By Joe O'Brien, on 22 September 2021
Interview with Csongor Máthé, UCL alum. Written by Sue-Zhen Yong, Work Related Learning Officer at UCL Careers.
Following on our series of alumni interviews, we continue to shine the spotlight on start-ups. This time, we sit down with Csongor Máthé who shares his experience studying at UCL as well as offering insight into his career journey so far. Having dipped his toes into the start-up world during his studies, Csongor was keen to find a role in FinTech that he was passionate about, leading him to join Jumpstart’s start-up graduate programme. Last September, he started working as a Product Analyst at TreasurySpring, a FinTech start-up that offers innovative cash management solutions to corporate clients.
1. What did you study at UCL? And what did you do outside of your studies?
I studied a BA in History, Politics and Economics, specialising in Economics and Business.
I built up a German tutoring business from scratch, teaching more than 30 students. Additionally, I sat on the UCL FinTech society committee as their Events Executive, acted as the Hall Representative for my university hall as well as played for UCL’s Football club. To further my interest in financial markets, I also joined the MFC Equity investment club.
2. Did you engage with the services or events delivered by UCL Careers during your time here? What service/event did you find the most valuable?
I found the job and internship listings on the myUCLCareers jobs board particularly useful. Being able to access vetted job opportunities in one place has simplified an otherwise complicated process, offering access to exciting jobs and companies one may have otherwise not necessarily would have been exposed to.
3. What does your career path look like? What motivated you to pursue this line of work? How did you get from UCL to where you are today?
Having always been very passionate about start-ups (even writing my dissertation on start-up fundraising), I craved learning new skills in a stimulating, high-paced environment and I thought a young start-up would be a great place to start. Working at TreasurySpring has exceeded all my (already high) expectations – every day brings a new challenge and the work I do is incredibly varied and exciting. In my role, I work directly with the Chief Product Officer on originating new financial products for our clients to invest in. Whilst my focus is within Product, I also have great exposure to all parts of the business, including sales, ops and tech.
Looking back on my studies, the interdisciplinary nature of my degree has taught me to understand and utilise new concepts quickly. Studying the combination of history, politics and economics has developed my critical thinking, which is especially important at a start-up where you are constantly encouraged to think about how things could be improved. The business and finance modules from my degree also proved to be a good foundation of knowledge when starting out in my role.
4. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your career so far?
Being a self-starter is highly valued in a start-up like TreasurySpring – there is no formal training week, and you start doing your job on the first day. It is all about learning as you go, which can feel challenging sometimes, but you can learn and progress very quickly. Whilst true for all careers, it certainly is for start-ups: What you put in is what you get out.
5. How have you found working in a start-up/SME during the pandemic? What are currently the most topical issues of your industry?
Due to the pandemic, I’ve worked from home for nearly a year and only met my colleagues for the first time a few weeks ago. Although home working is certainly unusual at the start, it has worked surprisingly well for me. That said, I look forward to being more in the office and interacting with colleagues and clients.
Over the last decade, money markets have undergone unprecedented change, which has been accelerated since the start of the pandemic. Two key trends that have shaped the cash management industry during the pandemic have been the digital revolution within treasury and the growth in demand for ESG (standing for environmental, social and governance).
6. What does a normal working day at TreasurySpring look like for you?
I typically start work at 8am from the comfort of my home (or more fittingly, bedroom, office and gym). To help prep for our daily team meetings, I read the major news on financial news sites like Bloomberg and Financial Times and subsequently make notes on the most relevant macroeconomic events. On an average day, I liaise with members of the team and with bank or corporate clients. Other daily tasks can range vastly from data analysis to producing marketing materials to doing research on our product targets.
7. What is the most rewarding part of your work? Equally, what is the most challenging part of your work?
Calls with bank and corporate clients are one of the most exciting parts of my job as I get to attend meetings with incredibly high-profile clients – something that started happening just a few weeks after starting my role. This level of exposure, coupled with the high responsibility you get early on, is simply unique for an entry-level graduate position. As a result, it is very motivating that I can see the impact I make every single day.
One of the main challenges (and benefits) is that the learning curve at a start-up is much steeper than at larger businesses. Whilst big corporations typically have established ways to do everything, there are a lot of firsts at a start-up that require figuring out the ‘what’ and ‘how’ quickly. Being exposed to new problems every day, it is important to be able to take small, calculated steps, move fast and seek constant feedback and discussion.
8. Finally, what advice would you give to students and recent graduates who are looking to move into your area of work?
I think it’s critical to find a role that you’re really passionate about and everything else will come (more) naturally. If you’re after stability and consistency, think twice about joining a start-up. If, however, you’re looking for an exciting challenge that beats large corporations’ graduate schemes hands down for creativity, fun and motivation then it might be worth applying to Jumpstart’s graduate programme!
Interested in learning more about getting a job at a start-up? UCL Careers are hosting an Industry Update Session with Jumpstart on Thursday 7 October, 6-7pm. Register your spot to learn first-hand from the people running UK’s only start-up graduate programme on relevant skills and knowledge you’ll need to gain to land a job at a start-up and the general sector trends to watch out for.
By Joe O'Brien, on 22 September 2021
Interview with Maia Gummer, UCL alum. Written by Sue-Zhen Yong, Work Related Learning Officer at UCL Careers.
Ever wondered what it’s like working at a start-up? To this day, more and more start-ups are starting to recognise the intrinsic value hiring students and graduates can bring to their businesses. That said, the world of start-ups can seem like unfamiliar territory to students.
