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IIM Banglore Letter of Recommendation Questions

  1. How long and in what capacity have you known the candidate? (No word limit)
  2. If this is a work-related reference, in what position is/was the candidate employed and for how long? (No word limit)
  3. What do you consider to be the candidate’s principal strengths/talents? (No word limit)
  4. What do you consider to be the candidate’s weaknesses or areas that need improvement? (No word limit)

IIM Banglore Letter of Recommendation Example – 1


1. How long have you known the applicant and in what capacity? (500 words)

I am head of the steel manufacturing shop floor at Jindal Steel Works (JSW). I have known Vivek for 6 years. I was his direct supervisor for 5 years. Initially, he started his career as a furnace in charge of the shop floor. He amply demonstrated outstanding leadership skills on various occasions, so I decided to promote him to lead the process control team. Since then, he has worked on multiple projects such as furnace automation, digitalization, mathematical modeling and predictive analysis for progressively reducing turnaround time, optimizing cost and improving quality.

Lately, we worked together on ambitious Digitalization Transformation projects and TQM implementation.

2. What do you consider the applicants most outstanding talent or ability?

During his tenure, as an in-charge on shop floor Vivek has demonstrated good leadership skills in various projects. But the two qualities which made him stand out in my team were his analytical skills and capability to efficiently implement new projects on the ground.

Our company spends almost over 1000 crore annually to procure alloys, used to achieve the desired chemistry in steel. Optimized usage of these materials has always been a challenging task for the company. Till 2017, operators were using thumb rules for material selection and quantity calculations. However, usage of 40 materials with varying costs can lead to inaccuracies and wastage. Vivek identified this as an opportunity and took an initiative to develop a mathematical model to improve production efficiency.

He initiated the project by conducting a rigorous analysis of historical data and understanding the usage of materials by interacting with the users. He then formulated the roadmap for the project and assigned clear objectives to team members. Heading a cross-functional team, he was effective in delivering a robust model that integrated well with the existing systems. He then led the implementation of the new model on shop-floor which was equally challenging because operators were used to thumbing rules since the inception of the plant. He arranged training and trial runs for 150+ operators. This helped alleviate their concerns and convinced them that adopting new technology will improve their throughput and simplify their tasks. Simultaneously, he suggested me to link operators’ performance with the usage of the model. With his efforts, he was able to increase model usage from merely 10% to more than 80% within a month.

The model generated an annual saving of 65 crores and was declared the best project under digitalization. I was thoroughly impressed with the efficient implementation and adoption of the project and nominated him for the ‘HELIOS AWARD’ of exceptional idea generation and implementation at JSW. The project turned out to be so successful that it got adopted in sister companies.

This project demonstrated his true potential and exceptional skills that he has developed over the years.

3. What do you consider the applicant’s chief liabilities and weaknesses?

Over the years, I have observed that sometimes Vivek’s point of view is very rigid. He does a lot of brainstorming over new ideas and wants to implement them headstrong. This is one area where I believe Vivek has some improvements to do in order to become a successful leader.

For example, one such instance occurred last year, when we were planning to transition to digital logging system by providing workstation access to the shift incharges. Lack of access to these systems sometimes leads to poor decision making by them. Vivek initiated discussions with the incharges and proposed multiple ideas such as access through a kiosk, mobile, and industrial tablet. To ensure data security and allow portability, he was inclined towards the procurement of tablets. Some incharges expressed unwillingness to carry tablets because it was inconvenient for them to carry both walky-talky and tablet but Vivek was very persistent and firm on his decision.

During the same time, he was undergoing the Emerging Leaders program, in which he was having regular feedback sessions with me. I explained to him that tablets are novel in the steel industry but some incharges might find it difficult to handle or even adapt to. I also advised him to discuss the same issue with some experienced incharges. He should understand the problem from their perspective. At the age of 40-45yrs, the shift incharges does not have the same aptitude to new technology as any young 25 yrs old. He took the feedback positively and upon further negotiations, he decided to implement the scheme by providing a few Kiosks and a couple of tablets to the shift incharges, which took care of everyone’s needs in a holistic way.

I think Vivek has come a long way and has learned negotiation skills for striking a balance between all the stakeholders, but there is still some room to improve.

General Comments

I think Vivek has the potential to become a good manager in the future. He is very passionate and enthusiastic about the projects he leads and implements them by taking everyone along towards a common goal. I am glad and happy to strongly recommend his candidature for the esteemed institute and wish him all the good luck.

