From Engineering to MBA: Nikhil Purwaha reminisces his journey to Thunderbird
Updated on Feb 7, 2014 - 12:52 p.m. IST by Sudipta Mishra

Why MBA after Engineering?
This is a question which not only has become notoriously popular as one of the favorites at interview panels, but is also an essential which MBA aspirant engineers need to introspect over. A popular research has found that a major percentage of first year MBA students in India every year are successfully placed engineers. The hefty packages associated with MBA, the career prospects and the popularity of the course often become the reasons backing this career shift from engineering to MBA. As a result, the decision makers at Business Schools often question the students on their rationale behind why MBA after engineering.

While delving on the matter, we bring to you the story of Nikhil Purwaha. Nikhil is an MBA student at one of the globally leading B Schools, Thunderbird School of Global Management, USA.


Why a career shift?

In 2009, I graduated with a degree in Bachelors of Computer Science Engineering. I was very passionate about technology and wanted to pursue a career in the technology domain. Because of this reason, I joined Accenture India as an associate Software Engineer. As a Computer Science Engineer, I enjoyed writing codes. I created various tools that were later used across Accenture to help improve the efficiency of the employees. After spending about eighteen months in the organization, I was looking to move forward into in management role. I enjoyed working in technology, but the work was getting monotonous, and I knew that I didn’t want to be doing it for the rest of my career.

Nikhil-PurwahaWhy from being a Software Engineer to an MBA?

During the thirty-two months that I spent in Accenture, I got a brief opportunity to work with a team from Accenture Management Consulting. During this four-month project, I got a glimpse of how the management consulting teams work and what kinds of services they provide. This is when I became fascinated and motivated to pursue a career in Management Consulting. After talking to various people who have worked in this field, I knew that an MBA was essential to achieving my goal.

After managing teams that spanned three continents and seven countries, I knew that this was the most difficult task that I had ever taken up in my professional career – but, I tend to do my best when I am extremely challenged. I wasn’t sure if I had managed the teams well, but I knew I really enjoyed working in such a setting. Working with people from different cultures and getting the job done gave me a feeling of accomplishment that I liked. My manager, who was an alumnus of Thunderbird School of Global Management, saw my inclination to work in such an environment and suggested that I consider attending Thunderbird. As I was already considering pursuing an MBA, I started to research the school. I spoke extensively with alumni, current students, employers and professors. Everyone seemed to echo that Thunderbird was the place to be if you are looking for a program that gives you a global perspective.

The Days of Preparation

As I started preparing for my GMAT, I appointed a counsellor from various schools where I was considering applying. However, the counsellor from Thunderbird was the most receptive and helpful. The counsellor guided me through the entire process, from preparing for the exam until my application was completed. This made the entire application process very smooth and relaxed. One thing that really impressed me about the school was that as I was preparing my applications, the school helped me with applications for other schools as well. I remember the representative from the admissions office telling me that they while they wanted me to choose Thunderbird; they wanted to ensure I also felt I was a perfect fit for the school.


The Moment of Decision – Why Thunderbird School of Global Management?

After the gruelling application process was over, came the nervous period of waiting. I was mainly waiting to hear from four schools: UCI, Penn State, Thunderbird and GWU. Out of those four, I got accepted to two schools and then it was the time to make the critical decision. I questioned where I fit in and which school would be better for my personal growth. These questions played in my mind for days. Finally, I decided that Thunderbird was my perfect fit. The kind of student programs that the school offers got me excited. The Thunderbird Emerging Market Laboratory, Winterim courses abroad, modules abroad and the exchange program all provide students such a wide variety of options to study in different parts of the world. Truly, this sounded like a global school.

Experiences at Thunderbird


In August 2012, I came to Thunderbird and started my student orientation program aka “Foundations 2012.” The way the school had organized this program was very intriguing. We had senior students who were leading the activities of the new students over a two-week period, and they worked closely with the administration and the professors to setup various sessions and activities. This was our first interaction of being in a business school. We got of glimpse of our life for the next two years. Sleepless nights and working round the clock was just one part of the experience. The main experience was working with fellow students of different professional backgrounds and different nationalities. When you are working in a team of 7 people, and all 7 people are different nationalities, it makes the learning experience grow exponentially. At Thunderbird, we learn the importance of understanding cultural nuances while doing business and this is a really important tool in today’s world.

nikhilStill today, many things fascinate me about the school. I got involved from the first trimester in the Thunderbird Student Government. This body helps to ensure that student concerns are heard by the administration, and it constantly works on the enhancement of the student experience on campus. There are close to 40 active clubs every trimester which perform different kinds of activities. The professional clubs conduct case competitions, workshops and hold seminars for student development. The regional clubs celebrate the cultures present on campus. Being able to enjoy the moon festival, Diwali, Eid and Thai water festival on the same campus is truly a unique experience. Finally, there are the sports clubs. Every trimester we have seen students take time off from their hectic study routines to participate in sporting events like ultimate Frisbee, rugby, cricket, soccer and flag football.

I can go on and on about my experiences at Thunderbird. The school has definitely had an extremely important impact on not only my professional life, but also my personal life. I have friends all around the world, and I know that the relationships that I have built here will last me a lifetime. In conclusion, Thunderbird is an extremely unique and an amazing institution. The kind of learning experience that one has here is simply unmatched, and I am glad to be a member of this prestigious organization.

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