Interview with Surbhi Shukla: IIM Bangalore
What are the things that you consider are vital activities that students should do in a B-school?
Academics is very important. But apart from that personality development for business can be achieved through participation in competitions and clubs. In clubs, organizing events and interaction with people gives exposure across institutes and corporate sectors. You become more responsible, learn to negotiate and collaborate. This gives you confidence and inhibitions about your incompetence which is a very common thought in a B-school because of peer pressure will be broken.
How do you develop leadership qualities, gain the trust of people and build relationships?
Honesty, trust, ethics and confidence are hygiene factors for leadership. But the distinguishing factor is the clarity of thought. You should be clear of what you are. One part of you should always be thinking “Is this what I want?” You can ask this and take a detour of what you are doing and find greater satisfaction in the end. In this way self control is achieved and leadership becomes simple.
Leadership in essence begins with voluntary leadership. Unless you show that you are good leader no one will ever know. Show the courage and nominate yourself for it. This was how I nominated myself for Aarambh. Leadership is all about talking to people, understanding them, picking out the good things and projecting it. These responsibilities gave me the opportunity for self evaluation, to understand people’s needs and how to fulfill them.
This will have repercussions in terms of people judging you, forming opinions about you. You will get both positive and negative feedback and it may come from the same person as well. You might get feedbacks that make you feel bad but you should always believe that it is still a learning process.
Another important quality is to make sure that you appreciate people. Rub on the good side of everyone. A good way to judge a person’s maturity is to ask him/her to write five good things about the people around him/her. Many people can’t do this. You also need to imbibe the good qualities you learnt from people and this I consider as one of my biggest strengths.
This leadership model that you have developed needs to be dynamic and adapted to the changing environment in terms of people’s behavior. You need to change your thought process to become receptive to people’s thoughts. If you can achieve this balanced mindset then other things will follow.
What role did this leadership quality play in shaping your career at IIM?
I was always interested in B-plans from undergraduate days. So when I heard of the competition here in IIM, a friend of mine said, “Why don’t you try?”. Other friends encouraged me to do it as well. What started as Aarambh POC continued into other domains. If I had not taken the responsibility in Aarambh I think nothing else would have followed.
So when you get an opportunity grab it and never think that you would get another chance. Don’t have thoughts like “What will my friends think?”, “What would people say?”.Sometimes it is important to block the outside world and do what makes you feel comfortable, what you want and take the leap of faith.
How does one take this leap of faith? It’s very easy to say but how did you go about implementing it?
I always had a good support system in terms of friends who were always there to help me. They are an integral part of life and I worked to build such relationships. There are the rings of relationship in your life. The first is the ‘Public self’ where you are seen as a responsible person whom people can trust. Then you have the inner ring where you are what you are; you share your apprehensions and fears and make them look funny. You cannot have a circle where you cannot be yourself. This inner ring has helped me to keep myself calm and I know that even if everything is lost I can share a laugh and feel happy again. This aspect of life is very important especially when you are taking a step alone and people are judging every action of yours. You are very lucky if you find this support system and you need to give time for this. Being a workaholic alone does not help.
What do you think are the qualities that are required to succeed in any activity undertaken in a B-school?
First and foremost, you should have a clear demarcation of when you would go with the flow and when you would give priority to your individual preferences. You need to be open to suggestions but at the same time filter suggestions and finally the decision should be yours. In a B-school there is very little guidance from your parents and your peers influence you the most. It is important not to get lost amongst apprehensions and believe in yourself. Never be afraid of hard work. Believe that you have given the best. Putting all your thoughts into the present and not thinking too much about the future helps a lot.
In interviews or when interacting with clients during internship I always believed that the person sitting in front of me is equal to me and you must have pride in yourself as well. These things are vital to ensure that you excel in whatever you do.
What was your learning experience during internship ?
During internship I was working with people who had unbelievable knowledge and thought structure. I always felt that I was not keeping up to the standards and never felt confident. But you cannot honestly say what you feel, especially when you go higher up in the ladder. You need to understand that these thoughts are part and parcel of human nature, accept them, get over it and be confident.
Another important aspect in a B-school is to be mature. A B-school environment will give you that. You should also be a Multi-tasker , prioritize things and maintain a sane thinking process. There would be numerous interactions and it is a simulation of what happens in the outside world. But you should know how to filter out things and find the result required. Knowledge is secondary and you can acquire it even during work. These qualities will distinguish you.
Expectations will always be very high on you. But you need to have confidence on your inner core strengths. Self-awareness is the key to success.Companies do not judge you on your technical capabilities or the strategies that you give. When they gave my review they said that I was a mature and pleasant person to work with. This applies wherever you go. People do not judge your knowledge or technical skills but your core skills; how you think about things and how receptive you are to them.