Sasha Sabharwal’s (MiM2021) undergraduate degree was in pharmacy, but with a strong interest in business, she was attracted to a commercial career in the fast-moving consumer goods sector. Having undertaken two business internships, she knew that to build a career in this field she required more knowledge of the business world, and that the Masters in Management (MiM) at London Business School could equip her with this. Following her graduation, Sasha successfully secured a three-year sales and marketing graduate placement at Unilever, with the support of the London Business School Career Centre.
I was born and raised in London, and I’ve always been passionate about having a positive impact on the people around me. That’s what drew me to study sciences. I studied biology, chemistry and physics at A Level, then went to UCL to study for a pharmacy degree. Somewhere around my second year, I decided to broaden my horizons by undertaking a Year in Industry, to explore the world of business.
I took my first steps into the world of business within the pharmaceutical industry at GSK, an industry I understood. I must admit I entered this experience with very limited knowledge of business fundamentals such as how organisations are structured and the key financial reporting metrics, so I fully immersed myself and used it as an opportunity to learn. After a year of cross-functional experience, I knew I enjoyed the corporate world, but I was determined to understand which function was for me. To help me do this, I took a hands-on approach and relocated to Geneva for three months to complete an internship at Procter & Gamble. I loved it, and while I did return to UCL to complete my pharmacy degree, I knew that afterwards I was headed for a commercial career in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, where I could have a positive impact by identifying and fulfilling consumers’ needs.
That’s when I first thought about London Business School. I had experience with two multinationals, but limited theoretical business knowledge. I’d seen businesses up close, and had the aspirations to return but had no tangible skillset behind me. Researching different courses, I found that the MiM programme at London Business School taught everything that I needed to know to build a career in the FMCG industry. I even looked into universities abroad, but I knew that London, as my home, was where I wanted to build my career. The course structure, the extracurricular opportunities and the prestigious faculty are what drew me to London Business School.
The MiM course gave me a truly robust understanding of business. Although lots of my fellow students were considering roles in consulting and finance, I was drawn towards sales and marketing within the FMCG sector. That’s why I chose Brand Management and Social Media Marketing as my electives.
What I admired about all my professors was the way they were able to connect the topics to real-life examples. This helped bring the learnings to life. For example, in our Strategy classes, every week we would focus on a specific company including Coca-Cola and Apple and discuss their strategies. It was clear that every one of the teachers was a subject matter expert in their respective areas, and that really helped to bring their lessons to life. But at London Business School, learning isn’t just done theoretically – you also get the opportunity to put everything you are taught into practice in group assignments, which are safe learning environments. That was another big reason why I chose to study at the School.
LondonLAB and Global Experiences are two things that really set learning at London Business School apart from Masters at other universities. I was looking forward to Global Experiences the most. It provides an opportunity to go abroad and learn how businesses operate in different countries. I was set to go to South Africa, but unfortunately, I was studying during a Covid year, and international travel wasn’t possible. Nevertheless, I was blown away by the amount of work put into making the global trip an invaluable virtual experience. We logged on from our homes, and a massive effort was made to ensure we didn’t miss out on anything. Of course, I wish we could have attended the sessions in person, however even from my home in London, I gained an excellent understanding of the differences of running a business in South Africa, as well as learning a lot about South African history.
LondonLAB was also a fascinating experience that helped consolidate all of my learnings at the end of the year. I worked with the wine retailer Naked Wines, putting together a business plan, which helped me further cement my plans to pursue a career in sales and marketing.
Lessons are only one part of what makes studying at London Business School so special. Outside of the classroom, there is so much to do. I was part of the Women in Business Club, which frequently has visiting speakers, and helped me meet other women pursuing business careers. With so many of my cohort looking to move into different sectors than me, it was amazing to find a group of women who were aiming for similar career trajectories. I also took up a role as the Communications and Marketing Officer on the executive committee of the Retail and Luxury Goods Club – which again enabled me to put the skills I was learning to use in a practical way while studying.
I am a former student Ambassador for MiM. Before I applied to London Business School, I had the opportunity to speak to a couple of ambassadors who gave me a fantastic insight into the electives on the course. Being able to speak to someone who has gone through the course, and who could give me practical advice about what to expect was invaluable. I would encourage anyone considering studying at London Business School to do the same.
The diversity throughout the LBS community is exceptional. With students from over 40 nationalities and various academic backgrounds, it was a truly enriching experience to see everyone’s unique perspectives come together. My first project group was made up of a lawyer, a doctor, someone who had studied geography previously and an artist. I was hugely impressed and fortunate to be surrounded by such talented students, each with their own expertise and inspiring story.
The career support at London Business School is unparalleled. From virtual career evenings to CV workshops, the career support is endless. The team really helped prepare me for the fall recruitment process, in a way that I would never have been able to do myself. The aspects that helped me the most included interview prep and 1-1 coaching sessions.
I found my three-year sales and marketing graduate placement at Unilever advertised on the London Business School jobs board. The career advisors coached me through the multistage interview process, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
The first year of my placement was based in e-commerce, and with the knowledge gained through my Social Media Marketing elective, I was able to excel at this. I worked with Unilever’s ice cream brands – Ben and Jerry’s, Carte D’Or, and Walls – to sell them into restaurants around the UK and launch them on their online food delivery menus. I put into practice the digital marketing techniques I learned including SEO.
Now in the second year of my placement, I am working for Simple, the number one face care brand in the UK. I work on a local level in the UK and Ireland, bringing in many of the skills I learned in my Brand Management elective that now help me to build a future-fit portfolio and land media campaigns. My social media knowledge has also facilitated my expertise as the digital and social lead, creating the overall brand strategy across social channels, newsletters and the website.
I won’t pretend that moving out of pharmacy and into business wasn’t scary. It was, but doing the MiM was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was an incredibly rewarding year that allowed me to gain a fundamental base of knowledge which will equip me for life. Even having left London Business School, I’m still a part of the community I joined when I began my studies. The alumni network is so strong, and because London Business School gives such a positive experience, whenever you meet a fellow alum, you instantly bond. I’ve connected with some in the network who are in the FMCG sector, and I even found someone at Unilever who did the MiM a few years ahead of me. Seeing the ways that London Business School, and specifically the course I took, is helping to build future leaders is so exciting and rewarding.