Pathways to Career Development

Holly Van Ryssen, a 2nd year English student, worked as a Marketing Development Assistant for ‘Powderham Live!’ as part of our Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme.

Holly Van Ryssen, a 2nd year English student, took part in the Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme earlier this year. Due to COVID-19, Professional Pathways was converted to remote internship opportunities, with students undertaking internships in a variety of roles across a wide range of companies. Holly talks about her role as a Marketing Development Assistant for Powderham Live!’ and what she has gained from completing an internship remotely. 

When I tell people that I study English at the University of Exeter, I’m always met with the following response: “Ah, so you want to be a teacher then?”. Certainly, I’d be lying if I said that teaching wasn’t a profession that I’ve considered. However, I’ve always believed that the beauty of an English degree is that it enables you to study a subject you love while at the same time leaving your options open to explore several different career paths. Perfect for someone who can’t make decisions!

Going into my Second Year, nearly halfway through my time at University, I suddenly became acutely aware that I had no idea what I wanted to do at the end of my studies. I was keen to start exploring the options I had available to me and, was hoping to be able to use the summer before my final year to gain some invaluable work experience. When I heard about Professional Pathways, a careers scheme run by the University of Exeter providing sector-specific training and week-long paid internships, I knew that I had to apply.

Then, of course, Covid-19 hit. We were all sent home, the Pathways assessment centre was cancelled, and it seemed as though the prospect of a paid summer internship was firmly off the cards…

“Numerous cover letters, and a couple of video interviews later, I’d secured an internship as a Marketing Assistant at Powderham Live!. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!”

When I received an email from the Pathways team informing all applicants that they were working on securing some remote internships, I was shocked! While I felt terrified at the prospect of applying for and completing an internship entirely online, I knew that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down and that would provide me with invaluable experience moving forward into the future. Numerous cover letters, and a couple of video interviews later, I’d secured an internship as a Marketing Assistant at Powderham Live!. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

During my internship at Powderham Live!, I worked on many different projects, all of which aimed to find new ways to promote not only the event itself but also the young musicians and their huge network of supporters. In particular, I enjoyed creating a set of brand guidelines that will now be used to inform all content published by Powderham Live!, both in print and online. Not only this, but I enjoyed working on a new social media strategy; in recent weeks, it has been really rewarding to see many of the campaigns I planned featured on the Powderham Live! social media pages.

Having had little experience in marketing, I was worried before starting my internship that I wouldn’t know what to do! At first, both Emily (fellow intern and University of Exeter student) and I felt hugely daunted at the prospect of creating a professional document that accurately represented the values and ethos of Powderham Live!. However, both Derry (Heritage Manager at Powderham Castle) and AJ (Countess of Devon and founder of Powderham Live!) were extremely supportive, clearly explaining what they wanted while at the same time allowing us to indulge in our own ideas and creative spirit. We were even invited to whole team meetings where we were able to share what we had been working on and give feedback to the other team members!

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, I found it extremely rewarding to work on a project with a clear social purpose. I know that the work I carried out during my internship will not only help the team behind the scenes at Powderham Live!, but will have a huge impact on the experience of young musicians in Devon.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I found it extremely rewarding to work on a project with a clear social purpose. I know that the work I carried out during my internship will not only help the team behind the scenes at Powderham Live!, but will have a huge impact on the experience of young musicians in Devon. Indeed, at a time when the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector is facing unprecedented challenges, it felt amazing to work on a project that I know will bring so much joy to so many people, and that will help keep the magic of the arts alive!

Without a doubt, the experience I’ve had working remotely at Powderham Live! will set me in good stead when entering the job market during these difficult times. Thanks to the Pathways scheme, I’ve now had practice applying for, beginning, and completing an internship entirely remotely, an experience that I know will be invaluable moving forward into the future! In particular, I’ve been able to improve my video-based interview technique, as well as develop my ability to work from home productively, skills which will help me both when completing my third year of university online, and also when applying for jobs.

“Without a doubt, the experience I’ve had working remotely at Powderham Live! will set me in good stead when entering the job market during these difficult times. Thanks to the Pathways scheme, I’ve now had practice applying for, beginning, and completing an internship entirely remotely, an experience that I know will be invaluable moving forward into the future!”

When I received the email from the Professional Pathways team back in May informing us of some remote internship opportunities, I very nearly didn’t apply… However, I’m so glad that I did! While I’m still not sure what I want to do post-university, I now feel more confident about the prospect of graduating in the middle of a global pandemic! Pathways 2020 has taught me many things, most importantly, how to be adaptable and open-minded in the face of adversity. However, best of all, it has given me an answer to that dreaded question: “What did you do over lockdown?”.

Applications for Professional Pathways 2021 are now open! You can find further details on how to apply here. The training programme will be delivered entirely online in June 2021 and we currently anticipate the internships will also be remote-working.

Dom Walter, Assistant Producer, BBC Natural History Unit

Dom Walter, Exeter Alumn and current Assistant Producer, BBC Natural History Unit

Dom Walter graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus in BSC Biological Sciences with Study Abroad 2013, followed by MSC Conservation and Biodiversity 2014. He’s currently an Assistant Producer with the BBC Natural History Unit. 

