This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Rohan Rajiv, a student at Northwestern Kellogg.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Rohan: I am originally from Chennai in India. I was fortunate to do my undergrad at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in Electrical Engineering on a scholarship. However, I spent most of my time working on a start-up that connected students with work they love that didn’t eventually work out. So, I feel I learnt more about entrepreneurship (primarily that it is very hard to do right) from my undergrad years than about Electrical Engineering.
Accepted: Can you share 3 fun facts about yourself?
1. I have a daily learning blog where I’ve posted a learning every day since May 12, 2008 (3700+ posts and counting).
2. I sleep a lot and fidget a lot. My wife continues to be amazed at both abilities.
3. I was a paid TV actor for a couple of years between ages 9-11 when I acted in a local language version that combined Barney and Teletubbies for adolescent kids. We don’t have any video recordings – thank god.
Accepted: What year are you at Kellogg? Why did you choose this program? How would you say you are a good fit with the program?
Rohan: I am a 2nd year. I chose to apply to a collection of schools that I would have loved to go to. Kellogg was one of those that accepted me and I’m grateful to the admissions team for giving me a shot.
Kellogg’s culture is built around a collaborative student body that is characterized by folks who are “low ego, high impact.” I’d like to believe I fit well in the culture and I think that definitely helped me get in. But, you’d have to check with my classmates and the Office of Admissions to make sure. 🙂
Accepted: Is there anything you’d change about the program? If so, what?
Rohan: Not much I can think of. That is not to say that it is perfect. But what I’ve loved about my experience is that I’ve been given the freedom to lead teams to work toward changing what I/we thought was sub-optimal. And that’s been one of the favorite parts of my experience. It is truly what you make of it.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Rohan: This is a 4-way tie (sorry!) between –
1. Core Operations with Prof. Gad Allon
2. Customer Analytics with Prof. Florian Zettelmeyer
3. Supply Chain with Prof. Sunil Chopra
4. Federal Policy for Business Leaders with Prof. David Besanko
Accepted: Looking back at the b-school admissions process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How did you overcome that challenge and how would you advise others who may be facing similar hurdles?
Rohan: I had 2 primary challenges – I didn’t have a big brand on my resume and I didn’t have a good undergrad GPA (start-up, etc.). Being aware of these challenges was probably a big first step. Once you are aware, you can make sure you address them.
I don’t consider myself as someone who excelled in the application process. So I’ve generally had less to say about this. However, 3 things I think I did well were –
1. Got lots of help and support from a lot of people without whom I wouldn’t be here. The application process is a team effort.
2. Worked with recommenders who knew me very well and could speak to specifics really well.
3. Did my best to make sure my application was true to who I am.
Accepted: Do you have a job lined up for next year? What role did Kellogg play in helping you secure that position?
Rohan: I interned at the Business Operations (“Biz Ops”) team at LinkedIn over the summer and I am lucky to be going back.
Kellogg helped every step of the way – 2nd years were invaluable in helping me prepare for interviews and the year spent at school went a long way in helping me perform at the job.
(Side note for prospective students: While every school paints the picture of business school being that magical place where your dream job awaits, the recruiting journey is generally a tough one. More here – along with links to 5 other posts about how to prepare for and think about the experience.)
Accepted: Can you tell us about the 200 words project?
Rohan: Every Sunday, I share an idea via email within 200 words to people I’ve met over the years – friends, family, ex-colleagues, etc. I post it a week later on my blog.
This idea is typically a synthesized learning either from a book I’ve read or from a blog post or article I’ve read online. I’ve been doing this in different forms for 7 or so years now. Creating and sharing content every week requires me to read, absorb and synthesize ideas. And, of course, it helps me stay in touch with folks I’ve met over the years.
(Side note: If you are ever looking for book recommendations, please feel free to check out www.RohanRajiv.com. Most books have links to a short summary as well.)
Accepted: Can you tell us more about your blog? How has it evolved over these years? What have you gained from the blogging experience?
Rohan: One of my side projects during my undergrad years was a student talk show. It was mocked by a group of classmates and I took the criticism to heart. I had always thought of myself as a fairly confident person. But my reaction to the criticism made me realize that I was way too insecure for my own good. I thought the way out might be to share my failures on a blog so I learn to treat them as learnings. But, my first challenge turned out to be to simply develop the discipline to do something every day. Most days, I’d get in a line. Soon, I began posting quotes every weekday as a way to make sure I didn’t miss days. Two and a half years into the experience, I finally developed the discipline to post “long form” every day and have done so for the 5+ years since.
The blog has changed me more than I have changed it. It has fundamentally changed how I view the world – any failure is no longer a failure – it is a blog-worthy experience I can now learn from. This learning mindset has changed how I approach life, and, while it has given me a more evolved understanding of the principles that govern a good life, it has taught me that happiness in life isn’t about attempting to big things. It is about repeatedly doing small things with extraordinary love.
And, I’ve also been fortunate to hear from and meet many wonderful readers from around the world over these years. These sort of serendipitous connections have a magical feel about them.
You can follow Rohan’s story by checking out his blog at www.ALearningaDay.com. Thank you Rohan for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best Kellogg application.