A Different Path – Adam Jones, CTO and MD of Technology at Redington

Adam Jones is the CTO and MD of Technology at Redington

He talked to us about his career path, and the twists and turns that took him from A to Z.

Adam Jones, Exeter Alumn and CTO and MD of Technology at Redington

Picture this… The year is 1998, you walk into a Chinese takeaway and a gangly, long haired teenager is standing there ready to take your order. Ten years later that same teenager has graduated from Exeter and completed a postgraduate certificate in Landscape Archaeology.

Fast forward a further ten years and that teenager is now the MD of ADA, Redington’s software business and the Chief Technology Officer for Redington, a leading investment consultancy which advises on more than half a billion pounds worth of assets.

That teenager was me.

When Exeter asked me to write about my experiences at University, the path I have taken, and how Exeter was part of that journey I had to think pretty hard.  Like many other people (more perhaps than you would expect), the steps that long haired, gangly teenager took to become that Managing Director were not always in a straight line.

Throughout my time at Exeter I was working for EDF Energy. My role at that company varied a lot whilst I was there. It covered basic admin tasks, simple financial work and a some operations work. Above all though, the thing that I remember most was spending hours and hours putting little plastic electricity tokens into envelopes and posting them around the country.

“Look at your degree as a foundation, a way of putting together essential and fundamental skills that are going to serve you well throughout your working life.”

By the time I finished my degree, the role at EDF had become more focused on technology and I was running a small project to change some of the infrastructure that EDF used.  I realised that I really enjoyed the technology aspect of the job, and it was something I found really interesting.  The role required me to be able to think through and solve problems, problems that sometimes I didn’t actually understand in the first instance, but there was an intellectual aspect to the work that I wasn’t used to and it was something that really resonated with me.

I realised that I had to make a choice because I was working a full time job and also doing a part time Masters in Archaeology.  Part of me wanted to do a PhD in Archaeology and turn that into a career, but the other part of me wanted to explore this technology career and roll with it.  It’s worth noting that this wasn’t an easy decision to make and it took a lot of deliberation, largely because both of them felt like exciting and positive opportunities; something a lot of people will experience when they graduate, or at different points in their careers. As someone who had previously only focused on finding a job, good or bad it was quite a new experience for me.

“I assumed that hiring an Archaeology graduate into a technology role would be challenging for employers.  What I actually found was that most employers looked past the subject that I studied, and instead focused on the skills that I had gained within my degree.”

Ultimately, I decided to pursue technology and soon realised that working for an energy company wasn’t the best way of doing that. I applied to every technology company that I could find in the South West. I was in no way picky when applying for these jobs, as I assumed that hiring an Archaeology graduate into a technology role would be challenging for employers.  What I actually found was that most employers looked past the subject that I studied, and instead focused on the skills that I had gained within my degree. For example, my ability to research, my ability to communicate, my ability to work with data etc.  They also really valued my work experience. Having a number of years of work under my belt was a great enabler to securing my first post University role.

I landed at a company called FNZ who are based in Bristol. They build investment platforms which power the fund and equity trading, that banks insurance companies and wealth managers use.  I spent a couple of years at FNZ as a business analyst. The job role was to be an intermediary between the clients and the software development team. The main focus was to translate the requirements that the client has into documents that the software engineers could use to develop the platform.

The job of a business analyst is really interesting as it requires a lot of problem solving but it also requires you to understand different roles around you. For example, what does a client think about this particular piece of functionality? How can you articulate what the client needs to a software developer? How can you get a good enough understanding of the platform so that you aren’t creating unreasonable requests?

This mesh of understanding ultimately contributed to a broader and more reusable skill. Stakeholder management.  I started to learn about Stakeholder Management during my time at EDF but also during my time at University, where group work would often be needed and where the ability to influence others and the ability to work together on an outcome becomes important.

After FNZ I went to work for a management consultancy called Altus. At Altus I worked for around 30 different companies across a range of different engagements. All of them were focused in the financial services sector and indeed typically on investments, pensions or general insurance.  This again required my skills of stakeholder management but also increasingly required my ability to present information and interpret data to understand the “so what” that sat behind it.  The skills I’d learned at University became a key part of this role, and the other thing that I realised was that domain expertise is an incredible enabler for good work and indeed a requirement which shouldn’t be under estimated.

“This accumulation of expertise is something that people pick up throughout their career but equally people often underestimate how transferable this is.”

Knowing how a bank works from the inside, based on experience and based on different projects that you may have worked on allows you to carry out further work at different banks more effectively.  This accumulation of expertise is something that people pick up throughout their career but equally people often underestimate how transferable this is.  For example knowing how a big bank works puts you in pretty good stead to know how almost any large business operates, they all have the same challenges around technology, operations, client engagement and management.

After Altus, I joined Redington to take up my current role.  I have two main jobs. The first is to ensure that our core consultancy becomes increasingly digitised in how we run our business, and also how we deliver our services to clients.  The second is to develop our ADA business which sells our core technology platform to other financial services institutions.  On a day to day basis this sees me managing a team of more than 50 people across multiple countries.  We now currently have more than 60 companies using our ADA software and it models more than half a billion pounds worth of assets. In order to do this role I have to rely on a combination of things I’ve already mentioned. In part it requires the expertise I’ve gathered from working with financial services businesses and understanding their technology and the challenges the industry faces.  It also requires a range of softer skills such as stakeholder management, the ability to communicate, the ability to present, and to understand complex strategic initiatives.

So that summarises my job today and how the gangly, long haired teenager got there.  This only really leaves me to provide some advice for others as they look forward to their careers.

“One of the big things employers look for in graduates, is the fact that they can learn and that they can demonstrate the application of that learning and securing a really solid grade is it great way of making sure that happens.”

