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.

Get Invaluable Insight with the Career Mentor Scheme

Sabine Hoadley, Exeter Graduate and current Clinical Exercise Specialist at CP+R

Sabine Hoadley Graduated from the University of Exeter in Medical Science, 2020. She is currently a Clinical Exercise Specialist at CP+R. She talks about how the Career Zone  helped her find her dream job, and how the Career Mentor Scheme was invaluable to her career insight. 

I heard about this career through the Career Zone! I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, as Medical Science leaves many doors open for employment. After considering the idea of Medicine, I realised that I am not ready for this huge academic commitment at the moment, and perhaps it will be something to come back to in the future. Then I heard about the role as a Clinical Exercise Specialist at CP+R and it really stood out to me. We will deliver sustained, life-changing healthcare to CP+R athletes through monitored exercise sessions, nutritional guidance and lifestyle advice and support. I am very excited to start this role, and having met with the team via Zoom meetings and visited the workplace on Harley Street, I can’t wait to begin working with some of the athletes.

“I signed up for the Career Mentor Scheme whilst I was in Year 3 which was invaluable to my career insight… I would say take any opportunities that are given to you.”

I signed up for the Career Mentor Scheme whilst I was in Year 3 which was invaluable to my career insight. Chris Moody was an excellent mentor and gave me a lot of help with my CV and cover letters, as well as providing some really fantastic insight into his work life. Also doing my placement year at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Brisbane, Australia was invaluable to my career – so I would say take any opportunities that are given to you.

Based on the preliminary work of my dissertation project, I was selected as one of four Final Year Exeter students who presented abstracts (online due to Covid-19) at “3D Printing, Advanced Robotics and Automation (3DPARA) in London, United Kingdom, 21st – 22nd May 2020”. My dissertation looked at the possible uses of 3D printing for application in the Medical Field. Under the excellent supervision of Mohammad Akrami and Reza Zamani, they have helped me to pursue this opportunity, and I was excited to present my project at this event.

“Not to be cliché but don’t be afraid of failure! I had applied to quite a few jobs before I got the one I was offered… but it just goes to show that the right thing comes around if you wait for it.”

Not to be cliché but don’t be afraid of failure! I had applied to quite a few jobs before I got the one I was offered… but it just goes to show that the right thing comes around if you wait for it. I also think that applications give you so much experience on how to deal with different situations as well as the opportunity to improve your interview technique and gain confidence with the sort of questions that they might ask.

I have been an active member of the surf club since first year at Exeter. The surf society is fantastic and has been the perfect way to meet friends, as well as go on a number of surf trips abroad, including to France, Portugal and Morocco. I have also been one of the founding members of Friends of the Earth at Exeter, and acted as Treasurer, responsible for sourcing grants for our group. As a group, we focussed on grassroots community action in Exeter, fighting for a better planet (local actions, global effects). We ran a sustainable cooking workshop back in March that tried to encourage people to incorporate seasonal and local produce into their cooking. I also took part in Fight Night this year, which I had always promised myself I would sign up to since first year. Being in my final year of Uni, this was a balance of extreme stress work wise with my dissertation, and training 4 times a week for Fight Night. Funnily enough I found that it was actually one of my favourite terms at Uni – it was the perfect opportunity to stress bust while working out on the punching bags!

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.

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.

A creative career with IBM

Graham White graduated from the University of Exeter in BSc (Hons) Computer Science and Management Science in 2000, and has been working for IBM for 20 years since joining their graduate programme. 

Graham White, Certified Expert Technical Specialist, Emerging Technologies (IBM Research)

I work for IBM in the world-renowned IBM Research division. My focus is applied research within the Emerging Technologies group. In this role, I generally take new technology to our clients as part of a first-of-kind project which is always hugely interesting and very exciting. It is extremely varied as I can be talking to a client about a particular solution in the morning and in the afternoon I might be working on some fundamental research with my university partners. Hence, people in my job are typically very broadly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about technology but also have at least one area of deep technical skill.

It’s hard to pick just a few, but I wanted to share 3 projects I’ve been involved with in recent years:

 

  • I was involved with creating a system to automatically translate spoken English into British Sign Language. The project was created by IBM interns under the Extreme Blue programme (for which I would encourage everyone reading this to consider signing up to) that hooks up experienced technical people from IBM to mentor students during a summer project. Rather than describe it in detail, take a look at this 15 second clip to get a rough idea or listen to Helen explain it. Helen has since gone on to become one of the managers in my department. This is still one of the project we get asked about on a regular basis.