Meet UCL alumnus Maia Gummer – Maia began her BSc in Human Sciences at UCL in 2016 before pursuing an MSc in Space Physiology and Health. During her time at university, she was a scientific contributor for a number of student newspapers, worked abroad, served the RAF as a volunteer reserve, and co-founded a life science research team that has gone on to present their work internationally. After graduation she joined Jumpstart, the UK’s only start-up graduate programme and started working at Quell as the first employee, a fitness gaming company who recently celebrated their one year anniversary!
We spoke to Maia about how her time at UCL has shaped her career trajectory along with a glimpse into what it’s like working at a start-up and top tips for securing a job at a start-up.
- What does your career path look like? What motivated you to pursue this line of work? How did you get from UCL to where you are today?
Studying Human Sciences at UCL tapped into my real love for learning new things and enabled me to develop a broad skill set, exposing me to a wide variety of disciplines—life sciences, politics, philosophy, and even architecture! The interdisciplinary nature helped me become increasingly agile and adaptable, where I had to show initiative, pick things up quickly, think critically, and become comfortable with ambiguity.
After finishing my studies, I joined a start-up graduate scheme at Jumpstart that trained me up and helped me land my current job at Quell! Start-ups were one of the few career options where every day looked different, and I could draw from the skills I developed at UCL and learn from true innovators, in a fast-paced environment that challenges me to solve interesting problems every day.
At Quell, it’s been incredibly gratifying to see your efforts have a meaningful impact on the business. Like every company, we face our fair share of challenges, but each time we overcome something, it’s celebrated across the board. Everyone feels its impact. Equally, the reverse is true. It’s difficult to keep all areas of the business moving forward with the same momentum, and challenges are shouldered by everyone.
2. Did you engage with the services or events delivered by UCL Careers during your time here?
I didn’t actually engage with UCL Careers until my final year! I had no idea where I saw myself after graduation, especially since Human Sciences is an interdisciplinary degree, and each student takes a vastly different path after university. It wasn’t until I attended a careers seminar in my third year that I realised how many options I had. A generalist skillset was shown to be a strength, even in a specialist world, so I began to look at careers where I could wear many hats.
3. What does a normal working day at Quell look like for you?
Each day is different. Currently, I’m taking lead on insight generation—planning and executing our first-ever user test. This involves creating and validating a testing protocol, acquiring subjects and researchers, and liaising with different stakeholders before giving the green light to begin. I’ve also been able to use my scientific background, specifically my MSc in Physiology, to advise on exercise best practices in design. I develop and deliver the tests that validate the product and find ways to endorse our work through third parties, such as health charities and scientific advisors.
4. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your career so far?
If you’re asked to take on an unfamiliar task, lean in to the opportunity. I’ve doubted my ability and experience in the past, but I’ve realised how much more you learn from your mistakes than your wins. It’s a steep learning curve, but you’ll gain valuable experience in a shockingly short amount of time.
5. How have you found working in a start-up/SME during the pandemic? What are currently the most topical issues of your industry? How do you see this growing in the future?
It’s been a mixed bag! On the one hand, I was able to knuckle down, bond with the team, and adjust to working life with minimal distractions. On the other hand, the volatile state of global affairs heightened the uncertainty you already face every day in a start-up.
That said, I’m fortunate enough to be working in an industry that has thrived during the pandemic, and if the predictions come to be true, then this continued growth will be sustainable. Gyms, team sports, and hospital visits came to an abrupt halt in a year where health and fitness became more important to us than ever. HealthTech and FitTech became the answer for many people, and the companies in the sector flourished as a result.
6. And finally, what advice would you give to students and recent graduates who are looking to move into your area of work?
Take time at university to really understand the way that you think, learn, and work as well as your strengths and weaknesses – start-ups offer a diversity of thought and there’s a role for everyone. Also, gain experience outside of your studies that demonstrates your proactivity and ability to overcome challenges. In my experience, those are the two most important qualities that you’ll need to work in a start-up.
Interested in learning more about getting a job at a start-up? UCL Careers are hosting an Industry Update Session with Jumpstart on Thursday 7 October, 18:00 – 19:00. Register your spot to learn first-hand from the people running UK’s only start-up graduate programme on relevant skills and knowledge you’ll need to gain to land a job at a start-up and the general sector trends to watch out for.
By uczjsdd, on 23 August 2021
It’s been a tough old year and a half, hasn’t it? However…and I don’t want to jinx things…many of us are finally now experiencing some form of return to normality. And I’m sure we can all agree that the greatest, shining, beautiful, symbol of this has been the return of Love Island to our screens.
But what is Love Island without its now-traditional accompanying careers advice blog (here’s a recap of 2017, 2018, and 2019’s)? Nothing, of course. The producers have a lot to thank us for. I’m sure you’ve already spotted them yourselves, but if not, below I summarise the three biggest career lessons from Love Island 2021.
There’s often a way back
Toby’s journey from barely intelligible to blooming philosopher has more to teach us than just the maturity-inducing effects of a stint in Majorca. Toby hopped from Kaz to Chloe to Abi to Mary, seemingly burning bridges without looking back. Until he did look back, at Chloe, and they re-built their bridge to potentially (fingers crossed) become the winners of the show (I’m writing this before the final).
In careers, it can be tempting to avoid trying something new and appealing for fear of burning bridges. Every sector is different, but if this is your concern, you can usually reassure yourself by asking around about the possibility of returning to your particular field if your new route doesn’t work out, and by seeking examples of people who’ve done it before you.
