Thursday, March 17, 2011

The IIM I interview experience

Its always good if your IIM calls are closely spaced, preferably back-to-back interviews (although this isn't under our control). The intensity levels remain the same, you are charged up and you can say the same things over & over again without getting bored. My prolonged wait for the 'I' interview continued for 20 days after having finished XL, A,C,& L within 5 days. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally picked myself up for the big day.
The venue was the same as that of A & C (seriously, some age-old tie-up??). I reached there half an hr before the scheduled time of 1:30 pm and followed the directions to the I-waiting room on the 4th floor. There were 20-odd people already sitting there.
The usual scenes. Half of the crowd were shuffling & re-shuffling the contents of their folder, just to be sure. Some were deeply engrossed in their copies of the "Times", devouring every piece of information on tsunami-ravaged,N-crisis hit Japan. Some, like me, calmly studied the floor to avoid the nervous faces before us.

We were divided into 3 panels, each having 9 of us. We were provided with our sheets of paper for the Written ability test (WAT). The WAT was divided into 2 sections.
The 1st section was a large essay which had to be summarized in approx. 130 words. It was on the extinction of certain species of wild animals and factors affecting it.

The 2nd section had something which suggested " Ban on smoking in public places is necessary for public health." We had to present an argument for/against it in approx. 200 words and support it, preferably with suitable examples. I couldn't fathom whether I was fast or the others slow because I was giving finishing touches to my 2nd section when some of the others where in the middle of their 1st.

We were stipulated a time of 50 min. But the entire group was done with the WAT in only 40 min. I wrote on how ban on smoking is futile, issues in monitoring it, measures to discourage the habit, promoting public health at large, more spending for healthcare etc.

Our sheets taken, we were told to sit in the waiting room for our turns.
Yet another 2-hr long wait (I was used to it by now, a veteran of sorts in giving interviews.).

The girl before me came out of the interview room. She had almost the same expressions on her face as she had 15 min back when she had gone in. While she was inside, I could only hear laughter half of the time. No, not from her, from the panelists! After a 2-min hiatus, I was called in.

P1: A man in his late 40s (Appeared the quite chilled,logical type interested in having a civilized & casual discussion.)

P2: A guy in his late 30s (Reminded you of your cruel young uncle with the god-given right to impose himself on you, monitored my words closely, looked for mistakes and chances to corner me.)

P3: An old man in his 60s who displayed the trademark features of all oldies who had interviewed me so far. The prime motive for his presence on the panel was to make me look as dumb as possible, throw random finance & eco terms at me and pummel my confidence to pulp.
He spoke less, was more intent in arranging the interview paper than gauging my intellect. He chipped in with questions on subjects which I had no idea about. He was ably supported by nitpicker P2.

P2 summons me inside.

Me: (Still standing)..Yes sir, vishwanath

P1: Right vishwanath, pls sit.

P1: (Still looking at my interview form)..I was looking at your form and couldnt help wondering how photogenic ur face is. You are handsome with a smiling face. (???)
Me: Thank you Sir.

P1: You should be in modelling, man. Why Indore? It isnt the place.
Me: (Still smiling)
P2 sees it as an opportunity to sneak in and eyes my form.

P2: So, what is it..ok..metallurgy & materials engg. So wat is carbon-dating?
Me: Told him about it as a technique to measure the age of age-old items etc.

P2: How are the ages of fosils of plants & animals measured?
Me: Explained to him the theory of carbon-dating and usage. (fumbled in between)

P2: What is half life? (Cracked a cheap joke on it, saying his half-life is 18 years and he would love to tell women about it. The other laughed.)
Me: Explained to him about half life, decaying of carbon, etc. Somehow made sense.

P2: (cutting me ..)But why only carbon is used for it? why not any other element?
Me: 'Coz it is an element which has an affinity & combines well with different metals & non-metals to form different compounds abundantly available on earth.

P2: (Again cut me..) So,u mean carbon is most abundantly available on earth. Really?
Me: No.

P2: Then?
Me: Silicon, Oxygen & Iron are the most abundant on earth.

P2: (Again..) But you haven't told me. why the reason for carbon-dating for detecting the age? Its not just its affinity.(Gave some example of him having an affinity for different people but that doesnt mean he is good enough. He had a laugh about it.)
Me: I dont know.

P1: What is Bessemerization?
Me: (Thought for some time). Spoke about its importance & significance in steel-making process improvement.

P1: What is the current method?
Me: electric Arc furnace.. Elaborated on it.

P1: So what is value-engineering?
Me: It is about adopting an alternate route/means to create benefit in terms of cost reduction,lead time reduction,productivity enhancement, quality enhacning, weight reduction etc (gave an auto example.)

P1 nodded in satisfaction .P2 dint want to. No sign of P3 yet.

P1: But in a particular case,ford did value engineering and tinkered with their vehicle safety systems in the process? What about it?
Me: Sir, it was a case where ford evaluated the damages they would have to pay for the accidents occuring due to the change and the savings they would get from the value engg change. The former turned out to be less. So they went with the proposal.

P1 smiled & nodded. He felt good that I was knowing some stuff.

P2: But whats wrong with it? (Gave a wicked, sly grin).
Me: It compromises on the passenger safety knowingly. It is unethical.

P2: So what? (I wished this guy was in one of those accident-prone Ford Cars)
Me: It would signal bad quality, send a bad message out to the customers and the image of the company would take a beating.

