The amount of thought, logic and reason some of you put into your career-related decisions never ceases to amaze me. Here is one such 'thoughful' young man.
I am currently in a junction point of my career. I got selected for the MS(by Research) program in Finance(Finance+OR+Maths) at IIT Madras. I am currently working as Software Engineer with XXX (leading MNC IT co). I will quickly mention my credentials and then go to my question.
I have 92% marks in 10th standard, 93% marks in 12th standard (both from West bengal State Board) and 9.14 CGPA in Computer Engineering (3rd Rank in class) from NIT XX. I have been working for 3 years after my B.Tech.
This MS program will give me either an analytics job (current recruiters are Irevna, HCL, ICICI etc) with a package of 7.5-8.0 Lpa or I can get admission to a good Finance PhD from one of the top 10 US Universities (with IIT tag and good reco hopefully!).
My question is whether it will be a right move for me to join this course given some other possible career moves:
1. I can take GRE this year and apply directly for PhD in Finance from tier 2 US business schools.
Pros: I can finish PhD by at least 1 year early and enter Job. My 2 years in MS will be saved.
Cons: Acceptance rate for Fin PhD is very low: around 2-5% as many Maths/Physics PhD, fresh MBA from top B-Schools opt for the same. I may not even get into a reasonably good school (Like UT Austin, USC, Maryland etc) (are my assumpsions correct?)
2. I can take CAT this year and get into IIMs
Pros: I can enter Finance job market early and probably decide over PhD after doing job for a couple of years.
Cons: Getting into IIM A/B/C/L is highly uncertain. This year I got only 84 percentile(without any preparation, my father had collected the form). With good preparation for next 5 months I may get good score, but, even then I am not sure how much worthy it will be to join IIM I/K or MDI/SpJain/NITIE after 4 years work ex in a top company.
3. I can continue with my job for another two years and write GMAT and get into 1 year Exec MBA from ISB/IIM A/ IIM B/IIM C.
Pros: The opportunity cost will be less as I will be working more and can save some money to fund my MBA partially.
Cons: I will probably not get a Finance job at all/ get entry level job after 5 years of work ex in software field.
My premises are:
1. I love Mathematics, Statistics, Theoritical Computer Science, Algorithms. If money was not a factor I would love to do advanced studies and research in these fields. PhD in Finance or Financial Engineering would be a good fit based on my area of interest. But also I don't want to reduce my earning potential by 50% for the rest of my life if it (Phd) means so.
2. I dont like classes that teach leadership kind of stuff (attended some corporate trainings) and I am not a typical sales guy. I hate HR also. Historically I did not participated much in the kind of tasks which required managing or influencing people a lot (eg. organizing college fest, raising funds for the same, contacting companies and alumni etc)
3. I am not very passionate about technology and so to continue in product company may not prove very fruitful for me.
4. Business PhD and specially Finance is always more rewarding than Engineering PhD. With PhD I will have both options of Industry(I-Bank Quant jobs,Consultancy) and Academia open. I also love teaching. I teach underpriviledged kids at a local school in Hyderabad on weekends.
5. I can't afford the financial risk of Foreign MBA/ Foreign MFE (Master in Financial Engineering) given my background and the house loan I have taken already.
6. The opportunity cost of a PhD is very high as compared to MBA since I will enter the Job market at least after 3 years.
7. I am 25 years old and unmarried.
If I join the MS-Fin course at IIT, my motivation will be to join top 10 US PhD-Fin programs and not job after MS. Do you think it is a right career move on my part given my premises/credentials/possible options? Please put your thoughts across.
My response: Dear Young Man, clearly,
a) You are not passionate abt technology.
b) You want to make a lot of money, quickly, in the field of finance.
What I am not clear is, why PhD? Because you won't be burdened with a loan is your logic.
But my dear time is money - a PhD will take 3 years (at the very least) while an MBA can be completed in a year or two.
If you get into IIMA, B or C (you have not even tried for it seriously) - you have high probability (given yr profile & inclination) of getting into a 'high paying job' with an i bank or similar.
Paying off the loan would not be an issue.
Now you are a mathematical chap who is always weighing the possibility 'what if' I do not get in. Life mein itna belief rakhna padta hai.. u have to take a leap of faith and give it your best.
After your best shot, if you don't reach your goal then yes, you look at options like MBA abroad from a top school.
Just remember, hurry creates worry. So be ambitious but also patient. All the best.
Young Man replies: The logic behind PhD is:
1. It gives a sense of achievement of a topmost degree. Taking IIM A/B/C and ISB together annually ~1500 high quality MBAs are produced in India alone. By simple demand supply equation PhD in business has a clear edge.
2. I will still have the option of I-Banks/Consultancy, besides the doors of Academia opens. (with the foreign university bill, specially business academia is going to be next happening thing)
3. As you wrote in one of your articles: 'As you rise up higher in the ladder, success is increasingly defined not by what you know or do, but how you manage and motivate your people'.
I think leadership and administration is not by strength area. True that I can do a descent job there with some training and grroming, but by natural instincts are towards Individual contributor (IC) path, where to build a good model and advising people the benefits of it can give me more pleasure. And in IC path PhDs will always be one step ahead of MBAs (hope this holds true in Financial job markets also).
4. I liked your advice "Hurry creates worry". But considering my dad retires after 5 years, I dont want to shift the burden of house loan and my family on my retired father in case I am going to do PhD after MBA followed by 2-3 years of work. So, agar PhD karna hai toh isi saal join karna hai. So it has now become a choice between MBA or PhD in Business.
5. And one bewkoof logic: many of my classmates from school are currently doctoral students at Stanford, MIT, Cornell etc and they are having no worse lifestyle than me doing a not-so-satisfying job I have right now. So sometimes I get the kick that I should have been doing some thing better, something more fundamental.
My response: When you have so much conviction re: PhD you should then certainly go and do it. However I would be happier to hear more of 'This excites me' rather than 'I don't like this, this and this therefore..."
An active choice based on interest and passion always works better than a logical one based on eliminating options.
Second point is, 'leadership' is always required, whatever you do. No man is an island, PhD or not. My father is a PhD in Space Physics and leading the team which is building India's first astronomy satellite Astrosat. Even though he may be a 'pure' scientist ultimately he is also a manager and administrator.
Lastly, EMI should not worry you to death. If it becomes a burden, dispose of the house and buy again after completing studies - when you have the money and secure job once again.
By the way, the EMI advice applies to anyone and everyone who wants to do something different in life. Live on rent, live without fear. You will own a house one day. You don't have to, at 25!
Do add yr comments/ advice for Young Man. Esp if you are on the PhD path yourself.