MTech in India vs MS in USA – which is better?

Let’s cut the chase. Many applicants wonder if they should just go for an MTech in India instead of supposedly expensive MS degree in USA. Here are my thoughts on the same.

Whether you should go for GATE or not partly depends on where did you do your Bachelors from.

How helpful is an MTech degree?

Pros: MTech is cheaper than studying abroad and can make you eligible for placement in PSUs. If you did Bachelors from a low tier college and if you can do MTech from IIT/NIT/BITs (that means doing very very well in GATE), it will increase your employability and can give you access to top tier of employers in India.

Cons: Education quality in India is not good enough and the same is true for MTech. You have to, at the end of the day, deal with same kind of teachers and similar infrastructural constraints in colleges. That is why I said it depends on your college. If you did undergrad from a good college, MTech will give you only a little additional advantage in terms of job opportunities and I don’t think spending 2 years is worth it. Even if you get into a top tier institute in GATE, I feel that employers always have a higher demand for undergrads at these places and you might compete against not only your MTech batchmates but BTech guys as well. The fact is a Master’s from India is not considered that cutting-edge. So, if you think you are going to gain some major knowledge boost, that is wishful thinking.

Just to give you a perspective on how competitive GATE is, IITs offered < 700 seats in Computer Science for MTech in 2011. Even if we double the number of IITs and calculating for more branches, that is <10,000 seats for MTech in IITs when 7.5 lac+ people appear for GATE every year. So, 98.5% of the candidates appearing for GATE will end up not meeting the cut off or even if they do, they will get non-IIT kind of colleges.

Pros of doing MS from USA

  1. Education is just way way better than in India. At UIUC and NYU, I had the privilege of learning under Nobel Laureates, reputed award winner scientists and people who were truly experts in their fields.
  2. Starting salaries are quite high (read USD 85k and above) that you can earn so much more than what you will back in India. Many students have this myth about financial affordability but if you do the math, you can repay the loan in 2-4 years if you go to a decent enough school and work hard to get a good internship/job since CS folks are really in demand there.
  3. Besides the exposure to a foreign land, opportunities and learning to be independent are something that will make you a better person and professional in the long run. It will prepare you for a global career better than an MTech.

So, what to do?

In the end, it depends on your financial constraints but if you can manage a semester worth of fee, I highly recommend looking at Master’s from USA instead of MTech in India.

Agree/Disagree? Comment below!

What is happening with H1B – should I apply for MS?

Ever since Trump was elected, there have been articles that blamed his policies on H1B for Indians being forced to exit US. Let us focus on facts and discuss how it impacts your MS plans.

Relevant Anti H1B Bills proposed so far-

  1. Increase in minimum wage requirement to qualify for H1B
    1. A bill called Protect and Grow American Jobs Act was introduced to amend the original Act that created the H-1B program. It asks to raise the minimum salary requirement for H-1B workers to $100,000 a year, up from $60,000, and remove the Master’s degree exemption that allowed the replacing of American workers with foreign workers with master’s degrees. The House Judiciary Committee approved it in November 2017 but it is far from becoming a law at this point. Tech lobby is so strong, I’ll be surprised if this passes ever.
  2. Revoking work permits of H1B spouses
    1. A rule is proposed to revoke work permits of H1B spouses – popularly called H4 EAD. It is currently in “final clearance and review” process.

Bills approved and made into law so far-

None

Other impacts of Trump’s anti-immigration stance:

  1. Employers were wary of what rule might be proposed and hence, were more cautious in rolling out H1B applications for new employees. I have heard Amex managers etc thinking twice before hiring internationals.
  2. In October 2017, the USCIS made it so that H1B extension applications are subjected to the same level of scrutiny as on fresh visa applications. Earlier, if anyone made a mistake in the application, they could get an RFE (request for evidence). However, now USCIS can outright right reject with no obligation to send RFE.
    The ground reality is that some people are seeing a tougher time getting their H1B renewed especially if their real day to day work doesn’t justify the reasons for which the H1B was filed in the first place. If they are doing routine mundane tasks and not requiring higher skills, they are likely to be questioned and may even see revoking of H1Bs.

Who will Trump’s bias really impact? – outsourcing firms who are sending people on client side for no real reason. This was also reflected in the fact that the number of approved H1B petitions filed by Indian IT firms (Cognizant, Infosys) declined in 2017 whereas those by leading tech companies such as Apple, Amazon increased (as reported by NFAP).

Outsourcing IT firms have realized that they cannot bulk file for H1Bs now and there will be tighter scrutiny on applications. As a result, they are also more cautious and not filing too many H1B petitions now.