IIM Banglore Letter of Recommendation Example – 2

1. How long have you known the applicant and in what capacity? (500 words)

I know Vivek for over three years now. We have worked collaboratively on multiple assignments in the Director’s office, where I was in the role of a financial advisor and he was a technical advisor. Along with leading suppliers and successful inventors, I have witnessed him conceiving multiple projects on the latest technologies in steel making. His innovative inputs have always been insightful and trustworthy.

2. What do you consider the applicant’s most outstanding talent or ability?

Vivek is a self-motivated person who constantly seeks innovation with a desire to improve outdated processes. He has regularly acted proactively and exceeded expectations by seizing every possible opportunity that came his way. In an ambitious project to convert construction equipment (wheel loader) into a remote control machine, he has amply demonstrated his outstanding negotiation skills and perseverance to achieve the desired goal.

Traditionally, wheel loaders are used for the purpose of cleaning the area beneath the hot furnace. As loaders are driven by operators, the furnace needs to be stopped multiple times a day due to safety reasons. This practice leads to a lot of productivity loss and reduces the throughput of the plant. In the 2018 year, Vivek proposed to sponsor and lead a project to modify this established practice and make the Wheel loaders automatic self-driven so that we don’t have to stop the furnace. After some extensive research, he came up with the idea to redesign these loaders so that they can be controlled through a remote controller. Despite initial approval for the prototype, his idea proved difficult to materialize as very few of the manufacturers had prior experience in this domain. His discussions with companies from Australia and the USA failed as quotations were exceeding the allotted budget.

Even after encountering multiple setbacks, he stayed motivated and kept exploring multiple options. Eventually, through his networking skills, he engaged one of the domestic suppliers, whose projected cost was within the company’s budget. Initially, the supplier was hesitant due to the possibility of failure in this one of its kind ventures. Vivek managed to convince the supplier by negotiating to bear 50% of the remote cost, in case the project fails. With successful trials of the machine, this technology proved to produce the desired output even in the hot and dusty environment of steel making. Finally, his efforts paid off when JSW became the first steel plant in Asia to operate a remote loader. Other than improving the safety, the project helped to improve productivity and generated an annual saving of 32 crores.

I think that while good ideas may come to many but only a handful of motivated and persevering professionals like Vivek have courage take it all the way through.

3. What do you consider the applicants chief liabilities and weaknesses?

In my opinion, Vivek possesses a good understanding of technical aspects of the operation, but lacks in business know-how. Lately, in a few business reviews, I have found some of his projects deficient in financial & commercial understanding and faced challenges to materialize.

One such project to quote would be the Project on recycling of waste gas from our plant. Steel plant typically generates an enormous quantity of carbon-rich gas on a daily basis. Approx. 20% of this gas has a low calorific value and has to be burnt in the atmosphere. To bring this issue to management’s attention, Vivek added waste gas quantity in the daily MIS report. Subsequently, in collaboration with a technology supplier from the USA, he conducted a feasibility study to convert waste gas into biofuel. Based on the survey report, he submitted a proposal but it failed to satisfy the needs of the financial and strategic committees. Even though the project was technically promising, gaps in his holistic business understanding kept the project from being a reality.

Being an IIM alumnus, I can understand an MBA can bring out the best in him. In our regular discussion, I have suggested him to build upon a broader understanding of business and investment decisions as he grows up in the organization. I have observed that he has started working in this direction by joining internal training. His decision to pursue an MBA also makes perfect sense as his technical expertise armed with business knowledge will help develop efficient strategy and excellent operation solutions.

IIM Banglore Letter of Recommendation Example – 3

1. How long have you known the applicant and in what capacity? (500 words)

In early 2014 Rangan joined my team as a graduate engineer trainee. Since then he reported to me till late 2015. In his first assignment, he worked remarkably well in our project for MTN and demonstrated his aptitude and eagerness to learn new concepts. It was a special one because as per our expectation our meticulous delivery ensured we get a subsequent contract from MTN.

After that in the next almost two years as my reportee he worked in a few other projects for clients from Nigeria and France. In each of the projects, he showed the same zeal for learning new things and performing beyond expectations. During this period he also showcased his public speaking abilities and he got an award for the same in Ericsson India’s intracompany technical competition.

When he was in my team, he took the charge of organizing various team events, e.g., team parties and outings, and before and during such events his innate skill of mingling with people was always noticeable.

Because of his oratory and event management skills, he was later absorbed into Ericsson’s brand ambassador team. Being the location leader of the team, since 2016 I have been collaborating with him for various brand awareness related events.

2. What do you consider the applicants most outstanding talent or ability?

I think the qualities that make Rangan stand out from his peers are his willingness to go above and beyond to solve problems. To achieve the goal Rangan doesn’t shy away from learning new concepts and trying different approaches in case of failure. Such persistence coupled with zeal to learn is his strongest point.

