An overview of General Management roles - Manoj Yadav, IIM Calcutta
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Manoj Yadav completed his PGDM from IIM Calcutta and is currently working with a global conglomerate in their General Management function. He was the Overall Coordinator for Carpe Diem’13, IIM C’s annual cultural festival which is one of the biggest and most eagerly awaited events on B-School calendars. His other interests include marketing research, consumer behaviour, advertising and online media marketing.
The most important and common question that is usually asked in most of the B-School’s interviews is Why MBA? This seemingly innocuous question is also usually the most difficult one. While the common answers include rising through the hierarchy, increase in the pay check (considered highly offensive my many) and/or more responsibility etc. The answer usually expected by the interviewer is a clear structured explanation of how MBA perfectly fits into your scheme of things at this point of your career.
Now, a simple approach to this will be to analyze your current situation and your expectations after MBA. The Blackbox, which MBA is for most of the aspirants helps in acquiring the functional knowledge and more importantly the soft skills which come in real handy in the corporate life.
What I observed from my MBA experience is that the MBA aspirants usually fall in one of the following three categories.
1. Clear functional preference: Some students because of their work ex or because of strong interests in one particular field or function are absolutely clear about what they want to do. These are the people who usually want to either rise in the hierarchy through available career opportunities after MBA and/or enhance their functional knowledge and hence they do an MBA.
2. No functional preference: Some like me, comes with absolutely no preference in mind. These guys could either be freshers with no prior functional exp and hence no baggage whatsoever or experienced who are too bored by their function. These guys are after any or all of the after MBA changes that could happen to their lives which have been mentioned in the above figure. Sometimes these guys develop a functional preference in between the course.
3. Neither here nor there: These are the people who are confused like hell. They hate and love the functional preference from their work experience or any other experience (like college projects etc in case of freshers). Or have no clarity about various options available to them because of lack of information in public domain about these options.
The Target Segment for this article is the latter two: the confused and the no preference groups.
What I am going to talk about in this article is a new function or rather role which is increasingly becoming popular in all the major B-Schools: General Management. The role while offering relatively better work life balance gives immense opportunities via exposure to different functions, companies, and geographies (with international stints), and hence better career growth opportunities (these programs are known to be fast-track growth leadership programs).
General Management is offered by companies like TAS, Mahindra, Reliance, Cairn etc. TAS, one of the oldest leadership programs, was the first to start such a role. There are two types of roles which are usually offered in Gen Man. While in some companies like TAS where you do projects in different industries in different functions with a lot of international exposure with lifelong guaranteed mobility (you could move to different companies or functions depending on your capabilities and companies requirements), there are others where usually the leadership program involves choosing a particular industry and function and growing in that role only.
The role which comes close to General Management in terms of mobility and exposure to a variety of business problems is Consultancy (I will restrict my focus to Management consulting only here). But there are some very critical differences in these two roles. In a consultant role usually the project is of smaller duration and you might be working on multiple projects. One of the key differences is that in consultancy, the output usually would be strategic in nature and involve little implementation whereas in a GenMan role (which is more like internal consultancy) the role involves strategy formation, implementation and execution. Also, you usually face very immediate problems in hand. Gen Man roles are highly preferred these days because of these roles that many companies put you into.
As attractive as the program looks, the selection process to such programs is equally rigorous. Companies usually prefer an extensive GD round (which may be a Chairman GD) and multiple other rounds including psychometric test, group activity, group interviews, etc. The focus is usually on evaluating the leadership skills of the individual, communication skills, knowledge about functions (usually preference for a function is asked), team skills and time management. Individuals with a structured thinking process (able to follow a structured path to problem solving rather than random guess work) are usually preferred, and an experience of holding positions of responsibility in college or during the work experience definitely has an advantage.
While preparing for such interviews, the personal questions (yeah they won’t leave you in your grave) should be given utmost importance. In fact in some of the companies, the interviews are limited to personal HR questions only. The situational questions, usually in the form of small business problems might also be asked, which would test both: your functional preference knowledge as well as your decision making capabilities in an organization. The preparation, according to me, for such interviews shouldn’t be restricted to the eleventh hour as these companies are looking for people who will be able to lead the organization (and not just a function). At the least, you should be able to speak with full authority on topics related to your functional preference. Also, in my opinion, a firm grip over subjects of Behavioural Science and HR groups would help you in giving structure to your thought process when people management problems are involved which require some basic understanding of organizational and human behaviour. It could give you a lot of things to talk about in the interview.
Almost all the GenMan programs barring TAS are relatively new and also offer a completely different experience. It’s a brilliant opportunity for people who wish to work across functions and industries. But at the end, to each his own and hence interaction with your friends, alums from college might help immensely in giving you a clear picture about nuances, benefits and disadvantages of any role and is thus highly recommended.