Just as Toby had some grovelling to do, you may have to work hard to convince employers you want to re-enter the field, and you may have to come in at the same level at which you left. But more often than not, in careers as in love: if it’s meant to be, you’ll find a way back.
Compatibility is complicated
Faye is an out-of-control climate-change-related forest fire, and Teddy’s a calm pool of healing water. And yet they seem to work. Conversely, with their shared love of running, science, and feeling clever, being similar on paper did nothing to help Priya and Brett avoid the ick. So maybe romantic compatibility isn’t, like, a thing we can totally predict?
The same is true in careers. People often want a “list” of jobs that will match them perfectly. And indeed, online questionnaires like Prospects Planner and job.mi will generate such lists for you. So give these a whirl, but don’t be too surprised if you’re not in love with – and perhaps even occasionally given the ick by – their top suggestions.
We, humans, are complex, and so are our careers. Look around any workplace and you’ll see most jobs can be tackled in a variety of ways by a variety of people. So view any job recommendation list as simply a starting point for your career thinking, and check out our careers essentials online resources, including “Your future and how to work towards it”, to learn about other ways to explore your options.
Logic is great, but intuition can be good too
Poor, sweet Liberty. Her head was completely gone, and then so was she. Despite Jake’s protestations and her love for him, she ended their relationship and left the villa early. As she repeatedly kept telling everyone, she had to be true to herself and trust her feelings.
Recent global events have left us a little like Liberty on Love Island: in an uncertain and unstable environment. How can we navigate a career in such conditions? Well, just as I assume Liberty did, perhaps we should learn from the findings of Dave Snowden’s IBM-based research. Snowden’s Cynefin framework states that in chaotic scenarios, an element of “sensing” and trusting ones intuition becomes important.
So if you’ve got a good or bad gut feeling about a career path, we certainly advise you to apply logic, and do your research to check any assumptions you’ve made are correct. But as with love, logic isn’t the only factor at play in career decisions, especially during tough times. Sometimes it’s right to trust your instincts.
If you’re struggling with any element of your career thinking, book a one-to-one appointment with one of our careers consultants.
By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 23 June 2021
Read time: 5 minutes
Written by George Barker, Medicine MBBS BSc, 2021
We sat down with award-winning UCL student (soon to be Medicine MBBS BSc graduate!) George Barker to discuss how his experiences with UCL Careers Extra has empowered his achievements while studying at UCL, including winning TargetJobs 2021 LGBT+ Undergraduate of the Year Award.
1.) Where are you from?
I grew up on the Wirral, in the North West of England.
2.) Why did you choose UCL?
I had visited London before coming to UCL on a short holiday and absolutely loved it. It’s the centre where so much happens in the UK, which is both an excellent thing and can also be a bit daunting when you come from somewhere so far away up North. And I had to make a decision, is that something I want to move closer to? I wanted to move to a new city and I wanted to move to a bigger city. I wanted that city to be global and multicultural, have opportunity and have a community that I would feel welcomed by. So I set about thinking about where I wanted to go to university. I didn’t quite feel that Oxbridge was for me (even though the school perhaps tried to push us in that direction). UCL is a research intensive Russell Group university in the heart of London, it teaches subjects from a wide variety of faculties so you can meet people from all sorts of backgrounds. I applied to some other London universities but UCL was very much my top choice. Also, the course structure was one that worked better for me, and there was the integrated BSc that all students get to do (which isn’t the case in all universities). The hospitals that UCL is affiliated with are some of the best in the UK, with specialists from Europe and the world, and is also research intensive. I was interested in being involved in academia and not just learning to become a doctor but how to be a clinician scientist as well. There’s also a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, plus the fact UCL offers full body dissection, which I still think is the best way to learn anatomy.
3.) Have you always wanted to pursue medicine as a career?
I think there was a time in school when I was strongly considering a career in astrophysics. I’d always been interested in space and physics and thoroughly enjoyed it through secondary school. And then I started to gain more of an understanding of health care and veterinary care and working as a doctor or a dentist, and eventually, after doing some work experience within a clinical skills centre at my local hospital, decided to pursue medicine.
However, I was able to combine the space interest a little bit. In my third year I did an integrated BSc in Medical Sciences with Physiology. I did a module in extreme environments, which included space medicine and how medicine is important clinically for astronauts and cosmonauts. It’s that Applied Physiology, where you take the body and put it in an abnormal environment that I find quite interesting. So that interest in physics and space is still very much there.
4.) What extra experiences have you undertaken during your studies?
In addition to your integrated year you get to pick in your final few weeks an area of medicine you’d like to spend more time on, to gain a deeper understanding and expose yourself to a specialty that you haven’t done before. So I decided to do half of mine in anaesthetics and then spend two weeks down in Plymouth in this regional Hyperbaric Centre for the South West and South Wales. We treat diving emergencies and give them emergency recompression.
I’ve also been involved in other things outside my studies – charity and volunteering. I volunteered with Sexpression UK for 7 years in total during my studies. It’s a peer-led, student-led, UK wide charity that provides relationship and sex education sessions to secondary school children. We go out and teach informative, non-biased, inclusive, comprehensive relationship and sex education. When I was at school sex education was usually taught by a teacher who was not overly enthusiastic, and with the content not really being applicable to me or including me in the way I would have wanted, I came away with more questions than answers. And when your questions aren’t answered at a time when you are young, trying to work out who you are, it’s really difficult. You don’t know where to turn to get accurate, correct information that’s also supporting you, not saying horrible and nasty things. So, I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen to other people – hence my involvement in Sexpression UK. I was heavily involved at UCL, running the branch, then I became the Externals Director and later the National Director of the charity itself. I became a Trustee of the charity as well – my term finished in September 2020.
