My executive apprenticeship journey: Nine months in


Raj Chima’s nine-year career with Wesleyan, started as a Finance Analyst in 2010. Since then Raj has covered financial planning and analysis, financial modelling and management accounting. He quickly showed his ability as a financial analyst and was promoted to Senior Business Partner. He is now about to embark on the next stage of his career with the Wesleyan Group as Finance Director. As a very focused and driven individual, Raj was naturally drawn towards a Senior Leaders Degree Apprenticeship’ with Aston University.

Nine months into the two and half year Senior Leaders Degree Apprenticeship at Aston University, I thought I would share my experience so far, to hopefully help others considering this route.

A little about me to start off with… I have two fabulous children, with my wife Neelam, who keep me entertained out of the office. At work, having recently been appointed Finance Director at Practice Plan, I am currently in the process of relocating to our Oswestry office, something that I am very much looking forward to.

Continuing personal development

As a finance practitioner I am well versed in the principles of finance and investment, but I have always been focused on where I can take my personal development next and how I can build on my existing qualifications.

When I was offered the chance to complete the Senior Leaders Degree Apprenticeship, I grabbed it with both hands. I was ready to take on the next challenge and the reputation of Aston Business School was enough for me to know that it was going to be a great opportunity.

The associated qualification that I’ll achieve as part of my apprenticeship is an Executive MBA (Master of Business Administration). Achieving an MBA will be hugely complementary to the qualifications I currently hold, opening doors to a network of professionals from other industries with whom I can share best practice.

What’s it all about

My course is formed of eight modules, each takes about ten weeks to complete and is delivered in a variety of ways. This can be from recorded lectures, out-of-hours webinars and face-to-face learning on campus at Aston.

Group work is a key part of each module; this is great way of sharing ideas and keeping things interesting. Dealing with a variety of personalities on a regular basis also means that you are constantly in the forming, storming and norming cycle – which can be a challenge. However, it does provide a good opportunity to reflect on how you approach different personalities in the workplace.

My advice to others considering opportunities like this

Nine months in and so far, so good. If I was to offer one piece of advice, then it would be to PLAN!!

If you have a young family as I do, you need to make sure your partner is fully supportive of what you are about to undertake. It has inevitably meant spending less time with my family and adapting to a new norm to our home life. I have found studying whilst my son is doing his homework works for us, (well sometimes anyway). You need to make sure you can balance all aspects of your life. 

Don’t underestimate the time commitment. You will find yourself doing about 10 hours per week. If you don’t prepare for it, it can be relentless. In between modules you will then be working on the Aston Edge; building on your personal skills and gaining more experience on top of what you learn on the apprenticeship.

As an added bonus, I’m getting student discounts again which my wife is loving.