Charting Post-MBA Goals for PSU Folks, Military, Navy Veterans, Engineers, and Supply Chain Managers

I recently got a lot of questions from candidates who come from these backgrounds. There is plenty of material available about post-MBA goals across online blogs and videos, but little valuable guidance comes from a firsthand source. I thought I could quickly put some pointers together and share real examples of opportunities these profiles can explore in their post-MBA career.

If you come from any of the backgrounds I mentioned above or similar, I hope you will find the information about post-MBA goals will be useful. I will also discuss the opportunities under the umbrella of Operations Leadership and Supply Chain Roles and touch upon who would be a good fit for respective roles. If you want a deeper discussion, connect directly with me.

Sought After Traits of these candidates;

But before we get to the roles, let us understand the characteristics common to most of the above profiles. The most desired quality of candidates belonging to the above groups is their “leadership” potential. Genuine leadership experiences are not easy to come by, even for those who have worked in MBBs or other top-tier companies when their responsibilities are confined to analyzing daily charts and Excel sheets. MBA aspirants with operations backgrounds, particularly those who have navigated demanding environments such as defence, merchant navy, or heavy engineering, exhibit exceptional discipline and leadership skills that enable them to support their teams and achieve goals in the grimmest conditions. These profiles remain unaffected by excessive character traits or the politics of the situation, which makes them highly sought after, especially in consulting fields that require significant personal sacrifice. As pre-MBA experience is highly prized by recruiters for mid-level post-MBA positions, more and more companies are looking to these seasoned leaders to drive the objectives of their organizations forward.

Defining Your Post MBA Career Goals

1. Leadership or rotational Programs

Operations leadership programs are established recruitment pipelines to top companies. This is a great option if you have a strong operations background but little real- business world exposure to how corporations and startups do business. In an operations leadership program, you will work in a variety of departments in operations facilities where you will lead operations at the ground level of the company. For example, if you join Amazon Pathways, in your first stint you could be managing a last-mile hub or middle-mile distribution centre where over 100 employees report to you, and your goal is to make the centre efficient and scalable. You will learn by doing and that is the best part.

Who would be a good fit? Likely someone who wants to build a career in operations and enjoys a high-contact workspace. Mind you, the environment is intense, and you have to think on your feet. People with long careers in production may find this mundane as it is quite similar to what they may have done pre-MBA. This role could be interesting to transitioning army veterans, merchant navy officers, or PSU candidates who feel they have yet to get a handle on business analytics but would like to gain experience by observing processes firsthand at the shop floor. As you progress, you will be awarded greater challenges and the scope of your leadership responsibilities will increase.

2. Strategy & Operations Consulting

This is the top-tier recruitment strategy for candidates with operations backgrounds. Perhaps the most popular among recruiters is McKinsey’s S&O practice, known for keenly pinpointing candidates at feeder MBA schools with extensive operations experience. Think of it like this: these consulting companies bill their clients by the hour and sell the idea that their consultants are not just Excel wizards but have tremendous real-world experience troubleshooting what could go haywire in companies at the execution level. At INSEAD, for example, McKinsey loves to hire engineers who have toiled in oil rigs, energy companies, giant automotive mega factories, and similar setups.

Who would be a good fit? If you’re confident, a smooth talker, and think in first principles, this could be your path. You’ll need to excel at peeling back layers of information to identify problem areas. In your first round with MBBs, you’ll face seemingly simple questions on capacity optimization, costing, and logistics design. These are designed to determine if you possess the right skills and knowledge they seek in a candidate for the remainder of the interview process.

3. Supply Chain Planning and Analytics

Personally, I consider this to be the most intellectually stimulating sub-umbrella within the post-MBA opportunities in this sector. If you get into these roles, you will probably be building for a business that is experiencing a growth spurt. Supply Chain Planning and Analytics has several other sub-divisions depending on the structure of a company, which I will also discuss briefly.

Let us take the example of Flipkart; the Indian company I give great credit for reinventing and glorifying the e-commerce and supply chain/logistics space. Companies like Flipkart and Amazon are model organisations because of their underlying supply chain design and high-performing analytics capabilities. While the business development managers drive presence on the supply and demand side of the platform, it is the supply chain planning team that works closely with the finance team, strategy leads and CXOs to ensure that growth remains constant and costs are kept under control to take the business to the next level of growth and profitability (or valuation).