Tell us about your career, and the exciting things you’ve been working on…

Since leaving Exeter I have been working in the film industry, specifically making scientific and natural history documentaries. Scientific documentaries are a great source of knowledge; they have always inspired me to explore and learn more about the complex world we live in. A major reason why I decided to venture into scientific film is that, during my time at University, the dissemination of scientific findings and the challenge of putting them into a relatable context via means of visual presentations was the most enjoyable aspect of my course. Television is a powerful medium for communicating scientific research to the public; it uniquely transports people into a world, which would otherwise be inaccessible. It also captures events at a specific time and space, making them accessible for generations to come.

“I’ve dined on the border of North Korea, hung out with astronauts, flown in helicopters over glaciers in Alaska, and touched a Tyrannosaurus rex as it was being exposed for the first time in sixty six million years!”

Television creates a window through which future generations can witness all the weird and wonderful flora and fauna which, due to the recent elevated extinction rates, they may not have had the opportunity to observe first hand. One of the best things about working in this industry is by far the unparalleled access to places and people you get. Over the last couple of years, I’ve dined on the border of North Korea, hung out with astronauts, flown in helicopters over glaciers in Alaska, and touched a Tyrannosaurus rex as it was being exposed for the first time in sixty six million years!

What advice would you give anyone interested in getting into natural history broadcasting?

Grab a camera, an iPhone will do, and practice visual storytelling. Find something that captures your imagination and run with it – make a film! Could be on anything from understanding the iridescence of neck plumage of a pigeon on campus, to flying out to Borneo and capturing the mellifluous love songs gibbon pairs perform every morning!

Speak to as many people in the industry as possible. Call up and email production companies and try book in some work experience with them. You will get a lot of rejection but don’t worry, it only takes one acceptance to get your foot in the door so be tenacious.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to direct a BBC landmark series with the man himself, Sir DA!

Ayesha Tandon – Climate Science Communicator, UK Met office

Ayesha Tandon Graduated in MSci Natural Sciences, 2019. She’s currently a Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met office. Find out the steps she took to get into this exciting career. 

Ayesha Tandon, Exeter Alumn and Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met office

I work as a Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met Office, where my job involves helping members of the government and general public to easily understand important aspects of climate science. I started my career at the Met Office as in intern in the summer of 2018 and loved it! I continued to work part-time at the Met Office throughout my Masters year, and this experience helped me to get an internship at the climate journalism group Carbon Brief during the summer of 2019, where I was focusing on improving my writing. Following this internship, I began to work for the Met Office full-time. Climate change is a hugely pressing issue; human activity is already causing large-scale changes to the climate system that are likely to cause more severe impacts in the coming years.

The Met Office Hadley Centre produces world-leading research on climate science, but this is often highly technical and can be difficult to understand. This is where Climate Science Communicators come in! We write paper summaries, produce briefings for government, draft text for the Met Office website, and design infographics to explain climate research more easily, allowing people without a scientific background to understand important pieces of science. It is very difficult for anyone to care about something that they cannot fully understand it, so this work is crucial for bridging the gap between scientists and policy makers.

“The Met Office produces world-leading research on climate science, but this is often highly technical and can be difficult to understand. This is where Climate Science Communicators come in! We write paper summaries, produce briefings for government, draft text for the Met Office website, and design infographics to explain climate research more easily, allowing people without a scientific background to understand important pieces of science.”

Finding this job was a very happy accident. When I started my degree in Natural Sciences in 2015, I was completely clueless about which area of science I might want to pursue. I was drawn to a range of different topics throughout my degree, but climate science turned my head in third year and that was the one that stuck. I also enjoyed writing and editing for university newspapers and journals throughout my degree, and was always on the lookout for some elusive job that could combine these two interests. My application for an internship at the Met Office in Climate Science Communication was very last minute. Some of my friends were finishing off their applications, and I thought ‘Why not?’ I did not think that it would come to anything, and was torn between which of the multiple internships I should apply for. In hindsight, I feel very lucky that I picked the right internship, because I have loved my work at the Met Office!

My favourite part of the job, as cheesy as it sounds, is that it allows me to share my love of climate science with people! This job allows me to talk to world-leading scientists about cutting-edge research, and then think of creative, informative ways to share their work with the rest of the world. The first thing that I do whenever I start a project is to read whatever I can on the subject, and talk to the scientists leading the research, so my knowledge of climate science has ballooned over the past two years! I am usually working on multiple projects at one time, and a single project can take anywhere from hours to years to complete!

“I feel very fortunate that I chose to study at Exeter because it is such an international hub of climate science research and expertise.”

I feel very fortunate that I chose to study at Exeter because it is such an international hub of climate science research and expertise. I did not have any interest in climate science when I first joined the University, but I was surrounded by so much incredible research at Exeter that climate science quickly became my favourite topic. Plenty of the lecturers at the University have links with the Met Office, and many of the third year group projects were strongly linked to Met Office science and research. I even attended the James Lovelock Climate Science conference “a three day event that attracted people from around the world” on the Exeter University campus!

