Here’s an interview with Ram Balakumar, a recent graduate of the UW Madison MBA program. Ram started his career as a civil engineer; he followed his passion for business development and enrolled at the UW Madison MBA program to further develop his career. He is currently a senior program manager at Dish Network, in the greater Denver area. He was kind enough to share his experiences as a student at UW Madison. 

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1. What were you looking for when you applied to MBA programs? How did you select UW Madison? 

It was 2009 when I was looking to pursue an MBA. With the economic conditions then, I didn’t want to leave my full-time job. I was looking for a part-time program with these three things:

  • General management focus,
  • Career service support for part-timers,
  • Good value for money (I didn’t want 100k+ debt when I graduated)

UW Madison offers a lockstep cohort GM program with great career support for part-timers. Actually, the program doesn’t make any distinctions between full-time and part-time students when it comes to recruiting. Best of all, the program is a great value for the money.

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Photo Credit: Flickr user The D34n

Photo Credit: Flickr user The D34n

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2. What were some of your favorite activities during your MBA? (classes, clubs, projects, other)

 I enjoyed all my classes, especially the quant ones. While in the program, I became very interested in entrepreneurship and consulting. I did not have time to get involved in clubs. However, we had a capstone course in which students are required to complete a project that is strategic in nature. I used this opportunity to provide consulting service to a local start-up.

One of the highlights of the program is an international trip. We went to Brazil. The trip helped me to get to know my classmates better and forge lasting friendship with them.

3. You were working full-time while studying for the MBA. How did you manage your schedule?

 It was not easy. However, my wife was very supportive. The program helped me get much better at prioritizing and time management. I compromised a lot on TV and a bit on social life and vacations.

 

In my case, I was switching industries but my job functions overlapped. I was going from technical duties with some management responsibilities in industry A to all management responsibilities in industry B. In my resume and interviews I focused solely on my managerial experience and achievements. However, if one is contemplating a sea-change like switching  from software-tester to investment banker, part-time may not be the best option.  We all know there’s a major limitation – you can’t take a summer off from your job for an internship. However, there is a possible alternate route…one could network and use a capstone project to prove one has the skills for such a change.

 

Based on my experience, the UW Madison part-time program could help anyone wanting to get a general management perspective. The program also has an option to take one elective in finance or marketing. The full-time program has about 10 specializations. With the part-time program you are committing yourself for the next 32 months. You can’t take courses as you please and complete the program at your leisure. It forces discipline and makes you complete the program in 32 months, unless there are extenuating circumstances (wedding, death, pregnancy, transfer, to name a few).  It is suitable for both moderate career switches or career enhancements. 

Strengths: there are many. In my opinion the top three are

  • Value for money
  • Career support
  • Great faculty

6. Anything else you would like to share with the reader….

I think part-time MBA programs are great if you can take advantage of them in the right way. If you can commit yourself to completing any good program within 3 years, it makes you much better at time management. Best of all, you can take what you learned in class to work the next day. But I strongly urge people considering part-time programs to explain the time commitment to their families. The last thing you want to do is to spend all that money and then drop out because of family pressure.

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Are you also considering a top part-time MBA program to put your career on the fast track? Let me advise you on how to pick the best school to fit your needs, constraints and budget. Email yael@admit1mba.com or fill out this form.

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