Akash Premsen graduated with an MBA from the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, in 2008, after which he worked with Johnson and Johnson for two years in California and India. He is a member of Darden’s India Alumni Chapter Leadership Team.
1.What was your pre-MBA profile?
I had a very a typical pre-MBA profile. After a BA (Honours) in History from Hindu College, University of Delhi, I spent 4 years in the media industry. I was first a radio jockey with Radio Mirchi and then a member of the launch team of CNN-IBN as a TV anchor. At the time I applied to Darden, I had my own weekly TV show on gizmos, gadgets and cars. These credentials elicited surprise in the US because MBA aspirants from India are usually typecast as having a background in engineering or IT.
2. Why did you decide to do an MBA?
I felt a glass ceiling in the media world – if one is not a hard news person, there isn’t much vertical movement possible after a point. I felt that I needed to move into strategy or general management. I also wanted to develop a new skill set because I felt I used my creative skills almost exclusively. For me, an MBA did not mean a ticket into the financial or consulting sectors, as it so often does in India. I viewed an MBA as an opportunity for my own growth – intellectually, academically and, thereafter, professionally.
3. Do you think your choice of B-School has been proved correct?
Absolutely. The Darden School is consistently ranked in the Top 10 B-Schools in the United States. It is one of the best General Management schools and one of the select schools in the US that follow the case study method one hundred percent. It is well-known for its top-notch faculty, its focus on pedagogy and its world-class curriculum. It is also a gruelling program and definitely not meant for the faint-hearted! Darden makes you truly earn your degree and get the maximum for the tuition you pay!
4. What are the most important things you learned during the MBA?
Foremost, time-management. Someone who has to prepare three cases a day cannot afford to suffer from analysis-paralysis! One has to assess a situation quickly, weigh the issues, take a decision and move on.
At Darden, class participation is mandatory, making up 30-50% of your grade, so I also learnt how to create and use collective knowledge, how to harness knowledge from others. One ends up learning as much from fellow students as from professors. Being open to learn from your equals and setting all ego aside is the mark of a true student.
5. Has the B-School experience helped mould your personality?
Business school teaches you a way of life and completely rewires your brain, almost like in joining the military. Darden’s case method, brilliant teaching and focus on class participation made me start thinking through arguments and theories very differently and sharpened my problems-solving skills. It also made me much more methodical and efficient in all areas of life.
6. Where did you do your MBA internship? How hard was it to get the internship? Did you get adequate assistance from your B school?
My internship was with Walt Disney’s ABC News division as a Global Strategy Summer Associate in Manhattan, NYC. Darden has a very robust career services department. I do feel strongly though that MBA students should not use the school’s career services as a crutch. The school will assist but they can only lead you to the pond; it’s up to you to drink. I conducted a lot of research online and engaged in extensive off-campus recruitment. Because of my background in the media, I contacted ABC News for an internship in a strategy-oriented role. They liked my resume and, even though they did not have a ready made summer program, tailored one for me according to my strengths and interests.