Degrees don’t define your destination

If nothing else, please let me be an example to you that your course does not define who you are and the career that you will embark on.  I am also a fine example to show you that once you have taken on a job, it doesn’t mean that you are in that mould or in that profession for life.  Instead look at your degree as a foundation, a way of putting together essential and fundamental skills that are going to serve you well throughout your working life.

There is more to University than studying

It’s easy to singularly focus on your studies but so much of the experience that I took from University came from other activities; be it playing in a rock band, travelling and seeing new sights with different people, joining societies and meeting with like-minded people in a way that you just can’t do outside of University, these things are not merely social, they all add to the skill sets that you have.

But the studying does matter

While there is more to life than studying, it’s certainly worth putting in the hours.  When I go for a job now does anyone care whether I got a first or a 2:1?  No, probably not. Was having a first useful when I went for that first technology job?  Almost certainly.  One of the big things employers look for in graduates, is the fact that they can learn and that they can demonstrate the application of that learning and securing a really solid grade is it great way of making sure that happens.

Connect with Adam on LinkedIn

Start your career with a Graduate Business Partnership

Julia, Exeter alumn, and current Senior Administrator for Student Startups

I’m Julia, and I graduated from the University of Exeter with BA French and Spanish in 2019. I recently completed a GBP Marketing and Communications role, promoting University business partnerships and research, and I have now progressed to a new role in the Student Startups team. 

I came across the Marketing and Communications Coordinator GBP vacancy in the Career Zone Job Bulletin, which I subscribed to in my final year, as I was keen to hear of upcoming job opportunities. The majority of roles advertised in the bulletin are entry-level roles which are a good fit for recent Graduates, which is very helpful.

I was interested in getting a job in marketing or content writing, as during my year abroad in Spain I kept a travel blog, which I’d really enjoyed writing and designing. While at University I had been social media and publicity officer for my acappella group, and once again I enjoyed the experience of creating engaging content and sharing positive stories of the groups’ achievements.

“The GBP was a 6-month duration, which I thought was a good amount of time to get a feel for whether marketing was right for me.”

The GBP role was in the Innovation, Impact and Business (IIB) department at the University, who oversee partnerships and research collaborations between academics and businesses. I was unsure if I would be considered given I was not a business student, however the responsibilities of the role seemed to be writing and communications-focussed which appealed to me. The GBP was a 6-month duration, which I thought was a good amount of time to get a feel for whether marketing was right for me.

The application and interview process was quite speedy, I filled in an application form outlining my skills, interests and experiences and was invited to interview the following week. My interview panel (and soon-to-be colleagues) were friendly and down-to-earth which helped me relax and things seemed to be go smoothly. I was delighted and relieved when I got the call to say I’d got the job!

“I was an awarded an ‘Above and Beyond Award’ for the marketing support I had delivered to the IIB department in these initial 6 months, which was a huge boost to my confidence.”

I started my role working in a team of three on several projects for the IIB department. These included writing case studies, creating several new microsites (within the University website), launching a new research blog, and working with the University design team to create flyers and banners for events. I was an awarded an ‘Above and Beyond Award’ for the marketing support I had delivered to the IIB department in these initial 6 months, which was a huge boost to my confidence.

When my contract was due to end, I was offered an extension of my role for a further year, but was moved from the Communications and Marketing team into the IIB department itself – no longer delivering projects from afar, but now doing marketing ‘in-house’ so to speak! This was a change as I switched teams, offices and line manager, but it allowed me to build on the comms experience I already had while seizing new opportunities. I wrote press releases about partner projects, delivered social media training to various teams in the department, and supported the Student Startups team with their social media and student communications. This new setup gave me the chance to work with many different teams within the department and meet lots of different colleagues. In some ways, this was made even easier during the pandemic where colleagues in different offices or campuses were just a Microsoft Teams call away! I was also granted various personal development opportunities and took courses on Adobe InDesign, Digital Marketing, and Web Analytics to learn more about different aspects of marketing.

“My (current) role involves managing the day-to-day running of the programmes, responding to student queries, event planning and overseeing comms and social media. I’m really grateful that my GBP role paved the way for this opportunity…”

I am now working as Senior Administrator for Student Startups, who deliver a series of programmes to students which allow them to develop entrepreneurial skills and launch their own enterprises. My role involves managing the day-to-day running of the programmes, responding to student queries, event planning and overseeing comms and social media. I’m really grateful that my GBP role paved the way for this opportunity as I was already helping this team one day a week with their comms during my GBP, which was a fantastic way to get to know the team and the work they do. Rather than just promoting the success stories and final outputs of their programmes, I will now be involved in facilitating every step of the support they deliver to students.

Although this role progression may seem a sidestep from the career I was pursuing in marketing, a large part of my role will still be focussed on delivering communications, e-newsletters and social media which I know I enjoy. I also get to develop new skills in general administration, project management and event planning, and it is this exposure to new experiences that I think is important at this stage in my career.

“I would encourage anyone considering applying to a GBP role to go for it – I think it’s a fantastic option for a Graduate taking their first step in their career. Whilst working as a GBP, I would recommend you look for new opportunities to develop where you can, as this has really opened new doors to me and allowed me to progress.”

Before my GBP, I hadn’t considered higher education as a sector I would like to work in long-term but now I definitely am. Not only is the University a friendly and supportive environment to work in, there is also a huge range of roles available and a variety of opportunities you can get involved in. I have also found promoting the University where I was previously a student a very rewarding experience.

I would encourage anyone considering applying to a GBP role to go for it – I think it’s a fantastic option for a Graduate taking their first step in their career. Whilst working as a GBP, I would recommend you look for new opportunities to develop where you can, as this has really opened new doors to me and allowed me to progress.

