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.

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.

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/