Snapshots from Hell…story of Stanfords, Harvards…and IIMs

Snapshots from Hell- the making of an MBA – this book by Peter Robinson is about the life of a student of Stanford University. He is a poet, a writer, and somone who wrote speeches for the former President Regan, and was employed in White House, before he decided to go for business studies. Peter Robinson’s Snapshots from hell is a unique insider’s account of the life at a business school, and is useful for every prospective student who is looking for the answer: what is a business school really like? When I talk about prospective students of a B-School, I mean any good business school, and it is equally enlightening for the audience of our country, and has an interestingly universal appeal. It is useful for MBA applicants, students, business professors, and anyone else with an interest in the difference between advertising and reality of the world of MBA.

During his frenetic first year at Stanford, Peter Robinson began keeping a journal of his day to day incidents which actually evolved into this book. The life is compared to life in hell, for most parts of the book, exploring the various challenges that one faces. In a gradual manner it also brings out the various positives, and goes on to explain why a couple of years spent in such a place is seen as a huge value addition in the corporate world. The way he lands himself a job, and goes on to admit that it is only because he is a student of such a college that he has managed the offer, is an important message that he conveys. The book is particularly useful for the section, which in Indian context comes from a non-engineering background, and is often under the impression that the MBA course is going to be a stiffer challenge for them to overcome. Another important part is where author reveals the value of an MBA degree from a college like Stanford. He quotes his professor who says that even if students at Stanford and other top b-schools are not grounded hard and simply asked to play golf and enjoy life for 2 years, even then companies would recruit them in abundance and at a premium price. The author does not approve or disapprove of the point per se, but manages to present an idea that the mere association with a Stanford, or say IIM, increases the brand value of a person. This somewhat explains the psyche of a large pool of MBA aspirants, for whom getting an entry into a MBA college serves as a much bigger motivational factor than the prospect of education that follows it. If the aspirants, or the present and past students think over this, they will relate to this idea.

The book also has to its credit, one of the topics for a XAT essay, in the year the book was reelased. Interestingly the topic was Stockholm Syndrome, where one falls in love with someone who has kept us captive. Similarly as a student we are bound to find the life in a B-School hell at times, but we just can’t help falling in love with it at some point of the course. The book is highly recommended to the aspirants for getting a first hand account of life in a b-school, and trust me, life at an IIM is not much different from the life at Stanford. It is equally beneficial for the present students to develop their perspective about the whole MBA education. As one of the noted reviews of the book mentions “this book is a must for anyone who is thinking of making an investment of their time or money in an MBA”.

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