The Bootcamp team had a chance to catch up with the ISB GSB president at the Hyderabad campus, Shyam Nambiar. Read on to get an insight on how the GSB gets elected, functions and ensures everything goes just right on campus.
President, Graduate Student Board, ISB Hyderabad
How is the graduate student board formed?
During the orientation week, the GSB president and a large number of directors of professional clubs and alums give you a run down on what the GSB entails. A few weeks later, towards the third week of May, the election process begins and the entire class votes. At the end of this, the president and seven directors stand elected. Simultaneously, the elections for professional and social clubs take place as well. Soon after, the core team for each club is finalized by the elected members. Every director also has a council, the selection of which is done by the respective director and GSB president.
Can you be a part of multiple clubs as well as the GSB? How is the hierarchy structured?
At the top leadership level for the whole class, there is the GSB president and seven directors, each handling one facet of student life. At the next level, there are the professional and social clubs, each of which has an elected President. The students are allowed to be part of a maximum of three Professional Clubs, but any number of social clubs. This choice is made while accessing the online link for the elections, where one chooses the clubs first and then votes accordingly. Members of a Club vote to elect the President and the runner up automatically becomes the Vice President. The GSB Directors and the Professional Clubs have their councils (teams), which are chosen by the President, Vice President and the GSB President/ one GSB Director. All reporting is informal and trust-based, towards common good.
What are the responsibilities of the CAC?
CAC or the career advancement council co-ordinates all activities related to placements: resume reviews (by industry/ alums/ senior classmates), L&D interventions (through SEAL), pre-placement talks (PPTs), finalizing the CAC policy for the year, effective liaison with the CAS department and coordination during placements. The entire class is divided into 20 mandatory groups, to ensure adequate participation at all PPTs, with penalties (docking of placement counters) imposed in case of absence.
Each student is allowed to keep a specific number (depending on the Round) of live applications for placements. If one misses to attend a presentation, his/ her counter gets docked, but if they attend additional presentations, extra counters are granted, all of which is handled by CAC.
How has being the GSB president impacted your year at ISB? What are some of the advantages that come with being the president?
The placement process is the same for all and being the GSB President doesn’t give any advantage in that space. What it has done is given me a lot of visibility and face time with the “who is who” of India’s industry stalwarts. It has been a fantastic earning experience in the sense that I never thought I would one day be engaging Mr. Venkaiah Naidu in a conversation, write an email to the Nasscomm chairman or get a mail from Chairman, Microsoft, regarding an interaction we had. It also helps tremendously in growing the professional network, including on Linkedin.
All of these advantages however come with associated heavy workload. But the amount of load you take on is largely based on individual personalities, time management skills, relative priorities for various aspects (eg. academics, own time, sports, co-curriculars, parties etc). But every action you take has a class-wide impact, and there is a need for a fine balance between student aspirations and what is realistic when taking up with the ISB administration. Being the largest class ever at ISB, being the President of the Co 2017 has afforded me a different level of leadership opportunity, learnings and satisfaction, from the kinds of positions I have shouldered before.
What falls under the purview of work of the student board?
The GSB essentially decides what the class wants to do in the next 11 months. There is a fantastic amount of flexibility to walk up to the top levels of the Administration, deliberate on needs, propose improvements – short and long term, and make major impact and value additions, across all aspects of student life. The GSB has influence over any policy that affects students. I have the mandate to keep climbing rungs until my problem is solved, right up to the Dean where required. Another part of my job is to play defense lawyer for students on campus. I need to make sure that parties and events happen without glitches, and devise working mechanisms for these. Inspiring highest levels of discipline and building class camaraderie are other associated informal roles of the GSB.
Does all this work and responsibility take a toll on your academics?
I have the second longest (15 years) of work experience in the entire class, across campuses! Being the GSB President is all about time management and balancing the myriad needs (personal and stakeholders) on your time. I wake up at 6, normally sleep by 1 and respond to all emails and messages within an hour. I had expected all of this to take a toll on my CGPA (came in with modest expectations of a 3.0, anyway!!), but it did not. In fact, I managed to fare way better than my expectations, largely by concentrating only on the Professor while in class and allocating time outside for various needs and diligently sticking to it. Basically, keeping things simple and prioritising stuff with a downstream effect on others higher than my personal issues allowed me to live a clutter-free and relaxed life all year round.
Has all the experience made it easier, more natural to be a leader? How has ISB changed you?
I am a hard core Indian Navy Commander, and have seen nothing else since I was 18. I have led huge teams of military as well as unionized civilians, and lived and worked abroad too. From there, I moved to ISB to enable a career transition and ended up being the GSB President. All that experience certainly came in handy but the playing field here is completely different, the aspiration levels of people are completely different and there is no formal authority for anything at ISB. So they are different ball games, but my gains in the previous avatar certainly allowed efficient time management and to deal with diverse kinds of personalities here.
ISB has taught me great nuances of dealing with the younger generation of today, their ways, desires and methods, and got me a huge number of wonderful friends for life. Being able to live their way – at studies, sports and parties has allowed great bonding. But some core attributes never change – I am probably the only one here who has not attended a single class in sandals or shorts, and is in formals by choice!
Would you throw some light on why you chose ISB? How does a management education help someone who already has immense management experience like you do?
To use an analogy, I have been swimming in the sea, and now I want to excel in an Olympic pool with different dynamics. If I need to be a complete corporate leader, I needed to know finance, accounting marketing etc, as also get some methodic and data driven decision making skills. Hence the MBA. I had admits from 2 top Canadian schools and UNC, where I’d applied, but in India, the only place I applied to was ISB. So when I decided to do the MBA in India due to the fantastic cost-benefit gains, ISB was the sole destination. I am glad I did, as it has been everything I had wished for.
How does one become the GSB president? What is your story?
Honestly, I have no idea how one ought to plan to be the President, as I didn’t have that on my wish list when I came here. It was the Section support which made me think of how I could perhaps add excellent value to the Class and School in the year that I was here, and I did not need to get great grades for a job. But in hindsight, I would suggest not coming in wanting to be the President, as the smart class can see through such people. Again, it is best that the President is someone who has managed at least 20 or more people, since that skill set is vital. Also, work experience at or higher than the ISB average is ideal, as you need to routinely work with very senior faculty and Admin positions and your voice gets heard better then. What you could do however, is to connect genuinely with the Class, participate actively in Orientation Week activities, take initiative, help out people and stand up for just causes when needed. The key is to do all this without expectations, which is complex, but possible, if you are wired that way. Closer to the elections, having do-able points on the Manifesto (against grandeur) and targeting everything towards leaving a legacy are perhaps practical things you can look at, to make your case. And having at least 20-25 others who want you to be the GSB President much more than you yourself do really is inspiring and helpful. And always remember, even if you don’t make it, there are a hundred ways to stand out and add value all year through. So don’t make it a ‘life & death’ issue!
But in the end, remember, most of what you do is invisible to the class at large, as it is at policy/ strategic level and oriented upwards for solving problems. So don’t look for daily applause for the things you do – bash on regardless!
The main thing is that ISB is a delightful journey. You must strive to make the most of it and get to know the truly amazing superstars you get to share the Class name with. That would be your real take away!