Alumni Profile – Alla Alexeeva, Finance Controller, Chanel

Alla Alexeeva graduated from the University of Exeter with an MSc Accounting and Finance, 2010. She’s currently Finance Controller (Russia & CIS), Chanel 

Alla Alexeeva, University of Exeter alumn, and current Finance Controller (Russia & CIS), Chanel

Where do you currently live and work? 

I live in Russia. I started my career in the beauty industry when I joined L’Oreal as an Intern just after graduation and was promoted to the position of Budget Controller within a couple of months. Now, I am working as a Finance Controller within the biggest business divisions at Chanel Russia & CIS and managing a team of three finance analysts.

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

My current job is very business oriented. It requires a lot of communication skills. My colleagues not only work in Russia, but also in Paris, London and NYC.

And for those less familiar with the term, what is a Finance Controller?

A Finance Controller is a business-oriented role. A person in this position would be responsible for strategic planning and budgeting, reporting, business analysis and finance key performance indicators.

“My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself… Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.” 

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

I chose to study at the University of Exeter as it was in the Top 10 rankings in the Times and the Guardian when I started to look for the right place to study. The University provided very comfortable accommodation for international students and the city had good infrastructure. I would definitely recommend a Masters at Exeter due to all the new knowledge I gained, the friendly atmosphere, great networking opportunities among alumni, and the wonderful experience of living abroad in a very cosy city with great history and many places to explore.

Why did you choose your particular degree subject?

I chose to study this subject because I enjoyed studying economics in my bachelors degree and the programme suited these skills.

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

The Business School gave me a lot of practice in building strong relationships with people from different countries who spoke other languages. This is a beneficial skill for all young professionals starting their career in any field.

“While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.”

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

I started the process when I was writing my dissertation in the library. I initially planned to apply for an internship with L’Oreal UK, but there were no vacancies. So, I sent my CV to L’Oreal Russia. I finished my dissertation in the middle of September in Exeter and joined the L’Oreal office in Moscow starting from 1st of November. The whole of October was dedicated to interviews and assessment days.

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

While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.

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

It is compulsory to have an in-depth understanding of all international accounting standards while working as a Finance Controller. The knowledge I gained at University was a solid basis to develop my skills in this field.

“Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.”

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

I believe that my communication skills are excellent because I spent 2 years in the UK (1 year studying a pre-masters course in London, 1 year doing a Masters in University of Exeter Business School). It also helped me improve my self-confidence and endurance under stress. I also developed fluency in English, a deep knowledge of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and a particularly good command of Excel.

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

Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.

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

My advice for students would be to remember that if you are accepted on a course, you become an asset to the University. It is your right to make your University greater by achieving excellent academic results and taking a breath-taking career path.

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

My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself. If somebody had told me ten years ago that I would hold one of the top positions in Finance at Chanel Russia, I would never believe them. Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.

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.

Alumni Profile – Fatima Hudoon, Freelance Journalist

Fatima Hudoon, University of Exeter Alumn and Freelance Journalist.

Fatima Hudoon graduated from the University of Exeter in BA Arabic with German and International Relations and Study Abroad (Jordan), 2019. She’s currently a Freelance Journalist.   

Fatima will be one of the speakers on our ‘Working in Journalism – Virtual Alumni Panel Event’ Tuesday, October 19th 2021, 17:30 – 18:45. Find out more and book your place https://app.joinhandshake.co.uk/events/12153

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

A few months after leaving Exeter in 2019, I started working as an Early Career Journalist at The Bristol Cable, a local community-owned media outlet based in my home city. I was employed as part of a pilot scheme called the Early Career Journalism Placement that sought to give a paid work opportunity to upcoming journalists or those who want to give journalism a go. What was meant to be a five-month-long placement turned out to be a year and three-months-long. With no prior journalistic experience, I was trained up by Cable staff and received training from the Centre for Investigative Journalism. I quickly began pitching, researching, interviewing and writing my own stories. From both General and Local elections to the Covid-19 pandemic and co-launching a mental health series, I went on to cover a variety of stories for print and online. My placement ended in February 2021 I have been freelancing full-time ever since. I regularly write for the Bristol Cable as a freelancer and continued building on my freelancing portfolio for other publications, most recently BBC West. Alongside journalism, I also freelance as a social media manager for a local community organisation. I am currently focusing on my professional development undertaking training with the CIJ as a Lyra McKee Bursary recipient in data investigations and Tactical Tech’s Exposing the Invisible Institute.

“There’s always more to learn and that keeps the profession interesting. Most importantly, I get to tell underreported stories and hold institutions to account. It feels right for me.”