P2: So what is the job of materials management exactly?
Me: Materials,cost, quality, delivery, supplier parts development,process...

P2: What is your efficiency?
Me: In terms of?

P2: How would I know? You must be having some targets right?
Me: Yes we do. In terms of completing the development in time, cost targets..

P2: (Cuts again..) So what si the efficiency?
Me: 80%

P3: (Intro)..What is Break-even?
Me: It the point where you start earning profits.

P2: Are you sure? (doubting, suspicious look)
Me: yes

P3: What is gestation period?
Me: period in which you recover the investments we make etc.

P2: (cuts me yet again..he was doing it on purpose) what is the difference between cost & investment?
Me: spoke about money, human capital, time value etc etc.

P3: So can humans depreciate?
Me: No, in terms of knowledge.

P3: Can this building depreciate?
Me: Yes

P1: How do you go about value engineering? process followed for it?
Me: Explained about defining the objective in mind, forming a cross functional team, validating the process & the product, comparing the before/after effects and the nimplementing it.

P1: If we have very little/no time for all this?
Me: Then we can go for benchmarking with a imilar part for similar application used elsewhere and compare & verify data to conclude.

P2: If I want glass/glass-like appearance in my office tiles what type of material do i require?
Me: Materials which have the ame polished, surface finish like glas ...

P2: (cuts..shares a giggle with the other 2) No, but I want only glass. what should i take into account?
Me: A list of properties like compressive strength, load, machinability, surface finish, tempered glass etc.

P3: (obviously feeling left out)..What is cost?
Me: explained

P3: Do u know the 2 aspects of cost or not?
Me: fixed & variable cost

P3: What is fixed & variable cost?
Me: explained with examples like raw material & process. Variable would mean labour, inventory etc etc

P3: What labour? temporary or permanent?
Me: ?????

P2 (giggling all the time)

P3: Your salary has a variable cost right?
Me: Yes

P3: What is it? Esops?
Me: No, sir. It is sector performanc...

P2: (Cuts me off..) what are Esops?
Me: explained employee stock options

P3: How does Esops help you? (I have never taken Esops dude)
Me: Told that it is na option to take a stock of the company.

P2: What is a stock?
Me: A financial instrument by buying which you get a certain ownership of the company/firm. the price can appreciate or come down.

P2: So if u have a M&M Esops do you become equivalent to Mahindra himself? (Laughs out load. P1 & P3 join in.)

P3: So what r you. 0.000005% owner of M&M?
Me: (Damn you, did I ever say I took Esops any time.)

P3: So, what happens if you buy M&M company bonds?
Me: (Smile all the while) I dont know bonds sir.

P2 flashes a silent victory smile to himself.

P3: What is UPA-2?
Me: UPA in the 2nd term.

P3: (turns to other) OH..2nd term it seems.So, if u fail in your 1st term and give the same exam again, you have completed 2nd term?)

All3 of them have a good laugh and I give a big, bright smile.

P2: What is UPA?
ME: United Progressive Alliance.

P3: Who is the chaiperson of UPA-2?
Me: (thinking)

P3: C'mon, take a guess.
ME: (thought of Manmohan being remote-controlled by Sonia)..Sir, sonia Gandhi.

P2: What about Manmohan then?
Me: (??? Wat abt him?)

P1: There is a lot of talk about plastic & its connection to pollution. As a materials engineer waht will your opinion be?
Me: Spoke on identifying which plastics are degradable and which are not. Time taken to de-grade, educating the public on the classifications, making them aware of wat they use etc and use substitutes.

P1: What if it were one of your auto components?
Me: Talked about doing technical feasaiblity, application requirements, alternate materials, having a cross-functional team which includes a environmental engineer.

P2: (Not spoken for a while)..So, why was Keshub Mahindra in news lately?
Me: In connection with the Bhopal gas tragedy.

P2: What about it?
Me: He was implicated..

P2: sure?
Me: No, he was just arrested.

P2: What was the company?
Me: (Thought for a while) Dow Chemicals.. (AArgh.. it is Union carbide. How did i miss it??)

P2: But Dow says that it is not their company? (sly smile again)
Me: I know the company but cant recollect its name.

P2: Do you know the name of the chemical?
Me: Methyl iso-cyanate

P2: What was Keshub Mahindra's role in it?
Me: M not sure. But he was on the board of Directors.

P3: Actually much more than that. Chairman.
ME: ok

P2: (Showing off his GK)..Have you heard of chernobyl disaster?
Me: Yes

P2: What was it?
ME: explained nuclear reactor, radioactive explosion, etc etc

P2 (Cut me again..) what is the difference between Bhopal & Chernobyl?
Me: Chemicals were different, implications different..Chernobyl was...

P2: (Cuts.) When did chernobyl happen?
Me: Told

P2: Where did it happen?
ME: ukraine

P2: Where was it?

P2 What is USSR?
Me: (Accidentally said "United Soviet Socialist Republics". But said it confidently enough)

P2: Where is USSR?
ME: Its no more there. It broke up into different countries.

P2: Broke up in 2 different countries?
ME: Not 2 different countries. Into (Spelled "I-N-T-O") many different countries including Russia.

P2: Ok. got it.

P1,P2, P3 look at each other and finally decide that they have had enough.

Me: (Smile) Thank you.

I dont really know how much the ordeal lasted. But it was good fun.

Final Verdict: " Converted "



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