This is the third and final part of our interview with Sudershan Tirumala (Suds) – Associate Director of Admissions and Regional Director for India & South East Asia at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth .
Career Options in India
CTM: How big is the Tuck alumni community in India? How committed and connected are they, and how easy is it to reach out to them when Tuckies want to return to India?
Suds: Tuckies – or in general, graduates of US business schools – end up deciding to stay back in the US for a variety of reasons, be they financially driven (good pay), or loan driven (loan is in USD, so earning in USD makes sense compared to earning in a (potentially weaker) foreign currency and trying to pay back a dollar-denominated loan), or quality of life driven, or simply wanting to get that exposure of working in the US or all of the above.
As such, Tuck being one of the smallest schools in the Ivy League, has a fewer number of alumni on the ground compared to other schools whose class sizes are much larger. That said, the Tuck alumni network is renowned for its continued engagement and support of the school and the Economist has ranked Tuck’s alumni network #1 in terms of effectiveness.
But what makes the community fantastic is the manner in which we Tuckies respond to requests from each other due to the common thread called Tuck that connects us. As such, I’d rather not dwell on the quantity (number of people on the ground) but focus on quality (the connections and the outcomes of interactions). Do not mistake size for strength. And the network is rarely local in today’s world and is global in every sense.
I’ll give you a couple of instances from my own experience: after having moved back to India, when I reached out to one of the celebrated venture capitalists in the world (he’s on the Forbes’ Midas list of investors and his office is on Sand Hill Road), he not only responded to my email but within twelve hours of exchanging emails, we were on a call that lasted more than an hour, and it was replete with invaluable advice. And this is a person whom startups and established companies are courting all the time, yet here he was, taking the time to talk to me and answering all my questions.
In another case, I was getting ready to fly to Bangkok and was looking for a very specific type of venue for the meeting I was to host. I reached out to a Tuckie who is based in Maseru, Lesotho, and he instantly set me up with the perfect place for what I had in mind.
The level of access and attention one gets as a member of the Tuck alumni network is simply phenomenal. It is an empowering feeling to be part of such a responsive network. All one has to do is reach out!
CTM: Do the graduates moving to India recruit on their own or are there on-campus recruiting opportunities available for candidates looking to work in India? (Are there rotation programs?)
The Career Development Office (CDO) at Tuck is focused on individual outcomes when it comes to recruiting, and works closely with each and every Tuckie to get where they want to go. As I have alluded to earlier, it’s not so much about the existence of opportunities but about who is keen on returning to their home country (India in this case) sooner than later.
There have been a number of cases where interested students (Indian or otherwise) have been able to find summer internships in India, ranging from interesting social enterprise startups to large corporations. The same can be applied to full-time possibilities also – the only issue being what I mentioned above, a reluctance to returning to one’s roots in the short-term.
At all points in job (or internship) search, the students are assisted by the CDO regarding the specific opportunities the student is pursuing.
CTM: For Tuckies moving to India immediately after their MBA, what kind of companies and roles have they taken? It would be great if you could share the top three employers.
Whether someone wants to work in India or South East Asia in general, the Tuck network and the CDO are excellent resources that will stand students in good stead at all times. In the past, Tuckies (whether for internship or right after MBA or a couple of years after graduation) have been recruited by Infosys, Tata, ICICI, Oxigen, Zomato, Paytm, and so on. In some other cases, Tuckies have come back to start their own companies. Some have come back to their family businesses. So what Tuckies are doing in India spreads the wide gamut of possibilities from startups to growing companies to established multinational corporations.
Alumni Network in India
CTM: As the person who runs the Tuck Club of India, what programming do you have and do you plug into the broader business school alumni clubs?
Suds: Tuck Club of India is a platform for bringing Tuckies in India (and those who are visiting India) together from time to time. The events can be Tuck-specific or combined with other business schools’ clubs.
For instance, when VG was in India a couple of years ago, I had organized an event that saw participation not only from Tuck and Dartmouth but also other Ivy League business school alums who wanted to hear from VG. Whenever Praveen Kopalle has visited India, I have tried to organize mock-class events that give applicants a sense of the thought leadership that’s resident at Tuck, and more importantly, give them a feel for how interactive, class discussions are at Tuck. Needless to say, all Tuck events are open to Tuckies and their families.
Tuckies also get together to connect with each other and catch up with Tuckies visiting India from other countries either for work or pleasure. For instance, there was a Tuck ‘Tails (Tuck cocktail reception) organized to welcome the GIX students to India last year that saw not only Tuck alumni in attendance but also admitted students who came from all around the country to meet and interact with the GIX students.
Also, by virtue of being part of the Ivy League network, we’re automatically part of all Ivy League business school alumni club programming, so there’s a lot of these mixers and other events that go on all the time.
CTM: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Suds: Yes. Applicants should focus on figuring out what they want to do as opposed to writing goal statements they think the admissions committee wants to hear.
Do not fall prey to thought process that may sound something like, “I just want to get into Consulting, but since many applicants maybe saying something similar, I’ll make up a different story for the purpose of sounding different in the application, with the intention of abandoning it as soon as I get in.”
The above approach is a complete fallacy. Think of your application as a jigsaw puzzle. Every input about the candidate is one more piece in the jigsaw puzzle. Test scores are one piece, essays are another piece, recommendations are yet another piece, so on and so forth. If the pieces connect and when put together form a coherent application that demonstrates introspection, the candidate has done a pretty good job of making a case. On the other hand, if there are large gaps in that picture or if the pieces of the puzzle don’t make sense together, then the candidate hasn’t done any favors to her/himself.
At Tuck, we try to get to know candidates extremely well, and we don’t take admissions decisions lightly. We want to understand the motivations of the applicants, and we’re constantly debating within the Admissions Committee, why someone shouldn’t be admitted, rather than why someone should be. It’s a very different way of operating, and we pride ourselves on being a pro-candidate committee. There’s a lot of analysis that’s done to identify the right candidates, and we’re always asking ourselves, “Is this right? Are we taking the right call?” We review applications multiple times before making decisions pertaining to admissions.
Given the rigor that defines the process, if an applicant has tried to second-guess the admissions committee, it won’t bode well for the outcome. I’d rather the applicants put their best foot forward and let us take the call.
The moral of the story is, “Figure out what it is that you love to do. This may be a long an iterative process. The answers won’t come to you magically. You may need to introspect for hours, days or even weeks. You may have to debate ideas with your friends and family. When the moment of epiphany hits you, when you know what you love, do yourself a favor and hang on to it for dear life! Don’t let anything get in the way of your goal of doing what you love to. Crystallize that. And then make sure that your application reflects that. At that point, you’ve officially done the best job you could have done with your application, we will automatically be drawn towards you!
Remember, the Tuck School and the community will work with you to help you realize your dreams. So figure out your dream. The time to do that is NOW!
This brings us to the end of Part III of our three-part interview with Suds. Check out Part I and Part II of the interview for information on Admissions and Tuckies in India. We have loved interacting with Suds and bringing this wealth of information shared by him with our readers. We hope that many of you have already attended the numerous Tuck events across the country or are in the process of doing so.