Find out more about our GBP roles and apply via Handshake

Get Ahead with Teach First

Maddy Graduated in 2020 from the University of Exeter in BA Theology and Religion. She’s currently on a placement with Teach First.

Maddy Graduated in 2020 from the University of Exeter in BA Theology and Religion. She’s currently on a placement with Teach First. 

I had been considering teaching prior to leaving school having first heard about Teach First when I was in Sixth Form. I was reminded about Teach First years later through a friend who had applied during her 2nd year. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some graduate job interviews under my belt before 3rd year, so I applied in January 2019, and received my place in March 2019.

Teach First were supportive throughout my application process. The process was simple, and I heard back from Teach First within a fortnight of my application. The assessment centre, and general application process, gives applicants several opportunities to show their strengths. This meant for me, where I lacked in certain skills, I made up for in other aspects throughout the day.

“Tips for prospective applicants: show your ability to learn… reflect on challenges you have faced. Most of all, confidence is key, be assertive in stating your goals and achievements.”

Tips for prospective applicants: show your ability to learn. Teach First values a person’s reflection skills and ability to rebuild on experiences. You are encouraged to reflect on challenges you have faced, giving you an opportunity to show how you are able to solve problems and deal with difficult situations. Most of all, confidence is key, be assertive in stating your goals and achievements.

Unlike a PGCE qualification, I am in school from the very start which allows me to train on the job. Though the experience is intensive, you are able to learn quickly and develop faster than those on a university-based course. Simultaneously whilst you are in a school, you are completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) part-time. The scheme can be challenging, but it provides trainees with a great opportunity to learn quickly.

Every day is different, despite being a cliché. A school environment, especially at a Teach First school is so vibrant. Being able to tackle challenges, both academically and pastorally everyday makes no school day the same as another.

“I felt I have been given an opportunity to develop in a supportive environment, encouraged to learn from mistakes, and grow from experience… I am becoming more confident every day and have developed brilliant working relationships with my colleagues.”

The Teach First Graduate scheme allows for continued professional development. Trainees attend the Summer Institute where they receive training for how to teach in some of Britain’s most deprived schools. We have continued CPD sessions throughout the year from placement schools and Teach First. I felt I have been given an opportunity to develop in a supportive environment, encouraged to learn from mistakes, and grow from experience. Personally, I am becoming more confident every day and have developed brilliant working relationships with my colleagues and have found my place in a new city.

I am in my first year of the scheme, ending in 2022. Afterwards, I am looking to focus my skills beyond teaching. I love the job, being part of those ‘light bulb moments’ is a special feeling. Teach First emphasises the importance of leadership and management skills in their trainees, and provide support for those who choose to leave teaching after they complete the programme. I have no secure plans yet for my career prospects after the 2-year programme – but I will use the wide-reaching Teach First network to support this transition.

“Teach First emphasises the importance of leadership and management skills in their trainees, and provide support for those who choose to leave teaching after they complete the programme.”

Live or Online learning has been challenging for many of society’s most vulnerable children. Seeing pupils on live lessons, being given that opportunity to interact with each other, though it’s behind a screen is a special thing to be a part of. All teachers strive to do the best by their pupils and it made me so happy to hear this very week that one of my live lessons on the Purpose of Suffering, was one of the best a pupil had had. She took the time to come and tell me that and have an interaction with me based of my lesson. That’s a special feeling, that even though the times we are teaching in are very challenging, teachers can still make an impact through their practice.

Applications for Teach First’s 2021 Training Programme close on Wednesday 7th April  Start your application today and receive 1-2-1 personalised support from the recruitment team.

If you have any questions get in touch with Catherine your dedicated Teach First recruiter at Exeter alternatively send her a message on LinkedIn.

Module Choice – Learning for Teaching

Hi, my name is Connor Thompson, and I am currently undertaking a PGCE at the University of Exeter. I completed my undergraduate degree at Exeter studying Exercise and Sports Science. 

Connor Thompson, current PGCE student at the University of Exeter

With teaching as a possible career choice, the “Learning for Teaching” module certainly stood out as a “must pick”. The “Learning for Teaching” module gave me the opportunity to observe and experience quality teaching in a local school of my choice. Alongside this, the learning for teaching module provided me with critical research practice and exposed educational theories that shape school policies, teaching practices and the curriculum today. This module gave me insight into the expectations of educational writing styles and this has helped me throughout my PGCE assignments. Picking this module supported my decision in choosing a Primary PGCE because it gave me the practice and experience I needed.

“Picking this module supported my decision in choosing a Primary PGCE because it gave me the practice and experience I needed.”

The “Learning for Teaching” module helped me to find out what I wanted in my teaching career. Before starting the module, I was convinced that I would be a Secondary school PE teacher with all my focus on that. However, deciding to gain some experience in a Primary school completely shifted my focus and truly broadened my perspective of what teaching and learning can be. My placement in a Primary school played a vital role in deciding how my future would look, and helped me in my decision to embark on a Primary PGCE.

“I built up the confidence to read to the class, I learnt how to manage low level disruptive behaviour and I developed a competent level of understanding around phonics.”

My “Learning for Teaching” placement, for me, was the most valuable part of the module. Although this may sound insignificant at first, having the opportunity to be an adult at the front of the class really opened my eyes to the role I could play in society and the local community. I built up the confidence to read to the class, I learnt how to manage low level disruptive behaviour and I developed a competent level of understanding around phonics. Most importantly, I experienced having a professional relationship with other members of staff and having a professional role within the classroom. In terms of subject knowledge, I was exposed to the National Curriculum and the fraction of it that was taught during my placement. This small exposure to the content, for me, was only an insight compared to the wealth of knowledge I am now gaining during my PGCE. However, this small exposure was eye-opening and one of the reasons why I chose to do a primary PGCE.

