Country of origin: India
Manager (Projects), Cognizant Technology Solutions
Managing the family dimension...
When Indranil Bhowmik was deciding where to study for an MBA, the selection process was complicated by an extra dimension – to find not one course but two. His wife Sreyasi was equally keen to advance her own career.
“With the birth of our daughter in 2006, there’d been a substantial gap in my career and I wanted to find a means of reviving it. I knew it would be a real challenge for us to take on two courses along with caring for our baby, but it was something we both wanted to do. And most of all, we wanted to be able to do it together, in one place.”
Indranil, an engineer, had been working for IBM in India for the previous seven years, in a client-facing role which had meant the couple had spent several years in the USA and Germany. Sreyasi, who already had a Masters in Statistics, had been a teacher and part-time lecturer in India, then worked for a year in Nestlé Waters USA.
LUMS presented the ideal solution in the form of a top-rated MBA programme for Indranil and, for Sreyasi, the equally well regarded MSc in Operational Research and Management Science.
Taking on a double commitment of this kind is demanding for any couple. But for Indanil and Sreyasi the challenges are greater still: their daughter Usashi (now three) requires a high level of care as she suffers from low immunity to infection and multiple food allergies.
Managing both family life and academic requirements is thus a tough call, requiring dedication and very good time management – not least when both parents have deadlines at the same time! “The Masters courses here, being just one year, are very intensive,” says Indranil. “Because we can’t neglect our baby, we thought we would set aside specific time for our academic work – so if the baby went to sleep by ten, we’d work for three hours after that. That was the initial plan, but of course it didn’t always work like that! Sometimes we had to work very late, or get up really early, to finish our assignments.
“Both our programmes involve a lot of groupwork, and there’s always a potential conflict of priorities there, especially if your child falls sick,” Indranil says. “On the MBA, however, there are always a lot of mature students, many of whom have children themselves, so they’ve been very understanding. We found ways round it, so that if I missed a group meeting they’d fill the gap, and I’d then make up later for the time I had lost.”
Tutors have also been very helpful and understanding, say both students, and willing to grant extensions when crises have arisen.
For their daughter Usashi, the move to the UK has also opened up new experiences. She had not previously been in full-time day care outside the home, but at Lancaster she has been attending the Pre-School Centre on campus, just a short walk from the family’s flat. It’s not all been plain sailing, Sreyasi admits – Lancaster’s unexpectedly variable climate (“you can have four seasons within one day”’) can sometimes provoke bouts of sickness. “But she now very much enjoys being in the company of other children of her own age,” adds Indranil. “Where we live here is very green and scenic. She also likes that, far better than a large city with concrete all around. She can play outside and has made friends.”
Sreyasi and Indranil are both clear about the value of what they have learnt.
“The MSc in OR is very much about the application of statistics to real life, to business,” says Sreyasi. “We are given a real scenario and expected to apply the statistical techniques, for example in the project or other smaller pieces of coursework. I’d not done that previously because in the academic field I was working in we are more concerned with theory. Seeing how that theory applies in practice has been really valuable for me.”
“I’ve really enjoyed my MBA,’ says Indranil. ‘For me, the most important thing has been the emphasis on the soft skills. Certain technical things you can learn from books, but the soft skills you can only really pick up by interacting with people when you’re going through a particular situation.
‘The groups we work in are diverse, with people from very different backgrounds. Coming from the IT industry, I always tended to see things from that perspective but working alongside people from other industries I’ve been able to see other industry perspectives, how they view a particular problem. I’ve also learnt how to negotiate with people, and what to do in the event of conflict: not just in terms of group work but how you manage a process through to a conclusion, and how you then evaluate that.”
Both have intensive summer projects ahead of them. For Sreyasi it is a forecasting project for the German chemical company Bayer. For Indranil it is a self-sourced internship where he will be looking at data quality and data governance. “We were very interested in doing projects where we can apply our past experience and the new learning we have picked up from our courses,’ says Indranil. ‘So we have found exactly what we were looking for.”
After that, they hope to stay on in the UK, at least for a couple of years: “The way the courses are taught and the interactions mean that we’ve now got used to the UK culture, and it would be very useful to apply that in our work.”