Aiming for a Shot at The Top B-Schools But Confused About Your Strategy? Reach Out to Us

Some of the roles that post MBA candidates can pursue:

A. Program Management in Supply Chain Planning

As a program manager, you are responsible for forward planning and control over a specific section of the supply chain. For example, the planning team in a company like Flipkart may have separate program managers for supply chain network design, forecasting/analytics and demand planning, first mile, last mile or middle mile, warehousing, distribution centres, last mile, transportation and so on. Each program manager will lead a team comprising of analysts (smart engineers who can code and create advanced visual dashboards quickly) who will report on any deviations or issues that may arise in the planned operations.

Program managers also work very closely with operations leaders (think Leadership Development Programs for operations!) to keep track of costs, time, manpower, and other metrics. On the other hand, program managers also work closely with product managers to drive the development of internal products that make operations more efficient. The Business Development Teams and P&L owners also work closely with Program Managers to have a better understanding of working capital, profitability, forecasting and time metrics.

Program Management in Supply Chain Planning

Who would be a good fit? If you’re a numbers whiz and can commit to mastering deep analytics, this role is for you. Situations may arise and you could be directly accountable to founders and CXOs, entrusted with controlling operating costs at a critical time before the next funding round! This role offers instant visibility, especially if you work in an e-commerce or Q-commerce unicorn, a Soonicorn, or with giants like Amazon, Flipkart, or Walmart. If you earn yourself a good name within the industry, recruiters from newly funded businesses will be flocking after you to help take their companies to the next level.

I have discussed an example of a startup-like organisation here but there are many other very popular program management roles that also look for similar talents. One that comes to my mind is the Apple Readiness Program Manager where you can be responsible for leading cross-functional teams to align on Apple’s product launch strategy (timing, volume, channel coverage, etc) and closely track execution, ensuring operational risks are raised and mitigated. There are many many other similar programs for post-MBA options. (Check out the Siemens CEO track too).

B. Product Managers in the Supply Chain

If Program managers build the systems and processes in a company that relies on its supply chain, the product managers build the tech for it. The product managers may not always have a background in operations in which case they rely even more on close collaboration with other teams to understand their internal and external customer pain points.

Who would be a good candidate? Probably someone who has the desire to move into product management. If you want to gradually move towards a UX product, gaining experience in supply chain product management can be a valuable stepping stone to improve your product management skills.

As a product manager, you’ll likely oversee a team of engineers or assistant PMs, guiding them toward innovative solutions and driving product success. These roles require intense collaboration with different stakeholders, which means you’ll be particularly good at bringing people together, reconciling different points of view, and creating coherent product plans.

You will also be expected to brush up on your coding skills.

4. Centre of Excellence (COE)

Not all organizations have a COE role, but essentially, this team collaborates with top-level leadership to architect the foundational elements of the company’s business model. Occasionally, organizations will select program managers who have gained recognition within the company and appoint them to the COE team, where they closely collaborate on shaping the next tier of strategies for growth and improvement.

5. Business Finance

If you are seeking a position where you can evaluate the company’s operations or cost of operations from a financial perspective, corporate finance roles may offer you that opportunity. If you can show the recruiting managers that you are good with numbers, you will have the opportunity to move into positions where you can gain experience with financial planning, budgeting and forecasting processes. Within this framework, you will provide insights and recommendations to business teams based on financial analysis and guide them to stay within assigned cost parameters.

Typically, we see many CAs and graduates from top engineering and commerce schools in financial planning and analysis teams, but for those moving into the private sector for the first time, Business Finance is a smorgasbord of roles in FP&A where you can build your skills to take on more strategic responsibilities later on. Please note that not all companies may see upfront value in handing you business finance roles without experience. It could be some networking and convincing. Doing an internship can also help.

Please note that the roles I mentioned above are primary roles that are well suited to the skills of candidates with strong operations experience. However, this does not mean that these candidates should restrict themselves to only these opportunities. Depending on how they plan to steer their career, the candidates can pivot to any function or industry provided they can provide proof of first-principle thinking and transferable skills.

For instance, I know MBA candidates who transitioned their careers from operations to sales by demonstrating a solid grasp of skills required in sales, such as leadership, customer-centric approaches, an understanding of P&L, and the ability to hustle. You can move into any field provided you have done the research and made efforts to learn the skills that will be required.

My Experience? I have a background in manufacturing and smart factories in the US, France, and China. I have been shortlisted for every MBB firm but consulting wasn’t my calling, I guess. In the last few years, I worked in the inner circle of a Flipkart spinoff with former Flipkart CXOs and Founders/VCs. Feel free to speak for further guidance.

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