 

  • During 2018 I worked on a system to enhance rail travel codenamed Stepping Stone for people with disabilities and older people. This group of passengers find it harder to travel by train, and can often be extremely anxious while travelling. My solution was to create a mobile application that walks the passenger through their journey but does so by continuously linking them with a member of staff. So they can ask questions, get help, meet up with passenger service assistants and anything else they want at any point during their journey. It’s a bit like a WhatsApp type of interface where people can chat to station staff and staff on the train. It detects when they arrive at a station and contains a lot of features resulting from accessibility research so it can be used by people with visual or hearing difficulties, people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or older people.

 

  • A more commercial example of something very creative I’ve done is through our partnership with the Knorr food company. They approached us for help with a marketing campaign and through a period of consulting with them we came up with the idea of profiling flavours. The idea and tech we needed to implement involved working out the flavour profile in two respects: how people experience flavour and which ones they prefer; and which flavours different foods contain. In a broad sense, this allowed us to come up with a mapping between preferred flavour and different foods. It allowed Knorr to recommend certain products to particular individuals based entirely on the science behind which flavours they are most likely to enjoy.

 

To give a little more background to my career, starting from when I graduated with a Computer Science and Management Science degree, I still wasn’t entirely sure what career I wanted. I had narrowed my options to management consulting or computer programming. I applied for a few roles but was really attracted to IBM as it fitted my preference of a more technical job. After a 1 day interview in London and 2 day assessment centre in Winchester I was offered a place on the graduate scheme and started work at the rather lovely IBM Hursley on 4 September 2000. The site has a similar stately home history and campus feel to it as the Streatham Campus.

I formed the first Linux support team when the company invested $1 billion in transforming the IBM product line to work on Linux. My job was to provide support to the 3000 people working on site and consisted of being away from my desk a lot, either in a huge machine room working on servers or at people’s desks helping them more directly with one-to-one support. Since then, I have worked in a number of different roles that have taken me around the world. I have set up and worked on some of the world’s fastest super computers (they all run Linux); helped scientists crack some particularly hard problems such as mapping the human genome, weather prediction, seismic surveying and nuclear simulation; worked on teaching computers how to understand human speech, something we now fashionably call machine learning or artificial intelligence.

For more information about careers at IBM, see our website: https://www.ibm.com/uk-en/employment/

 

Alumn Profile – Liz Sherratt, Lifing Development Manager, Rolls-Royce

In celebration of International Women’s Day we’re profiling Liz Sherratt, who graduated from the University of Exeter in Mechanical Engineering 2009. She is currently Lifing Development Manager for Rolls-Royce

Liz Sherratt, Exeter alumn and Lifing Development Manager for Rolls-Royce

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?               

Following graduation I joined the Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace graduate scheme. The scheme places graduates around different parts of the Civil Aerospace business so they understand the various functions and how they work together to deliver engines to market and service those engines.

During these placements I worked within Development Engineering which I particularly enjoyed and so I returned to this area upon completion of the scheme. Development Engineering define and deliver the testing required to demonstrate new engines are suitable for entry into service and that changes to existing engines are acceptable. During my time in Development I worked on engine tests, both in the UK and abroad, and completed flight test campaigns to make changes to the engine mounted hydraulic system. After a couple of years in this role I took on a team lead position where I lead a small team delivering changes to the compressors of the Trent 900 as part of an improved efficiency package. Within these roles I got hands on experience of gas turbine engine hardware, build procedures as well as gaining an understanding of the airworthiness regulations and how to demonstrate compliance.

“I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning.”

Looking to increase my breadth of knowledge I moved into the Engineering for Services function taking on the role of Trent 900 Lifecycle Engineering (LCE) Team Lead. In this role I lead a team understanding and resolving issues encountered by the Trent 900 airline customers in service, from simple questions about how to interpret maintenance instructions to understanding why an in-service event has happened. I was involved in leading root cause investigations and working directly with airline powerplant teams, as well as with the aircraft manufacturer and the airworthiness authorities. This role evolved into leading the LCE team responsible for ensuring a new version of the Trent 900 engine would be mature at the point it entered service and thus free from reliability issues throughout its life.

Currently I am the Lifing Development Manager within Engineering for Services. This role is about managing any in service issues with engine critical parts and delivering new methods for predicting component life in service. This role sits across the different engine projects with an overview on how we best use the data we get from our engines to accurately predict when those engines need to be removed from wing thus improving operational reliability and getting the most life from our parts.

The next time you go on holiday it could be Liz’s team keeping you in the air! Photo credit: Hrishit Jangra (Unsplash)

 

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?            

I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning. Working in such a large company allows for lots of different opportunities and Rolls-Royce are very supportive of people moving into new areas. We also have many people who have chosen to focus on one area for a long time and are experts in their field, and they are always happy to share their knowledge.

 

Were you a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?  

I was a member of the University climbing club throughout my time at Exeter and was club captain in my final year. This gave me lots of useful skills outside of my degree and was a brilliant source of examples for competency based interviews.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I very much enjoyed the various group projects like the pelton wheel in the first year and the buggy project in the second year. Overall my biggest highlight was the individual project in the penultimate year as I found getting really stuck into something novel where I was completely responsible for the direction really engaging.

