Graduate profile

Sarah De Carvalho MBE

"Through studying the MBA I became part of a great network of professionals from different companies in the private and public sectors, learning so much from them during lectures, working together in the groups and socially."


Business Administration

Graduation year


Sarah De Carvalho studied for an Executive MBA at Surrey Business School and graduated in 2014. Sarah is CEO of Happy Child International, a charity she founded for street children in 1993. Championing the importance of sustainable development, Happy Child has helped over 10,500 street children over the past 22 years in Brazil and Angola. 

On 8 February 2018 it was announced that the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) had named Sarah as one of their 2018 Influential Leaders. 

Thomas Robinson, president and CEO of AACSB, commented: "We would like to thank Sarah for demonstrating the true excellence and leadership we wish to see in the world, and we congratulate Surrey Business School for their role in helping to mold a new generation of global business leaders dedicated to driving impact that results in global prosperity.”

Below we talk to Sarah about her experience on Surrey's Executive MBA course. We discover her favourite aspects of the course, her advice to anyone who wants to pursue an Executive MBA, and how what she learned supported her career.

An interview with CEO of Happy Child and AACSB 2018 Influential Leader Sarah De Carvalho

What attracted you to choose the University of Surrey and to study the MBA here?

A good friend of mine, Andy Berry, CEO of Touraid, did a University of Surrey MBA and worked on a group report taking the model my charity, Happy Child International, had developed and analysed how to replicate it in Brazil. When I visited Surrey Business School at the University for Andy's group to present their report to us, I realised I would love to do the MBA one day myself! Two years later I applied for a scholarship and won.  This made it possible for me to do the course.

What were the best things about your course?

Having been in leadership in the Third Sector for almost 20 years I wanted to challenge myself with the opportunity to study and grow in all areas the course offered.  

The same challenges exist for a CEO in the voluntary sector versus a CEO in the private sector - management, strategy plans, budgets/cash flow, marketing.  I also wanted to study financial management, which as a creative person was never my favourite subject.

Through studying the MBA I became part of a great network of professionals from different companies in the private and public sectors, learning so much from them during lectures, working together in the groups and socially.

How did you change as a person during your time as an MBA student?

I have grown in confidence. Having this qualification is something that took huge effort, juggling full time work with being a student again, but so worth it. The knowledge learnt from the different modules has impacted me as a person and most importantly as a leader in my field. 

What impact did the Surrey MBA have upon your career?

Having an MBA gave me the confidence to set up a new charity in 2015 to take the work I'd developed over the last 20 years to a global level. I have spearheaded the ‘IT'S A PENALTY’ campaign to protect vulnerable children from exploitation and abuse around major global sporting events worldwide. Raising awareness of child rights and advocating for the enactment of Extra Territorial legislation and working with international governments, corporates, NGO's and sportsmen and women.

What are your thoughts on the importance of networking? Is a strong personal network important in business?

Today's workplace is all about the network not just in a technological sense although that is crucial too, but in the context of people and organisations.

What one piece of advice would you give to people considering the Surrey MBA?

Make sure you have the full support of your family, friends and work colleagues.  The MBA is a fantastic qualification to have, but a big commitment and you will need to have a network of people who encourage you when your weekends and evenings are taken up with lectures and assignments.  

What is your strongest or happiest memory of your time at Surrey?

The friendships I made during the two years with my fellow students, as we supported each other throughout the course and graduating! 

Did you find you could implement what you learnt in class on the weekends at work?

Yes I could apply what I was learning, particularly to the development of marketing and operational strategies for my global campaign work, but also the softer skills around leadership which has always favoured team work and empowerment.   

Find out more about the Surrey MBA.