“The University lecturers on the “Learning for Teaching” module are overwhelmingly supportive and truly strive for you to be an amazing teacher one day.”

Within the module there were a range of topics covered including the Purpose of Education, Social Disadvantage, Dialogic Teaching, EAL, SEND, Assessment, Using Technology in the Classroom and Reflective Practice. I valued these modules because they exposed me to information about education that you never normally think about. However, the standout topic for me was English as an Additional Language. The EAL topic especially, has helped me during my placement in considering alternative ways to teach and develop my planning for an EAL pupil.

The University lecturers on the “Learning for Teaching” module are overwhelmingly supportive and truly strive for you to be an amazing teacher one day. Choosing to do a PGCE at the University of Exeter continued my professional and supportive relationship with the university staff, thus ensuring no student is isolated during the start of their teaching career.

“My career aspirations are to be a class teacher at first and then progress to be a co-ordinator of an academy trust or equivalent, then potentially one day to be a head-teacher.”

I am currently on my first placement completing a primary PGCE with mathematics at the University of Exeter. I am now teaching upper KS2 across the National Curriculum from Maths and English to Art and History plus many more subjects. I am currently planning, delivering, marking and reflecting on my practice every day and this is now a part of who I am. An additional part of the PGCE course is giving me the opportunity to complete two M-level assignments. This is currently helping me critically evaluate research literature and educational theories. The studies I have completed so far have influenced my pedagogical knowledge and the way I teach, specifically creatively.

My career aspirations are to be a class teacher at first and then progress to be a co-ordinator of an academy trust or equivalent, then potentially one day to be a head-teacher.

Find out more about the Learning for Teaching module https://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/education/study/teachingexperience/

For info and advice about all Online Module Selection options https://www.exeter.ac.uk/students/infopoints/yourinfopointservices/oms/

Get The Scoop on Dr Cat Walker for International Women’s Day 2021

Dr Cat Walker, Research Consultant/Director for  The Researchery and author of ‘The Scoop’

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 we’re profiling Exeter alum Dr Cat Walker, who graduated from the University of Exeter with a PhD in Economic Psychology. Cat’s currently Research Consultant/Director for The Researchery Her debut novel ‘The Scoop’ (described as “the lesbian Bridget Jones meets Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”) was published in early 2020. 

I have been working as a researcher in the voluntary sector since I left Exeter. I started out with the Fairtrade Foundation, then had longer stints with Charities Aid Foundation and the Directory of Social Change where I led the research programmes. In 2015 I set up my own research consultancy, The Researchery, which works exclusively with the voluntary and community sector. My clients have included the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, The Big Give, Nesta, the University of Kent, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales, UK Community Foundations, and the Association of Charitable Foundations.

“I wanted to do something that was socially useful and benefited people. I like to think that my research helps charities to work more efficiently and effectively.”

I wanted to do something that was socially useful and benefited people. I wanted to make a difference. Although I’m not working on the frontline of charity I like to think that my research helps charities to work more efficiently and effectively. I love working with different clients, and learning from them as much as they learn with me. The variety of my work is a major bonus and with each project I know that we’re making the world a slightly better place.

At University I had excellent lecturers and PhD supervisors, particularly Professors Paul Webley and Stephen Lea. They mentored me and created amazing opportunities such as sending me to Aix-en-Provence for a year as part of the ERASMUS scheme, and employing me to run the Economic Psychology Training and Education Network. Highlights included the annual Lundy Island trip to study animal psychology and the Christmas Psychology Review which I wrote for and starred in on a ritual basis. Statistics and research methods have been most invaluable to me as a researcher. Also the general ability to get my head round facts, do literature reviews, make cogent arguments and write in a sensible and logical way.

“Statistics and research methods have been most invaluable to me as a researcher…. (and) we had weekly discos with Thom Yorke from Radiohead on the decks!”

Exeter has a beautiful campus and is near both the sea and the moors – making it exceptional for day trips. I enjoyed getting out and about both with hockey, cycling and surfing. The accommodation was excellent. We had weekly discos with Thom Yorke from Radiohead on the decks! It had one of the best Psychology courses in the country, with excellent lecturers, and I’ll never forget that they tried to put us off by saying that it wouldn’t be easy and we would have to work hard – that appealed to me!

“My advice to a current student would be that you don’t have to wait for the perfect job to come along. My first job in charity… gave me an insight into how things work and opened doors for me to take on bigger and better jobs!”

My advice to a current student would be that you don’t have to wait for the perfect job to come along. My first job in charity (after my PhD and being a post doc research fellow) was plugging in computers and some basic administrative duties but it gave me an insight into how things work and opened doors for me to take on bigger and better jobs!

In the future I hope to be able to carry on with my consultancy work as long as possible, but in the current economy I may have to have a back-up plan which is to work for a grant making foundation, helping them to learn from best practice and be the best funder they can be.

How to Use your Law Degree in Canada with Kanon Clifford

Kanon Clifford, Exeter Graduate and Associate Lawyer, Bergeron Clifford LLP, Ontario

Home country – Canada

Studied – LLB Law, 2018

Career – Associate Lawyer, Bergeron Clifford LLP

Where do you currently live and work? 

Since leaving Exeter, I have been working at one of Canada’s Top 10 Injury law boutique firms. I work with catastrophically injured individuals and help them navigate a complicated and often confusing legal system across Ontario, Canada’s largest Province. As a lawyer in Ontario, I work both in the courtroom and outside. I am a Barrister and Solicitor. I ensure injured clients receive the best possible assistance during the litigation of their injury claims.

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

The ability to make meaningful changes in people’s lives is what attracts me to this career. I work with some of the most vulnerable individuals in the legal system and helping them overcome their injuries and obtain fair compensation brings me enjoyment. Witnessing someone leave my office with a smile after a catastrophic injury brought them to me makes each long day of work worth every bit. I enjoy navigating complex legal issues and the personability of the profession.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?