That was an incredibly interesting experience that I never thought that I would get at university, and there’s lots of things about coming to UCL that I would never have thought I’d end up doing. But I’m ever so glad I did.
5.) How has the Careers Extra team helped you?
Sexpression UK and charity work has always been important to me but it’s a small charity, with no paid members of staff, just students volunteering their time. Trying to balance that with medicine and balance it against needing some sort of funding in order to live in London can be a real challenge, especially when during the summer I was volunteering and didn’t have the time to do paid work. UCL has a variety of different ways to support people. The UCL Careers Extra Bursary provided me with financial assistance over the summer. Additionally, I’ve used the UCL Careers appointments for medical students to talk about different opportunities in medicine and some of the more non-traditional routes through medical training. I found that to be a real benefit in trying to navigate through quite a complex training structure.
6.) Are you a member of any student societies at UCL?
Yes, for 7 years, I’ve been part of the MDs comedy revue, the medical school’s comedy sketch troupe. We do sketch and song and dance about medicine, hospitals, UCL and everything else. I guess some of the highlights would be we went to Edinburgh and sold out a show there and got nominated for an award. We’ve done some collaborative shows and we actually officially reopened the Bloomsbury theatre twice. I think it’s really important to have a creative outlet, a way to express yourself artistically, and I found it a wonderful way to relax with like-minded, creative people. It’s good fun and I think if we’re having fun, then the audience probably has a bit of fun as well.
7.) How did the LGBT+ award come about?
I had heard about the award before but had never applied. I started applying this year, just to get more information about it. I was hesitating about it – the prize was a law internship, so I assumed it would go to a law undergraduate or someone else from a non-STEM background. So I thought maybe there was no point in applying. Then I got a phone call from the people at Targetjobs and they reassured me it was designed to be for everyone. I had to do an online personality test, then an online logic assessment, then there was a virtual crystal maze social event, after which there was an assessment centre with two stations – the first one a competency based interview and the second one a case study. I didn’t hear anything for a while, then found out I was in the final, which was a nice surprise at a time when there weren’t many nice things going on in the world and most of my days were filled with revision for my finals. And the day after my final written paper there was an online awards ceremony, hosted by Rachel Riley from Countdown. I tuned in and found I’d won, much to my surprise!
So that’s how it came about and how I have acquired a law internship. It’s not something I’ve explored before, but one of the things I’ve enjoyed, both within and outside of UCL, is doing different things I wouldn’t have otherwise done. It’s run by Clifford Chance, and a donation was also made to Sexpression UK by Clifford Chance, which was really good news when so many voluntary organisations and community groups are really struggling in terms of raising donations.
8.) What single achievement are you most proud of from your time at UCL?
There’s two – academic and non-academic. Academic wise it was securing an Academic Foundation Programme offer, which is a relatively competitive combined clinical and academic job for two years and that’s kind of my first job as a doctor in a location I’m really happy with and rotations I’m looking forward to. I think that as a working class, first generation student, I’m not the kind of person that is normally proud of their achievements (it’s maybe not a very northern thing), but I am really, really made up that I’ve been able to do that and to show that even though the odds were really not in my favour, if you put the graft in and work at it you can do it. Having done that means a lot to me.
In terms of non-academic, I think it’s confidence. If you had told me when I left school that by the time I finish university I’d have had the confidence to get up on a West End stage, perform to a West End audience, singing, in a dress, doing solos, I would have absolutely laughed (or run away). I ended up taking some singing lessons supported by a bursary from the medical school – it’s called the Heller bursary to do something artistic and learn something artistic. So I’ve been having singing lessons and I just got up on stage and sang my heart out. I think the story there is to have the confidence to do something outside your comfort zone, learn a completely new skill. That confidence is something that I did not have coming into university and apparently now I do. And doing that and making people laugh, I think is very important, especially in times like these.
9.) We’ve talked about what you’re planning to do when you graduate, but you’ve also mentioned it’s quite a complex career path. Tell me a little bit more about your plans.
There are a number of training paths in medicine that you can go in at one end and pop out the other end. For me, it’s not something I want to rush my way through to complete as fast as possible, I’d rather do interesting opportunities. I will probably take at least one year out, perhaps a couple to pursue interesting opportunities inside and outside of medicine. I also want to travel, which I’ve not had the opportunity to do. There are interesting opportunities in terms of extreme medicine, I’d also like to practise somewhere that isn’t London. In terms of specialty training, I think the two that stand out would be anaesthetics and sexual health and HIV but that’s by no means set in stone and I’m happy for that to change. You start to understand the topics you like and the topics you don’t. It’s also important to know more about the jobs I will like, and find out which fits best for me and my life.
10.) What one piece of advice would you give to a new student just starting at UCL?
UCL is full of so many different opportunities, be that through your course, outside or your course, through UCL itself, through the student’s union – make the most of them and go out and try and find out more about them. There are so many it can be difficult to find what’s available. When you have done that, try something, give it a go. Being a student is the time to find out what you like, what you don’t like, what you enjoy doing. And UCL is able to offer so much of that. It doesn’t have to go brilliantly, but it is a time of your life to try new experiences – you may end up surprising yourself. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new.