Quoting verbatim from the above NFAP report-

Emerging technologies, such as driverless vehicles, may also be increasing the demand for people with high levels of technical skill, including foreign-born researchers. Tesla (207 approved new H-1B petitions in FY 2017), Uber (158) and General Motors (179) all employ individuals in H-1B status.

It indicates a shift in preferring to grant H1Bs to direct employers rather requiring more sophisticated knowledge of technology than outsourcing IT firms.


Frankly, these are the only real things happening. I have seen articles claiming that people are leaving USA because of Trump’s policies and they are cherry picking evidence. The height of irresponsible journalism is when they cite reasons such as – H1B is too restrictive, you cannot work for anyone else, I did not get H1B 2 years after graduation. I wrote a big counter article on that which went viral and you must read it.

Let’s be objective. All this was happening before Trump as well. H1B was always restrictive (you could not start your own company on H1B), it was always harder for people graduating with questionable degrees from questionable schools, who did not learn any real skills.

At Scholar Strategy, I have heard from our students who got internships and fulltime employment at Tesla, Facebook, Amazon, Intel, Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Apple etc this very year. So, if you want to extrapolate Trump’s frenzy to a doomsday scenario for people who know their shit, all I have for you is ‘I don’t buy that.’

You may say many deserving people on H1B from outsourcing firms are now at risk. I say – yes, they are. But believe me, if you have good skills and are a good developer, Project Manager, Product Manager, software architect – you will never have dearth of opportunities – yes, you may have to work for it.

I advised a 34 year old woman, who was fed up of the IT firms politics and stagnation in career in India, get into MIT SDM program and she interned at Salesforce as a product manager this year. If she can do it, so can you.

But if you are trying to defend skill-less people sitting as managers in middle management layer in so many IT companies – you cannot. They were and are always at risk of being shoved out (even in India) – its nothing to do with H1B. After all, H1B is not a charity, it is a work visa with a specific purpose for its country.

I am not defending Trump by any means, but I am saying that there frankly has not been a damage to prospects of working in USA for good people. In fact, I would argue that going forward, it bodes well for people with advanced degrees from good institutes because they are the ones that will possess the requisite skills.

Updated thoughts after H1B report came out in Feb 2019-

Why should anyone do an MBA?

Because the ROI makes sense for you including the tangible and non tangibles.

Assumptions

Let’s talk about full time MBA in USA/Europe where most of the Top B Schools are. Assuming you are currently working in a non-fancy job in industry earning $70K. No interest rate on your student loans for simplified calculations.

Financials

  1. On an average, a FT MBA in USA will cost at least $150K and 2 years. Assuming you were earning $70K right now, that is a cost of $150K+$140K of opportunity cost = roughly $300K. Go for part-time to save your opportunity cost.
  2. For banking or consulting or high growth tech sector, average salaries post MBA can range between $90-$100K (total compensation however can add another 40–80K depending on bonuses). Taking a modest avg salary of $130K for our average candidate, 30% tax and $40K living costs, it means 5-6 years of break even period. As bonuses pile up and you ride higher the career ladder with your MBA brand, this is not a problem. You will eventually recover the cost and grow.
  3. For other non-traditional roles esp in non profits or startups, salaries may average out around $80-$90K in an optimistic scenario with no bonuses. You might break even in 8–9 years.
  4. If you end up performing below average or move back to a country where avg salaries are low, ROI may not even make sense extending to >10 years.

Career Growth

  1. If you are performing decently in your job and keep getting promoted, MBA add on does not help as much. Especially in tech, non profit and startup sectors, MBA may not be as big a must-have as in banking and consulting lines.
  2. If you are already at a senior position, it is better to convince your company to sponsor your Executive MBA.
  3. MBA makes sense if it can help in career switch you are looking for. For example, if you are a software engineer looking to get into Finance, yes MBA will give you what you need and may be the only option you have.

Network/Brand

MBA eventually is about its brand and networking opportunities. How much is that worth to you is something you need to figure out.


I know of 2 good situations which genuinely warrant an MBA-

  1. You are stuck in your career growth in an industry that values MBA a lot. Therefore you need an MBA to move beyond a certain level. For e.g. some companies such as Big 4 Consulting or Wall Street may not consider you for executive roles unless you have an MBA.
  2. You want to switch careers to an industry that worships MBA.

Beyond these, I think you should carefully evaluate your ROI and decide if it makes sense.

I must put a caveat out there. If you want to start your venture, please skip MBA and go for it. You will learn things practically and that is for the best.


Lastly, I must add that MBA is more than knowledge or brand. It is exposure and a way of thinking. Some people know exactly what they are going to get out of it and how they will use it to get multi fold returns. If you are that person, then, by all means, go for it. Because when it comes to education, exposure, opportunities, swag/partying, attitude, and confidence, very few experiences can match MBA.