I was brought to Exeter by the allure of studying in the English countryside. Coming from Canada, I was looking for a new experience balanced with a University with a strong academic track record. Exeter offered a wonderful English experience without the high cost of living in London and the chance to attend a Russell Group University with a solid academic ranking. The campus was beautiful, the students were friendly, and I had the chance to make life-long friends from all around the globe and all walks of life. Exeter was the perfect match.

Why did you choose your particular degree subject?

I enjoyed the close-knit community Exeter Law School offered and the wonderful staff who always had time for a quick chat. No matter how busy the facility was, they always had time to chat and offer helpful advice.

How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?

Skills: Problem-solving, teamwork and a strong ability to listen. Experiences: Negotiation and advocacy competitions offered by the student law society and debates offered by the Debating Society offered a unique insight into contemporary issues facing access to justice and the ability to practice before using these skills in practice. Working with international students in my seminars and study group also offered a unique perspective on how to deal with individuals whose experiences and knowledge differ from my own.

Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?

Becoming a lawyer in my jurisdiction meant that there was a practical training portion for obtaining a legal job. This practical training is called Articling. During the Articling process here in Ontario, Canada for wannabe lawyers, you will often be assessed for your compatibility for a role with a legal practitioner, law firm or in-house counsel. This process involved legal research, attending court and interacting with clients. At the end of this practical training, most Articling students will either be offered a job with their legal mentor or not.

I was able to prepare for this by finding great legal mentors and individuals who took time to train me. Be friendly and helpful. Do not be afraid to reach out to someone who you find interesting. A friendly message or a casual meeting can go a long way.

Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?

I did! I particularly found the Exeter Award and Exeter Leaders Award provided by the Career Zone as useful talking points when discussing my credentials with individuals in my home country. I obtained both and had a great opportunity to obtain highly relevant employment information for the current hiring markets!

What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?

This answer is unique to those interested in pursuing a legal career in Canada. From my personal experience, lawyers and legal professionals are intrigued with the unique dichotomy of the barrister / solicitor professions in the UK. Through Exeter’s law school, I was able to connect with both barristers and solicitors in practice and had the opportunity to shadow them. This also provided some of the coolest opportunities to see the practical side of the law outside of the classroom. In many encounters with legal professions here in Canada, this is one of the main talking points I rely on because there is that level of intrigue.

What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?

During my time at Exeter, I was a member of the student law society, The Exeter Law Review and the Debating Society.

What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?

Returning to Canada with a foreign degree undeniably creates questions for any graduate recruiter. Why were they abroad? How did they do this? What was their reason? The biggest obstacle one faces in gaining a graduate job with foreign credentials is explaining their purposes and reason for going abroad. This is an obstacle but one that can be easily overcome. Knowing your story and articulating your reasons will get you over this hurdle. Marcus Aurelius wrote, “There are brambles in the path? Then go around them. That’s all you need to know. Nothing more.” Years after writing this, his reasoning still stands. Know yourself to overcome the brambles!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?

To keep fighting the good fight and never stop learning.

What is your advice for any international student seeking a legal career in Canada? If you are looking to become a practicing lawyer in North America, affability is a quality that employers look for. Are you friendly, are you hardworking, are you a team player? When you go in for an interview, a significant emphasis is placed on how much the interviewer likes you. Put a smile on your face, be prepared for an open discussion, not just question-answer talk, and look to show you are a quality candidate. Be personable, show passion and show hard work and dedication. Do this, and you will go far.

End of interview.

Our alumni networks are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.

The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here, and to watch historic records, please click here.

How to Use your Accounting and Finance Degree in Vietnam with AnhViet Huynh

AnhViet Huynh, Exeter Graduate, and current Transfer Pricing Manager at PWC Vietnam

Home country – Vietnam

Studied - BA Accounting and Finance; MSc Accounting and Finance, 2014

Career – Transfer Pricing Manager at PWC Vietnam

Where do you currently live and work? 

I relocated back to Vietnam after leaving Exeter in January 2014 and have been with PwC Vietnam since July 2014.

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

I got very interested in transfer pricing (“TP”) issues when I was in Exeter. That was the time when people started to get serious about TP, especially with the case of Starbucks in the UK. So when moving back to Vietnam, I applied for TP services in PwC and have been doing this for over 6 years now. This role has given opportunities to work with many colleagues around the world (either from PwC network firms or from head offices/regional offices of our clients), in order to understand the bigger picture of their intercompany pricing policies as well as to support our clients to comply with TP regulations in Vietnam.

For those less familiar with transfer pricing, how would you describe it in one sentence? 

It is actually quite tricky to describe TP, even in one paragraph. Essentially, TP is a practice to determine the price of goods and/or services between related companies (companies within the game group), in order to examine whether the price between related companies is comparable to the price between independent companies (companies not in the same group). This is to ensure that each company in the same group will operate as if they were independent, and hence they will earn proper profits and pay proper tax accordingly just like other independent companies.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?

Let’s just say Exeter gave me everything I wanted. It was the city, the people (both local people and members of staff), the students and the degree. The city is vibrant but at the same time not too big that you would feel overwhelmed. Everyone is friendly and that really goes against what overseas students like us tend to hear about the UK (eg. people are very cold and reserved). The degree is well structured and gives us everything we need for our career.

Why did you choose your degree subject?

The degree has really given me clear understanding of accounting, which is the backbone of any business. From that, I guess I could apply for any role that I wanted. The biggest highlight was that I got offered to be the Accounting Scholar, which was a prestigious scholarship back then where the University of Exeter Business School would pay 100% of my postgraduate fee and at the same time, I got to teach first year students. It was an amazing experience because I always love teaching and if it were not because of the visa requirements, I would have stayed longer.