By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 17 June 2021
Read time: 2 minutes
Written by Tom Bilby, Marketing Executive, The Accountancy Partnership
Right, let’s get this straight – being a successful accountant isn’t all about tricky mental maths and crunching numbers.
Sure, numerical skills are an important part of the role, but there’s more to accountancy than working out percentages without the help of a calculator.
Fear not though! Attending university means it’s likely you’ve already got an entire arsenal of tools under your belt that should certainly not be overlooked or undervalued.
Here are 7 signs that a career in accountancy might just be your cup of tea:
1. You’re strict about hitting deadlines
If ‘deadline-crusher’ is your (double-barrelled) middle name, you’re halfway there already. As an accountant, you’ll be dealing with tight deadlines on a regular basis. Organisation and the ability to prioritise whilst staying cool, calm and collected under pressure are all vital accountancy attributes.
2. You take an analytical approach to problems
When faced with a task or problem, an accountant needs to be able to switch into analytical mode in order to navigate an effective solution. This is something university students are well-practised in thanks to all that lateral thinking and research.
3. You know how to budget and save cash
Were you the envy of your peers for being able to budget your student loan down to the last penny every month? No? Either way, there are lessons there that you now have experience of, whether you’re a budgeting wonder or not. That skill will serve you well when it comes to offering clients advice on how to nurture their cash flow, spend wisely and cut costs efficiently.
4. You ain’t afraid of no test
Ongoing exams come hand-in-hand with a career in accounting but hey, as a (former) student, you must be well-versed in the world of studying and revision by now. If you don’t mind another few years of qualification-chasing, you’ll be just fine.
5. You have Dragon’s Den on series record
Although you might not want to own your own business, it does help to have an entrepreneurial streak, or at least an empathy for it. That way you’ll understand your clients and help them identify ways in which they can grow their own ventures.
6. No mistake flies under your radar
A major part of an accountant’s job is helping clients reduce the risk of errors across their accounts and bookkeeping. So, you’ll need a keen eye for errors and anomalies, and the ability to be proactive in putting them right.
7. You have an endless supply of patience
As an accountant, you’ll spend a fair amount of time communicating with clients about their financial situation and the status of their business. At times, this might be a high-pressure role as clients come to you with stress or worries about money.
Sometimes what is second nature to you can be quite complex to a non-accountant, so when having these conversations, you’ll need to be patient and willing to explain things multiple times if needs be.
You ready for it?
Do some, or all of these, sound just like you? If so, it might be time to start seriously considering hopping onto the very first rung of the accountancy career ladder!
Don’t worry if that ladder starts to wobble, there are plenty of resources and channels of support out there to help you keep your balance and carry-on ascending.
The Accountancy Partnership is an online accounting firm for small businesses. Learn more about our approach to changing the profile of modern accounting!
By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 10 June 2021
Read time: 1 minute
Written by Victoria Abbott, Recruitment & Selection Advisor, UCL Careers
My name is Victoria, and as another academic year draws to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months here at UCL Careers and to say a really big thank you to you, our students and graduates! It’s been an absolute pleasure to interact and engage with so many of you across a variety of virtual platforms, appointments and events this year.
It’s definitely been a challenging time to say the least, but in an amazing commitment to career readiness, personal development and employability skills acquisition, you’ve attended a mammoth 5,806 application advice and short guidance appointments combined. Plus, these figures are reflective of the beginning of the lockdown period in the UK (March 2020), which is a further testament to your resilience, drive and determination.
I would like to say a personal thank you to every student and graduate that I have engaged with this year, both in one-to-one appointments, interactive small group sessions and larger careers seminars. As someone living by myself during lockdown, you’ve all kept me company during our remote appointments this year, and it has been inspiring to see your applications, career plans and confidence developing across the ensuing months.
I asked my fellow Recruitment & Selection Advice team members for their thoughts on the past 12 months too:
Susanne: Over the last 15 months, it’s been great to be able to continue supporting students with their applications remotely through our 1:1 appointments on Teams, as well as continuing to run our small group sessions online. During our small group sessions, it has been encouraging to see students collaborating with their peers in this new environment, leaving sessions feeling more empowered to be resilient and continue moving forward with their applications.
Erin: When I joined the UCL Careers team in April, I was amazed to see the strong engagement from students in 1:1 advice appointments and Career Essentials sessions. Operating in this virtual environment has proven the unwavering enthusiasm of all students, both when it comes to their continued drive to perform within group settings and on their applications.
Don’t forget, UCL Careers is still here to support you across the summer months as well. Whether you’re exploring your options, writing applications or want support with preparing for live or recorded video interviews, our range of different appointment types will give you tailored one-to-one support.
I’ll leave you today with one final reflection; we may all be experts now on digital platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams, but will we ever get used to the near-daily phrase “we can’t hear you; you’re still on mute?”
By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 9 June 2021
Read time: 3 minutes
Written by Elena Raimondi, UCL Alumni.
I graduated from UCL with an MPhil in Philosophy in March 2021. With a background in Philosophy, by the time I graduated I was eager to gain as much hands-on work experience as possible.
I craved learning new skills and practical knowledge in a business environment and I figured that a start-up would be a great place to start. I joined TidyChoice as a Human Resources intern and it has proven to be an incredible learning experience. In this blog post, I want to share my experience so that it may encourage more graduates to join start-ups.
