Amit Karnik, 29 Nationality: Indian Currently: EMBA participant and Executive Co-ordinator, Innovation and R&D – Shell International Exploration & Production B.V. Winner RSM/Intermediair EMBA Scholarship.
You started your EMBA in January this year. How has your career benefited so far?
Since starting the EMBA, I have been given the opportunity to gain more responsibility in my day-to-day job. I have taken over the role of executive coordinator within Shell in the innovation and R&D department. This job involves stakeholder engagement at a much higher level with increased levels of responsibility and accountability. The fact that I am taking the time out to get an MBA at a reputed business school is something that is recognised by Shell, and definitely helped me to achieve this.
How has the EMBA helped prepare you for the position?
There are plenty of people like me with sound technical backgrounds. But my new position requires a very different kind of stakeholder engagement. It really helps to have a business background on top of technical expertise. I now have the management skills and knowledge to complement my technical knowledge.
What made you choose RSM for your EMBA as opposed to another top school?
I looked at Insead and LBS but, to be honest, the travel would have added an extra complexity to my study. And for dubious gains. RSM is top quality and full of international people, which is what I wanted. Understanding and knowing how to work with cultural differences is something you really need if you want to do well in a company like Shell. I knew RSM equated with international, that it was a reputed and well-known school with top quality professors, and would be a highly valued addition to my CV. With several colleagues visibly benefiting from studying at RSM, for me it was an obvious choice.
Can you see improvements in your day-to-day performance as a result of your work on the programme?
Until I took over my current role as executive coordinator, I was leading technical courses for experienced staff in the production engineering discipline. As part of this job, I had to regularly deal with external parties, which involved a lot of management. I noticed an improvement in my management skills quite quickly after starting the MBA, as well as in my ability to deal with people. I had a better grasp on the bigger picture from an operational point of view, and could pass this knowledge on when I was teaching. Now, time management is something essential that I am learning and that I'm benefiting from on a daily basis. The EMBA is also giving me critical insights into stakeholder engagement at a very senior level, which is invaluable in my current job.
Do you think your EMBA has changed others' perceptions of you within Shell?
Yes, I would say so. All my colleagues and my boss appreciate that I'm taking this extra effort to learn more about the business. Our business is extremely complex, particularly when you look at it from an integrated point of view. They really appreciate it when you go the extra mile to get an understanding of aspects of the business beyond the technical domain.
How hard has it been maintaining a work/life balance?
I have found the workload manageable. My wife has been very supportive. She has an MBA and understands its value. Prior to the MBA I was travelling extensively for work and I've had to cut down on that, which shows the value of having your company's support. There have been times when it has been difficult to manage. But this has been a key lesson from the EMBA – learning how to manage your personal and professional life. Planning well in advance is extremely important. And you have to prioritise. Most of the time, my job takes priority because that is what keeps me employed. At other times I make a point of switching off the company phone and working for the EMBA, or spending time with my wife.
You won the Intermediair scholarship. How did you hear about the scholarship?
From the RSM website. Initially I looked into sponsorship from my company but, with the state of the financial markets, the support I would have got was less than that offered by the RSM scholarship.
How did you find the selection process (for the scholarship)?
I was very impressed – it was an extremely transparent process with very clearly defined deadlines and requirements. The interview was very well structured. All applicants were put through the same measures. The fact that two winners were non-Dutch shows the transparency of the process. I felt extremely lucky to be selected. I invested a lot in the writing of the essay, and it helped that the topic was one I was familiar with. It was about global warming, and Shell is really trying to take the lead on that from a technological front, so I had some prior knowledge.
Do you feel you're getting a broader perspective on business thanks to the diverse composition of the class?
Yes, I am. I have learned about sectors I had no idea about before doing the EMBA. In class, the professors call on people for their experiences working in different industries, and these examples are really insightful. Some of these people have twenty years experience in these fields. It has helped me get the whole picture clearer. For instance, it's invaluable to learn from other sectors how we can cut down on costs in the oil industry.
What are your future goals, and how do you see the EMBA helping you achieve them?
In the future I see myself leading a multicultural integrated team. At the moment I have no plans to leave the oil industry but in a few years time, I would like to be in a corporate leadership role in a different country. And I am confident the EMBA is going to help me to achieve that goal.