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

When I found out about the Bristol Cable EJC Placement, it had the right combination of research, analysis, writing, potential to use my language skills, and getting comprehensive training. These were all factors that were important to me. As I began doing my own reporting I realised journalism has a good range of variety and has plenty of opportunity to scale and mould the path in a way that works for you. Enjoy the job because it’s a challenge. There’s always more to learn and that keeps the profession always interesting. Most importantly, I get to tell underreported stories and hold institutions to account. It feels right for me.

What did you enjoy most about your course at Exeter, and what was the biggest highlight?

By far my Year Abroad in Jordan was my biggest highlight. I saw an exponential improvement in my Arabic, and even had opportunities to volunteer to put it to use and I made lifelong friends. It was also a year that made me realise that I wanted to learn languages as a means to achieve something rather than it being the end. And so after taking a sabbatical from my studies, I took on International Relations in my third year; the best decision I made.

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

So far, my language skills have been a huge asset in my reporting. There were several times when I conducted interviews in Somali, German and Arabic. This not only better informed the respective stories but also helped give a voice to people who may otherwise not have their voices heard. Experiment with your writing skills and find your voice. As I start developing my data journalism skills, I realised that knowing a programming language is increasingly becoming a useful skill (though not necessary). I did the Institute of Coding’s Summer School programme for learning Python. If courses like that are still on offer for students I would encourage participation as tech skills are in increasing demand.

“There were several times when I conducted interviews in Somali, German and Arabic. This not only better informed the respective stories but also helped give a voice to people who may otherwise not have their voices heard. Experiment with your writing skills and find your voice.”

What are your plans for the future?

I’m still figuring this out but for now I’ll say it is to work as a foreign correspondent of some sort. Whether that’s in the UK working for a German or Arabic publication or abroad for a British paper. Either way, as long as I can use my languages in my journalistic work – and learn new ones if opportunities offer it – then I’ll be more than satisfied.

What advice would you give to a current student who’d like to get into journalism?

The obvious advice would be to get as much experience writing stories as possible – in whatever form writing, radio, TV. That can be the student newspaper, the local papers and/or setting up your own platform. If you’re going on a Year Abroad, think about what kind stories you could write from there. This will give you a good head start.

Get Paid Work Experience as an SCP or an SBP

Immy Kerr is currently undertaking a placement year with the University of Exeter (SCP) alongside her Liberal Arts degree. 

Immy Kerr, Second Year BA Liberal Arts student, employed on the SCP scheme

All students from all courses can apply for SCP and SBP roles, but at the University of Exeter, Humanities undergraduates can gain work experience across a wide range of sectors as part of their degree on programmes such as ‘with Employment Experience’ or the ‘Humanities in the Workplace’ module. If you’re a Humanities student and want to find out more about work placements head to: https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/careers/undergraduatestudents/   

My name is Immy, and I’m a Second Year student studying Liberal Arts, taking modules in English, Marketing and Politics. I chose to take the ‘Humanities in the Workplace’ module this year for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was keen to boost my CV, through both one-to-one tuition in creating a stand-out CV, as well as the valuable experience of the work placement itself. As well as a 40-hour placement, the module also teaches philosophical theories behind work and the workplace, real-life ethical issues, critical thinking, and the value and importance of humanities in a society in which it seems the arts are becoming increasingly redundant. This is not to mention that I am now earning money as part of my degree, which is definitely a perk!

“I am thoroughly enjoying my SCP internship: I am lucky to have a very friendly and supportive team and manager, my shift patterns break up studying very nicely, and the job is well paid.”

It goes without saying that any type of job or placement is particularly difficult to source during a pandemic, and it meant that I had to rethink my strategy when applying. Many big companies do not offer a 40-hour placement scheme, and small companies are struggling during this difficult economic climate, so I turned to county councils and charities since my interests lie in public service and corporate social responsibility. Again, this was not easy due to restrictions in face-to-face working. However after a helpful meeting with the university’s placement advisor Simon Allington, I started applying for University of Exeter internships which I found on Handshake. Here, they are categorised into SCP (Student Campus Partnership) which is an internship within the University, and SBP (Student Business Partnership), which is an internship with a local business, advertised to university students. I applied for an SCP job entitled Administrative Assistant for Access to Internships, which I was delighted to have been offered. I started the job in January and work remotely.