When I joined the University, I had no idea about which area of science I might be interested in, and so I really appreciated that this course allowed me to take my time to explore my options. The first year was an intensive year studying all sciences, maths, and computer science to get us up to scratch, so that by the time we reached second year, there was a huge choice of modules available to us. Those who knew what they wanted to study were able to specialise straight away, but others (like me) were able to spend a couple of years exploring different options. I started off my degree with an interest in nanotechnology, and came out of it specialising in climate science! I can’t think of many other courses that would have allowed this.

“The most important skills that I learned at University were definitely the soft skills that you pick up without realising, rather than specific facts or equations learned in lectures.”

The most important skills that I learned at University were definitely the soft skills that you pick up without realising, rather than specific facts or equations learned in lectures. For example, every year throughout my degree, we did a group project. I will be the first to admit that I found group projects quite stressful, and that I did not always look forward them. However, they taught me a huge amount about organising a team of people, about adapting my working style to fit with my course mates, and about playing to everyone’s strengths to get the best possible outcome from a project. I now work in a very diverse team of people at the Met Office and really enjoy it!

It is difficult to jump straight into a career; it is much easier to do it in lots of little steps. So keep your eye open for exciting opportunities and get involved in everything that you can at University because these things will give you experience, introduce you to interesting people, and be great stepping stones towards the next stage of your career. I didn’t enjoy every single one of the stepping stones that I took, but each one gave me some experience that I could put towards my next stepping stone. These extra things are great to talk about in interviews, and can really set you apart from everyone else. I think that this advice is probably relevant for the vast majority of careers.

My stepping stones towards my current job were:

  1. Writing for the student newspaper Exepose, and the Exeter Undergraduate STEM Journal in my first two years of University. These were publications that any Exeter student could contribute to, and were a nice easy first step
  2. In my third year of University, I joined the board editors for both publications. Again, this was a fairly easy step because I had experience with the publications
  3. I started a personal blog to develop my writing style a bit more. I didn’t publicise it to anyone, and just used it to explore different topics and writing styles. I now really enjoy writing for this blog.
  4. Internship at the Met Office in the summer of my third year. This was probably the biggest step, but it helped that I had a lot of experience to draw on. This internship was amazing, and it taught me a lot about climate science and its communication. I was then invited to continue working part-time throughout my final year at university.
  5. Internship at Carbon brief in the summer of my graduation. I used a piece from my blog, and my knowledge from the Met Office in my application
  6. Full-time job at the Met Office

I hope that I will be able to stay at the Met Office for at least a few more years! I recently completed media training and have started giving interviews and talks, which I am really enjoying. I also want to do much more outreach at schools to engage children more with climate change, so I have also applied to be a STEM Ambassador! I’m not sure at the moment if I want to pursue communications with government, outreach with the general public or both! That said, I also do miss getting stuck into maths and science, so there definitely is a possibility that I might do a PhD in the future. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I want to do in the future, but I love where I am at right now!

Your Career in Journalism

Becca McAuley Graduated from the University of Exeter BA International Relations, 2018. She’s currently Sub-editor at the Daily Mail.  

Becca McAuley, University of Exeter Graduate and current Sub-editor at the Daily Mail

After I graduated from Exeter I did a MA in Newspaper Journalism at City, University of London. While I was there I did some work experiences at places like The Times, The Telegraph and PA where I learnt more about the different types of journalism which helped me to decide what sort of career I wanted. I applied successfully for the Trainee Sub-Editor Scheme at the Daily Mail and did a placement at Metro as part of my training before starting properly at the Mail.

“There’s a great satisfaction in writing a good headline or caption, and it’s even better when the story you’ve subbed is picked up on the TV or radio when the papers are being reviewed.”

Before doing my MA I didn’t really know what sub-editing was or even that it existed as a job in its own right, but it’s exactly what I’ve always enjoyed most about journalism. I absolutely love being on the front line of getting the paper out each day – the sub-editors are some of the last journalists who read the stories that go into the paper before it is printed. I love the variety of stories I get to read and edit and it’s so cool seeing the paper coming together over a couple of hours. There’s also a great satisfaction in writing a good headline or caption, and it’s even better when the story you’ve subbed is picked up on the TV or radio when the papers are being reviewed. On a typical day I come into the office in the afternoon and read that day’s paper so I know the context if there are any follow-ups to come. In any one shift I could go from subbing a story on Prince Harry to one about a big row at the heart of government – the variation keeps it interesting. Once all the stories have been subbed and the paper has been checked and printed we go again for the second and third edition, when updates to stories and new stories are added.

“In my third year I was co-editor of The Witness, the University’s politics journal, which is where I started to realise my love of sub-editing – before I even realised that was what it was. I was also a member of Xpression, the radio station, which I made news reports for and where I contributed to the Friday evening news hour.”

