Thomas J. Sandrin

For Thomas, his MBA was not only a means to formalise his expertise and gain sense of achievement but gave him know-how and confidence to launch his own business.

  • Location:
  • Industry:
    Retail and Consumer Products
  • Job Function:
  • Programme:
  • Motivation:
    Personal achievement
  • Challenges:
    Limited previous study experience
  • Year of Graduation:

Thomas, originally from Paris, made the move to Canada 16 years ago, and this is where his career journey in marketing, sales, and branding would start to take shape. However, after working his way up the corporate ladder in the luxury watch industry, he eventually found that without tertiary education, he had reached the limit of how much further he could take his career.

Realising, he wanted to go back to school, not only to formalise his expertise and for a sense of achievement but also in search of the know-how and confidence to launch his own venture.

Before the pandemic broke out, at least in Canada, the rise of 100% online MBA education was not yet so common. Thomas entrusted AIB with his education with a busy schedule and a calendar full of international travel. Moreover, we most certainly mean entrusted to hold himself accountable and see his goal through; Thomas decided to pay for the entire 12 subjects upfront.

So, was it worth it? Well, not only did Thomas complete his MBA and fulfill his dream of going back to study, but he also launched his own business, Northern Watch Services Inc., before graduating. Thomas strongly believes in the power of networking and wants to connect a network of official retailers with brands, watch lovers, and corporate clients. His agency focuses on providing authorized jewellers and luxury brands with industry knowledge to increase their brand presence online and through in-person activation. Furthermore, within the first nine months of launching, he had already successfully hit his targets for the year!

We spoke to Thomas to gain an insight into his MBA journey in the video above, but also gained additional insights that you can follow below:

What point were you at in your life when you decided to start your MBA?

At the time, I was the Brand Manager at a Swiss watch company. I wanted to grow to the next level, and it was a personal goal to go back to school, but in terms of my career, I knew I would not be able to get past the level I was at without an MBA.

What fears did you have before studying?

I have always had the dream of travelling across the world and working in a foreign country. This is why, when I turned 19, I decided to postpone university and instead go to the USA for a year to learn the language. Then, after travelling in many countries, I met my wife, who is Canadian, and decided to move to Toronto in January 2006. After a few years, I realized how important school is and decided to return to college to achieve a Marketing Management Certificate. However, my personal long-term goal was always to finish university.

Coming back to your questions, some of my biggest fears before joining AIB were, would I be able to make it? Do I have academic knowledge? Can I manage to work and study full time? Finally, our son was five years old then, and I always tried to be the best parent I could be. At first, I was anxious about how I would manage everything. Furthermore, during my MBA journey, my wife and I welcomed our daughter into our family. So, my biggest fear was managing time and having doubts about whether I could do it.

And what would you say to someone feeling the same apprehensions?

Everyone has goals. And it’s essential to think of the big picture; it’s certainly a good motivator. However, remember to focus on the small goals and be mindful of the moment and task. Sometimes, looking at everything that needs to be done can be overwhelming.

I was also concerned that, because it was online, I would be studying by myself. However, I quickly discovered a community of students through various online channels. We also created a few WhatsApp groups, which helped us support each other.

It could be 2 am somewhere, with a white page in front of you, not knowing where to start, and someone somewhere in the world will be awake and ready to give you emotional support.

What did you get out of your MBA? What was your success?

After 12 years as a brand manager, I realized how lucky I was to have met some outstanding individuals who helped me build my knowledge of my industry, grow my network, and create a reputation for myself. However, the MBA added legitimacy and credibility to my own personal brand – it wasn’t just me or someone who knew me saying ‘Thomas is good at what he does.’

Final words to others studying or about to?

Do not ever hesitate to reach out. Go to the webinars – do not be afraid to ask questions and contribute. You have this incredible opportunity to tap into a global network.

On all the topics discussed, you gain insights and perspectives from all over the world and from different industries; someone from Australia working in the wine industry will give you one perspective, which might not apply to your industry but will give you a fresh new perspective on these concepts.

I strongly believe in the power of networking and being able to help each other. I was proud to participate in the AIB Career Mentoring Program, where I could share my knowledge and expertise while meeting fantastic people and gaining new knowledge. Everyone in the AIB community is willing to share their stories, and we all have different backgrounds, which we can learn from.

Explore more AIB student stories.

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