Posted by on 9th Aug, 2019

By Chris, BSc Business and Management with Industrial Experience, graduated 2013

What it’s like to be alumni?

I’m incredibly proud to be an alumni of such a prestigious and ambitious university that is committed to continually improving the quality of its degree programmes, facilities, student experience, as well as extending its national and international outreach.

How you transitioned into graduate life?

Whilst the lifestyle is obviously very different, the confidence I gained from my time at university left me feeling ready and raring to go to tackle new challenges and experiences, making for an altogether seamless transition into the working world.

How your degree has helped with your career?

I think the most useful aspect of my degree was the industrial placement that I completed at Aldi as the third year of my four year Business and Management degree programme. The responsibility I was afforded through a variety of projects and departments with a diverse group of people provided a solid foundation on which to springboard both into my final year at university as well as into the commercial world.

What has your career been like so far – changes, focus, different roles, continuity with an employer, travel, location?

After graduating from Exeter I joined Aldi as an Area Manager and having the benefit of experiencing the business on the industrial placement I was accelerated through the training programme. I subsequently relocated to Milton Keynes to assume responsibility for managing three multi-million pound stores to achieve optimum sales and productivity, excellent customer service, appropriate staffing levels and foster an efficient, cooperative working environment.

After two years in the role, I was ready for a fresh challenge and joined Citibase, a serviced office provider of flexible workspace designed for cost-conscious SME’s. I initially joined as an Area Operations Manager responsible for overseeing operations, compliance, staffing, standards and customer service, in a cluster of six business centres ranging from Birmingham, down to Cambridge and north London. After 10 months I was promoted into the role of Commercial Development Manager, responsible for the financial development and budgeted profit delivery of six different business centres. The role involves maximising revenue both through new sales and opportunities within the existing customer base.

For this role I decided to relocate to Reading to be more central to my cluster which included Bristol, Reading and Brighton. More recently I have progressed to assume commercial responsibility for our central London and Cambridge locations. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Citibase, owing to the positive, charismatic and ambitious people that permeate the organisation, as well as the level of autonomy and responsibility that has been afforded to me through the roles that I have had thus far.

What you envision next – gaining expertise in your current area?

I’m incredibly excited about the future as Citibase is continuing to go from strength to strength, adding new locations every year and creating new roles and opportunities throughout the organisation. This combined with the fact the industry as whole is expected to growth five fold by 2025 leaves me very optimistic about my future prospects in the sector. Citibase has given me the opportunity to develop and in a results driven business, the sky is the limit in terms of the progression opportunities, and I hope to reach Director level within the next few years.

Do you still get involved with the University i.e. through the alumni network?

Since graduating I have returned to the university a number of times as an alumni ambassador to present to prospective students on my experiences of the business school, my degree programme as well as university life in general. I also try to attend the networking events held every year at the Institute of Directors in London as an opportunity to catch up with alumni I already know, as well as to connect with more recent and long-standing alumni, across a broad industry spectrum. We are also fortunate to have the opportunity to attend subject specific talks as part of the alumni events calendar, for example I recently attended an alumni reception with Gib Bulloch discussing “Putting Purpose on a Par with Profit.”

What are your top tips to current students?

The best advice I could give to current students would be to get as much work experience as possible during your time at university, whether that be through formal programmes such as With Industrial Experience, summer internships or stacking shelves in a supermarket. Employers are increasingly expecting students to be proactive in this area to demonstrate commercial acumen and general life experience that could benefit them in terms of a student’s ability to adapt seamlessly into the workplace. The other suggestion I would make to students is to opt for modules which incorporate presentations and report writing as part of their assessment. The more experience you gain in this area will help you understand expectations of what good looks like, as well as build confidence in both your written and verbal communication.

What else do you get up to – personal projects, how you spend your time off?

When I’m not working I like to spend time with my old university pals as I have made some genuine friends for life. I was fortunate to be part of a group of incredibly ambitious, motivated and adventurous people on my degree, which made my time at Exeter all the more special.  I also like to spend time playing golf, keeping fit and watch copious quantities of sport when I’ve got the opportunity to put my feet up at the weekend!

What are your old Exeter buddies up to?

As you would expect from a university with a reputation for bright and well-rounded graduates, many of my peers have gone to work on prestigious graduate programmes at large international firms such as PwC, Nissan and EDF. However, many of my peers have also opted to work for smaller businesses for the opportunity of greater exposure to a range of business functions, clients and senior management. For example, friends have gone to work in family owned business in construction refurbishment, interior design or boutique corporate finance firms. I think this diversity is reflective of the benefit graduates can gain from learning both on more formal structured programmes at large firms, as well as the excitement and curiosity that comes from more on the job-training at smaller companies. The key thing is to be open minded in finding an opportunity that suits your personal interests and learning style.

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