ISB Interview Experience 1 – From Software Developer to Product Manager

ISB Interview Experience of a Software Developer who wants to do Product Management post MBA.

At MBA Sage, we interview the applicants that prepare for their mock interviews with us.

This blog post is a transcript of an interview with an ISB PGP applicant that secured a successful admit. The applicant came from a Software Development profile and wanted to become a Product Manager post MBA.

We hope this interview helps you with your ISB admissions.

Applicant profile

  • Male
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineer from Tier 1 Engineering College In India
  • Interested in Software Development since college and joined a major ecommerce company after college
  • Ever since school, interested in volunteer work and joined Volunteering Organization A in school. Continued to volunteer for autistic kids after joining work through Volunteering Organization B.
  • Interested in sports, specially cricket and football. Both plays and watches the sport
  • GMAT – 750 – A strong score is needed when coming from an IT, Engineer, Male background.
  • Number of years of experience – Around 2 years currently and will be 2.5 while joining ISB.
  • Final result: Admitted

How did you map your profile with the different characteristics that ISB looks for?

Two things are very important while applying to ISB – Leadership and Diversity.

Diversity is exceptionally important if you are an applicant from IT background. For my profile the diversity aspect was portrayed from the NGO work and my involvement in sports. Hence, it is always better to leverage your hobbies. Ideally, you should have reached a significant level in your hobbies as well. For example, I was part of my college football team and I am part of the corporate sports team at my workplace as well. Many aspects like teamwork, planning, organizing matches with other corporate teams are involved in these activities and it helped in showing both diversity and leadership aspects of my profile.

Regarding leadership, for a person like me, who is pretty young and works for a big corporate, getting a leadership position at my job is a bit difficult. Hence, leadership is shown by showing initiative in the work I was involved in. This can be shown by the ideas I might have suggested during my normal working or when I went an extra step beyond what was required. For example, you might have went out of your way to suggest adding a new feature which the senior leadership then acknowlesged and accepted as a good feature.

These small initiatives and things that you suggest are valuable for an applicant at a very young age to show the leadership aspect.

What was your preparation strategy for the application and the interview?

People generally say it takes 2-3 months to work on your application and I too had planned to take that much time for preparing my application. But this time ISB applications were preponed by a month. I had to prepare for GMAT as well so I had only 10-15 days for my application.

Although the actual writing of the application was done in the last 10-15 days, I already had an idea of what I was going to write in the essay. I already had the clarity. For this you need to speak with a lot of people – your friends, family, colleagues and they might tell you about what aspects of your profile can be mapped with traits like leadership, diversity, etc. Doing this exercise on an extensive basis helps in creating clarity.

Next, no amount of reviews are enough for the final essay. Constant feedback is very very important. Every time you send it to someone for a review, they will give some feedback and improve it a bit more. I took feedback from parents and friends who went to ISB

For my interview preparation, I went through lot of websites where previous applicants had shared their experiences. I had an experience with an IIM interview but ISB interviews were very different. Because here, profile specific questions were being asked. Hence, you should sit across a friend and let him play the devil’s advocate and ask you profile specific questions. Leave niceties out of the way and think of questions the panel might ask you. It is better if you face difficult questions right now instead of later.

Next, you need to have clarity on what you want to do post MBA. You cannot portray that you want to reach ISB and explore and then make a decision. ISB expects you to know your motivation behind doing an MBA and your goals after an MBA.

Finally, this cannot be overstated that you have to be absolutely thorough with your application. In my application, I mentioned some achievements from my time at college and questions about that were asked in the interview which caught me off guard. I had mentioned a prize I had won in a Technical Festival and it was completely technical and not even remotely managerial and I was still asked about it. It is important to not overlook any part of your application and revise the story and facts behind everything mentioned in the application.

How did you come across MBA Sage and what was your experience with MBA Sage?

I read about MBA Sage on GMAT Club. I saw positive reviews by applicants mentioning that your mock interviews were very helpful. I found the model very interesting as you are connected directly with someone who has the same profile as yours.

This was very helpful for me. As an ecommerce employee, one common question during my mock interviews would always be about Company A vs Company B in the ecommerce industry. But my MBA Sage interviewer Anshuman was able to go beyond these questions and ask questions on supply chain, logistics, augmented reality and dive deep into the ecommerce industry with more questions focusing on my profile because he was himself from Ecommerce Company C. This gave me a good idea of what to expect in the final interview and my confidence was greatly boosted after the mock.

How was your final interview experience?

My interview panel had 2 people, Mr. Satya from the class of 2016 and another panel member from the class of 2013. Initially in the interview, you wait in the main lobby, and interview starts with small talk – How are you, how did you reach here and so on.

Once they start with the actual interview questions, there is no turning back. It is definitely a casual interview and they don’t try to put you under stress but it is definitely a packed and intense interview with back to back questions and no chit chat.

For me, the first question was Why MBA?

I had a clear idea – I wanted to switch to Product Management and the panel seemed satisfied with that. In this question, it is very important to have a concrete idea of what you want to do post an MBA. You cannot mention a long term goal such as – I want to be in a senior leadership position in 10 to 15 years or so. You have to show a clear idea of what’s coming in the next two years after your MBA.

The question, Why ISB, was also asked quite later into the interview. It didn’t go very well for me. I didn’t have a very specific answer as I didn’t have specific courses and teachers to mention. My answer was focused around diversity and how working and networking with other diverse people would help me, I also mentioned their exchange program and so on.
However, the panel went around this answer and dodged back with follow up questions such about which teacher I would like to study under and what courses I would like to take up.

Apart from this, there were questions focusing on product management, ecommerce and what ideas I have about the domain. So you need to have a good knowledge about your domain and how other companies in your domain work and what the future of your domain looks like and what you want to do in your domain. Again, having a clear idea about what field you want to enter is a good plan, but having a clear idea about what you want to do is also important. In my case, I wanted to enter the field of Product Management in the ecommerce domain, but more specifically, I wanted to introduce more technology into ecommerce by launching initiatives like augmented reality, solving tier 2 and tier 3 cities’ problems using NLP and other similar aspects.

One question that really stumped me was on my technical achievement in college. It was a bit unexpected but still I managed to answer it. I had expected a lot more questions from my essays around sports and NGO work but they didn’t focus on that. Instead I was asked why I didn’t pursue my tech project further and develop it.

What are your tips for future applicants?

Be honest and true to yourself. Don’t write hi-fi things about yourself in the application as you will get caught if you’re lying or exaggerating. Don’t write something you haven’t achieved. Don’t over glorify your achievements.

A good tip to follow for this will be:

Note down the project’s achievement and show it as the project’s achievement and not your own achievement, then note down what you exactly did in it, then what you learned from it. Focus on the last two parts more in your interview and instead of the first one.


Edited at MBA SAGE
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