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Mark Leddy is the first to admit that he was not a traditional full-time MBA student. When the qualified veterinary surgeon began his MBA at Warwick Business School in the UK in 2011, he was 41 years old. “I walked into Warwick as a mature student. I was just about the oldest in the group.”
And with a well-paid full-time job working for a pharmaceutical company, an executive MBA would have been the logical choice, he concedes. Indeed, when he first approached Warwick it was to look at the part-time MBA options there. But with a young family and a job that required 55-60 hours work a week, he decided to throw in the towel and study full-time.
“I got bored and had an early midlife crisis,” he laughs. “I hankered after an MBA. Having done previous short courses I knew that being totally submersed you learnt a lot more. I felt an absolute focus was the way to go.” Before taking the decision he consulted the careers department at Warwick. “They were quite realistic but very supportive.”
One of the things Mr Leddy learnt very early in the programme was the value of networking. Though he was the only veterinary surgeon on the full-time degree, there was another on the EMBA who was chief executive of YourVets, the chain of veterinary practices. The two met and developed a project that Mr Leddy and a fellow MBA could complete as part of their degree requirement. After that she offered him a job, as clinic director of the Coventry branch of YourVets, a 24-hour clinic with nearly 50 staff.
Studying for a full-time MBA was either very inspired or very brave, he concludes. Today, a year after he finished the one-year programme, it still looks like a “brave” decision, he says, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way - he turned down two more lucrative jobs to take the role at YourVets.
“It’s the most exciting job I’ve had since I walked into my first veterinary practice. You just never know what is going to come through the door next,” he says. “I think you should go and do what you really enjoy and what you are good at and your career will follow.”
Mr Leddy has been able to apply much of what he learnt at Warwick on a day-to-day basis. The course he was most enthralled by was on competitive advantage. In his current job this is all about giving high quality care to the 150 dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals that visit the clinic every day, he says. “Even if 99 per cent of the animals do really well, if we kill one of them.....” Managing the practice also draws heavily on operations management and change.
The thing he found most difficult on the degree was modelling and analysis, but he has found a solution to that too, by developing a project at the clinic for two Masters in Finance students from Warwick
So did being the oldest in the group prove problematic? Far from it, he says. “Myself and the youngest MBA student jointly won the award for ‘best overall performance.’”