My favourite thing about my BA at Exeter was the variety of modules I could choose from, which meant I could make my degree exactly what I wanted it to be. I’ve always been really interested in the Middle East so I took advantage of being able to study modules from outside my discipline and took modules from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies – Jonathan Githens-Mazer’s modules on Muslims in Britain and Nationalisms in the Middle East were definitely some of my favourites and the fact these were often smaller classes was hugely beneficial in allowing the class to discuss and debate the topics and learn from each other. The modules offered by the Strategy and Security Institute were brilliant too and it was amazing to be taught by experts from the field – people with experience at the top levels of decision-making including Dr David Blagden and Dr Sergio Catignani. I also really enjoyed studying Contemporary Public Debate in an Age of Anti-Politics, which definitely gave me food for thought at a time I was figuring out how to become a journalist and what sort of journalist I wanted to be.  In my third year I was co-editor of The Witness, the University’s politics journal, which is where I started to realise my love of sub-editing – before I even realised that was what it was. I was also a member of Xpression, the radio station, which I made news reports for and where I contributed to the Friday evening news hour.

“For anyone wanting to get into journalism generally, the best thing you can do is get experience and make this experience varied. Write for the student paper or the magazines, have a blog, get work experience at local and national publications.”

My experience in student journalism at Exeter was invaluable – it gave me the skills I needed to be able to do a Masters while also convincing me that journalism was definitely the path I wanted to go down. The fact that my academic interests are also my journalistic interests meant everything I learnt in lectures taught me something that I could take with me in my career.

For anyone wanting to get into journalism generally, the best thing you can do is get experience and make this experience varied. Write for the student paper or the magazines, have a blog, get work experience at local and national publications. This will not only show your commitment but will help you to learn about different types of journalism and will give you an idea of what area you’d like to go into. For sub-editing the best advice I can give is read widely – this will help you to understand the different styles different newspapers or magazines have. Also don’t close yourself off to any types of news – as a sub-editor you can go from subbing a story about Love Island one minute to one about a big policy announcement the next so having at least some knowledge of lots of areas is vital.

I absolutely love sub-editing and in the future I’d like to expand my skill set to include commissioning. I would also be interested in one day working for a publication that focuses more in-depth on politics and policy decisions. I wouldn’t rule out a return to writing about politics in some form, though I definitely want more experience as a sub-editor first and I’m excited to see what the next few years hold.

Alumni Profile: William Cafferky, Public Policy Consultant

William Cafferky graduated from Exeter in BA Politics 2015, and MA Conflict Security and Development 2016. He’s currently a Public Policy Consultant at Cordis Bright. 

William Cafferky, Exeter Alumn, and Public Policy Consultant at Cordis Bright

Since I left Exeter, I’ve worked across the public sector in a variety of consulting and research roles. I began looking at how technology is used by the Department of Work and Pensions to improve the experience of those on benefits. I now work for a researcher consultancy, working across the public sector, in particular criminal justice, adult social care, and community healthcare. I began as a researcher, working mostly with clients from local government, central government, and charities to understand more about the impact of the work they do.

I have since been promoted, and now project manage a number of evaluations across our sectors. Examples of recent areas of work have included improving support for people who experience a combination of homelessness and substance misuse; encouraging behavioural change among perpetrators domestic abuse; and the benefits of providing more integrated healthcare.

“When I graduated, I was keen to find a job which would allow me to explore a variety of topics and ideas in order to better understand where my interests lay professionally. Consulting offered me that variety.”

When I graduated, I was keen to find a job which would allow me to explore a variety of topics and ideas in order to better understand where my interests lay professionally. Consulting offered me that variety. My first consulting job out of University gave me a robust introduction to domestic public policy. Nevertheless, I was keen to find something which enabled me to explore some of the aspect of the Conflict Security and Development MA which I had enjoyed so much, namely conducting robust research, which was grounded in real world situations, centered on improving people’s quality of life.

Whilst my career is not as internationally focused as my studies were, those aforementioned core elements are still a huge part of why I enjoy what I do. I get to be heavily involved in understanding the latest trends and innovations in policy which are looking to resolve some of the biggest questions we face around the health and wellbeing of our population. In addition to this, the fact that I work on such a diverse range of projects keeps my work interesting and challenging. Through the projects I manage, I get to work with commissioners, policy makers, and key stakeholders in a variety of sectors, whilst also getting the chance to interview and consult with frontline staff, and the people accessing different services.

The research projects I did, especially during my Masters course gave me a real edge in my interviews. I also think taking advantage of the opportunities University presents, in terms of the breadth of experiences on offer, can really help you make more informed decisions when it comes to post-University life.

“If you’re looking for a career in research specifically, don’t underestimate the importance of your dissertation, and the research methods you use as padding out your experience. Finding out what you don’t like can be just as valuable as realizing what you do like when finding a job which works for you.”

If you’re looking for a career in research specifically, don’t underestimate the importance of your dissertation, and the research methods you use as padding out your experience. If, like me, you’re not certain what you want to do, don’t be afraid to try things, and don’t be scared if you don’t enjoy them. Finding out what you don’t like can be just as valuable as realizing what you do like when finding a job which works for you.

I think the most important thing to remember is that you can’t expect yourself to know everything straight away, and you probably know more than you give yourself credit for! Be curious, ask questions, and feel comfortable getting things wrong, as long as you use it as an opportunity to learn.

