Our Stories

Learning to Be a Leader

Shared approach proves useful for retail-to-consulting career switcher

Sam Sharpstone
Senior Consultant, EY

Vanderbilt MBA 2022

The COVID pandemic—more specifically, its effects on the retail industry in which he worked—was a wakeup call for Sam Sharpstone. “Our company did a good job of responding to the uncertain times, but we all took a significant pay cut,” he recalls. “I realized that it was time to figure out what I wanted to do with my career.”

Once he settled on a path, which involved a switch to consulting, Sam began exploring schools that could help him successfully make that leap. For someone already a decade into his career, he says, “career outcomes were obviously very important. I needed to make sure that taking two years off [working full time] was going to be worth it.” Vanderbilt’s strong record in that regard appealed to him.

Vanderbilt’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) was also a major draw. “Most schools don’t really capitalize on leadership development,” he says. “I wanted to develop not only my business skills but also my leadership skills, so that when I left with an MBA, I could hit the ground running.”

Coincidentally, Sam’s fiancée, whom he married during his first year in the program, had also applied for a job at the university. She received her offer on the same day that Sam received his acceptance letter from Vanderbilt, and they concluded that it was meant to be.

“For me, it’s not just about making money; it’s also about the journey to better yourself in any regard. I’ve already seen it pan out. And I can’t wait to take three other classmates along for the journey as I started my career in consulting.”

The “shared” approach to leadership development—in which a small group of students go through the LDP together—was just what Sam was looking for. “It was not only useful for me to gain clarity and a broader peer network, but to also have a cohort of three others to really guide me. I know them and how they operate, and we could use our knowledge during the program to better ourselves in the future.

Fun Fact: Sam, whose parents are British, is a first-generation American. If he could, he would be on a golf course every day.

I needed to make sure that taking two years off [working full time] was going to be worth it.