I am sure that you have heard about the dynamic London start-up ecosystem, a universe of fast-growing companies born of a single brilliant idea and fueled by the cutting-edge work of small but close-knit teams. It is easy to get hooked on these companies’ vibrant culture and success stories, and so I did.
My learning experience
Within my first couple of weeks, I have become an integral part of the team. My colleagues rely on me for recruiting and onboarding new professionals, and my suggestions to improve our HR processes have already been implemented. It was always going to be a good learning opportunity, but I did not expect the learning curve to be this steep. I have learnt so much so fast, and there is still so much more to experience.
Reasons to intern at a start-up
Here are some of the reasons why interning at a start-up has been one of the most intense learning experiences of my life and why I would recommend it to any recent graduate.
1.) Work directly with the founders and managers
You learn directly from those who envisioned the company, created it, and have run it since its inception. The knowledge and know-how that is passed on to you comes from the people who have steered the business through good times and bad times and learning from that experience is invaluable.
I collaborate closely with the Operations Manager at TidyChoice. I am supervised by the company’s co-founder and CEO and I meet weekly with the rest of the team, including a brilliant CTO, who co-founded and literally built our website. All of them know the business inside out and are the ideal people to learn from.
2.) Gain insights into every aspect of the business
Not only do you oversee the whole business function you are working in, but you also get to see how the whole start-up works organically. You will be able to peek into all aspects of the business and have the chance to easily collaborate with any of your colleagues when your areas overlap. This allows you to learn beyond your own function and job description.
For instance, as a HR intern, I know everything that is going on in our recruiting and lead each of our candidates throughout the entire recruitment process, from the moment they first get in touch to their activation on our platform. In addition, I’ve also regularly learnt a lot about Operations, Marketing and Product Development because we regularly have team meetings where everyone explains how the business is going on their end.
3.) Learn to think critically
Critical thinking is a great skill and at a start-up you are constantly encouraged to think about how we do things and what can be improved. That encouragement allows you to connect more deeply with your job, understand it better and learn to figure out problems on your own.
I can discuss my suggestions to streamline our recruitment process with colleagues. I am encouraged to suggest and implement improvements as part of my role. In this close-knit team where very little is set in stone, every new proposal is either quickly rejected or adopted, leaving room for new ideas.
4.) Handle a lot of responsibility
When the team is small, colleagues and customers will inevitably rely on you. Colleagues are there to support you, but it is up to you to own your role and help the business succeed.
At TidyChoice I am responsible for recruiting and onboarding new professionals, so my performance immediately reflects on the success of the business. I have a material impact on the business and my colleagues count on me.
5.) Learn hands on
Autonomy, initiative and speed are truly valued in a rapid-growing company, so you will start doing your job on Day 1 and learn it as you go. Your colleagues will shadow you at first, but there is no bench time before diving into the job. It is a challenging environment and you can progress quickly. There is no limit to the level of responsibility you can take on.
At TidyChoice, I was shadowing interviews as soon as I started the internship. I was conducting phone interviews on my second day (while being shadowed) and I learnt how to navigate our systems and carry out essential tasks in the first week. While I have a handbook that I can refer to, I mostly rely on my colleagues’ feedback to learn and improve at my job.
6.) Variety will keep you engaged
In this shapeshifting business, you learn more than one way to do your job. Processes are constantly evolving and improving, so by the time you have mastered a certain task, you need to be ready to master the next one.
In my role, every day is different and I have a high level of autonomy over how I manage the work. Whilst my performance is assessed against deliverables, it is entirely up to me how I meet targets.
7.) The potential for growth is exciting
Being part of a fast-growing company means that you have the opportunity to develop new skills as your role evolves. If you are flexible, you have the opportunity to expand your knowledge beyond your current function.
My current focus at TidyChoice is mostly on recruiting and onboarding, but the role is expanding to take on more HR functions. I also contribute to other business functions, such as marketing where I am asked to provide my input and opinion on new advertising campaigns.
For these reasons and more, interning in a start-up is an incredible learning experience and an exciting career move that I would encourage all graduates to consider. If you wish to acquire valuable skills and practical business knowledge when you are fresh out of university, you should definitely give it a go.
By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 2 June 2021
Read time: 5 minutes
Written by Isabel Scavetta, UCL Alumni.
UCL alumni Isabel Scavetta (BA ESPS), recently featured in an article with the BBC about her changing career expectations and we couldn’t resist chatting to her more about her experiences. Our interview with Isabel is truly fascinating, covering her studies and time at UCL, beyond graduation and her multifaceted career journey so far. We really hope that you gain some career inspiration from reading our conversation.
1. Since graduating from UCL, you’ve spoken about a “complete career pivot” and being “grateful for having to re-evaluate”. Can you tell us more about your career journey so far?
I’m currently known for my work in the technology field, especially around improving its accessibility and diversity, which feels ironic given that I come from a non-technical background!
During my studies at UCL, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduating. I did a couple of internships, attended a variety of careers-focused events and studied in both London and Seville. Through that time, I learned that I loved creative problem solving, teamwork and building solutions with real-world impact. I graduated in the pandemic summer so decided there was no time like the present to challenge myself to pursue my interest in tech.
What makes technology stand out for me is how I’m engaged by learning more. Many other industries have a slower pace of change whereas, for me, tech has only become more interesting as my journey has progressed.
