Akhil Krishna , a graduate of mechanical engineering from the batch of 2000, speaks of his transition from engineering to his true calling – management.

Hailing from a family of academicians and government servants, I entered IIT aspiring to blossom into a researcher and academician. While at IIT, however, exposure to people with different backgrounds/aspirations, books on management and industry, theories of economics etc, made me realize that my true calling was in the area of management.

After delving deep into the ‘micro picture’ of engineering – machines, equipments etc, I felt fascinated by the ‘macro picture’ of management – where ideas at the level of industry, economy, markets etc, were discussed. An extra-mural lecture by Prof. Marthi Subramanyam – IIT-M alumnus, and brilliant economist of the Stern school of business – comes to mind here, as one of the key experiences that shaped my life on campus.

The transition was not easy for me, and I had to learn a lot of things the hard way – slowly gaining exposure and developing the maturity to take the right decisions. I still remember the immaturity with which I faced my first interviews for the IIMs, and for jobs – back then, we didn’t have the kind of exposure that students get today.

How does one identify ones’ calling? What is one valued for – by oneself, and by the market? How does one make a choice between future options of, say, engineering and management – or industry and academics? What is the value of ideas, and of execution? What is the value of intelligence, and of intellectuality? How does one ‘prolong’ ones’ mental life by placing more pegs of eventfulness in the timelines of ones’ memories? How does one stay on top of an ever-changing, dynamic world, in a career spanning decades? How does one prioritize life and work? Although there is a lot of literature on these subjects, the nuances are understood – and the myths busted – only from the takeaways of personal experience.

IIT was a transformational, game changing experience for me. The experience of re-inventing myself, and above all, discovering what really excites me – has taught me to observe keenly, seek diverse experience, and keep learning – about things, and about myself too. This trait has proved invaluable in allowing me to make tough career transitions, face difficult markets and difficult clients, work with personal constraints, and yet achieve reasonable success and career growth.

Post my MBA at IIM-Lucknow, I decided to take up a career in management consulting – an industry profession that I would describe as closest to academics and entrepreneurship. As a compulsive ‘generalist’ fond of having diverse experiences, my consulting work has spanned a variety of industry sectors – oil & gas, infrastructure, power, pharmaceuticals, retail, e-commerce as well as education. I have consulted for clients, across various areas of management, including strategy, operations, marketing and systems.

From formulating 20-year strategy for an IIT or 10-year financial plan for a conglomerate, to solving short-term problems of supply chain and inventory management for a pharma company, my consulting experience has taught me to appreciate the ‘big picture’ as well as the ‘small picture’, of how things individuals, systems and organizations work.

Outside of management consulting, I am also an avid enthusiast of classical music, poetry, philosophy, politics, wildlife and neuroscience – to varying degrees. I have written for leading publications such as Outlook, Indian Express, Business World, and been associated with some social causes as well. I have also been an advisor to three start-up companies.

What has all this taught me? A lot. But today I still stand, a student as much as ever, learning and rediscovering passions.