Although the placement specifies a minimum of 40 hours, my SCP job is a part-time 6-month contract (currently 7 hours per week increasing to 15 hours next term). My role is to assist in the administrative workings of a scheme called Access to Internships, a program that financially supports students in securing a UK internship. My tasks include sending confirmation emails to students and employees; transferring information between spreadsheets, vacancy forms and agreement forms; and sourcing information about local businesses amongst other general admin tasks. I am thoroughly enjoying my SCP internship: I am lucky to have a very friendly and supportive team and manager, my shift patterns break up studying very nicely, the job is very well paid, and it is very convenient that I am able to work from my laptop at home (although I am sad to be missing the full office experience!).

“I am learning valuable skills in my placement, such as time management, decision making, communication and IT skills, which will be transferable for any future workplace.”

After graduating, I hope to work in Civil Service, with a particular interest in the Ministry of Justice, or any area of government more broadly. I am learning valuable skills in my placement, such as time management, decision making, communication and IT skills, which will be transferable for any future workplace. My job also bears a link to social responsibility and public service since the goal of the Access to Internships scheme is to create a level playing field in order to create equal opportunities for students of all backgrounds. I would very much recommend the ‘Humanities in the Workplace’ module to all humanities students; it is a fantastic opportunity to gain extremely worthwhile experience alongside a degree which will most definitely be useful when searching for a job after graduating.

5 Quick and Easy Employability Tips for International Students

If you make the effort to interact in and out of class with a range of people you will really reap the rewards. Imagine applying for graduate roles and being able to talk confidently about your cultural intelligence and diverse perspectives!

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant working with postgraduates in the Business School. She is currently developing a range of resources and support specifically for international students.  

As an international student, there’s a lot to think about and lots to do. You’ve been saving, planning, and packing for as long as you can remember and now you’re far from home, adjusting to a new style of teaching, possibly even in a language that isn’t your native tongue. Wow – You deserve a huge round of applause for all you’ve achieved so far.

Perhaps you’re looking forward to things calming down with less on your mind, and the chance to focus on your studies. It might surprise you that we are already asking you to think about your future and to start preparing for a career after your studies. It might feel a little overwhelming! But what if I could give you 5 tips which won’t take a lot of effort, but will make a huge difference for your future success?

“What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success?” 

You may have heard of the 80:20 rule, or the Pareto Principle. Developed by an economist in 1895, the rule demonstrates that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your time and effort. Let’s apply this to your time at Exeter and your future career. What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success? Here are 5 simple things you can do that bring huge results!

1 Immerse yourself in cultural learning: Employers worldwide are realising that diverse workforces are great for business. They want to employ people who think differently and approach things from a range of perspectives. Diversity brings a huge range of benefits such as increased innovation, creativity, and happier employees. International students like you naturally bring culturally diverse perspectives but you can add even more impact, when you combine this with combine this with cultural intelligence. Cultural Intelligence is the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It’s about crossing cultural boundaries and thriving in multiple cultures. Someone who has cultural intelligence is not just an observer of different cultures – they are able to culturally adapt and work together with people across a variety of cultural contexts. This cultural intelligence will impress UK employers, employers in your home country and anywhere else in the world you choose to go! The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures. We know that this can feel scary and that it can feel more comfortable to make friends with other students from your home country but if you make the effort to interact in and out of class with a range of people you will really reap the rewards. Imagine applying for graduate roles and being able to talk confidently about your cultural intelligence and diverse perspectives! Say yes to as many opportunities to mix with others as possible.

“The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures.”

2 Develop skills outside of your studies: Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter. In fact, if you plan to remain in the UK to work, it is important for you to know that many UK employers value skills over and above your academic achievements. In fact, growing numbers of graduate employers are removing academic grades from their entry requirements as they have found that skills are a much better predictor of a graduate’s ability to perform well in a job than their academic grade. Employers don’t mind where your skills come from so you have lots of options: pick from volunteeringjoining a societytaking part in a sport, getting a casual / part time job, or doing an internship. If you have limited time available, you might want to be strategic about which skills you need to develop and focus on activities which target those skills. Carrying out a “skills-gap analysis” will help you be strategic- a) study a career profile or search graduate vacancies that interest you and b) make a list of the skills needed. Then c) assess your own skills. Focus on developing the skills that you need for the career(s) / vacancies that interest you, but which aren’t very strong yet! Don’t forget to be mindful of your visa in terms of how many hours a week you can do certain activities. If you are considering taking up volunteering or unpaid work please refer to the International Student Support pages to check what is considered as volunteering or voluntary work.

“Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter.”