How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?

I was friends with students from the UK and around the world. So during our group work assignments, I was usually in a very diverse team, which helped me to understand how to work with different people from different backgrounds. Also, being pro-active and asking questions when I was not clear about something is a huge thing in my daily work life. I’m in consulting so we ask and ask and ask, to ensure that we understand what our clients are going through to support them.

Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?

For PwC Vietnam, back then I had to submit my application online (around January and February). Next, I was asked to take an online test, then I had to do another test at the centre after I passed the online test. A group interview where they assessed my group work and presentation skills would follow. And eventually, it was the final interview with 2 leaders of PwC Vietnam (usually a partner/director and a manager)

Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?

I did use Career Zone whilst at Exeter and even the employability team of Business School. Both channels gave me lots of insights into how to write a personal statement letter and CV. However, I did not use these resources as much as I should have. As I said earlier, I love teaching and I found myself at the perfect place being the Accounting Scholar. So I did not really actively look for a job, until I decided I would not go ahead with a PhD after my MSc degree. By then it was already too late.

What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?

I think a lot of aspects of university education in the UK have helped me during the application process. This may also be applicable for university education in other countries where English is the native language, for example the UK, the US, Australia. As you may know, the whole application process is in English. So my experience in the UK helped me to react very well with all the questions during the process, from the tests to the interviews. My skills gained from doing many group work assignments also helped during the group interview. I knew how to navigate, lead and be a team member of the group through the challenges. The ability to proactively ask when things are not clear helped me during the interviews as well, because candidates who did not have much exposure to the cultures other than Vietnam felt intimidated during the interview and did not feel confident when they had to ask questions. I think the experiences and skills I gained from my degree really gave me the edge during the application process.

What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?

During the time at Exeter, I was the co-founder of Bright Futures Exeter society, part of the men’s basketball club, and international student society. I was also part of the International Welcome Team and University of Exeter Business School ambassadors.

What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?

The biggest obstacle to me would be the culture and language. It may sound very funny and strange, because I am a Vietnamese, left Vietnam at the age of 18 and came back for a job in Vietnam after 6 years in the UK. Theoretically speaking things should have been all smooth and familiar. But to me, going back to Vietnam was a real culture shock. People do and think differently here. For instance, the Vietnamese in particular (and Asian people in general) may not say “thank you” and “sorry” as much and as often as we do in the UK; so when I did that, they looked at me differently simply because it was not common here. Regarding language, it also took me a while to get used to the professional terms in Vietnamese. My whole degree was in English so English accounting and finance terms like “income statement”, “balance sheet”, “bonds” are very familiar to me. But when I saw the terms in Vietnamese which were not taught in high school, I had absolutely no idea what they meant.

Salary is another thing. To big companies like PwC Vietnam, I was still a fresh graduate and the salary would be the same for all fresh graduates (regardless of where I got my degree from). So I did get the job, and the pay was okay but not as high as I had thought I might get. Don’t get me wrong. I still love my job and my workplace and would have not picked anything else. But I do hope the pay would be better. (Who doesn’t?!)

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?

I think we all make mistakes along the way and will always say “I wish I knew blah blah blah”. But perhaps just embrace the journey. If you are still at university, use Career Zone or whatever it is called now as much as you can. Do as much research as you can before applying for a job and be yourself in the interview. You will be just fine.

What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in the financial services and wanting to follow a similar path to you?

Keep an eye on what’s going on around you. There are TP issues everywhere you go.

End of interview.

Our alumni networks in these countries are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.

The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here, and to watch historic records, please click here

Students and alumni in, from or looking to relocate Vietnam to are welcome to join our Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/305956466185407 to connect with our alumni community, ask questions and keep updated on the latest alumni news and events.

Develop your confidence with Grand Challenges

Agung Bate graduated from the University of Exeter in 2019 with a 1st in B.Sc. (Hons) Medical Sciences, and is now studying BMBS Medicine at the University of Exeter Medical School. He is currently a student representative for Grand Challenges. Due to COVID-19, Grand Challenges has been running as an online programme Challenges Online since last year. 

The sign up up for Challenges Online 2021 opens Monday 8 February.

Agung Bate, Medical Sciences graduate and current Medical Student, University of Exeter

This post will focus on my experience doing Grand Challenges and getting involved with social issues and multidisciplinary teamwork. For those who do not know, Grand Challenges is an event run by the University in the summer which aims to bring together students from across the whole University, from all sorts of degrees, to start conversations around social issues facing current society. It aims to spark new and innovative ideas for solutions to these challenges. The goal of this event is to come up with a project which address an aspect of these global challenges, with a team of students from various degrees. I took part in the Mental Health Challenge in 2018, and the Climate Change Challenge in 2019.

Some of you might have heard about Grand Challenges before, either through emails, or leaflets around campus. The majority of the identified benefits are centred around allowing you to develop skills which aid in employability; things such as communication skills, presentation skills, negotiation skills and flexibility. However, I want to talk to you about one thing which ties all these together, being core to all your skills and you as an individual: confidence. This is something which many people say they have developed as a result of Grand Challenges, and in my case, doing Grand Challenges was a turning-point for my confidence.

“Amongst other things, meeting so many ambitious people at Grand Challenges and having so many opportunities available to me during the week made something click for me.”

Confidence means something different to everyone, but to me, it has been something which I have troubled with throughout my life, and still struggle with. Due to troubles I experienced within the family household from an early age, I developed a fear of doing things wrong and ‘making a fuss’, leaving me feeling alone and vulnerable throughout childhood. Amongst other things, meeting so many ambitious people at Grand Challenges and having so many opportunities available to me during the week made something click for me. It made me realise the only limit to you doing things are yourself, and the following three somewhat-rogue lessons I have learnt from doing Grand Challenges hopefully might resonate with some of you.