You will get what you put into it.

I am writing down my half-MBA story from NYU Stern on Pre MBA Book – Scholar Strategy for the same reason.

Ten Books every student must read before Graduating

1. How will you measure your life? by Clayton M. Christensen

If the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat, and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person.

Especially if you are ambitious by nature, your vision can be clouded by the biased definition of success prevalent in our society. So much so that you might completely lose track of what is important and what is not for being happy. A good book, simply written with good case studies. The fact that it is written by HBS Professor shows how badly MBAs need a reality check.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you

I wish I read this earlier. We think we can change the world by ourselves, in our isolated identities. But later you realize, life is about people and relationships. Even professional success is determined more by your ability to connect than pre talent. Everybody must know how to make friends and how to be agreeable. Period.

3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.

Either you understand money because your Dad was good at it and taught you or you will struggle rest of your life trying to find it. Our education trains us to be good employees, not successful. Money comes from a different mindset and Kiyosaki does a good job at setting the stage. What this book does well is piquing your curiosity in personal finance.

4. Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt

Everything we get, outside of the free gifts of nature, must in some way be paid for. The world is full of so- called economists who in turn are full of schemes for getting something for nothing. They tell us that the government can spend and spend without taxing at all; that it can continue to pile up debt without ever paying it off, because “we owe it to ourselves.”

It debunks some of the most widespread economics beliefs. Whether you intend to work in a related field or not, I feel you must possess a working understanding of money, finance and economy.

5. Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail

Today, if you’re not disrupting yourself, someone else is; your fate is to be either the disrupter or the disrupted. There is no middle ground.

Highly relevant in the world of fast moving tech startups that you cannot ignore.

6. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.

Because everything cannot be rationalized. Do not lose touch with magic as you move into the world of adults.

7. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Because everyone craves for love and struggles with keeping it. It is a sublime novel on humans and love and how things are anything but simple. And language is decadent. My writing improved after reading this, I swear.

8. Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul — would you understand why that’s much harder?

Because there is a time to think irrationally and be driven by your inner fire. As you grow and mature up, you will realize how impractical this book is. Nonetheless, when you are touching your twenties, you want to change the world. And you should read what Howard Roark did.

9. A book from your geography

Then I would recommend reading a good book that talks about the economy and current state of your the society wherever you hail from. Know what is happening and why. It is good to know your roots well.

10. HBR articles and booklets

HBR gives you wisdom in nuggets, easily digestible format. Pick your topic and dig in. I loved their series on Communication.

A good starting point could be — https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-must-read-Harvard-Business-Review-posts-articles

High School, College, Grad School — these are the best times of your life. These books can make it all the more rich and worth cherishing. Enjoy!

20 Secrets to Successful Dating in Grad School

The time in Grad School (equally relevant to college) is not just critical for your career but also for personal relationships. Many a time, school life does not derail because of the decisions of mind but that of the heart.

A healthy approach to relationships is a must have. Here are 20 tips to keep you emotionally sane-

1. Enjoy dating with an open mindset

Meeting multiple people gives you a better idea of your own preferences before you start seeing someone more seriously. And no, you are not supposed to be dating many people at the same time (glad you clarified).

2. A successful relationship is about compatibility and that goes beyond how cute someone is

I know, I know. Hormones. After a while, you will stop noticing the cuteness but if the person has a habit that annoys you (not making their bed, bad at losing in board games), it will become hard to ignore.

3. Break up is not the end of the world

For whatever reason, if you have to break up (or your partner initiates it), it is okay. No, seriously. You would think that it is the end of the world and you will never find anyone so good again. But usually, your mind is just reacting to the insecurity of ending up alone. Breaking up sucks but being stuck with a wrong person is a torture beyond comprehension.

4. Don’t date assholes, narcissists and control freaks

Self explanatory. Quit if the person is abusive, tries to make you feel bad for his/her problems, feels manipulative, does not pay attention to your needs or talks down to you. There is no reason big enough to justify staying with such people.

5. Kindness is the most important trait to look for

Yes, it is shocking but in the end, if your partner cannot be kind to you when you behave differently from what they expect, you will run crazy trying to please them. It is not a battle you can ever win. Romance will cool down, you have to pay bills and do unpleasant chores when you live together. There will be days when the world seems wrong. You need a kind partner to get through those days.

6. Don’t chase anyone, move on

If someone is breaking up again and again with you and coming back, stop. If they don’t value you, they are not worth keeping.

The longest relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. You are the most important person in your life. Have some self-esteem.

