For my professional profile, you can head to my LinkedIn, my CV page or my about.me page; however, I wanted to document some of the stages of my life and career so far and explain the ups, and the downs along the way…
When I was at school, I fell into the category of people who never had a set idea on what they wanted to do. The teachers would say it to ‘keep your options open’ so over the course of GCSEs and A Levels I studied a range of subjects, eventually achieving AAB in Geography, Biology and Maths. I’d always been really sporty and became interested in the human body, but I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted to do something like Physiotherapy or go the whole hog and do Medicine. I settled on a middle ground of a Biomedical Science degree and, if I’m honest, I picked the university I liked rather than the degree subject!
After a semester studying Biomedical Science at Newcastle University I realised something wasn’t quite clicking. I wasn’t as passionate about the subject as I thought and I ruled out a medical career as I was just way more squeamish than I realised! However, I had to make a big decision as to what to do next. The options were to try a more human biology or physiotherapy based degree at a different university (as Newcastle didn’t offer those courses) or to make a more radical switch to an unrelated subject, but one that I knew I could get a good degree in. I chose the latter and changed to study Human Geography (a mix of Sociology, Politics and Economics),
staying at Newcastle.
This turned out to be a great decision as I not only really enjoyed the subject area, but I achieved first class honours and my dissertation got nominated for a national award! I learnt that it’s OK to change your mind, as long as you’re doing something that you know will pay off.
The other thing to note about my time at university was the opportunity I had to play lacrosse internationally. This taught me about pressure and teamwork in a whole different way and is definitely something I talk about with passion.
After I’d decided to change to Geography, I needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my year before I would return the following September to start the course properly. I hadn’t taken a gap year like most of my school friends and felt I was missing out. So, I went home from Newcastle in around March and worked at a pub to earn enough money to fly out to Asia to join them. I was lucky enough to get the best of both worlds: starting university and meeting so many new people, and travelling South East Asia for two months in the summer! Since that trip I haven’t lost the travelling bug and try to go on a trip every couple of years, most recently to Indonesia but I also went to Brazil after I graduated which was incredible.
The hardest thing about applying for jobs as a graduate is the vicious circle of work experience: you need experience to get the job, but you need the job to get the experience. It’s really tough on the graduate job market so I did a couple of things to try to help myself. First, I signed up for the Career Development Module at Newcastle. This was a fantastic module that counted towards my final mark but allowed me to go and get relevant experience. I chose to work for Teenage Cancer Trust as a fundraiser which added valuable skills to my CV in teamwork, organisation and planning, and stake
holder management. The second thing I did was to use the university’s resources to get a work placement. They offered a small bursary for unpaid internships within local businesses. I interviewed and was offered a position at County Durham’s Sport’s Department as a Social Media Officer. Here, I gained my first taste of the world of digital and was responsible for running their social media channels, and coming up with an engagement strategy.
I’m so glad I went to go and speak to the careers department at university as it was these two opportunities that allowed me to gain a proper internship once I’d graduated in 2013, this time as a Social Media Analyst with Barclays.
During my internship at Barclays I gained a real insight into the working world, how companies functioned and just general business etiquette! However, working in finance was still too narrow for me and I learnt I love variety in a job. I began to research and apply for graduate consultant roles and secured a position as a Business Consultant with IBM.
I joined IBM in October of 2013 and in my two years there my feet barely touched the ground! It was an incredible role where I learnt so much about technology, business and finally understood why ‘commercial acumen’ is so important on every graduate job application!
I found my interest at IBM lay in Customer Experience and Digital. At the time I joined there was a big shift towards companies wanted to become more customer-centric and use more digital technologies such as mobile apps and social media. IBM were responding to this by creating a digital agency within the company that would help clients through this transformation. My favourite projects were ones where I would be working with clients in workshops and interactive prototyping sessions helping them to plan out their future customer experiences.
Over my time in the company I got to work with some very talented people and with some very cool technologies (as well as the chance to travel!) however in the end it was just too big and too broad and I wanted to hone in on some more specialist skills. I had completed a qualification in Digital Marketing and began to look for some agencies where I could develop the analytical side of my skill set.
Digital Marketing Analytics
One of the parts of the Digital Marketing Qualification I did was in digital performance. The course was sponsored by Google and so I was keen to learn the ins and outs of Google Analytics, and how you could use data to improve brand and customer experiences. I joined a small agency and spent an intensive few months there learning all there is to know about website performance, social media analytics and search interest analysis.
Back to consulting!
So, with the analytics string to my bow, I’m now back working in consultancy, this time at Sparks Grove, which is the experience design division of management consultancy North Highland. Here, I help clients with everything and anything to do with improving experiences – be it UX, CX or employee experience. Most recently I’ve been working with personas and profiles and conducting user research to help my clients built better services.
So, to wrap this up… I may only be a few years into my career but hopefully as this post and my CV shows, I learn a lot along the way. If I could go back and speak to my younger self at school I would say not to worry about not knowing what you want to do, everything always falls into place if you enjoy what you’re doing each day and you’re surrounded by the right people! 🙂