So, I started coding with Code First Girls, studied for and passed several Microsoft qualifications, participated in technology conferences and Hackathon challenges, and reached out to women in the industry. Before long, my hard work started to pay off and I was able to use this experience to start giving back to others, achieving a Fellowship at Code First Girls, advisory position at Microsoft on their TechHer Student initiative, and an internship in Rolls-Royce’s Data & AI Hub (R2 Data Labs).
2. As a UCL graduate, BA European Social & Political Studies (ESPS), you have commented that your degree helps you “every day to quickly understand new concepts, communicate clearly, and draw connections across diverse subject areas”. Could you expand on this thought? What other transferable skills have your UCL experiences given you?
People often say to me that I’ve made an amazing transition from my undergraduate studies, but I think there’s lots of complementary elements between them. The main skill that ESPS taught me was the ability to pick up new concepts and develop an in-depth understanding of them in a very short period of time. In one degree, you could study across 9 different humanities departments, and in our first year, we had an exam covering all of them! This is vital in industries such as consulting and technology because you’re constantly introduced to disparate subjects and you need to try and figure out ways in which they are similar to things you’ve seen before, and also what differentiates them.
I was an active student at UCL, as I was involved in several societies, mentorship programmes and sports clubs. Balancing my various commitments and part-time work alongside my studies helped me to become proactive and self-organised, which has been helpful in my career so far.
Also, as a London based student I got the chance to go to some really brilliant networking events over the years and these taught me a lot about presentation skills, strategy, communication and clarity which have helped in developing my personal online presence and a compelling story as to why I could be a great leader in technology.
3. You recently taught yourself coding, and volunteered at the online project, Class of 2020. How have extra-curricular activities and voluntary experiences aided your career journey?
My voluntary work and extracurricular activities were essential to making the transition into technology, and “bridging the gap” between my degree and my interest.
To begin, they showed I had an active interest in this field, which gave me a lot of content to talk about at interviews. Furthermore, they helped me to expand my technical knowledge, which wasn’t something that I had the opportunity to do during my time at UCL.
One of the silver linings of the pandemic was that so many organisations made their online learning resources accessible and free to use, which was the purpose of the Class of 2020 project. I’ve written an article where I’ve listed some of my personal favourites.
4. You’re now undertaking a remote internship in Artificial Intelligence at Rolls Royce. What does a normal working day look like for you?
My time is primarily spread across two parts of the AI Hub. I’m interested in business and strategy, so I don’t actually code in my day job!
Firstly, I’m working on an innovation project where we are designing a new capability that has potential to disrupt the industries that we operate in. Secondly, I work to implement agile methodology on an AI-based project, where I liaise with my cross-functional team to ensure that what we’re building runs to our business objectives.
Due to this there’s no such thing as a typical working day for me, but often I will be conducting interviews with experts in AI across the field, ensuring that our data scientists in the UK and abroad are working collaboratively, resolving any impediments my team may face and contributing to group synthesis and design thinking workshops.
5. You’ve spoken candidly about overcoming “decision fatigue.” If you could give a UCL student any advice when thinking about future career planning, what would that be?
Some really good advice I was given was to work backwards when you think of career choices. So, rather than choosing a job you think you want and seeing if it fits, think about what lifestyle and experiences fit you, then see what jobs align with that.
For example, do you prefer to work independently or collaboratively? Do you enjoy more analytical or qualitative work?
This is a useful frame of reference because it’s something that you can map your existing experiences to, no matter how much or how little work experience you have.
When I first started my job search, I actually sat down and wrote out a map of everything I knew about myself in terms of what I was good at and what I wanted to develop. This is helpful because it helps you take a more open-minded approach to job hunting. I applied for a really wide variety of roles – some in strategy, research, tech, healthcare – but the constant was that I knew that this was the kind of work I would find engaging. Sometimes that meant I was applying for very different roles and very different Industries!
6. Did you make use of the services/events UCL Careers offer during your time here?
I booked a one-on-one UCL careers appointment in my final year, which was useful because it allowed me to articulate to someone new what kind of careers I was interested in, and why I wanted to pursue them. I think that was a really good exercise to start thinking about my job hunt and also not to feel like it was such a solo mission. It depends on what you’re interested in, but I know that UCL Careers do sector-specific career weeks etc. that a lot of my course-mates in the Politics department enjoyed.
7. What is on your bookshelf right now?
The book I tell everyone to read is Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, which is all about the implicit gender bias in data. It’s a harrowing but impactful read about the ways in which the systems we use can work against us, and a great first introduction to why an intersectional approach is necessary in technology (and other industries!) as we build for the future.
By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 20 May 2021
Read time: 2 minutes
Written by George Potts, Events Manager at UCL Careers.
UCL Careers’ Events Manager, George Potts, recently chatted to us about our new employer series; Employers on Equality.
Q1) Hi George, can you give me a few more details about the upcoming UCL Careers: Employers on Equality series?
This is a new series of employer-led panel discussions that has been designed to give UCL students the opportunity to hear from employers and ask them questions on how they are improving equality, diversity and inclusion in their recruitment practices and in the workplace.
Each day, across four days, we will be focusing on a specific area where positive action is being taken:
- 1 June, 1pm – 2pm Race Equality
- 2 June, 12 pm– 1pm Gender & Orientation Equality
- 3 June, 1pm – 2pm Physical & Mental Health Diversity
- 4 June, 1pm – 2pm Social Mobility
We will be inviting employers from a range of industries to talk about the methods and strategies currently being used by their organisation to improve the diversity of their workforce and the experience of their staff. We have also invited the employers to bring along someone from within their organisation who can tell us more, from the perspective of their own lived experience. We hope the range of insights of our panellists will make for a really engaging discussion and Q&A for any UCL students and recent graduates interested to hear from employers on the subject of equality.