3 Be informed: If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home. For example, the graduate recruitment cycle in the UK starts early. This means that jobs which start in June / July or August open for applications in the previous September and close between Nov-Jan. So, if you want a place on a graduate scheme, you will need to be ready to apply almost a whole year before your course finishes. It may be that CVs, application letters, video interviews and other parts of the application process are different from what you may have experienced in your home country. That’s why Career Zone is available for you, with lots of virtual help as well as help in person. We can help teach you all about working in the UK, as well as helping on a practical level. You may find our bespoke programmes, India Career Ready or China Career Ready helpful too.

“If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home.”

4 Build networks: If you follow the advice here so far, you will meet a lot of new people! Keep in touch with them, you never know when you may be able to help them or they may be able to help you. The people you meet now are the ones who are or will be in a position to help you out professionally in the future. You are connected through your shared experiences, which means they are much more likely to want to help you, especially if you have been helpful in the past.  Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others. Promoting projects and events that other people are organising or involved in, introducing people to one another, or sharing your experiences can be so useful for your peers. Sharing that you were rejected for a role you really wanted because you didn’t complete an online test within the required 5-day period for example, might help someone else to avoid the same mistake. The more helpful you can be, the more you’ll be seen as a valuable connection. LinkedIn is a brilliant tool to keep in touch with your network.

“Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others.”

5 Improve your English: If you follow tips 1-4, your English will already have improved a lot! It’s worth knowing that UK employers expect very good spoken English from international applicants, so if your English still needs some improving, INTO at Exeter offer lots of support.

Read more about the help we offer to International students or listen to our podcast

Givaudan’s Guide to the Flavour and Fragrance Industry

Jonathan Fairclough, Exeter alumni, and current Head of Operations for Givaudan

Jonathan Fairclough is an Exeter alumni, and current Head of Operations for Givaudan Ashford UK. He talked to us about the fascinating world of flavour and fragrance careers. 

Hi I’m Jonathan, I work in the Fragrance and Flavour Industry which I joined right after graduating from Exeter in 1997, where I studied Chemical Engineering. Today I work for Givaudan as the Head of our site at Ashford, and lead the Operations team, producing Fragrances and Oral Care flavours that go into many of the products that we use at home each day.

We purchase thousands of raw materials from around the world, and use them to manufacture products that have been developed by our perfumers, ensuring that all quality standards are met, and that they are shipped to our customers to meet their requirements.

Tell us about Givaudan and the flavour and fragrance industry.

Although we all experience the results of the fragrance and flavour industry every day, it’s an industry that’s often overlooked. From your mint flavoured toothpaste to your lavender laundry soap, your chocolate flavoured protein drink or your strawberry gum… consumer products in cosmetics, beauty, food and beverages can be differentiated through the variety of their scents and tastes. Consumer product manufacturers don’t generally produce them in-house, but work with suppliers which are experts in the field of Fragrances and Flavours, and with 25% market share Givaudan is the global leader.

“This fascinating industry has existed for over centuries and uses synthetic as well as organic ingredients combined with bio-chemistry and neurosciences which are key for creations.”

This fascinating industry has existed for over centuries and uses synthetic as well as organic ingredients combined with bio-chemistry and neurosciences which are key for creations. In the recent years Givaudan has expanded our offerings adding active cosmetic ingredients to our portfolio as well as nutrition, health, and natural ingredients.

We’re also investing further into new technologies (for example, artificial intelligence) and adjacent industries to expand our portfolio.

You can find out more about our history here

https://www.givaudan.com/our-company/rich-heritage/timeline

https://www.givaudan.com/our-company/rich-heritage/odyssey-stories

What’s the process a company goes through with you if they want create a new flavour or perfume with you?

It would all start with a customer brief for a given product idea destined for a given market segment. Our sales professionals would collect the brief and build up the team to work on it. The team is composed of perfumers and evaluators (for fragrances and beauty), or flavourists and food technologists (for taste and wellbeing solutions) along with marketing professionals, lab application, regulatory, and pricing experts. Once our creations are ready we submit them to the customer and it can take sometimes up to two years to know if we’ve ‘won’ the project. Before we can launch the manufacturing process, there is a phase called ‘testing and sampling’ in collaboration with the customer. We own the formula, produce the material and deliver it to our clients.

“Once our creations are ready we submit them to the customer and it can take sometimes up to two years to know if we’ve ‘won’ the project.”

What kind of companies use Givaudan, can you name names?

Unfortunately we can’t name customers because it’s very confidential. But we can say that we co-create solutions with most global consumer product manufacturers in beauty, cosmetics, food and beverages.

How has your career evolved at Givaudan? 