For now I’m enjoying my time working across such a broad range of public policy sectors. I imagine that as time goes by, I might look to specialise more in an area I’m particularly interested by, for example working with homeless people. This might involve working more at a local council level, or within the civil service. I’ve also recently begun training to become a qualified football coach, so this might present opportunities in the future to balance these two career paths.

Develop your career with an internship

I’m Leyla Mohammed, and I’m in my final year of studying BA English at the University of Exeter. This summer I completed a four-week SBP in Marketing and Talent Administration. My biggest career aspirations involve writing and journalism, as well as social media work and marketing

I recently undertook a four-week SBP (Student Business Partnership) as a Marketing and Talent Intern with Creative Access, which I found through My Career Zone. Creative Access is a not-for-profit recruitment organisation who aim to provide more underrepresented individuals with opportunities within the creative industries. Though this internship was supposed to be based in offices in London, due to the nature of current circumstances it was entirely remote. It was an incredibly fast turnaround and was quite an unexpected start, which meant that I had to quickly adjust and adapt.

WHY I APPLIED

I chose to explore working in marketing because while I have many different passions, interests and personal endeavours, I’m still in the process of figuring out which direction I’d like to progress and develop my career in. My primary focus has always been writing, and after completing an internship last year as an Editorial Assistant with The Daily Mirror (through My Career Zone too) I found it to be very valuable experience. However, as well as writing and journalism, I am interested in many other industries – one of which being that of marketing. Therefore, I chose to apply for this internship, hoping to gain a first-hand insight into the ins and outs of the marketing sector.

“The team and I recognised my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to excel in things I had a natural flare for, and work on things I didn’t.”

HOW THE ROLE STARTED

As I was working from home, to start off with the work involved me familiarising myself with the various system software, running meetings via Zoom or MS Teams, and just the general gist of the WFH lifestyle. Getting used to working entirely online was somewhat challenging. I found it difficult adjusting to a lifestyle that involved sitting at home all day and staring at screens for extended periods of time. However, I gradually learned ways to make it more manageable for myself – (which I ended up writing about for the Creative Access blog, which you can read here!)

HOW THE ROLE DEVELOPED

My days followed a loose structure – I would start at 10am, finish at 6pm, and have a daily Teams meeting at midday to check in with everyone. This was ideal as it meant that everyone was aware of what was going on, and what work to complete going forward with the day. The Creative Access team was small (when I joined, there were only six others) so it was easy to communicate through our group chat and on our video calls.

Over the course of the four weeks, I naturally became more confident in my role. Very quickly, I found that I became comfortable with the tasks I was set and consequently took on more and more each day. The team and I recognised my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to excel in things I had a natural flare for, and work on things I didn’t. Generally, my day-to-day tasks included: managing and updating the system database; organising, scheduling and hosting meetings via Zoom; writing articles for the Creative Access blog; and creating content for all Creative Access social media platforms.

By the end of the four weeks, I was lucky enough to be offered permanent employment with Creative Access, meaning that I will be able to continue to work on a part-time, freelance basis throughout the course of the next academic year.

“Moving forward, this SBP has taught me not only about the marketing and social media industries, but also about my working style.”

GREATEST SUCCESS

As an aspiring writer, I would say my greatest success of this internship was being able to write articles for the Creative Access blog. Not only did I find this most enjoyable, but I was able to share my passion for writing with this new market of people, and have my work published on their platforms.

One of the best things about working within a small team was that they really listened and considered my personal endeavours and interests, tailoring my internship in a way that was most beneficial and rewarding for me.

NEXT STEP IN MY CAREER

Moving forward, this SBP has taught me not only about the marketing and social media industries, but also about my working style, strengths and weaknesses. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy working in all aspects of marketing, and I’d love to progress my career in this industry alongside my other interests. Furthermore, as with any work experience or internship, this SBP allowed me to network with professionals and make new connections, many of whom I’m sure I’ll be in touch with throughout the coming years.

I would definitely recommend taking on an internship of some sort. As a student intern you will gain unique and truly valuable experience that is difficult to gain elsewhere.

Graduate Profile; Apurva Baban Varute, Senior Structural Design Engineer

Apurva Baban Varute graduated from University of Exeter in Engineering and Management in Civil and Environment, 2014. She’s currently Senior Structural Design Engineer at Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrats Private Limited, Mumbai  

Apurva Baban Varute, Exeter Graduate and current Senior Structural Design Engineer at Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrats Private Limited, Mumbai

After leaving Exeter, I returned back to India and applied for jobs as a structural design engineer in Mumbai and New Delhi. I was then interviewed by various companies and I got opportunity to work with SYSTRA, New Delhi. While at SYSTRA, I worked in Metro projects, mainly the detailed design of depot buildings and metro stations. After working in SYSTRA for 2 years, I switched to Shirish Patel and Associated Private Limited, Mumbai where I got the opportunity to work under Dr Nori and Mr Shirish Patel for Pune Metro and Kochi Metro Projects. I was exposed to detailed design and drawings of Viaduct /Bridges. Currently I am working for Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrats Private Limited, Mumbai. I am positioned as Senior Design Engineer for the fully underground metro line MML3. I am involved in the detailed design and drawings of underground stations including permanent and temporary works. I am also involved in a highway project.

