Amrit Shandil and Dhanraj Hegde (EMBA 2021) were keen on pursuing an Executive MBA program for 5+ years, but life always got in the way. Years after getting married, it was Amrit’s maternity break that finally helped the couple take a small step back from work and focus on life’s other priorities, including studies. So, why did Amrit and Dhanraj choose this crucial stage in their lives to pursue further education? How did SP Jain help them maintain a healthy work-study life balance during the program?
We caught up with Amrit for a quick interview to find out.
Why did you both decide to enroll in the EMBA program at the same time?
My husband and I met in college, and since then, we have done everything together. We would attend all our classes and study for all our exams together. We tried to do our MBA in 2017, but life got in the way, and we both dropped it. Eventually, we got married.
It always haunted us that our MBA was something we had to revisit. We saw an ad for this course very randomly, and the more we read up about it, the more it felt like it was something we had to do. My maternity break helped us take a small step back from work and focus on life’s other priorities that we had been putting off. Going back to studies is always a challenge once you start working. But this course allowed us to focus on our baby and taught us critical skills that have helped us develop a new perspective towards our work and how we do business.
You are currently working in your family business together. Could you tell us a bit about the organisation? What do your roles entail?
We are in the business of trading testing equipment across various industries in Qatar. Our business is headed by my father-in-law, and we both work in different departments of the organisation. Dhanraj heads the department dealing with the brand TOPCON, selling their products in Qatar, used for surveys and global positioning, etc.
Similarly, in my department, we deal with selling in-vitro diagnostic equipment. We are primarily into sales, but most of our roles revolve around the end-to-end operations from the process of ordering the material from our principal companies across the world to finally delivering the material to our customers in Qatar (and, of course, running behind them for our payments).
What has your experience been like living, studying, and working together? How has it helped make your personal and professional relationships stronger?
We are learning together. We are growing together in every sense. Doing this course together has taken us back to our college days. Attending classes is fun and helps us feel like we are studying in a classroom together. We get to share opinions and ideas during sessions one-on-one. My husband has always been the funny guy in the class who cracks jokes and makes everyone laugh. He just needs to listen to things once, and then he knows it all, whereas I’ve always been the one who needs to pay attention and studiously make notes in class. Living together and working together helps us understand the different ways in which two individuals understand and react in different situations. It is a great blessing that we get to share every aspect of our lives with each other.
Congratulations on becoming new parents! What has parenthood been like so far? What are some of the top things you learned from this new responsibility?
It has not been easy. The first year was a big adjustment for us. It is honestly the most amazing yet terrifying experience in the world. There were nights when we’ve not slept. We cried tears of sadness when he was unwell and tears of joy when he did the most precious things.
Parenthood has taught us to be patient and grateful. It’s absolutely wonderful to watch a child learn something new every day with so much enthusiasm. Children don’t care about fancy things. They find joy in the smallest things and radiate joy through everything they do. They don’t differentiate between anyone. They are so pure in their thoughts that it’s very refreshing. All they really need is your undivided attention and them to be able to involve you in their exploration of this world.
In our lives, we are so occupied with everything we do all the time. Sometimes, we also need to switch it all off and just sit. Just listen. Just play. Just be present. Our patience has grown by leaps and bounds. Our hearts have ballooned like never before.
What is the in-class diversity in your EMBA cohort? What industries and experiences do your batch mates come from? How has this in-class diversity helped enhance your learning experience? Our batch has an average experience of about 12 years, coming from different industries like oil and gas, banking, IT, medical devices, etc. It consists of people mostly working in the Middle East, so our work environments are very relatable. My husband and I are probably the youngest in our batch. So, we have had the advantage and the privilege to interact and learn from the vast amount of experience our cohort has. It also has helped us reflect on where we stand in our careers and how we are doing. We have established some great friendships and have enjoyed the love and support from many of our classmates. They have never shied away from guiding us when we’re stuck or from teaching us concepts we were not familiar with.
What changes have you and your friends/family noticed in you since you enrolled in the program?
We are currently juggling so many roles that we never thought we would be able to do. Taking up this course was a big decision for us, as we were both jumping into it together right when we had a baby. It has been an adjustment for everyone around us as well. But with the encouragement and support of our family and friends, we are somehow pulling through.
How did the program and curriculum help you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
This program somehow fits into our life without disturbing much. I can still work, look after my child and do this program without struggling. It undoubtedly is a challenge, but somehow it is all just happening.
The pace of the course is good. It gives us time to reflect on our learnings and to apply them to our lives. The professors are also well-experienced and have shown immense patience towards us, especially while teaching us new subjects relevant to our day-to-day work. That’s what keeps us hooked on this course. Among others, the finance subjects have helped us gain a deeper understanding of our business and have helped us connect a lot of dots. The program is also structured in a way that it helps us interact with all students in our cohort one-on-one through group assignments. We are also able to pace our learning based on priorities at work and in our personal lives. While doing so many things at once, sometimes other unavoidable priorities take a front seat and can throw off the balance established in a routine. This program has also been great because we have been able to reschedule classes if needed.
What was your experience with the ELO platform? How did you benefit from the online study model?
The ELO platform has been a blessing for us. We opted for this course specifically for this reason, as it is a great way for us to have a classroom experience from the comfort of our homes. The in-class interaction experience is amazing. We can freely speak to anyone in the class and share our ideas in a very professional and interactive way. The professors are able to individually connect with each student and pay specific attention to our doubts and ideas. For me, it has been amazing because I have been able to attend my classes and keep an eye on my baby as he plays with my family in the background. In case he needs me during the classes, I’m right there to help him. That kind of stress-free learning is hard to find. I have even been able to feed my child during the classes without any interruption to my learning, and that speaks volumes about the comfort this platform provides.
Click here to read more stories from SP Jain’s EMBA students and alumni.