in the educational context.