Author's note: I've been procrastinating a lot lately. I started writing the draft of this essay on July 6th, 2021. Ideally, it should have taken me only a few hours to write it, but many things came in my way, and I had to keep postponing.
Anyway, it seems the guilt finally won over my laziness. So, enjoy the essay. If you want weekly life updates, you should subscribe to my newsletter.
I turned 22 today. Getting into IIMA is probably one of the achievements that I’ll cherish for the rest of my existence. So, I thought I’ll put my interview experience into words. Besides, I’m bored and have a few hundred pages to read for tomorrow’s classes. But, whatever. We’ll see what happens.
Just to be clear, I don’t want this to sound like one of those highly motivational Quora posts. Please let me know if the article sounds like one of those by the end. I’ll be happy to delete this entry. Reading this article will not help you get into IIMA or do well in other interviews. However, I believe that it might help some aspirants understand what happens on the day. Frankly, it offers me writing practice.
Disclaimer. The views presented here are my own and in no way reflects the views/values of the organizations and institutions that I’ve been/am a part of. I tried my best to recollect what happened on the interview day. A few things are exaggerated for dramatic effect.
The day before. After back and forth emailing, spamming student reps’ DMs, and much anxiety and precautions, I managed to get the requisite permission to leave IITK to attend the interview. At the back of my mind, I had this thought constantly, “What if I test positive for COVID-19 and am not allowed to leave the campus?” The interview was scheduled the next day at a massive mall in Gurugram.
I travelled to New Delhi in the evening and reached my friends’ place at around 23:00. By the time I had dinner, it was close to 02:00, and I was supposed to report for the interview early next morning. I felt I was not prepared enough and pondered staying up the whole night and sleep only after the interview. A friend advised me to sleep instead. I’m so happy I listened to him because the interview process lasted much longer than I had expected.
Day of interview. I woke up to a pretty intense vibration on my wrist. I’ve set alarms on multiple devices, but the watch was the most effective. My friends were still deep asleep by the time I left for the interview centre in Gurugram. I was nervous about being late for the interview, which was quite frankly the first proper interview of my life. Fortunately, I made it to the interview very well ahead of time.
Once the standard documentations were done, we started with the AWT process. We had to write a one-page essay on a topic. The topic seemed easy to me, so I finished writing within a short time. Others were still writing, and I thought if I should have thought better. It was either that, or my writing speed is faster relative to the others. I guess I’d never know.
Fast forward to the interview room: I was the last person to be interviewed that morning. My impression was that the organizers and the professors must be bored by then. Contrary to this assumption of mine, the professors were interested in what I had to say. I’ll narrate the rest of the interview in Q&A format.
Professor A. Okay, tell us something about yourself.
I answered something along these lines, “My name is Debashish Reang. I am from a small-town called Ambassa in Tripura. I study Electrical Engineering at IIT Kanpur, and am interested in reading, writing, and riding bicycles. I love chocolates…and oh! I also love Taylor Swift.”
Professor A. Interesting. Tell me something about Taylor Swift, about the recent controversy.
I told the Professor about the Taylor-Kanye controversy. To my surprise, she knew about a more recent controversy and wanted me to say to them about it. So, I narrated about this, and how eventually her endorsement did not matter, but that was her first foray into popular politics.
Professor A. What’s your favourite Taylor Swift song, and why?
My favourite Taylor Swift song is 22. It seems being 22 is a great position to be in. It is neither too old nor very inexperienced. You know about certain things, but you’re pretty unsure of the others. And so, it is balanced in a sense. And frankly, the music is excellent! (I’m 22 too.)
Professor B. Tell us something about what you are studying, your undergrad degree.
Takes a deep breath. “Okay, so this might sound pretty weird to you but I did not like my undergrad degree. Hopefully, I’ll love MBA courses. But, I enjoyed studying Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, and Linguistics.”
Professor B. That’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to dislike a UG major. Nothing weird about it. Tell me what did you like in Bioinformatics?
I explained how with increasing compute power, we can now process and analyze more data than ever before and are on the verge of solving some of Biology’s biggest challenges. I also mentioned about AlphaFold, and Angelina Jolie.
Professor B. Asked me more about AlphaFold and how protein folding is a significant problem to solve.
I answered along the lines of how proteins regulate almost everything in our body, so accurately predicting how a protein will fold could help us diagnose diseases earlier and so on. It is important to note that they are not experts in Biology. Still, they could have Googled “Protein folding,” so you should be able to roughly explain the concepts in simple terms.
Professor B. Asked about DNA and junk DNA.
I wasn’t sure about what junk DNA is, but I correctly guessed that it must be that strand of DNA that does not code for any amino acid, and in turn, do not account for any protein. (More or less)
Professor B seemed impressed about my knowledge of basic Bioinformatics and Biology in general.
Professor A. What in Linguistics do you find interesting?
I explained how languages have the power to affect society and shape cultures.
Professor A. Give an example where the way language is used affects the end message.
I guess I told them about how the way a campaign is promoted can shape its end results. For example, end up cancelling someone instead of engaging with them fruitfully. It might be detrimental and so on. How you get your message across is important. I think I was inspired by this.
Prof. A seemed happy with my explanations. I was pleased by this point.
So tell us where you would like to retire - Goa or Manali.
I told them I am from a hilly state and would always prefer Manali over Goa. In addition, I love cold weather, so if access to resources is the same in both places, I’ll pick Manali. In the end, I added, “Moreover, if places starts getting submerged because of Climate Change, Goa would go down sooner than Manali.”
Frankly, I don’t know what the point of the question was, but they smiled after I said the last line, so I guess it was okay anyway.
Do you have any questions for us?
I was too excited because I got to talk to Taylor Swift with them. I ended up asking them if they’re on campus, how they are doing, and how the lockdown is treating them. We had a solid conversation about that.
Take a toffee. (They left the call) I picked up a handful and stuffed it in my coat pocket. Then the maintenance people came in, and it got bizarre. Anyway, I stuffed a few more toffees.
Verdict: I’m at IIM Ahmedabad. See you around!
A few key takeaways:
- “Fake it till you make it.” That is what the usual mantra is. However, I tried my best to stick to the truth in the interview, and I’d argue it worked out okay for me.
- If you don’t know something, just tell the panel that you don’t know about it. Sure, you can take a guess but try to make a sensible guess. Getting close to the correct answer is as good as a perfect answer.
- Enjoy the interview and try to bring in some humour in it. This is strictly a personal opinion. Some people prefer to be serious all the time, and that is okay too. It’s just that I don’t vibe with very serious people.
If you liked this essay, you should check out my other project - The Anti-Resume Project. It is an honest account by incredible people who graced the quads of IITK halls - both past and present. I would urge you to share your stories too.
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