The confidence to speak your mind

When coming to the initial group meeting with my group in Grand Challenges, I was a mixture of being nervous and excited. I had all these ideas which I wanted to talk about, but I was scared that my thoughts were similar to everyone else’s, and that what I wanted to say wasn’t particularly interesting or unique and hence felt that it would be a waste of time to contribute it. However, I quickly found out that this was not the case, and rather everyone was interested in what I had to say. This was a classic example of knowledge bias, where things which you perceive as ‘obvious’ can be a completely new and insightful way of looking at things, and it something which many people who lack confidence can be a victim of.

Doing Grand Challenges helped me kick down these barriers as everyone had a unique take and opinion on the social challenges facing society. Everyone has a unique view on food shortage, cyberterrorism or mental health, due to their varying experiences growing up, how they interpret information, their hobbies and the practical skills they may have. However, developing your confidence to be able to comfortably speak up and communicate your ideas amongst other people competing for the same opportunity to talk is a whole other ballgame. Employers look for people who can do this, as they realise that this is how real change is made. Having the opportunity to voice my ideas during Grand Challenges and to bring my thoughts into action was a truly inspiring and empowering experience which did wonders for my confidence.

“Capitalising on your strengths may take a large degree of confidence, but it takes a whole bag-full more of confidence to accept your limitations.”

The confidence to have humility

Doing Grand Challenges provided me with the opportunities to be exposed to new and complex situations and helped develop my confidence to recognise areas where I am either better or lesser suited to. At the time of doing Grand Challenges, I felt I was comfortable designing questionnaires and doing some basic graphic design via Microsoft PowerPoint, but I would listen into the discussions the business and economic students would be having around doing market research and totalling up the theoretical expenses to create our product, and I would be wishing I would be able to do those skills. If I was to be honest, I really took the fact that I would have had no idea where to start with those tasks to heart and was really beating myself up for it. Nevertheless, this was all a valuable learning experience as together as a team we worked together as separate units to then come together to produce something we all were proud of, individually and as a whole.

Capitalising on your strengths may take a large degree of confidence, but it takes a whole bag-full more of confidence to accept your limitations. Not everyone is perfect, yet it is so easy to ignore this fact and get into a vicious cycle of self-loathing and self-hatred. Accepting that other people may be better suited to certain tasks can be a difficult skill to develop, but only by getting stuck in with teams and being exposed to various situations where you might have to back down and let others take the lead on some things will you develop.

On a personal level, humility should not mean having negative perceptions of your limitations, but rather seeing your acceptance of your limitations in a positive light. For example, during my first interview for medicine, I unintentionally drank gallons of water in the waiting area, and I accidentally let out such a massive burp that it rumbled the doors and made one of the interviewers come out and check if everyone was alright. One way of looking at that is that I struggle to take things seriously, and that is the way I would have been thinking had I not had the experience with Grand Challenges and the exposure to various psyches. But another way of looking at it is that I am good at not taking things too seriously. They must have thought that too as otherwise I’d have no clue why they’d let me in.

“Self-reflection is such an essential skill to develop… and doing Grand Challenges was a real eye-opener for seeing how self-reflection helps you improve yourself and the service you might deliver.”

The confidence to be honest with yourself

Doing Grand Challenges pushed me to think inwards into my interests with both mental health and climate change, such as the underlying emotional reasons as to why I found it difficult to reach out to and join sports clubs in university, and what I think I would have benefitted from. I felt that the whole process benefits from having the confidence to becoming self-aware of why you have certain opinions allows you to more insightful, imaginative and creative when it comes to you and your relationship with society.  Only through having the confidence to start unravelling yourself with self-reflection can you achieve this, and I felt that Grand Challenges helped me perhaps make myself feel more comfortable being vulnerable.

Self-reflection is such an essential skill to develop as it makes you highlight what didn’t go well during your experience doing a task or project, and doing Grand Challenges was a real eye-opener for seeing how self-reflection helps you improve yourself and the service you might deliver. Throughout University, you might be prompted many times to fill out a self-reflection component of a form or incorporate self-reflection into your STAR answers. What I think doesn’t get made obvious is that saying you found a certain task or tasks really hard is not a bad thing, but rather the contrary. It shows you recognise your weaknesses, both to the people asking the question but also to yourself. The impacts of self-negligence can be immensely damaging professionally and personally. It means you are honest with yourself, and if an applicant shows that they are honest and open to being vulnerable, they are seen as trustworthy and therefore build greater rapport in their professional relationships.

Sign up for Challenges Online now 

The Career De-Stress Series: Helping you take some stress out of career planning

In my role as Employability and Careers Consultant, it’s always a mixed bag of conversations and situations, but one thing is clear

Kate Foster Careers Consultant
Kate Foster – Employability and Careers Consultant.

– life for students is currently challenging and stressful – but we are here to help, advise and support you to be in the best place you can be with your career planning.

There is no doubt we’re all living through unique and complex times, add in the usual pressures of University and  life in general – deadlines, assignments, dissertations and demands on our time. I’m not surprised that making career decisions elicit feelings of stress, even panic and avoidance, if you don’t know where to start.

Help is at hand as the Career Zone is here to support you. Our staff have a wealth of expertise and experience to offer students and graduates, and we’ve put together a range of online sessions and podcasts to help guide you through making career decisions and developing employability skills as part of our Career De Stress campaign this week (18-22 January).

We’re all pushed for time trying to fit in as much into our busy lives as possible. If this is you and you’re feeling overwhelmed consider signing up to our Time and Stress Management and Personal Resilience sessions. You’ll have the chance to explore not only how you’re feeling but also through sharing experiences realise that you are not alone. You’ll also pick up some great practical tips and techniques.