7. Career and relationships are equally important

No amount of wealth can fill in for loneliness and no amount of company can fill in for emptiness. You can have a balanced family and professional life. Go for it. Don’t compromise on your dreams and always be there for your partner. Find that delicate balance — it is hard but it is so worth it.

8. Don’t try to change anyone

Everyone holds some beliefs and values in life. Some of those are non-negotiable. Unless you understand what you can and cannot live without, how can you find the ‘one’ for yourself? If your plan depends on changing your partner so adjust to your values, think again. Can you change for them?

Examples are known where deep incompatibility in religious beliefs, political beliefs, financial values corroded the relationship over time. If you are a spiritual person and that is core to your existence, you won’t be able to thrive easily with someone who is agnostic, materialistic and contrarian to your values. People usually don’t change when it comes to such core values. Exceptions may occur but you don’t want to hold your breath on it.

9. Backpack test

My favorite advice came from Richard Muller on Quora, “Take a week long backpack trip together. Before you get married, you want to experience stress together, ideally over an extended time.” How do you hold together in stressful moments will tell you if you are right for eachother or not.

10. Never cheat

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Don’t cheat — not because someone will find it out but because you are much better than that. One never sleeps peacefully when one is worrying about being caught.

11. Read relationship books before you fuck it up

You will fuck it up, trust me. But to avoid making it a catastrophe, educate yourself. Relationships can be understood by reading about human psychology and communication. I know 20 something people think it ludicrous to be reading about relationships. But you will be thankful later when you end up not losing a great person because of your ego. Or, when you get rid of a toxic person. Despite how smart you feel you are, you are naive and books can help.

Here are the three books I can recommend to start off with-

1. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie — Because you need to learn how to be a likable person to be in a relationship
2. “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray — Because it helps to understand different mindset of men and women (avoid generalizing too much though)
3. “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg — Hands down the best material I have found on how to avoid miscommunication that kills so many relationships

12. Long distance is hard, not impossible

Any relationship needs investing time. If you can do that, distances may matter less. But don’t overtly romanticize the notion of making long distance work. As you move to a different country/place to study or start a job, you are going to change — whether you like it or not. You should take time to decide if that old relationship of yours is still the right one for you. In a good relationship, both people grow simultaneously.

And if you can grow from distances apart and keep the commitment and integrity alive, you can have a relationship that will truly stand the test of time. And if not, it is better to let go.

13. Don’t commit before you feel ready

This is an extension of point 3. If things are not great, quit. A right relationship is not supposed to be okayish, or just-good-enough; it is supposed to be great. It should make you feel not starry-eyed but calm from inside. ‘Yes, this is the person for me!’

So, if you are not feeling this way, don’t feel an obligation to commit just because you have dated each other long enough.

14. Discuss important things instead of sexting

Do you want to live abroad or in your home country? Do you want kids? Do you want to keep working after the marriage? Would you wish to take care of parents together after marriage? These are the questions that matter and yet most couples never discuss it until after the wedding.

15. Interracial relationships face extra challenges, are you prepared?

Asian cultures are ultra-conservative and a western person may find many of the customs strange. While Anglo-Indian, Jewish-Muslim marriages are not unheard of (and I personally know successful couples), they require that much stronger foundation to withstand the extra complications.

16. The only good reason to marry someone is love and compatibility

Definitely not peer or family pressure.

17. Best friend may not make best spouse

Intimate relationships need more than friendship to thrive. Read point 16.

18. Keep a good circle of friends and don’t let your life revolve solely around your partner

Grad School is a perfect place to meet super intelligent and interesting people. There are awesome things to do academically and socially. The worst thing to do is to miss out on this chance because you and your partner isolated yourselves socially.

What seems very intimate in the beginning can seem like an extra burden of expectations on each other. If your whole life revolves around your partner, there is more probability of getting disappointed when the other person cannot give what you want. It is not fair on either of you.

19. Nothing good will get away, don’t be desperate

Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away — John Steinbeck

Read this wonderful letter containing relationship advice by John Steinbeck to his son.

20. Do not carry on if you know it isn’t going to work

Respect your partner’s time and break up gracefully and let them move on. Never hurt anyone with your careless attitude. Whatever you throw out to the universe will come back to you. Karma never forgets.


I have seen brilliant people dropping courses and grades and barely managing to study because they were involved in dramatic relationships. While there is no algorithm to find the right person (wouldn’t OKCupid pay billions for that?), the right relationship will feel right. And the right person will elevate you instead of letting you drown in the dungeons of insecurity and longing.

A long life lies ahead. Take time to study well, make the career that you dreamt. Attract a person that enjoys same things as you do and live happily ever after 🙂