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Real Humans of the CEIBS MBA Class of 2022

Sourav Panda, CEIBS MBA Class of 2022

Age: 28
Hometown: Berhampur, Odisha, India
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Berhampur University, Accounting (Hons.)
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5 years, Banking

Why business school? Why now?
Business is now transforming at an unbelievable pace. The industry I come from was witnessing a revolution even before COVID-19 struck. Digitization is the name of the game, and a technological overhaul is imminent for the banking sector. This is a wonderful time to be back in school when many of the cases we will study will not be historical like they usually are, but extremely relevant and timely. Our understanding of businesses, organizations, and society will be challenged thoroughly. Plus, after being tempered by the pre-pandemic times and conditioned by the new normal, I’m confident that we will evolve strongly for the post-pandemic workforce.

Why CEIBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I’m on the team which looks east for the next wave of growth in the world. I was primarily focusing on the Asian b-schools as I see myself thriving in the APAC region in the coming years.  I chose to go with CEIBS, despite having other top converts with scholarships in the region because of the following three reasons:

First, the China depth. Most of the last decade’s growth in the region has come from one country. The pace and scale of the Chinese economy are unmatched. Ideologically, politically, or culturally one may or may not agree with the country, but nobody can really deny China’s contribution to the global business world. To study business from books and to be in the centre of the action in the business world are two different things. The idea of analysing businesses in this trend-setting country was fascinating, to say the least. Secondly, I’m keen on getting into financial technology after my MBA. China’s digitization is ground-breaking – be it the cashless society it is developing with seamless payments or the digital currency it is rolling out. CEIBS, with a strong focus on digital business, made perfect sense. Thirdly, I’m a big sucker for culture. I felt like I was an excellent cultural fit at the school, which offers a hospitable, collaborative, and intellectual space to learn and grow.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
I was working with India’s largest bank at the grassroots of one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world, helping the agriculture sector grow through affordable finance. My experience with the base of the market pyramid in an emerging economy and understanding of borrower behaviour around credit will give a unique vantage point to classroom discussions at CEIBS. Beyond academics, I have taken the initiative of starting the CEIBS Book Club to encourage reading and the discussion of relevant books in the community. I’m also keen on working in the leadership club and finance club to lend my experience to my peers during events and activities.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I used to run my own podcast channel through my poetry club called Poets on Air. It’s multilingual and is running on Spotify. I’m eager to start a podcast series at b-school too, to offer bits of poetry for mental well-being. At this point, I’d also like to confess that one of my strongest long-term goals is to be able to write about people and their stories.

Post-MBA career interests?
I’m interested in working at the intersection of finance and technology – in payments, digital/neo-banking verticals of commercial banks/financial institutions in business development and strategy roles. I think technology can truly bridge the gap we have in terms of financial inclusion making funds more accessible and affordable.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Talk to multiple people in the current batch, senior batches, student ambassadors, the admissions team, career development teams, and exchange students. All of them have their own experiences and perspectives to share, which can truly help in the end to make an informed choice.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
Drink less coffee during the process!

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Recommendations from supervisors in a particular format, as that is the only part not in your control which has significant weight on your acceptance into the program. Cultural differences, different working styles in organizations, and exposure levels of colleagues may potentially jeopardize one’s chances of getting into a program despite an otherwise perfect application.

I had wonderful supervisors who were incredibly supportive during my entire journey. They were pro-active in completing the recommendations, and with the results, I think they must have written kind words about me too! But I can clearly imagine something going wrong for someone on that front. Hence, if I could, I’d change the pre-requisite of a recommendation from being mandatory to being optional (with brownie points, if submitted).

What is your initial impression of CEIBS’ students/culture/community?
It is warm and co-operative. Every touchpoint I came across, be it alumni, current students, faculty, or staff, right from my pre-application days to orientation week, has been overwhelmingly helpful. I think being supportive is in CEIBS’ DNA.

One thing you have learned about CEIBS that has surprised you?
Its agility in the face of crisis has taken me by surprise! Around March, there was no plan for a twin-city MBA program. In July, the announcements were made. In October, the sessions started in parallel in both Zurich (with over 40 students) and Shanghai (with about 120 students). Managing the technological, infrastructural, and logistical hurdles to pull this plan off during the pandemic-ridden year is nothing short of a stupendous demonstration of agile leadership.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I’m spending the first term in Zurich, where temperatures fall fairly below what is known to be my comfortable temperature. I come from a coastal area of a predominantly tropical country. The lowest temperatures I’ve been exposed to will be the highest I’ll see in Switzerland. The only weapon strong enough to keep me warm while I race through the MBA rigor is the heavenly and decadent hot chocolate in Switzerland!

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
The opportunity to explore two different economies and cultures – Switzerland and China – with a batch of intelligent, diverse, and accomplished individuals poised to make this journey together as one team. Team CEIBS!

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2022, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: CEIBS

About the Author

Christina Griffith  

Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.

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