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Final Rank: British Army officer
Years Served: 6 years
In July 2013, he was posted to the royal household. As equerry to the Duke of Kent, he was responsible for organising more than 200 engagements, liaising with senior military, business and political figures. “It opened my eyes to the possibilities beyond the military.”
He decided on doing an MBA rather than going “back to square one” with a graduate scheme. “I wasn’t prepared to spend five years playing catch-up. I knew I’d done some great things; I’d led a team of 40 guys through some real challenges. I just didn’t have the tools for business. LBS has given me the framework to learn and structure what I’ve done in the Army and put a business twist on it.”
It was a tough decision, though. “Coming from the military, where your income is reliable and stable, to a situation where you’re funding yourself is a big step. It feels like a gamble. My biggest advice is to apply for scholarships early. I left it too late for a military scholarship but I did get a £10,000 funds scholarship. If the MBA’s right for someone, finance will never get in their way.”
“LBS has given me the framework to learn and structure what I’ve done in the Army and put a business twist on it.”
He chose LBS for three reasons. One: the career opportunities. “This is the only place that the companies I want to work for come to recruit.” Two: the quality of its teaching. “Nowhere else comes close to it.” Three: the location. “London’s where I want to be. My wife’s here [she works for KPMG] and I wanted to study in the place I’m going to be working, making connections with employers from day one.”
James is Co-President of the Military in Business club, a network which seeks to highlight the value of military experiences to the School. “We’re not just telling war stories but pulling out what we’ve learnt and why it’s useful.” He has worked with people from diverse backgrounds, including Afghan soldiers, “people I wouldn’t have engaged with if I’d gone from university straight to studying an MBA. It gives you a broad cross-cultural experience. And I know what it’s like to be a leader.”
What’s his top tip for military going into business? “Focus on what you have achieved as an individual. In the Army, it’s 100% about your team. Now you need to become comfortable with thinking about the part you played and give yourself time for reflection and introspection.”
James has his sights set on consulting: “It’s the best way to carry on what I’ve learnt on the MBA – marketing, operations and finance. I want to be surrounded by super-intelligent people and to be in a job where I’m pushed, where there’s a learning atmosphere, variety and enough pressure and adrenaline to keep me awake.”
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