I feel very privileged to have been able to grow my career within Givaudan, starting as a chemical engineer improving our processes to manufacture ingredients, moving into management and developing from the maintenance manager to Head of Engineering, broadening my skills into other areas of Operations and Supply Chain as the Planning manager and lead for Continuous Improvement, and now Head of the Site. Givaudan has enabled me to develop, grow, learn, be recognised and valued, while having a lot of fun along the way.

“Givaudan has enabled me to develop, grow, learn, be recognised and valued, while having a lot of fun along the way.”

What kinds of roles are there at your company? What kinds of students are you looking for?

We have two distinct divisions: Taste and Wellbeing, and Fragrances and Beauty. In each division, we recruit professionals with a background in chemistry, food technology, food sciences, but also professionals in sales and marketing, and sciences and research (R&D), Regulatory, Logistics and IT, Procurement, Finance, HR for the corporate functions.

Our Givaudan site in Ashford is a Fragrance and Beauty site, where we also have our Oral Care Global Business Centre. At our Ashford site we have our Science and Technology department, we usually take placement students for each of the S&T departments on a yearly basis. In the last year the student/graduate recruitments for our Ashford site have been:

  • Oral Care Consumer Marketing Insight Student
  • Oral Care Marketing Graduate
  • Sensory Science Student
  • Malodour Research Student
  • Neuroscience Research Student
  • Microbiology Student
  • Junior Laboratory Technician Student
  • Finance Intern

Our Milton Keynes site is our main UK site for Taste and Wellbeing. The main activities on our Milton Keynes site are product creation and application, customer care and sales. We have less student opportunities on our Milton Keynes site, we take two Food Technologist students each year that work in our application labs.

We hire interns and trainees all year round. The best is to go to our job portal https://jobs.givaudan.com/ create a profile and signing up for a job alert https://www.givaudan.com/file/207736/download that way you can get notified as soon as a matching opportunity comes up.

What would be your advice to students today?

Be curious, explore every opportunity until you find one that really excites you.

Introducing ‘Create Your Future’

Hannah, Year 2 Applied Psychology student, and SCP with the Create Your Future team

I’m Hannah and I’m a Second Year Applied Psychology student working part-time with the Create Your Future team.  

What is Create Your Future?

Create Your Future is a compulsory, full day programme for all First Year students and is unique to the University of Exeter. The programme appears on students’ timetables, and they are emailed about the event in advance. The aim of the day is to stimulate thought about what future career you might want to pursue, and the steps you need to take to help you achieve your goal. Students are expected to attend three live online workshops, and complete online activities independently. These are discipline-specific and tailored to the stage of career planning you are at. During the day, students reflect on their values, motivations, and goals, learn what employers are looking for and cover important topics such as commercial awareness. Additionally, students are introduced to the support available from the Career Zone. Upon completing the programme, students should have a clearer idea about how to achieve their career aims and where they can find support if needed.

“The aim of the day is to stimulate thought about what future career you might want to pursue, and the steps you need to take to help you achieve your goal.”

What is Create Your Future like?

As I am a Second Year student, I completed the Psychology Create Your Future day back in October 2020. I remember feeling apprehensive when I saw the event on my timetable as thinking about my future career, when I had only just started University, felt like a massive and unnecessary step. However, as explained by the Create Your Future team, this is to give us time to explore lots of career options, and develop the skills needed for those careers. Once I started the online activities, I was glad that this was the case. It became clear that I needed a lot more work experience! This is because I learnt that for every skill an employer looks for, you need to provide evidence for having that skill. By completing the online activities, I was able to see which skills I had not yet developed through work experience.

For me, the key underdeveloped skills were basic IT and customer service. Therefore, doing the online activities narrowed my focus as to what kinds of work experience I should look for. I used the Career Zone website to which we were signposted in workshop three, to explore current job vacancies within the University and in the Exeter community. Coincidentally, this led me to see and apply for the job vacancy of Programme Assistant within the Create Your Future team. In this role, I provide practical support for students taking the programme. Therefore, the Create Your Future day was really influential in kick-starting my career planning. The programme made me reflect on how I could become more employable and encouraged me to progress and find work experience.

“The programme made me reflect on how I could become more employable and encouraged me to progress and find work experience.”

Another aspect of the Create Your Future programme which I found useful was exploring the jobs that Exeter Alumni have progressed to and how they achieved those jobs. When I did this activity, I listened to a Psychology graduate in events management. She emphasised the value of getting involved in a University society to help organise activities. Her understanding was that experience of organising events, large or small, was highly sought after by recruiters. Listening to these recordings is really helpful, as you can use the personal experience of Exeter Alumni to discover more about a career and how to prepare for it.