In 2014 I assigned Rangan in a challenging project for the largest telecom operator in Africa. This project was special because a successful execution would have increased our chance of securing much more lucrative subsequent contracts. Initially, it was a Proof of Concept and I assigned Rangan and another trainee engineer to work with a solution architect who led the project. The team had to implement a robust and comprehensive backup and recovery application for the Telco’s mobile prepaid charging servers.

To work on the project not only extensive knowledge on python programming but also a clear understanding of Ericsson’s SDP server was required. What amazed me was how much effort Rangan put to go through the humongous documentation of Ericsson SDP. I expected Rangan to request some sort of training for the needed niche SDP server knowledge but all he did was to ask for the pertinent documentation and some guidance in case he fails to understand. Within a couple of weeks, he acquired enough knowledge to start working on the project and efficiently completed his tasks. By the end of the PoC, the team leader was very much impressed by Rangan thanks to his enthusiasm and quick learning capabilities.

Then came the actual implementation where not only Rangan was appreciated by the regional team in Nigeria but also he suggested for small automated process checking the KPIs of periodically updated network infrastructure. The team grabbed that idea and provided it as an additional feature of the solution. In the end we successfully completed the project and as envisioned by the leadership team, the success played a pivotal role in our ensuing successful bidding for successive contracts.

Another thing I noticed about him was how naturally he interacted with colleagues across the world. A fresh graduate generally faces problems in interacting with people from other countries but it was not the case with Rangan. As a senior manager who has interacted with scores of new recruits, I really appreciated such an enthusiastic person who was equally adept at properly communicating with people from other cultures. Rangan demonstrated such skills all along working in his first professional project. In these years I have collaborated with him for brand awareness related activities and it gives immense pleasure to see he is still the same, cheerful, energetic, and ready to learn something new.

These traits helped him to get awards and recognition. The most important was Ericsson’s GIAP certification, nominations of which is sent to experienced employees who have great career potentials. Rangan was nominated for GIAP certification in mid-2016 and cleared it with ease. In 2016 he was the youngest in Kolkata to be nominated for this assessment and to pass the test.

3. What do you consider the applicant’s chief liabilities and weaknesses?

After the successes in projects for the largest telco in Africa, I assigned Rangan to an existing project called “ITK France”. This ongoing project had some inherent technical challenges but more important was the nature of the client in France. The client was not only extremely demanding but also very frugal as far as all the time needed for bug fixes was concerned. In such a difficult setting one has to be very cautious and delicate while handling the client. Rangan was new to the project and wasn’t aware of the basics of project planning. Complaints and Escalation emails were frequent in that project and within a month I got a complaint about Rangan.

Once the issue for which we got the escalation mail was sorted, I attended the next scheduled meeting as a guest and paid special attention to Rangan’s comments during the meeting. As soon as the meeting finished, I called him for a face to face session. During this meeting, I found out the actual reason why such an excellent performer as Rangan is not able to fulfill tasks in the project. The root cause of the disconnect between Rangan and the client was the timeline estimates.

Rangan tended to estimate how long he would take to fix a problem in a rather isolated manner. It was a complex project involving multiple teams based in different countries. Server and network infrastructure also often caused delays. In those circumstances, Rangan didn’t consider other factors and only estimated how long he would take to solve a problem. Such an approach was bound to cause delays and dissatisfaction to the client. To make matters worse, during the meetings whenever the client demanded an even quicker delivery Rangan agreed without considering the implications.

After finding out the problem I told him that it was very important for a planner to consider all facets affecting the delivery. It was always better to ask for more time at the beginning than to agree with the demands and then later missing the deadlines. I also told him that his approach of agreeing with whatever schedule the client fixes had a recipe for disaster in terms of quality control. In essence, I recommended him to modify his way of working and incorporate more stakeholders in his decision-making process. I asked him to revise the schedule and to consider different factors influencing the deliverables. He thanked me for the advice and told me that he would follow it.

Since then, even though the regular escalations didn’t stop but I didn’t get another one for Rangan. He not only paid heed to my advice but even improved it. For example, whenever he provided an estimate to the client, he included factors affecting the fix in great detail and the implications of each of them. However, taking all the factors while planning a project’s execution is a sophisticated trait and sometimes an experienced guy misses a critical aspect. To master the skill to plan for projects it is important to have an eye looking for every minute detail and a sense of taking seemingly unrelated factors into account. In this regard, Rangan has a lot to learn, but I strongly believe that as a zealous learner Rangan will be able to utilize the opportunities he will get at IIMB and eventually be an expert project manager.

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