We recently managed to catch an interview with one of IIT Delhi’s alumni, a 2014 graduate, Vedant Saboo. Beginning with a brief introduction about him for our readers, Vedant was an engineering physics undergraduate, with an overall CGPA of 8.50. He was also the General Secretary of the BRCA. After completing his degree, he ended up in the widely popular consulting firm, McKinsey, and later on shifted to The Blackstone group, where he currently works.
The interview was taken by Kanha Batra.
Q. Why did you choose to go for a career in the non-core industry?
Ah, doesn’t each and every one of you face this dilemma now and then? Especially with a background like that of physics, where research is a very prominent option in terms of future prospects. I went on a research intern to Toyohashi University of Technology, and so had explored my love for physics. And simultaneously, I got some management experience in handling PORs and political participation. And eventually, I chose the latter, because that’s where I felt my passion lied. Solving problems, and getting quick impacting results. The sense of achievement that you feel daily while in business is what drives me. While research requires a more patient approach, so to each his own. I still insist though, that I could’ve gone either way. And who knows what the future has in store for me. But in the status quo, I wanted a fast life. Plus it helped that I am from a business background.
Q. What drives one to work?
Being an admirer of our current governor Raghuram Rajan, I believe that a huge lump of money is not what can drive you to work every morning. It’s passion about what you do. As long as you feel the impact that your work is creating, you’re doing the right thing. And that is pretty much the ideology that we all should follow, no matter what we want to do in life. Soon, you might have abundant money but not enough time to spend. If you can’t see a tangible productive output to the society, you’ve lost in life.
Q. What kind of work does a consultancy job as in McKinsey entail?
Well, you solve problems. Now, the problems are of two types: one which requires analytical skills (number crunching, statistics, probabilities, expectations), and the second which requires operational skills (field work, PR, assessing the situations up close, hands-on problem solving). So consultancy is essentially, pure ‘dhanda’ (business). And each assignment has a combination of the two. Note that this line of work is distinct from the work of an investment banking firm, which includes algorithmic trading.
Q. What about private equities like Blackstone?
Such firms have funds which they use for long term investments in both private/public companies, and value their profits in terms of the returns that are turned over. This is one part of the business. The other part is to keep track of the companies in which they have already invested in. They are different from Venture Capitalists (VCs) who instead fund startups. Thus, Blackstone is more of a growth capitalist.
Q. What was the initial work in such companies? Is it mundane like simply making presentations?
You can’t just classify work in this manner. Mundane work like that is put in front of everyone from time to time throughout their careers. But that happens in every job. The basic difference that arises as time progresses is that, unlike your student life, one needs to attain attention in the work place. Gain some respect. Prove that you have some basic qualities. The initial few months, the work is not at all what you expect. But eventually, as you gain trust of your peers and seniors, people begin to value your opinion, you’re given responsibilities in assignments. Quoting Jack Ma, ‘From 21 to 30, one should learn as much as they can, no matter how dull the work presented before them is; from 31 to 40, you choose a particular direction; and from 41 to 50, you use that experience to earn money.’
Q. What is the difference between college and job for you?
Two grounds: work and personal life. In college, one is independent, and so your time is yours, you can spend it sleeping all day, or you could learn how to code an artificial intelligence (Most of the time it’s a middle ground). In work life, however, one inculcates a level of discipline now, as people depend on you, as now you have responsibilities. There is a general level of seriousness now. You no longer are chill having 75% attendance in life. And this is not something imposed on you, this is something that you begin to drive your life with.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
Take risk. Don’t always go for the clichéd path, just for the security. It limits the boundaries to which you can develop. Secondly, don’t go for pre-decided conjectures. I didn’t explore my research intern to the maximum potential, and so that is one door I never managed to get even a peek into. So, explore everything.