Saturday, February 23, 2013

IIM Ahmedabad WAT & Personal Interview Experience

Venue: Monarch Luxor, Bangalore
Date : 21/2/13
WAT Topic was “Imagination is more important that knowledge”
After having written a very good essay in L interview, I felt a little blacked out when I got this topic. I remembered that 15 minutes flew when I wrote L interview and so had no doubt that a 10 minute time is very small. Wrote fast. Wrote about Apple (cursed myself for doing this… while I was writing.. I knew almost everyone would have written about them). Wrote about low-budget movies. Wrote about disruptive innovation. It was a clumsy essay. 

This Interview was probably the coolest interview conducted by any prof ever. I have read zillions of interview experiences on PagalGuy before, but none came close the totally amazing time (more than 30 minutes) I spent in that interview. I am dividing the interview into 5 parts. It will be long. :)
Prof Intro:
P1 – The Explorer (Young. Late 30s or early 40s)
P2 – The Thinker (Young. Late 30s or early 40s)

Part 1 – The WORK out

P2: Tell us about your job at Cisco.
I: Talked about my job role. Talked about my organistion in general. Talked about the product I am working on. Explained my job role. A monologue of more than 1 minute.

P2 : Why is your product next generation? (Mentioned that in my 1 minute)
I: Explained that. Mentioned Energy Efficiency feature.

P2: How do you save energy?
I: Explained. Mentioned how saving energy reduced the operating expenses for our customers and how we use this fact to win more customers.

P1: So how much energy is saved because of your energy efficiency feature?
I: Dunno Sir.

P2: Give one more reason why saving energy is important.
I: Global Warming!

P1: Tell us your carbon footprint.
I: Sir, I don’t know how to measure it. The quantities that would possibly be involved in calculating that is the electricity spent when I am at home or working in office. The carbon emission due to the products I consume.

P1: You are missing on important thing. (Small pause). What do you breathe out?
I: Smiled wide. He caught me! Breathed out a few CO2 molecules.

Part 2 – The Cookie Conundrum

P1: (Points to the biscuit lying in front of me) How do you think this is made?
I stare at the biscuit for a few seconds. P1 asks me to feel it. Tells me it will help me answer better.
I: Tell them that I have gone to a bread factory. Explained how a bread is made. Wheat -> Flour -> Dough -> Baked -> Bread

P1: Why is bread fluffy?
I: Fermentation! Explained what it is.(BTW normal bread is unleavened. Its fluffy because of baking powder. They didn’t seem to mind that)

P1: What is yeast?
I: Initial population of microorganisms which act upon the dough. (Like most of the answers, my real answer was not as articulate as how I have written here. Clarity in retrospection J )                                             

P1: Ok now tell how a biscuit is made?
I: Told that it will have additional ingredients like sugar, butter etc. It will be cast in a certain shape. There will also be more work done in case of variants like cream biscuits etc.

P1: If I keep my biscuit out for a few days it doesn’t get spoilt. Why does bread get spoilt?
I: (Scratched my head (In my head)) Preservatives… (Eureka) Because bread has moisture content. Biscuit doesn’t. Moisture gives ideal conditions for microbes to do Jingalala. Spoils bread.

P1: Can you make bread to last long?
I: If we can get rid of moisture. If we heat normal bread and get a toast, it will last longer than normal bread.

Part 3 – The land of ELEPHANTS and polar bears.

After having ample discussion on biscuits, P1 asked me to compare the size of a Polar Bear and a Tiger. He asked me to draw and show. Drew something. He looked confused. I told him the polar bear is standing. Then made its hands and legs. Laughs all around. P1 said my answer was not correct.

P1: Okay tell me the weight of a Polar Bear.
I: Don’t know. (Smiling. Thinking – ‘are you serious!’)

P1: Weight of an elephant.
I: Don’t know. Must be in tonnes. Don’t know. (Gave my best smile)

P1: Take  a guess:
I: (Think for 10 seconds) Must be equivalent of weight of 20 men. (P1, P2 laugh)

P1: Let's try finding out the weight of an elephant. Make assumptions. Let us know what assumptions you make.
What followed was an insanely pointless but fun calculation of the weight of an elephant in an MBA interview. Assumed that elephant is a cylinder (chucked its leg). Got its volume. Assumed that BMI of elephant = BMI of man. Calculated my BMI (Lots of assumptions here too). Finally got the value of elephant’s weight as around 1050 Kg.
After I calculated, both P2 and I looked at P1 curiously.

P1: (Smiling) Looks like you have got a baby elephant here. Elephants weigh around 4000 Kg.

P2: So we have got some errors in this data. How could you have taken care of it?
I: Its based on a judgment sitting here. Maybe I can keep a range of values for each assumption I make and then I can get the final range, based on taking the positive assumptions all the time or negative assumptions all the time.
(some more discussion on how to account for errors)

Part 4 – The Khichdi

This section I am adding all the random questions which were asked throughout the interview.

P1: If let’s say you have to go to Solomon Islands, How will you go from here?
I: Clueless. Paused for 10 seconds. Then said maybe it’s one of the islands near Australia. (P1 smiles and nods). I tell him that if we were to go by sea, we could go via bay of bengal via Singapore.

P1: If a tree was allowed to decide for itself the kind of leaves that it can have, what kind of leaves will it choose? 
Some discussion on the type of leaves and how they vary with temperature, water availability, leave shedding for plant excretion etc.

P1 : Tell me the volume of Lake Pichola ( Lake in Udaipur. The place from where I come)
I: ( In my mind - _/\_ P1. How do you know about Pichola now?) Sir difficult to make assumptions and proceed as the water level is very uneven throughout the lake.

P1: What geometrical shape will you use to calculate, if you were to assume and move forward.
I: Hemisphere.

P1 is satisfied. Looks at P2 and says I am done.

Part 5 – The Netagiri

P2: So what hobbies you have mentioned here. (I had written reading and blogging.) So you read blog or write blogs.
I : Write (ofcourse J )

P2: What did you write last?
I: Told. You will be surprised to see what I wrote and would wonder whether P1 had read my blog.

P2: What else do you write about?
I: Politics.
Discussion about Politics. Incompetence of Rahul Gandhi. Opposition opposing for the sake of opposing. Went on for 5 minutes.

P2 says we are done. P1 says “Good” (Did he just say that!! Or is it my post interview delirium) asks me to take a toffee and a biscuit :D

A piece of advice - Go beyond all the coaching class stuff. B school interviews can be totally about elephants, biscuits and Rahul Gandhi. I was expecting a lot of acads as I am one of the few who got through with less than 80% in graduation. But the professors of A showed why its best in the business!


I made it into IIM Ahmedabad (and IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow and FMS Delhi). Hours of hard work for both CAT and interview preparation paid off. 


I have got shortlisted for Aditya Birla Scholarship for the second time in my life. This implies that I am among the top 20 students in the incoming class of IIM Ahmedabad. This interview just got more memorable!

Other Relevant Posts: 
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