“My advice to all the young students is to never give up. We all have dreams and we all work hard to achieve it. But in the process we may feel demotivated or have self-doubt. It is important to stay focused and have patience.”

The reason for me to choose the profile I am into is because I wanted to stay in core technical field. I am good at math and I like solving math related problems. In my current profile, there are various kind of problems that arise everyday due to site conditions which need to be solved quick and with proper decision making. I enjoy facing these problems and finding solution.

At Exeter I enjoyed receiving lectures by the academic staff mainly by Dr Khurram Wadee and Professor Akbar Javadi. All lecturers in all my subjects made tremendous efforts so that we as students could understand the subject and were open to answering questions anytime during college hours. My lecturers were always polite and have helped me grow academically as well as professionally, which I deeply miss. The biggest highlight for me was the course structure. I enjoyed solving assignments and group discussions with my classmates, spending time in the library in search of answers or studying. The course structure gave me enough time to complete my assignments in time and self-study and also have time for myself since the campus was so beautiful. I made many friends from all over the world and it was quite an experience learning about their country, culture, traditions, and education. Even with such a diversity I found harmony within the campus. Everyone I met from my personal tutor to my career adviser have been extremely helpful and understanding. My experience at Exeter turned out to be extraordinary and much more than I expected.

“My future plans are to gain more knowledge in my field and start a company of my own. I aspire to become one of the few woman engineers in India and around the world who can make a difference.”

My advice to all the young students is to never give up. We all have dreams and we all work hard to achieve it. But in the process we may feel demotivated or have self-doubt. It is important to stay focused and have patience. Exeter changed my life hugely and I feel deeply honoured and lucky in a way. It had such positive impact on my life that it helped me grow into a confident and better person.

My future plans are to gain more knowledge in my field and start a company of my own. I aspire to become one of the few woman engineers in India and around the world who can make a difference.

Kick-start your engineering career with a student project

Joel Fryer, Ryan Thomas, and Kit Phillips are final-year Mechanical and Electronic Engineering students. Along with five other students they completed a student project, working with the Naval Weapons Group Team at Babcock International. 

Final-year Mechanical and Electronic Engineering students during their project with Babcock International.

Babcock International is a leading provider of critical, complex engineering services, which support national defence, save lives and protect communities. It focuses on three highly regulated markets – defence, emergency services and civil nuclear – delivering vital services and managing complex assets in the UK and internationally.

Babcock and the University of Exeter have been longstanding partners and this relationship has strengthened even further since Babcock’s acquisition of the Devonport Royal Dockyards in Plymouth in 2007. Having such a prominent and innovative partner on our doorstep is certainly an opportunity not to be missed!

The idea for a student project came to Mark Westcott an Exeter alumnus, now Senior Mechanical Design Engineer at Babcock. The project, coordinated by Professor Brownjohn, saw the participation of four mechanical engineering and four electrical engineering students in the final year of their integrated Master’s degree in Engineering. The students worked with the Naval Weapons Group Team and each had the chance to choose the project that piqued their interest the most.

During their time a Babcock, the team of students had a tour of Babcock’s factory and offices, as well as access to all facilities at Devonport Royal Dockyard. They could liaise with subject matter experts at Babcock and had funding available for building and testing prototypes. When the UK entered lockdown at the end of March, the students quickly adapted to working online, maintaining contact with Babcock through video conference calls.

All students worked to industry standards on a real R&D project, which was an incredible opportunity for them not only to apply their skills and knowledge to real-world engineering problems, but also to improve their employability as recent graduates entering the job market. Mark Westcott said, “I was impressed by the professionalism and commitment the team gave in supporting the projects.”

We had the chance to interview three of these students about their experience on this project.

What did you take away from your time at Babcock?

Joel Fryer: “Personally, having the opportunity to provide useful research for real-life engineering problems was exciting. The project briefs provided by Babcock were refreshing, and enabled us to complete interesting research that actually had real-world applications. Providing beneficial research for a company as prestigious as Babcock really leaves me with a sense of accomplishment, and is a great ending to my life at Exeter University.”

Ryan Thomas: “As a project it is more satisfying to know that what you are working on will have use to others in the future. Whist we were visiting Plymouth, we were able to see how our projects would be useful to structural health monitoring of the naval weapons they work with.”

Kit Phillips: “Creating a design from scratch for a system you will never physically interact with or know every specific detail is strange. It’s also rather exciting, the fact that I could create and simulate designs from the comfort of my bedroom which could be created and used on a real naval ship. Personally I found it very rewarding at the end, and a bit of a confidence boost in what I’m capable of.”

“Providing beneficial research for a company as prestigious as Babcock really leaves me with a sense of accomplishment, and is a great ending to my life at Exeter University.”

Would you recommend a similar experience to future student cohorts?