Another beneficial feature of the programme is that the online activities require a large amount of reflection. For example, one of the activities is a values exercise. This pushes you to think about what kind of working life you want to lead. Is it important for you to have a good work-life balance? Is it important for you to be highly paid? Is it important for you to have big responsibilities? Thinking about these things will be useful once I graduate, because I will be able to ensure that I am applying for jobs suitable for my aspirations.

“Thinking about these things will be useful once I graduate, because I will be able to ensure that I am applying for jobs suitable for my aspirations.”

My advice

I believe Create Your Future it is one of those things where the more you put in, the more you get out. I encourage students to attend their session with an open mind, and work through the online activities at their own pace, without rushing. You might just learn something useful!

My Placement with Helston Climate Action

Chloe with the leaflets she helped design for Helston Climate Action

MSc Sustainable Development student, Chloe Lawson, recently undertook a placement with Helston Climate Action Group as part of the optional Independent Work-Based Learning module on the MSc programme. 

“The module lead presented us with a number of potential projects to get involved with, and the one with Helston Climate Action stood out the most to me. This is for a number of reasons, mainly though because whilst I felt I had skills aligned with this project there was also the opportunity to get involved with things I had never done before, and that challenge particularly drew me to this placement. I also strongly believed in the project aims, and supported the cause of the organisation as a whole.

“My advice to anyone pursuing a placement is to utilise the existing teams that are there to help you! This includes tutors, module leads, the Career Zone and of course the Placements team.”

Throughout my placement I was involved with a variety of work, from researching barriers for people engaging with climate change, to designing and analysing surveys to understand how much locals knew about and engaged with climate change. As well as this I helped promote the project using a variety of platforms, and created blog posts about how to join the project. Additionally I helped design leaflets to advertise this project and then helped deliver these leaflets to locals across Helston (in line with COVID-19 guidelines). The pandemic significantly affected my placement. All our meetings took place online, we had to halt leafleting when a lockdown was announced and as we couldn’t talk to a lot of people in person there was a very low sign up rate to the project.

However, despite COVID-19 I had a very positive experience in undertaking a placement, and I am so glad I choose that module, so thank you for everyone who had that possible! I also managed to get another internship as a result of one of the team members on my placement sending me the role and then providing a glowing recommendation. So there are endless possibilities of what a placement could lead to – even during a pandemic!

“…there are endless possibilities of what a placement could lead to – even during a pandemic!”

My advice to anyone pursuing a placement is to utilise the existing teams that are there to help you! This includes tutors, module leads, the Career Zone and of course the Placements team. I wouldn’t have found my placement without them. However, I would also say never be afraid to get in touch with companies yourself, remember you are a valuable asset and companies also gain something by having you there.”

My Placement at Siemens Energy

Claire Humphries is currently on a Placement Year with Siemens Energy as a Sales and Marketing Intern, alongside her Geography and Business Management (Flexible Combined Honours) Degree. At Exeter, Humanities undergraduates can get work experience across a wide range of sectors as part of their degree on programmes such as ‘with Employment Experience’ or the ‘Humanities in the Workplace’ module. If you’re a Humanities student and want to find out more about work placements head to: https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/careers/undergraduatestudents/

Claire Humphries is currently on a Placement Year with Siemens Energy as a Sales and Marketing Intern, alongside her Geography and Business Management (Flexible Combined Honours) Degree.

I chose to do a degree ‘with Employment Experience’ because I wanted to gain some real-life experience in the workplace to help me understand and get a feeling for what it’s like out in the world of business. I thought this experience would benefit me massively in helping understand what I’m interested and passionate about within a business setting going forward to help with my future career.

“I found placements by looking online, and the Career Zone also had placement adverts. The Career Zone have very useful documents to help with the process such as information on how to improve your CV and how to write a Cover Letter which I found really helpful.”

The search for placements is a tricky one and I would suggest starting sooner rather than later as lots of different companies have different closing dates and there is a lot of competition. It’s also really important to read the information about the placement properly and ensure you fill out everything required to better your chances of getting to the next stage. I found placements by looking online, and the Career Zone also had placement adverts. The Career Zone have very useful documents to help with the process such as information on how to improve your CV and how to write a Cover Letter which I found really helpful. With placement applications I found that practice helps, particularly with on-line tests, and I think it’s really important to remember that even if you get to an interview or assessment stage and don’t get beyond that, it is still a really good learning experience and you should not be disheartened as you will take that experience with you for other jobs that you apply for later on.

