Chandrika Sharda is part of the ISB PGP Class of 2015 and is part of ISB’s first YLP cohort. From being one of the youngest students in the batch, to sizzling on the stage with her amazing dance performances at ISB, to getting the coveted investment banking job, she has done it all. Here’s Chandrika sharing her thoughts about the YLP programme and her life at ISB.


GenEd: Why did you choose to apply for ISB YLP?

Chandrika:The ISB Young Leaders Program is the best option for getting admitted into one of the most prestigious MBA programs, ISB PGP, while one is still in college. In undergrad, when you are anyway looking to write CAT and apply to various B Schools, this was one of the first options I had. It never hurt to try as many options as possible that time. Also, Harvard had just introduced its 2+2 program and YLP was on very similar lines. Since I wanted to stay in India, it seemed like a very attractive program. We were already aware of the weekend sessions that would be held post the admission and that was another push for applying to this program.

Advice: Always keep your options open. It never hurts to apply to as many places as you can. You never know what eventually fits perfectly in your life.

GenEd: How easy or difficult was the application process?

Chandrika: It was a three stage long application process. I heard about this program almost towards the end of stage 1 deadline. But the whole process of starting the application just five days before deadline was an exciting experience. I wouldn’t say it was an easy process since it involved a lot of things like making a video(which is not there in the current application cycle), writing three essays and appearing for GMAT. But there was a lot of learning involved in each step. For people who have worked for a few years, writing these essays is much simpler because they are more focused and sorted about their careers, but for us it was very different. For a lot of us, some of these essays made us think for the first time what we actually wanted to do in life. They made us reflect on our achievements at a time when our peers did not really care.
In other words, being involved in the process was an eye opening experience for a lot of us as it made us think of life more seriously and made us discover our passions/aspirations.
Advice: Be very honest in your essays. They are really good at figuring out who’s written the truth and who has not. Spend about a month on your GMAT prep. Keep your videos simple. Don’t make them fancy. They only want to see your communication skills. Try to focus on your important skills/achievements/qualities in your essay.

GenEd: How important was the YLP Learning Weekends? How was the experience?

Chandrika: I believe the learning weekends were really crucial for every YLP candidate. They helped me in a lot of ways.
– Building networks at a very early stage – meeting and interacting with the diverse group of YLPs and exchanging views about each one’s workplace
– Getting a taste of how the actual MBA would be – through the various information sessions, case studies & activities, the feel of the campus and team building activities
– Time management – through having to complete various tasks to meet deadlines before attending each learning weekend (along with regular office)
– Great change from the usual office routine – we would always look forward to these sessions
– Introduced us to some life-long friends
Advice: Go to each of the four sessions. You meet a different set of people each time. There is never an overlap of activities and thus, you learn a lot of new things each time. It’s a different experience every time.

GenEd: How was the interview process?

Chandrika: The interview process involved a one hour case study and a personal interview with an ISB panel which consisted of three people. The case study was very simple and general. I believe they just wanted to check our thought process and a structured approach. At my time it was a one line problem statement and we had to make our own assumptions. It might have changed over the years. The interview was mostly about what the CV had to say and what we had written in our essays. It was also about my short term and long term career plans, favourite subjects, hobbies and most importantly – why ISB and why MBA. Of course nothing related to work since we were still in college that time.
Advice: Be very aware and thorough of each and every word in the CV and essays. Do not fake anything. Have a proper reason or explanation for each sentence that you have written down.

GenEd: What did you do between the time you got the admission offer and when you joined ISB PGP Class of 2015?

Chandrika: I was in my final year of graduation (B.Com. (Hons) at SRCC, DU) when I received my admission letter. I had already been placed at UBS- Verity Knowledge Solutions in Hyderabad through campus placements and I joined the firm right after graduation. It is an investment banking division of UBS and I had a great learning experience there. I moved to my family business after working at Verity for a year to get a basic understanding of the business, which really worked for me before an MBA as I got some practical hands-on knowledge of the entire set up.
As for preparing for the MBA or for ISB, the learning weekends were a great help. In those sessions they actually gave us ideas and insights on how we should really be at our workplaces to enhance our knowledge and have a more enriching experience.
Advice: Do start thinking of what your future aspirations are. Try different fields in the two years if possible, so that you can eliminate the options you really don’t like. Doing this will help you focus more once you are at ISB and push towards getting the right jobs to campus for placements.

GenEd: How was the experience being one of youngest persons in the flagship PGP programme at ISB?

Chandrika: It was a very enriching experience to be one of the youngest students in a batch of 750+. To be honest, there were a lot of times when I felt lost and thought I knew nothing compared to everyone else around, lost hope, but with time I realized that it doesn’t matter. Being the youngest has its own advantages. The amount I learnt was way more than anyone else. Every single conversation with another student/faculty was enlightening because I learnt about things that I had never experienced and all the others had. I had the most to take out of an MBA just because I was so young. Apart from this, of course you get treated as a kid and get a lot of attention sometimes ;)
Advice: Try and hold conversations with as many different people as possible. Try making friends who are older than you. If you get stuck with people only your age it restricts the kind of knowledge/thoughts/ideas you share. This is a chance you’ll never get again.

GenEd: What have been the highlights of your ISB experience so far?

Chandrika: I’m a classical dancer. I am very fond of dancing. I performed time and again at the various events at ISB and also held dance workshops for 350+ underprivileged children on Independence Day.
I ran a business for a week in a team of four as part of the Campus Tycoons, a very popular competition held by the Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club at ISB. Our generated highest sales amongst 15+ teams. It was one of my best weeks on campus and the learning involved was immense.
Currently working as the Sponsorship Lead for a TEDx ISB event that will be held on campus for the first time ever.
Apart from this, I participated in a lot of case competitions and simulation games throughout the year.
Advice: If you have a definite career in mind post ISB, try to get involved in activities/events related to that. That will help you learn a lot and prepare you to speak in your placement interviews.

GenEd: What are you going to be doing after ISB?

Chandrika: I’ll be working as an Investment Banking Analyst at a US based boutique Investment Bank named Moelis & Co. in Mumbai. It is probably one of the best placement offer that anyone has received at ISB. I couldn’t have done without being a part of ISB. The faculty and the courses here are brilliant to prepare you for any interview given that you take them seriously.

GenEd: Any other thoughts for aspiring ISB YLP candidates?

Chandrika: I believe every following YLP batch is luckier than ours since they have experienced people (like us) to talk to. They should make the most of it. Connect with as many YLP students as they can before they take the dive. I strongly believe that they will always get some advice that’ll definitely be helpful from people who have experienced the program at ISB first hand. All the best ! :)