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Real Humans of Apple: Rahul Jolly, INSEAD ’18, Channel Insights Manager

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Chances are, you are reading this article on an Apple device.  The firm’s technology is ubiquitous, and cultural impact undeniable.  Founded in 1976—legend has it, out of a garage—Apple Inc. passed $1.3 trillion in market capitalization in December of 2019.  They employ over 137,000 people worldwide and corporate headquarters stand in Silicon Valley, with other campuses sprinkled across three continents.

In this edition of Real Humans – Alumni, we hear from Rahul Jolly, who joined Apple after earning his MBA at INSEAD in Singapore. INSEAD delivers a one-year MBA program, which can be an express lane to a new career, equipping students with general management and leadership skills in a relatively short period of time.  Read on for how the intense business school experience prepared Rahul to take on new business challenges at Apple, and his advice about networking and recruiting along the way.

Rahul Jolly, INSEAD ’18, Channel Insights Manager at Apple

Rahul Jolly, INSEAD ’18, Channel Insights Manager at Apple

Age: 29
Hometown: Delhi, India 
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Electronics Engineering from Delhi University, 2012
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: INSEAD, 2018 (December), General full-time MBA
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 5 yrs in internal audit and consulting with EY, India
Post-MBA Work Experience: 1 yr in operations at Apple, Singapore

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I started to plan for my MBA during my tenure at EY. During my stints at different client offices, I realized that the problems they were facing were very complex, impacted multiple business functions and needed more than just technical skills to solve. I felt I needed an understanding of how businesses work, how multiple functions interact and how to get buy-in from various stakeholders. Hence, my decision to take a business degree post a technical degree.

Now that I have done my MBA, I do feel that many of those points were addressed. The case studies and experiences of my MBA classmates were really enriching. And, now I know I have a good network of friends across business domains who are readily available to help in case need arises in the future.

Why INSEAD? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
INSEAD stood out during my MBA college search mainly because:

  1. Location – I wanted to be in a major city outside the US (I didn’t want to be in the US, due to visa uncertainties). Singapore is closer to my home and a growing city with a good standard of living and lots of business opportunities.
  2. Brand – I wanted to study in a highly reputed institute for their great quality of teachers and peers.
  3. Duration – 1 year MBA provided a better ROI. In fact, INSEAD’s ROI is much better than many competing schools.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Most of the job-related learning happened at the job itself. However, the MBA prepared me to be comfortable to say ‘I don’t know,’ to understand that no one knows how to solve some problems and that it’s ok to make mistakes. The MBA gave me the confidence to be more vocal about my opinion and to pay attention to team perceptions and needs. After all, if the CEOs of big companies can make mistakes, they can go horribly wrong, then so can I (knowledge credit: case studies and peer experiences).

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned at Medtronic (one of the largest medical devices firm in the world) at their Singapore office.

As all of my pre-MBA experience was in one area, an internship gave me…

  1. Comfort that my skills are relevant across industries (from internal audit / consulting industry to medical devices).
  2. Experience as a full-time employee in another organization. So that I can compare and contrast my experience at EY and choose what I really liked and hence, want in my next employer.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I wanted 3 things in my post-MBA employer – challenging work, a good work-life balance and a great international brand. Apple fulfilled all three of these requirements. I had multiple offers post-graduation, but since I knew what I wanted, it was relatively easy to make a decision.

I noticed that many of my friends were confused when deciding which employer to target, I used to advise them to write down 4-5 things they liked and similarly 4-5 things they didn’t in their previous firm, and use it as a guide. This personally helped to make a clear choice under the time-pressure of which employers to target.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Talk to alumni working in the roles I am targeting. That was the single most helpful thing I did in my job search. Job descriptions are mostly vague and don’t tell much about the team culture and day-to-day challenges one would be facing. Knowing that helped me to highlight the relevant skills and stand out in the interview as a serious candidate.

On average, I used to spend about 3-4 hours researching about every role I applied to.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
Spend less time on case studies. I (and many others) spent an incredible amount of time, solving over 50 cases for consulting interviews (some friends even went above 100). Now when I look back, I feel there wasn’t a need to solve so many cases rather should have focused more on understanding different industries, how they work and their challenges (that’s what’s tested in cases eventually).

I did have an MBB offer as well, but I feel I could have performed better in the cases if I had more basic cross-industry knowledge.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Nothing specific to the employer. But yes, interviewing for tech firms was very different compared to consulting. Recruiting at tech firms was slower, highly fit-based and a lot more interviews compared to consulting interviews, which were very standard in structure, with interview decisions in just a few days.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
That networking events are of limited importance if you are not sure of what you want to get out of them. I attended many networking events just because others were doing so. Most of the networking events weren’t very helpful in my job search simply because they didn’t have the firms I was targeting.

My suggestion to current students will be to go through the list of participating firms and selectively target the firms that interest you.

What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
The perks!!! Well, I learned most about the work and team culture during my info-gathering stage. But, what surprised me was the amount of effort the company puts to keep you happy and engaged.

I will be boasting a little here, but the office has a highly subsidized world-class gym, yoga studio and fitness center, doctors, dentists, dieticians, masseur, opticians, etc. in the office itself. That’s what surprised me the most.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.