Alexander Little is a University of Sussex Business School alum, Manager in Risk Advisory at Deloitte, and British Army Reservist. He talks about how the Sussex MBA helped him stand out and build invaluable connections – leading to him securing his dream role.
After finishing my undergraduate degree in music, I was living in Dubai working as a musician. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I came back to the UK to join the military, and I’m still part of the army reserves today, eight years later. I knew I wanted to move into the commercial world, so in 2014 I completed the graduate scheme at Enterprise Holding, and went on to work as a junior consultant for ServiceNow, a large software company in America. Through networking, I found a position at Barclays and worked there for several years in payments, which was always my niche.
I was deciding what I needed to do to get to Director level, C-Suite and above, and what would set me apart from others. I was looking at my boss’s bosses to see what they had that stood out – and that was an MBA. I knew that it was for those who were looking to progress their career. I understood it was going to be a modular system, and would cover everything from strategy, marketing, international business, corporate finance and accounting.
Price was a deciding factor as I was fully self-funded. Sussex also appealed because it was home territory for me, being Brighton-based. I had a meeting with the programme director and spoke to the faculty, along with some of the other students. It sealed the deal because everyone was so friendly. The process of submitting my proposal, doing the tests, and being accepted was very fast, which I was thankful for – I applied late November and was on the course by January!
I did it part-time over two years, whilst working full-time and being an army reservist. The MBA has benefited my career massively and it’s also helped me with my direction in life and rejuvenated my ambition as well. Engaging with faculty, who pushed me and told me where I needed to be in my career and how to get there, really had an impact. I told the tutors my goals and engaged with people on LinkedIn to find who I wanted to work with. I wrote down ten companies that I wanted to work for. Number one was Deloitte.
I had the opportunity to go to BMW Motorrad and Lamborghini for course events. The Lamborghini event, where I presented to executives, was one of the best I have been to in my business career. I met so many other candidates who were already in talks with Deloitte, and they suggested I do the same because of my commercial and product background.
I reached out to Deloitte about halfway through the course because I wanted to start a job with them just after finishing. I’ve now started a new role there as a Level Two Manager in Risk Advisory. My SME is payments and risk assurance projects, and now I’m shadowing some programme directors and working with large clients on new initiatives. I know that I’ve been fortunate to get here, but a lot of tenacity was learnt through the MBA.
It has given me a clearer view of my drive. Since starting at Deloitte I’ve been managing teams and aiding directors and partners in very large-scale projects. There will be opportunities to work with international clients and to travel – whether it’s Singapore, New York, or somewhere in Europe.
From a digital perspective, a lot of companies are working on some interesting things. I’d like to educate myself more on cryptocurrency and what that means from a payments landscape perspective. Globally, the UK is leading the way, as we’re much more digitised. I think New York only introduced contactless payments for their subway system a couple years ago, whereas it’s been on the London Underground for a long time. I don’t think cash will be around in the next ten years – digital payments are much quicker and eliminate fraud and money laundering to some degree. I can’t remember the last time I used my wallet for cash!
My key piece of advice for someone thinking of doing an MBA would be make sure you network. At Lamborghini I met a lot of people, who I’m still in contact with now. I’ve also kept in touch with fellow alumni. We’ve had virtual calls and dinners, so there is a social aspect to the course as well. When you’re doing your dissertation, it’s useful to bounce ideas off each other and to talk to other people who are working on a similar thing.
Connect with other people who have done the MBA around the world, who have some very good advice. There are lots of opportunities, you just need to find them. You need to be able to sell yourself and look for the right people to engage with. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for this. If you’re doing the MBA, put it on your CV, and start engaging with previous candidates as well to find out how they have secured roles.
I made the most of University events and also studied Spanish through Sussex’s Language Centre. There are lots of things you can do at Sussex, which I’d encourage everyone to take advantage of. You can fit them around work commitments or parenting. If you don’t think you can do something, just give it a go – what’s the worst that could happen? During the MBA is probably the time you should be making mistakes and learning!
If you’d spoken to me two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be where I am now. Doing the course has really helped me in my career and put me in a strong position. There’s a clear step up, and it’s due to the MBA.