Joel Fryer: “I would definitely recommend this project to any students making their way into fourth year. Within the overall project, there are a number of varied and interesting parts that enabled us to put to the test our accumulated knowledge from the last three years. Bridging the gap between academic skills and professional work is key, and the experience gained during this project is something I’d recommend for any fourth year, not just those wanting to pursue an Engineering career.”

Ryan Thomas: “A better recommendation would be to choose projects that would be useful to yourself in the future. We were able to pick from around 8 different projects related to structural health monitoring, and we picked the projects we thought suited us well. This meant that we all enjoyed the project throughout the year.”

How do you think this experience will impact on your employability as you enter the job market as a recent graduate, especially during these difficult times?

Joel Fryer: “Personally, the experience was an important talking point during many of my interviews for graduate positions – I’ve been offered a graduate role and I owe a lot of the success with this application to my time working with Babcock. Employers are always looking for candidates that have experience, and providing research for Babcock International naturally comes in very useful. The personal experience was also really helpful. Our project supervisor, Mark Westcott, offered his expertise not only on the project, but also on any personal queries we had relating to our graduate application processes. Not to mention, liaising with a qualified engineer provides crucial professional skills.”

“I’ve been offered a graduate role and I owe a lot of the success with this application to my time working with Babcock.”

Ryan Thomas: “For the job I accepted I presented a 10 minute presentation on image recognition of circuit cards and explained how it is useful to Babcock. Companies like when engineers participate in group projects and it is good to show that you have participated in projects that work with industry personnel.”

Would you considering applying for a job at Babcock in the future?

Joel Fryer: “Definitely! During the project, we were invited to Babcock’s Combined Weapons and Electrical Workshop in Plymouth, where they showcased just a small part of Babcock’s cutting-edge naval weapons technology. This really demonstrated the exciting work that Babcock can offer.”

Kit Phillips: “I would consider and have applied for a job at Babcock, as it’s such a diverse company that the list of challenges to tackle must cover a lot of different fields.”

This student project has been an excellent exemplar of the fruitful collaboration between the University and Babcock International and is just one of the many ways in which students and recent graduates can get involved and kick-start their career with Babcock. The company offers industrial placements in Plymouth, Bristol and Leicester and multiple graduate programmes in Engineering and Science, Business Management and Project Management throughout the year.

We truly believe in this project and hope it will be the first one of many. Professor Brownjohn and Mark Westcott are already looking to create a new portfolio of projects and to recruit a new team of students for next year’s project, global pandemic permitting.

Grafters Only – Getting into the Beauty Industry

Maddie Davies graduated from the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, with BA English in 2018. She’s currently Content Beauty Writer for online beauty retailer Feelunique. 

Maddie Davies, Exeter Alumn and current Content Beauty Writer for Feelunique

Upon graduating from Exeter I went on to travel around Sri Lanka for a month and returned home to begin job hunting. In August and September, I started an internship with London Evening Standard supporting the fashion and beauty team in the run-up and duration of London Fashion Week. During this fulfilling (unpaid) experience, I began applying for jobs that centralised around writing in the beauty industry, which is now one of the biggest industries in the UK. One day I applied for the role as a Beauty Writer for Feelunique; the next day, I was being asked to attend an interview the following week. A month later, I started my first job as a graduate at Feelunique based in Covent Garden.

“My part-time job throughout University was working as a make-up artist for brands such as Benefit Cosmetics and MAC. As an English student, it made sense to combine my love for beauty and my enthusiasm for writing.”

My part-time job throughout university was working as a make-up artist for brands such as Benefit Cosmetics and MAC. As an English student, it made sense to combine my love for beauty and my enthusiasm for writing. I love that I am working for one of the largest industries in the UK, an industry that is creative and constantly evolving. It’s the first major industry to take a positive step forward in animal cruelty and the reduction of plastic. It’s also an industry that welcomes all ages and genders. We are also capturing a new generation – one that is actually interested in what goes into their products, what it does for their skin and how it impacts the wider environment. I am constantly learning in this industry and I am forever excited by what’s to come.

I loved the campus – it felt like a little student bubble plonked right on top of the hill that couldn’t be burst. I loved that I could do my work somewhere different every day and not get bored of it (even if 60% of my dissertation was written in Queen’s Cafe drinking flat whites and eating pastries).

I choose to study at Exeter because of its tremendous reputation for teaching, particularly for English. The syllabus excited me from the moment I saw it on the first open day in June 2016 – I just knew that I was going to study there. With my home being South Wales, the hills and greenery of Exeter didn’t feel too far away from what I was used to. So, I think the idea of a home-away-from-home had a bit of a part to play in my decision making, too.

I’ve learned how to interact with PRs and how that industry works so well with the world of beauty. I’ve had the experience of interviewing major leaders in this field, such as Charlotte Tilbury, Huda Kattan and Trinny Woodall. Throughout my time as an intern I was fortunate enough to be published in Cosmopolitan, Red Magazine, and London Evening Standard Online.

“Email as many people as you can for work experience – for some of my internships I emailed every address I could find (a total of 48) and only one got back to me. From there it snowballed, so don’t be afraid to do the same.”