Q2) I can hear that you are really passionate about all of the upcoming events. Why did you want to create the Employers on Equality series in particular?
Although we often touch upon diversity and inclusion as a Q&A topic at employer events, across all our programmes, we felt it was important to give this subject matter its own spotlight.
Employers have a lot to share with us on the work they’re doing in these areas – which is really inspiring, and we wanted to create a space where our students feel that they can ask their questions.
Q3) Which themes or topics do you anticipate will be covered during the series of events?
We will certainly be looking to cover:
- Equal opportunity in recruitment
- Pathways to progression / removing barriers
- Embracing diversity (being valued) in organisational culture
- Help and support / measures and what is meant by ‘reasonable adjustments’
- Networks and peer support
- Tackling micro-aggressions and stamping out prejudice
Q4) What can students expect to gain from attending any (or even all) of the series events?
We hope that attendees will gain insight and awareness of why employers value diversity and the measures they take to nurture this, and that they leave the sessions with a deeper understanding of how to seek support in a professional / recruitment setting and the confidence to speak about diversity to employers.
These sessions are also a great opportunity to network with employers who actively recruit UCL graduates and to engage with professionals from a range of industries with strong EDI values.
Q5) Wow, I can’t wait to get involved myself. How exactly can students ask questions and join in the discussion?
For those attending who feel they’d rather not ask their questions during the session, we’ve set up a Google form for each event, where questions can be logged anonymously. Please see event listings for the links to these. We will also be including an opportunity for networking, after the Q&A, where attendees can choose to speak to employers in smaller groups about any specific questions they have.
In the interests of creating a safe space for open conversation, we will not be recording these events.
Q6) This sounds like a really fantastic opportunity to gain insight, awareness and confidence across the entire equalities sphere. When do bookings open?
Bookings are open now and you can book your place via our website.
Registration is essential to attend.
We look forward to welcoming all students and recent graduates to attend, regardless of background – equality is a conversation for everyone.
By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 17 May 2021
Read time: 2 minutes
Written by Eleanor King, UCL Student
Over 140 students working across 74 projects completed a UCL Connected Learning Internship during July and August 2020. Student feedback confirmed that these opportunities greatly improved key employability skills, including written and verbal communication, teamwork and collaboration, planning and organising, problem-solving, decision-making and even creativity.
Don’t just take our word for it. Read below for an exclusive interview from Eleanor King, who completed her Connected Learning Internship at UCL in 2021.
1.) What made you apply for a Connected Learning Internship, and how did you find out about it?
I wanted to truly get involved with the UCL community – as a postgraduate new to UCL, during a time of great disconnection (the pandemic), I wanted to feel more like a part of the university. The UCL Careers Instagram page was where I first found out about the internships – I find the page very useful and I use the updates via the Instagram Stories to explore opportunities within UCL while studying. I was motivated to apply because of the skills that internships give you, and their value to employers. This internship in particular – Connected Learning for Accessibility and Inclusivity in Disaster Studies – appealed to me, as I am passionate about outreach, having previously worked as a student mentor as an undergraduate.
2.) Did you gain any particular skills or learn anything new during the internship?
Absolutely – firstly, from a completely technical perspective, I learned how to use Adobe Acrobat in order to make PDF documents more accessible. This is something that will really help me, as I apply for jobs. I also improved my organisational skills, I was able to connect with new professionals, all of them in another department, and learn more about what entailed accessibility and inclusivity, which broadened my knowledge. I learned not only from the academic staff I was working with, but also fellow intern Fransesca Kurlansky, as we discussed our individual tasks together, and conducted a critical appraisal of a lecture created by one of our mentors, Virginie Le Masson. This internship reinforced my interest in outreach, and it further enhanced what must be considered when making content more inclusive, strengthening my grasp of intersectionality – something which will help me in my studies.
3.) How will you apply this experience to your future career journey?
The experience and skills I gained from this internship will be invaluable to my future career journey. It strengthened my ability to assess and scrutinise content, and I am more aware of factors to search for when looking at a document’s accessibility score and how inclusive it is, making me able to implement change in the workplace. It has also shown me that I am able to take up multiple roles simultaneously, as I am able to organise my time effectively, as I have displayed by balancing the internship with my university work. It has taught me to always say yes to new opportunities, as they will bring new skills and rewards – something that I will always apply as I embark on my future career journey.
4.) What is inspiring you right now?
My new move to London is inspiring me currently. I have just moved to London after studying from home, and the independence, new outlook and opportunities this has given me is inspiring me to work harder on my masters and job applications. Having started my masters under COVID-19 restrictions and not being able to meet new people in a new city was something that, when I applied, I couldn’t ever have imagined, nor wanted to imagine. However, I pushed myself to get involved with the opportunities that UCL offer to feel more connected with the university community. Having been able to write for a university magazine and complete an internship while under restrictions felt like a massive achievement, and it is my ability to now go to campus that is driving me to continue to leave my mark on the UCL community.
If Eleanor’s experience has inspired you, then take a look at the current Connected Learning Internship opportunities available to you. All internships are fully funded and are available remote/online for up to 70 hours per role, to be undertaken between 12 July 2021 and 27 August 2021.
Remember to submit your application online via myUCLCareers by 21 May 2021.