 

What did you enjoy most about studying here?               

In terms of the university as a whole I think the location was a real highlight, near the sea and Dartmoor and with a lovely campus environment. In terms of my degree I always found the staff very supportive and enjoyed the range of different modules.

 

“Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.”

 

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?              

I was initially not sure about the type of Engineering I wanted to go into so the general first year allowing me to keep my options open until I had an improved understanding of the various disciplines is what particularly appealed to me about Exeter. Additionally I attended an ‘Insight into Engineering’ course at Exeter during my A-Levels and found the University and department very welcoming, this definitely influenced my decision.

 

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?    

I think you pick up a lot of the specific knowledge you need for your role when you start, however university really prepared me for teaching myself and being able to learn efficiently. Things like learning how to read research papers, write clear, concise reports and present well have all stood me in good stead at work. Also the group work that you do throughout your degree prepares you for the teamwork required in most Engineering roles.

 

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?   

Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.

 

What are your plans for the future?      

Given the range of opportunities at Rolls-Royce I don’t currently have any plans to move on. So far I have taken roles based on the learning available, thinking I would enjoy them and that I could add value to the team and I plan to continue in this way. There are a few specific jobs I have my eye on but like to keep my options open.

 

Do you have any tips or advice for beginning a career or working in your industry/sector?          

For starters apply early; applications are reviewed on a first come, first served basis so the earlier you apply the better chance you have – start looking in the summer before your final year and apply early in the first term. The same goes for summer and 12 month internships. Beyond this I would follow what you enjoy as I think people perform best doing jobs they enjoy.

Teaching English in China

Natasha Lock is a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. She graduated in BA History, International Relations and Mandarin Chinese from the University of Exeter. 

Natasha Lock Yenqing Scholar at Peking University and Exeter graduate

I have been studying Mandarin Chinese for eight years and during this period I have been interested in the etymology of Mandarin, the history of China and contemporary political status of the country.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have spent the past five years back and forth from China – traveling, working and studying. I started with a family trip to China in 2013 and was fascinated by the country I had set foot in.

There seemed to be an energy here that was totally different from any other country I had been to, and a real connection between the past and the present. I followed this with a government study scholarship for short programmes (one/two months) spent in Shanghai and Nanjing during my university holidays. Then in 2016, I moved to Beijing for a year to study at Peking University. Since graduating in the summer of 2018, I have stayed in Asia, first to travel, then working for a manufacturing company based down in Southern China.

“Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning.”

Transferable skills

Teaching has been an incredible experience. It has allowed me first-hand access to see how the next generation of Chinese doctors, lawyers, academics and workers have spent their teenage education. Study pressures are both real and worrying. As a result, during my role as a teacher I’ve really tried to focus on addressing some of these issues. I try to pursue discussion-based learning, study topics that require the students to ‘think outside the box’ and do not set my students homework. I am also using my teaching experience in China to develop my Mandarin and fulfill my travel desires. There are breaks between lessons and I never work later than 5pm. This leaves a lot of time to study Mandarin, go out with friends and on the weekends and numerous national holidays, travel within China.

Teaching students in China feels like a real privilege. Whilst I am employed to teach the students, I also learn a great deal from them. Leaving school every day knowing that I’ve made a direct difference to someone’s day is extremely fulfilling and rewarding. Teaching certainly builds confidence and character. Standing in front of 50 teenagers for 4 hours each day demands lots of energy, organisation and drive.

The world famous Shanghai skyline

After the programme 

Since 2019 I have been a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. The Yenqing Academy is an elite fellowship China Studies master’s programme that is fully funded. It takes 125 scholars from all over the world and teaches them in both core modules and their selected academic discipline. The Academy also organizes field studies to culturally, economically, and socio-politically significant regions within China.

The Yenqing Academy programme will be an intense two years of study concerning the International Relations of China and will facilitate my wish to become a more knowledgeable scholar and a better Mandarin speaker. In the past, I have found studying International Relations within China and from a Sino perspective to be absolutely fascinating. Furthermore studying this subject in a country so essential to International Relations is a unique privilege. Studying about China within the nation state has previously been extremely interesting, as aspects of politics were analysed from a Sino perspective and outside of class I could see the very case studies that were being utilized within my course.

Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning. Following the masters programme at Peking University, I wish to pursue PhD level studies. It is imperative that leading Sino specialists understand China’s past, present and future – looking at these behaviours through both Chinese and international perspectives. Subsequently I hope to use what I have learned throughout my career in academia or diplomatic consultancy. This balance between Chinese and international perspectives will be essential to bridge the gap between academic research and international policy-making.

Find out more about the programmes offered by Teach English In China or email info@teach-english-in-china.co.uk