Specialization makes students expert in the chosen sector: Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Group Director, WeSchool
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As business and markets go through a phase of hyper-segmentation, the requirement of skill sets at managerial level is also changing with instances of domain/functional expert managers being preferred over generic MBAs.


But, MBA aspirants are often perplexed on deciding the right specialization. The questions which often hover their mind include ‘What should be the criteria to choose the right specialization?’, ‘Shall I go for General MBA or Specialized MBA?’, ‘Will I be able to switch over to other sectors easily with a particular specialization?’ To answer these questions, Careers360 brings to you an exclusive interview with Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Group Director, Prin. LN Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, popularly known as the WeSchool.


Dr. Salunkhe shares his insight on the significance of specialization, factors to consider while choosing the same, specialization opportunities and advantages along with other career advices.


Read the full interview below:


Careers360: What is the significance of specialization of MBA/PGDM programmes?

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: The choice of specialization by a student indicates his/her preference, orientation and comfort level to work in a particular Sector/Function. This choice is also influenced by the relative (higher or lower) opportunities in the employment market, and hence the related attractiveness of compensation and benefits. ​Hence, the two year curriculum is designed in a way to train them in all the functions of Business Management, in the first year. This exposure and training facilitates the students to make an informed choice (for the 2nd year) on his/her specialization/Industry focus. 


For sector-specific MBA/PGDM programmes, the student chooses the sector right at the time of joining the two year programme.​The sectoral programmes provide end to end mastery of the 'space' for the student. For example, the students of Rural Management spend almost 5 months out of the two years in rural ecosystem, working on live contextual projects, assigned by corporates. It is designed in a way to make the candidates deep-dive in the rural ecosystem and its social, political, economical dynamics.


Careers360: What are the factors which a student must consider while choosing specialization?

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: It is imperative to obtain a detailed picture of the sector the student wants to specialize in. Counsellors, placement cells, corporate- interactions can provide valuable insights. Stay aware and updated. Also, the specializations should be in sync with their career preferences and well supported with their potential and perseverance to stay the course. Some of the specialization & sectoral choices may not appear very appealing in the beginning. Also, reputed B-schools conduct aptitude tests.


Careers360: What is your take on Specialized MBA vis a vis General MBA?

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: Both have their relative strengths. A specialization makes the student an expert in the chosen sector. This would help the student to gain quicker acceptance in the chosen space. A general MBA provides a wider knowledge base and helps students keep open the options to move across sectors. 


Careers360: In terms of career, what is more beneficial for the students, specialized MBA or General MBA?

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: Specialized MBAs train an individual for a particular sector or function, (depending on the choice made). Employers in the same space have access to 'job ready' talent; sectoral focus could limit the student to a particular sector, restricting their mobility across the domains, but not necessarily. General MBAs with a wider knowledge base have a bigger spectrum to choose (their career options) from.


Careers360: Do students opting for specialized MBA have an edge over the General MBA students during the placement rounds?

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: The specialized MBA students have the edge over others because of a higher level of expertise in their chosen space. For a potential employer, such students naturally become preferred choice, their training costs are less. These are likely to hit the ground running. Along with the sectoral /functional expertise they are given a sound grounding in the foundational elements, concepts and functions of Management. They understand and have a perspective of the adjacent/larger ecosystems. 


Careers360: What are the challenges faced by the students of a particular specialization while switching to General field/sector?

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: Initially one may confront a few challenges while trying to transcend their respective orbits but since they are also well versed in general management skills such switchovers are not an insurmountable challenge. In fact there have been increasing numbers of instances of some sectoral experts being picked up by companies which do not exactly fall in their sectors.


Careers360: What are the opportunities and challenges for General MBA students for pursuing a career in specialized field?

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: Generalized MBAs have more 'freedom of movement' across sectors as they are trained in all aspects of management; hence increased opportunities for growth and career development. But at times, the growing focus on sectoral mastery could result in these students not having access and preference over the students with specialization/sector focus. 


However, in the final analysis, potential employers don’t judge students only from their degree. A lot of premium is increasingly being placed on their track record, projects, handling difficulties/challenges/crises etc. Due consideration is given to presentation & communication skills, team work and leadership qualities.


Careers360: What is the difference between functional specialization and sectoral specialization? 

Dr. UdaySalunkhe: Functional specialization equips the trainees (students) with expertise in a particular function or vertical- like HR, Marketing, Finance etc. Talking in context of sectoral specialization, it prepares the students more for a particular space or ecosystem rather than a function or vertical. A few examples of sectoral specializations can be Rural Management and Health Management, Retail etc.


A functional expert will have more fluidity across the various ecosystems. On the other hand sectoral expert will have an incisive, sharp and analytical grasp of his/her sector and thus be more sought in his respective domain. Though he may have the flexibility to move across different functions, again going by the example of Rural Management, the students can move on to rural marketing, sales, finance, supply chain managers etc. 


Like one of our students-Gaurav Sharma was recruited by Standard Chartered Bank for Operations which is a functional specialization. Gaurav is a trained sectoral expert (Rural Management). The bank felt that with his sectoral specialization in Rural Management, he would be a perfect fit to handle bank's rural operations. 


So, in all the discussion about the sectoral and functional specialization plus their juxtapositional study, there are no absolute truths. There are two way movements. Sectoral experts have been known to be readily absorbed in awarding roles outside their orbits and vice versa.  


Stay tuned to bschool.careers360.com for more on WeSchool.

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