Get as much experience on your CV as possible; this industry seeks grafters, if they see you’ve been working unpaid, that shows them how much you want to succeed. I hope to go on to be a senior beauty writer and from there I’d be excited to see where the industry takes me.

Email as many people as you can for work experience – for some of my internships I emailed every address I could find (a total of 48) and only one got back to me. From there it snowballed, so don’t be afraid to do the same. Appreciate that you will have to do the rubbish jobs. Mine included picking up dry-cleaning, making tea and cleaning fruit. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like you, some like to see how much you’re willing to do – others are simply too busy to do it themselves. Make sure you’re on the pulse of newness in this field. Something new and exciting is always happening here and to show that you know that is a huge bonus.

Enhance your career with a GBP role

Jennifer Fox graduated from the University of Exeter in 2017 with BA Modern Languages. She’s currently a GBP working for the University helping with the transition to a blended learning environment. 

Jennifer Fox, Exeter Graduate and current GBP

 I completed my Bachelor’s degree in French and Italian at the University of Exeter; a four-year course with an Erasmus year studying in Italy, and a fantastic experience. In my final year, I felt like I wasn’t yet finished with studying and decided to enrol on a Master’s course in Linguistics at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The first year of my Master’s was spent in Belgium and the second in southeast France, where I completed one semester as an Erasmus student and one as an intern at Université Grenoble-Alpes. By the time I’d finished my dissertation and graduated in September 2019, I felt ready to return to the UK, and to transition from student life to the world of work (plus I was tired of being poor!).

Why I applied for a GBP role

As a University of Exeter graduate, I received emails from the Career Zone about graduate opportunities and while I was abroad, I subscribed to the GBP Bulletin to keep up to date with the kind of positions that were being advertised. A Graduate Business Partnership (GBP) role enables you to make that first step into the job market without entering a graduate scheme or needing vast amounts of professional experience to apply for a job. I was attracted to the HE sector and although at the time I hadn’t completely made up my mind that this was the sector I wanted to pursue a career in, I knew that I could use the skills and experience I’d acquired as a student and could apply what I learned in a GBP role to future positions elsewhere.

“A GBP role is a developmental one, which means it is flexible and allows you to take control of what you want to learn.”

How my current role started and how it has developed

I started in my role as a Student Experience Support Officer in January this year. When it began, my primary responsibility was to provide administrative support for Exeter Law School with their Academic Personal Tutoring system. I scheduled and coordinated academic personal tutor meetings by liaising with academics and students. I monitored progress, collated feedback from both staff and students and presented a report to senior staff members. In addition, I assisted in Academic Personal Tutor training and helped run Senior Tutor forums, working alongside colleagues to enhance the academic personal tutoring framework in place at the University.

When all University staff were instructed to work remotely and all face-to-face interactions with students were ceased a week before lockdown, I knew that my work and responsibilities were about to change dramatically. Many of the projects I was working on could not continue and events I was organising would no longer be able to take place because students were returning home. I took the initiative to speak to my line manager and the line manager of the Technology Enhanced Learning team, who were based in the office opposite mine and with whom I’d worked on some previous tasks and I transferred to their team.

The work I do now is completely different. I assist with transitioning teaching and assessments online; producing support materials and advising academics, and professional services staff on a range of software and technologies. This required a lot of self-training, as I had to familiarise myself very quickly with software I had never used before, from Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to screencasting and video applications like Panopto, because I needed to teach other members of staff how to use them. I have also been teaching myself how to navigate the University’s virtual learning environment, ELE, as an administrative user and have built online courses and exams. In the coming months, I will be closely involved with Project Enhance and Enhance Internships, where my team and I will be providing advice, support and training for the SCP Digital Learning Assistants and GBP Graduate Digital Learning Developers, which are really exciting opportunities to assist with blended learning.

“I would highly recommend a GBP role to start a career. Not only does it help you to identify your professional ambitions but it also lays the foundations to achieve them.”

My greatest success and how a GBP will help me progress in my career

I would say my greatest success has been learning to take initiative and adapt in times of uncertainty. I was nominated for an Above & Beyond recognition for overcoming challenges in a new team during the high-pressure Covid-19 situation. Moving to the TEL team was the best decision I could have made; it has given more security and value to my work and strengthened my self-belief – I would never have thought I would be able to do a technology-based role, let alone succeed in one!

A GBP role is a developmental one, which means it is flexible and allows you to take control of what you want to learn. When I first started, my line manager asked me what skills I wanted to acquire and improve to bolster my CV and we tailored my tasks and projects to achieve this. I have used the role to familiarise myself with working in an office environment within a large organisation and across different teams, often meeting and collaborating with different types of people. I have improved my confidence in communicating with senior stakeholders and learned skills in team working, problem solving and resilience, all of which will be indispensable for the next steps in my career.

I would highly recommend a GBP role to start a career. Not only does it help you to identify your professional ambitions but it also lays the foundations to achieve them. It has allowed me to work alongside a range of different people, with different outlooks and knowledge, to hone my transferable skills and to build valuable professional relationships.