Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. Madhumita Chatterji is Director Strategy and Academic Advancement in ABBS. She was formerly the CEO and Board Member of Ants Consulting and Services. She was the Director at IFIM Business School, Bangalore, India. She has taught at Corvinus University, Budapest, and other such renowned Institutions during her academic career spanning more than two decades. The faculty of Middlesex University had nominated her as a mentor for their HRM program.
Dr.Chatterji specializes in Organisational Behaviour & Human Resource Management. She has earned MA, MBA with University rank and gold medal and completed her Ph.D. from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. She has completed a program in History, Politics, and Society from University of Oxford, U.K. She was awarded a scholarship to attend an executive education program on Participant Based Learning at Harvard Business School, USA. Her thesis was published as a book entitled “The Ksatriyas in Ancient India”. Her book on CSR has been published by Oxford University Press and is used as a recommended text in IIM and other B Schools.
Prof. Chatterji's experience in the education industry
I have more than two decades of experience in this industry. I chose to be in academics as I am zealous about education and learning. I believe education promotes self-discovery and knowledge construction through hands-on, transformational and independent learning, which are beneficial to every individual. This industry nurtures the passion for learning and therefore keeps the wonderment and creativity alive in life.
This is the industry that keeps a person young at heart as every day you engage with the young, enthusiastic and curious minds
My philosophy of leadership is about empowering and motivating the team to achieve their best. The leader should infuse fairness, competence, creativity, courage, honesty, and accountability among the members of the team.
In a broad perspective, my style may be labeled as the democratic style of functioning. I believe the most important quality should be humility. This encourages me to recognize and understand that wisdom often resides in collective thinking. It helps me to accept divergent views and create a truly collaborative culture which is a precursor to any success. I believe in the careful examination and judicious discernment. I am fully cognizant that there is no end to learning and am open to learning new things. I am strongly rooted in humanistic integrity and consciously cultivate virtue based activities.
Challenges to tackle as the Director-Strategy & Academic Advancement of ABBS
I would not like to call anything a challenge because I believe everything is an opportunity to learn and grow. At ABBS, we believe in self-regulation and therefore we are promoting honesty, integrity, and transparency in all activities. As an institution, we want ethics to drive the development and not quick fixes.
There are challenges where we have to convince certain stakeholders that the long-term perspective is more important than immediate gain. Ethics is a journey leading to an immortal brand and that obviously at times puts challenges on the path and one has to sometimes take unpleasant decisions for the common good and better future.
Learner-centric curriculum of ABBS
The curriculum at ABBS is learner centric and our effort is to help the future members of the industry be self-reliant and competent. To achieve this, we involve the practitioners from industry in both the design and delivery of the courses. The industry professionals are also deeply engaged with our students as mentors guiding them in making informed choices. The experts from various industries are invited to deliver the latest and relevant skills to our students and they also interact with the faculty members to guide them about the trends and practices in those industries. Our aim is to leverage both theory and practice and ensure that there is a healthy symbiosis between the two.
Changes seen over the years in the education industry and the required skill set for a corporate job
According to me, it has been a mixed bag of changes. While there is greater awareness that education should hone knowledge, skill, and attitude and help in the holistic development of children, there is also a trend to treat education as a profit-making business delivering “sham” degrees and diplomas. If we want that, there is a steady flow of employable workforce then the hands-on learning has to be an important component of education.
Students should develop self-confidence and decision-making abilities. With the enhancement in technology, there is no denying the fact that students have to be aware of those skills. In the age of information overload and excessive data availability, corporate would want students who can understand, infer and diagnose using them. However, I would like to put a caveat here that though it is extremely important that students must hone all technical and cognitive skills if we do not train on values and ethics then we will only create dangerous manipulative managers. Therefore,
I feel that the corporate should also evaluate and seek ethical and emotionally intelligent students as their future workforce.
A warm and inviting school environment for learning
The ideal school environment should be warm and inviting. The school should be the nest where every fledgling (student) would want to return to. All the stakeholders must be encouraged to ask questions, voice their opinions and ideas in a respectful manner. The objective should be to inculcate independent thinking and adopt learning as a lifelong business. One must learn that while the unique self- identity is extremely important, the culmination of that identity is achieved only when one contributes to others and society.
The environment should teach to accept differences, respect differences and enjoy differences which will lead to mutual respect and human dignity
Such an environment can develop when we walk the talk. Therefore, I encourage the practice of discussing and debating about new initiatives in the area of delivery of courses, innovative pedagogical practices, directed learning practices and classroom engagements. I like to encourage co-curricular and extracurricular activities where students learn to work in teams to deliver projects end to end.
Sports is an important component of ABBS life because I believe that helps to create awareness about team spirit, facing challenges, accepting defeat with grace, the importance of motivation, desire to excel as well as health and fitness The clubs help students to enjoy what they like, pursue their talents and excel. I like to lay emphasis on values by providing them opportunities to develop them. I strongly believe that punishment is a deterrent and not a motivator, therefore, a fine balance between discipline and freedom has to be maintained which will motivate all to enjoy their freedom with responsibility.
Top qualities that an aspiring student must possess
Management is both a science and an art. Therefore, the most important quality that a student must possess is an appreciation of humanitarian values. They must be open to learning and have an innate inclination to be comfortable with ambiguity, duality, and uncertainty to be able to remain calm in the face of challenges. Critical thinking and analytical abilities are a prerequisite for any good manager.
A positive attitude and tenacity will help a student to excel
Targets to achieve in the coming few years
There are three areas that I would like to focus on in the immediate future, a commitment to excellence in everything we do: teaching, research, and service. In my view, these are the backbone of any Institution as they are catalytic and not competitive values. Each value complements the other. Excellence in research infuses teaching with inspiration and community engagement informs research priorities. We have already launched the Mahatma Gandhi International Center of Research for Conflict Resolution and Management and have received support from eminent academicians and practitioners, knowledge sharing through regular knowledge series seminars and workshops have been scheduled and community activity is a mandatory part of the curriculum.
I believe that educational institutions have to be knowledge creators and for this, strong collaborations have to be forged with other national and international academic institutions, industry, and society. Therefore, my second aim is to build these collaborations. Numbers of MOUs have been signed to provide value-added courses, projects, internships, and exchange programs.
Since service is part of ABBS vision my third area of attention would be a commitment to diversity and opportunities for advancement of people from all walks of life and to enhance the environmental sustainability culture that is already in operation at ABBS. We have already ventured into skill training to help the “unincluded” sections of the society to earn a living with dignity. ABBS is a green campus, all our energy needs are met by solar power. In fact, we produce an excess amount which is given to the state grid. Recycling of water and waste are part of our environment sustainability culture.
Advice for the youngsters
Each one of you is a star! Believe in yourself and have a long-term perspective in life if you want to lead a team, an organization, or even just a family, effectively and sensibly. Wherever you go, sow the seeds of optimism, faith, love, and trust. I am ending with a quote I learned in school from my Principal which I believe has helped many of us: “….. a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a Heaven for?” (Robert Browning)