Anil Sharma graduated from Manchester University in 1994 with a BA honours in Economics. He joined PricewaterhouseCoopers and qualified as a chartered accountant between ’95 and ’99 before returning to full–time study for an MBA at Warwick Business School in 2002
Why did you decide to continue your studies?
Chartered accounting qualification focuses on financials and how a company works. An MBA is a good way to complement the ACA (Associated Chartered Accountant), because it focuses on strategy, marketing and operational issues rather than straight finance. I was spurred on to take the MBA having worked in New York for a couple of years and seeing how postgraduate qualifications, particularly MBAs, were de rigeur.
How did you fund your postgraduate studies?
I borrowed and used all my savings. The living costs and fees were around £40,000: once you factor in lost earning capacity, the total cost is more like £100,000. But the cost was never a deterrent. Long–term, I took the view that it was worth the investment.
What was the workload like?
It was a heavy workload, even though I was accustomed to the ACA regime. There’s a curriculum to get through, with extra options, and you have to work hard. There’s also a dissertation to produce, of around 30,000–50,000 words.
What was it like studying again?
It was a new experience, in particular learning in the syndicate groups that Warwick uses. Learning syndicates are teams of four or five people who work together on all projects throughout the course. At Warwick they’re pre–allocated, and you meet people from very different backgrounds. One interesting aspect of syndicate groups is that there’s no hierarchy, and it’s up to every individual to persuade others of their arguments. Some students found this challenging at first, but they had to learn to adapt.
How was it different from undergraduate study?
When you’re an undergraduate, study is much more of a one–way street, with students soaking up what the lecturers have to say. With an MBA, it’s a different discussion. There’s opportunity for students to bring their own experience to the table when discussing the case studies.
Did you enjoy it?
Yes. Having the space to get your mind fired up with lots of ideas, after 7–10 years of grafting in industry, is an incredible luxury. The network I formed was the biggest capital payback of the MBA
Advice to those considering taking a postgraduate course
Be very clear about what you’ve done before your MBA and what you want to get out of it. I would also advise people to do the course full–time rather than part–time. You have a better opportunity to get to know people on your course and become close to them – see them at their best and at their worst.
MBAs appeal to a more mature set of students who have already earned their stripes in industry. A lot of the value of the MBA comes from their shared learning, according to Vincent Hammersley, director of communications at Warwick Business School and former MBA there himself. "If people come straight from university, they can’t offer a lot in the way of knowledge transfer to the peer learning groups that we run."
Between 30–40% of a cohort will end up in finance, with a further 20% taking up careers in consulting. A strong contingent of 15% head for the not–for–profit sector, which is a satisfying career "but holds us back in the salary ranking", explains Vincent.