Location, location, location.
Proximity was the driving force behind Philadelphia area native Hank Sharkey’s decision to enroll in La Salle University’s Master of Business Administration in Finance program.
“La Salle, God bless them, decided to open two satellite campuses — one in Bucks County, where I live, and one in Plymouth Meeting,” Sharkey said. “I thought that was a stroke of genius by them. I was driving by La Salle’s campus in Bucks County, which is beautiful, every day to work. I thought, ‘I really have to do this. My company is paying for [part of] the tuition.’ It was because of that location that I signed up.”
Sharkey attended most of his courses on the Bucks County campus, although he had a few hybrid courses with online elements at the Plymouth Meeting campus and one course on the main campus in Philly. He graduated in 2015.
“My friends and family were both very excited for the accomplishment,” he said. “I don’t think it was celebrated as much as getting a bachelor’s degree, but at the same time I think they were still happy when I completed it.”
Several of his family members have also earned various degrees from La Salle. Plus, Sharkey went to La Salle College High School, which became a prep school for the university in 1863.
“My father was a staunch supporter of Catholic education,” Sharkey said. “La Salle University is also very close to where I grew up, so I wanted to go away for college. I went to the University of Scranton, which is about two hours from where I was raised. Then, I moved back to the Philadelphia area after completing my undergraduate degree. I always wanted the MBA, but it had to be convenient to my home and office.”
Although it was an extremely hectic period of Sharkey’s life, his completion of the MBA in Finance program could not have come at a much better time.
Sharkey worked as director of internal audit and compliance for Jones Apparel Group. He was with the company for nearly a decade before it was sold to a private equity group.
After a short stint as vice president of finance at a startup company, SHEEX, Inc., he landed at his current role as senior manager for risk management business advisory services at accounting firm AC Lordi in November 2015, not long after graduation.
“There was a whole bunch of craziness that happened,” he said. “My job at Jones was directly related to it being a publicly traded company. It all happened kind of fast; it was a whirlwind of change on a daily basis. There was lots of transition. The MBA helped me land my current position at AC Lordi.”
Sharkey originally decided on a career in accounting because of his flair for math and desire for job security.
“From a practical experience, it was one of those things where you’re always going to have a need for accountants — no matter what,” he said. “No matter how bad the economy is doing, you’re always going to need somebody to balance your numbers and taxes. I thought it was a skill to have that could weather the ebbs and flows of the economy. For the most part — knock on wood — it really has.”
Throughout his diverse career, which also included stints as an internal audit supervisor for AmeriGas Propane and as a financial analyst for Airgas, Sharkey knows he made the right decision to work in the finance and accounting field.
“Having the experience in different things makes you more marketable,” he said. “Companies need people who can be nimble and limber and go from one project to another. They need our employees to think outside of the box and know that they can be dropped into different situations, survive and be successful.”
An Explorer Again
Sharkey comes from a family of higher learners, so he knew someday he would go back to school to earn an MBA.
“My whole family is highly educated,” he said. “They all went to college. I had to catch up. I just had my bachelor’s degree, so it was a case of, ‘I need to catch up to everybody else.’”
He said his favorite course in the MBA in Finance program was MBA 810: Self-Assessment and Leadership taught by Dr. James Smither.
“That’s where you do a lot of personality tests and a lot of psychoanalysis,” Sharkey said. “We did a seminar on the weekend where we did a video conference. We were taped giving a presentation on video. Out of every class that La Salle offers, I thought that was the best. You really should do that again at the end, as well. Make sure people leave with that — that their last experience is that class again. It’s not only for business, it’s also useful for life.”
Sharkey, who also enjoyed MBA 901: Competing in a Global Marketplace and FIN 767: Mergers and Acquisitions, said about 90 percent of the knowledge he gained in the MBA program applied directly to his job at the time.
“I made a lot of good connections,” he said. “It lives up to the accreditation standards. It’s teaching everybody the advanced basics of strategy, accounting, finance and marketing. You’re exposed to a lot of different things. If you want to, you can pursue a more specified path in accounting or finance. You have certain tracks that can put you on that path.”
Sharkey also recently became a member of the La Salle MBA Advisory Board.
“We had our first meeting in April. Then, we had our first get-together,â€ he said. â€œWe’re also offering seminars to get the La Salle name out there to companies in the city and into New Jersey. Also, we hope to bring more students and corporate partners into the program.”
Foundation for Success
Sharkey, a father of three who enjoys attending their activities, running, swimming and playing guitar, could not be happier he decided to go back to school for an MBA.
“I wanted to have another set of credentials behind my name, but it was also something I always wanted to do and cross off my bucket list,” he said. “Plus, I knew it would help me in the job marketplace.”
Sharkey believes the La Salle MBA program, which is now also available fully online, is the way to go for business people in all types of careers.
“Go into it strong, keep going and don’t stop,” he said. “The university works with you. Now, with the online program, it’s very convenient. They’ve come a long way with helping people get through it. It’s definitely worth the investment and will pay dividends in the future. Anybody can get it done at their pace.”
Learn more about La Salle’s MBA in Finance online program.