As is the case with a lot of desi kids, Shraddha Joshi had her life more or less charted out for her. After school, she was expected to pursue a degree in engineering, and later secure a ‘respectable’ job. And, like a lot of desi kids, that was the path she took. That is until she decided to reinvent herself.
While she initially chose to pursue engineering, she quickly realized that her heart wasn’t in it. As soon as she completed college, she landed a job at a marketing agency, a far cry from the prescribed route. Then, a chance encounter led to her signing up for the first cohort at Stoa, which then led to her resigning from her position and getting hired at a dream startup role instead.
Read Shraddha’s interesting story, told in her own words.
I originally wanted to do an arts degree in college, but because of my lack of awareness, I ended up taking the most beaten path — engineering. In those four years, I tried a lot of new things, and not a single one had anything to do with my course. I turned into a voracious reader, started making handmade products and selling them online, and even dove into stock market research for fun (and based my final year project on the subject!).
In those four years, if there was one thing I had learned, it was that I didn’t want to end up in a job related to the engineering field. To the point where In the final year of my degree, during the campus placements, I didn’t apply to any company that came in for recruitments, except for one. And the one I did attend the interview for was a digital marketing agency, which couldn’t have been further from engineering. Guess what? I got hired, and suddenly found myself learning the ropes of performance marketing.
A few months in my previous job, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This made me rethink my life and my goals. By this time, most of my friends were getting their Master’s degrees outside India. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wanted to pursue business studies. Doing an MBA was the obvious choice, but I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money.
One Sunday, with these thoughts still brewing in my head, I was scrolling through Twitter. And there it was — a tweet from Raj [Kunkolienkar], announcing the launch of Stoa School. I haven’t hit the ‘Apply’ button faster on anything before in my life. Everything about the StoaMBA was offering seemed like exactly what I needed. I filled and sent out my application the very same day, and was thrilled when I was accepted into the first cohort.
What made me jump at the chance to join Stoa? I thought about my years studying engineering, where everything was being taught exactly as it had been for years before. Stoa’s curriculum, meanwhile, looked vastly different from anything I had heard of until then. The program fees were a deciding factor as well, because of the affordability when compared to a traditional MBA.
I didn’t know what exactly lay at the end of the road for me, but I hoped that I would either work at a startup or be a startup founder myself. And I believed this program would be the gateway I needed to break into the world of startups.
Once the program began, I found myself comparing it to my engineering experience once again. In the case of the former, my classmates were mostly skewed towards the male gender and were severely lacking in diversity when it came to goals, too. But at Stoa, I was being introduced to folks from all walks of life, from a PhD holder to a failed startup founder.
Two months into the course, I had decided that agency life wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t see myself growing in that role beyond a point, and I wanted to do more challenging roles than just performance marketing. So I submitted my resignation and decided to shift my entire focus towards what I wanted to do next.
I understand that not everyone will embrace this alternative MBA format the way I did. Cohort-based learning is mostly unheard of in India, and no one can deny the networks that Tier-1 MBA colleges provide. They are good colleges, of course. But in my opinion, those are two years you could spend earning money. And, all said and done, no MBA can teach you how to really do business.
I’ll admit, I also had a few doubts initially. Does it make sense to pay this kind of fee for a new program? What if I didn’t snag a job at the end of the program? But my doubts were put to rest soon enough. The out-of-the-box assignments, the insightful guest lectures, the thoughtfulness of the team, all reassured me that I was on the right track.
Even when it came to job hunting, the experience couldn’t have been more serendipitous. There were a few startups I had been researching for a long time, and Manoj from the careers team helped me send out applications to some of them. Of these, Raise Financial Services got back to me. They were building Dhan, an investment platform for super traders and long-term investors. And with my interest in the functioning of the stock market, this seemed like the perfect fit for me. My Ikigai moment, if you may. Today, I am the Associate Manager — Growth at Raise, and I couldn’t be happier.
Will I ever consider an MBA? From a good college abroad, perhaps. But if I do choose to do it, it would be more for the experience of staying on campus in a new country than for any other reason.
My one piece of advice to anyone signing up for the program? Don’t wait until you’re well into the program to start talking to your cohort mates. Start reaching out to them right at the start. I ended up making some good friends, who I still reach out to for help, or use as sounding boards every now and then.