“I think it’s really important to remember that even if you get to an interview or assessment stage and don’t get beyond that, it is still a really good learning experience and you should not be disheartened as you will take that experience with you for other jobs that you apply for later on.”

My Placement year has been with Siemens Energy as a Sales and Marketing Intern. Despite my year being severely impacted by the Coronavirus I have gained good business experience, even if it was very different to what I was expecting when I first applied. I may not have experienced working in an office environment, but I have learnt a valuable skill in ‘working from home’ and being part of a ‘virtual office’.  My placement taught me the importance of networking within the workplace as well as the value of informal conversations and catch-ups which help maintain motivation and a healthy mindset. For me this took place in the form of weekly catch-ups with my fellow interns and also some informal team building sessions throughout the year. I also learnt a number of new business skills that I will take with me for my career including time management, project work, presentation skills and the use of different IT platforms.

“Choosing a placement as part of my degree was one of the best decisions I have taken… Having real job experience integral to my degree has helped me discover what I enjoy and also perhaps what I don’t enjoy so much in a work setting.”

Choosing a placement as part of my degree was one of the best decisions I have taken. It’s given me the opportunity to go through rigorous job application processes and it will allow me to use the work experience I have gained to help with future job applications once I graduate. Having real job experience integral to my degree has helped me discover what I enjoy and also perhaps what I don’t enjoy so much in a work setting, and this will help me tailor what modules I choose in my final year.

Alumni Profile – Matthew Grover, Interim Wheelchair Talent Pathway Manager, Lawn Tennis Association

Matthew Grover, Exeter Alumn, and current Interim Wheelchair Talent Pathway Manager, Lawn Tennis Association

Matthew Grover is Interim Wheelchair Talent Pathway Manager, Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). He Graduated from the University of Exeter, St Luke’s Campus, in MSc Sport and Health Sciences, 2017. Read about how he uses his experience to make difference, and where his ambitions will take him in the future.

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

Since leaving Exeter I have gone on to work at two organisations, Tennis Foundation and now, the LTA. Within the Tennis Foundation I was Disability Development Coordinator where I was responsible for the following:

  • Held to account for all general and specialist enquiries for inclusion and accessibility involving disabled people.
  • Trained LTA Services Team that increased confidence with disability enquiries, reducing personal engagement of ‘general’ enquiries by 57%.
  • Monitored and evaluated national participation metrics, producing integral reports outlining findings by increasing validity and reliability. Developed an effective monitoring plan for venues, resulting in discrepancies reducing by 44%.
  • Led on daily invoicing and monitoring of expenditure in line with budget expectations c. £451k.
  • Delivered stringent and bespoke disability workshops and events that educated venues on reasonable adjustments for disabled people to be included in sessions and developed opportunities.
  • Key stakeholder management with national and regional partners, such as: British Blind Sport and Enable Leisure and Culture that impacted in positive change of increased participation for disabled people.

Through my time at the Tennis Foundation, one of my biggest achievements was working within a team that collectively engaged over 12,600 people with a disability playing tennis at least once a month across wheelchair, visual impairment, learning disability, deaf or hard of hearing and mental health categories. As a result, the Open Court disability development programme is one of the largest disability specific development sport programmes in the UK.

“Through my time at the Tennis Foundation, one of my biggest achievements was working within a team that collectively engaged over 12,600 people with a disability playing tennis at least once a month across wheelchair, visual impairment, learning disability, deaf or hard of hearing and mental health categories.”

During my time at the Tennis Foundation and coming towards the end of my first year we were notified of a merge of activities between the Tennis Foundation and LTA to unify tennis, which ultimately resulted in my role being made redundant. At this time, I therefore had to go through the stage of reapplying for a position within a new team, new structure and a new organisation. I was unsure of my career path at this time as I lost a role I was passionate about given my personal and professional involvement in disability tennis. However, I looked ahead and saw the benefits that this will give for me to work in performance sport, as without understanding the landscape at grassroots; it is hard to transfer into elite through knowledge at every age and stage of the pathway. As a result, I was offered a role as LTA Support Assistant.

As part of this role, I succeeded in the following:

  • Held to account for co-ordination and customer support of all LTA Participation Directorate activities with aims of increasing fan engagement and opportunities to participate in tennis.
  • Management and co-ordination of LTA learning disability and visually impaired tennis festivals; working with colleagues, partners, clubs and charities with results displaying an 18% increase in participation.
  • Co-ordinate and operationalise the LTA Open Court disability tennis programme including; monitoring and evaluation, coach/venue workshops and providing legal advice that increases inclusion and accessibility for disabled people in tennis. Analysis has displayed a 16% increase in participation.
  • Experienced delivery of forums and workshops that drives opportunities and sharing ideas of best practice aligned to the LTA’s vision of Tennis Opened Up to increase engagement.