Do you dread being asked about your future career plans, and find yourself starting to avoid those people who might ask you?

It can be overwhelming not knowing what to do and where to start, but instead of putting it off and burying your head in the sand (apologies for the cliché) think about booking onto the Choosing a Career session. You’ll find out about different ways of exploring careers, and have the opportunity to focus on YOU in terms of what is important to you and what motivates you.  Our fantastic colleagues in Wellbeing are also working with us as part of “Career De-stress” so look out for the following sessions – Looking after yourself whilst Exploring Careers and Disclosing a Disability to a future employer. These focussed sessions will enable you to not only focus on the key elements of making a career decision or finding a supportive employer, but also explore resources and sources of further help, and identify practical tips and techniques to enable you to manage those stressful situations such as the dreaded recruitment Interview!

If you don’t have much time our podcast series may be just the thing for you as you can download and listen in your own time – https://careerzonepodcast.podbean.com/. Topics include “Delegation”, “How will graduate jobs be impacted by COVID-19”, “How can I beat Interview nerves?” and “How do I choose a Career?”

In addition, there is a wealth of online resources available including the Career Planning section of the Career Zone website, which is organised around Decide, Plan, and Compete – http://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/ with hints, tips and resources aimed at whatever stage you are at with your future decisions.

My Career Zone Digital includes some great interactive information including professional insights into different industries and sectors, and online tools (like video interview practice) where you can improve your skills and confidence.

My top tip would be…..start somewhere…… look at the Career De stress activities. Grasp as many opportunities as you can and break out of your comfort zone.

Planning and managing your career is a lifelong employability skill so this won’t be the first or the last time that you’re faced with deciding what to do and which direction to take. Some people find it easier (or appear to find it easier!) than others.

My top tip would be…..start somewhere…… look at the Career De-stress activities. Grasp as many opportunities as you can and break out of your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll find out about yourself, you might even start piecing together some ideas for a future career.

For further information on Career De-stress and to book onto sessions – http://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/events/careerde-stress/

Social Media for Charities – Start Your Career With Pathways

Zoe Allen, MA in Conflict, Security and Development, and part-time Communications Manager

Zoe Allen is a current Exeter student studying for an MA in Conflict, Security and Development. Last year she took part in the Pathways to Charity and Development programme. Due to COVID-19, the programme was converted to a remote internship opportunity, with students undertaking internships in a variety of roles across a wide range of companies. 

I’m Zoe and I completed my Professional Pathways Internship with SAFE, a national domestic abuse charity based in Exeter as a Social Media Intern. After my internship ended, I was offered extended part-time freelance work managing their social media.

You can see the content I produced for SAFE on their Instagram page, and I managed their Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.

Outline the project you worked on during your Pathways remote internship. What achievements are you particularly proud of? 

As Social Media Intern for SAFE, I took a completely independent lead on the content and strategy of their social media platforms, drawing on my own experience and examples from the sector. No specialist had ever been employed for this before by SAFE, and the social media had all been handled by the team of therapists at SAFE who had limited understanding and even more limited time to handle social media. This meant it was disjointed, outdated and lacked storytelling. I helped organise the platforms so that they were better branded with more recognisable handles and logos and greatly increased the quality and quantity of content on the platform, as well as replying to comments and messages to help survivors access care.

I also expanded my skills by working on analytics tracking reports for SAFE’s board of directors, and creating SAFE’s first ever marketing and communications Branding and Tone of Voice document, to help the charity to continue to create content after I stop working for them.

I’m particularly proud of how I handled the learning curve that my work required in terms of learning more about domestic abuse and the services available in the UK. I started knowing absolutely nothing about the subject and have since written posts about trauma-led therapy, types of abuse and how to recognise them, and information about boundaries and healthy relationships.

How has your Professional Pathways internship helped you in taking the next steps in your career?

As I mentioned, the internship itself turned into an extended paid role which was of course fantastic for me financially and meant that I had a more extended and impressive experience to add to my CV.

The internship was also essential in me securing a permanent part time job with a fantastic refugee charity called Breadwinners, as their Communications Manager. It can get a little complicated doing both, and once I did post a picture of bread to SAFE’s account, which probably confused some people!

Anyway, my work with SAFE provided me with a tangible example of my social media skills (although I had already developed these a lot through volunteering projects, I can’t stress how important it is to do this too of you want to go into this area) and with valuable experience of working in the charity sector that really made my CV stand out.

Working with SAFE has also helped me learn a lot more about the sector, and working with a range of charities makes it clear where there are gaps in the charity sector where valuable work could be done. I have read a lot of articles about domestic abuse recently and discovered there is a real shortage of specialist care for refugee and migrant women, who are often asked for proof they are legally in the UK before they are offered help. There’s also a lack of specialist domestic abuse services for the LGBTQ+ community, and domestic abuse spaces are rife with transphobia. Both these issues need to be addressed.

Therefore, my work with SAFE has been essential to helping me work out where I want to work within the charity sector and that I’d love to one day lead a charity that helps those which are slipping through the cracks (or actively abandoned) by UK charities.

What advice would you give to a student who has to complete an internship remotely? Do you have any hints or tips on how to make the most of a remote internship?

The key to remote working is like anything: practice. Everything is hard until you’re used to it, and it will get easier with time. And in a couple of years everyone will be experts!

But, also, to make the most of your internship:

  • Keep closely in contact with your internship provider/colleagues, make sure you talk to them at least once a week by email and once every couple of weeks by phone/video call.
  • Remote internships often mean more freedom. Use this to explore the projects you enjoy, and hone your skills at them.
  • Don’t stress too much about it. They know you’re a student; they were expecting to hire a student. They won’t have through the roof expectations, and they won’t expect you not to have other commitments.

Applications for Professional Pathways 2021 close this week.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.