An exciting project I led on was an Inclusive Tennis Festival that was hosted at the world famous Queen’s Club, London. This festival created an environment to show that tennis can be played by anyone and break down barriers of tennis being seen as an ‘elitist sport’. Within this festival we had over 100 participants, a 44% increase from the previous year with participants from all disabilities of wheelchair, visual impairment, deaf, learning disabilities showing that tennis can be truly inclusive and diverse. Without this experience, I would not be in the role I am today as Wheelchair Pathway Manager. I have always worked in tennis and had the ambition of working in the elite level, so my current role within the LTA is perfect and an opportunity to progress my career where I would love to be a Performance Director.

“I have always worked in tennis and had the ambition of working in the elite level, so my current role within the LTA is perfect and an opportunity to progress my career where I would love to be a Performance Director.”

As part of my current role, I get to be heavily involved with players on the elite side of tennis, with responsibilities including the following:

  • Leading on delivery of Regional and National-Age Group programmes for high potential junior athletes.
  • Leading on annual (evidence-based) talent selection policies and processes for Regional and National-Age Group programmes.
  • Ensure new talent selection policies and processes comply with current and future classification eligibility requirements for Paralympic Games and Grand Slams.
  • Support the production and consistent implementation of a wheelchair player development curriculum.
  • Leading on evidence-based quarterly review of Talent Programme players’ progress against their Individual Development Plans (IDPs).
  • Collaborate and work in partnership with the LTA Participation Team, Sport England, UK Sport and BPA to lead the design and delivery of innovative talent attraction campaigns to attract juniors into tennis.

The attributes and responsibilities above really excite me to progress in my career to find our next Grand Slam and Paralympic champions.

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

I chose this career as I have always been involved in sport from a very young age, especially tennis. Having that personal experience from watching tennis live at Wimbledon really gave me a buzz to continue in the sport that has given so much to me as a person. What I enjoy most about my work is no day is the same. Through my role I get to work across many departments which people do not realise. For example on the performance side, I work closely with strength and conditioning coaches to ensure players have an appropriate programme to compete at the highest level, physios to ensure athletes are always healthy and fit, and psychologists to help them in their right frame of mind to compete at the highest level. Other areas that I get to be involved with is finance from managing budgets, marketing with a focus around campaigns and major events in managing a players programme and competition schedule. Finally, one of the massive benefits of my role is I get to travel nationally and internationally. For example, I have been very fortunate to travel to Australia to support the players and team at the Australian Open and warm-up events prior to this.

“I work closely with strength and conditioning coaches to ensure players have an appropriate programme to compete at the highest level, physios to ensure athletes are always healthy and fit, and psychologists to help them in their right frame of mind to compete at the highest level.”

What did you enjoy most about your time at University, and what was the biggest highlight?

The thing I most enjoyed about the course was the opportunities to get involved in different projects with my friends. Also, the support I received during my time there from fellow students, PhD students, tutors and lecturers. All together opened up avenues for me to progress in my personal and professional development which resulted in me achieving my biggest highlight which was gaining my Masters Degree, with Merit.

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

In conjunction with my Masters studies, I was University Tennis Coordinator where I looked after the development and student programme for Exeter University Tennis Club. I would say the biggest skill I learned during this time was time management. Being able to manage work and study was critical in achieving my degree and positive improvements of the student programme where tennis participation increased by 5% over two years. Other skills I learned that were directly impacted by my studies where I have now transferred them into my current role are research methods through analysis of work, psychology – working closely with our sports psychologist and strength and conditioning to manage players’ programmes.

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

The biggest advice I would give is to get involved with as many things as possible from grassroots to professional sport. Doing this will expand your knowledge and stand you out from other candidates that may be applying for the same position.

“The biggest advice I would give is to get involved with as many things as possible from grassroots to professional sport. Doing this will expand your knowledge and stand you out from other candidates that may be applying for the same position.”

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to now develop a comprehensive wheelchair pathway strategy for the next two Paralympic cycles of Paris 2024 and LA 2028. This is to ensure we are the leading nation in elite wheelchair tennis creating a pathway for champions, which makes Wheelchair Tennis relevant, accessible and welcoming to high potential athletes. Ultimately the end goal is to become a Performance Director at a leading NGB in the UK or globally.

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