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Interview with an Alum – Csongor Máthé and “being a self-starter”

Joe O'Brien22 September 2021

Man looking at camera, leaning on a bridge with a river in the background

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.

Interview with an Alum – Maia Gummer and ‘Leaning In’

Joe O'Brien22 September 2021

Front-facing blonde woman smiles at camera

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.

  1. 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.

10 questions with award-winning UCL Careers Extra student

Rachael Richardson-Bullock23 June 2021

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by George Barker, Medicine MBBS BSc, 2021

George Barker winning an award

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.

UCL Careers: Interview with an Alum – Isabel Scavetta and the ‘Career Pivot’

Rachael Richardson-Bullock2 June 2021

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Isabel Scavetta, UCL Alumni.

Young woman student standing in front of the door of a UCL building

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.

 

Benefits of Mentoring (Part 2)

Joe O'Brien25 March 2021

Read time: 4 minutes

Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers

We recently reached out to a number of UCL alumni Graduate Guides and asked them questions sent in to us by our followers on Instagram. Part one of these answers was released last week and you can read it here. We hope that you’ll find the advice below useful as you navigate finding your future! Remember, these mentors are ready and available on UCL Bentham Connect should you wish to get in touch for advice!

Did you benefit personally from the guidance of an alumni mentor? If not, how could this have helped you when planning your career steps?

Joy Martindale: I didn’t! I definitely would have benefitted from the guidance of a mentor. I felt adrift at times during my MFA – I think this may be a common experience for students – when you feel like that it can be really helpful to get feedback from more than one source of support to help you get back on track.

Abhisehk Gulati: Personally, I did not get any guidance from an alumni mentor, but would have really appreciated the same. Having a mentor is a blessing, it would have helped me navigate my path and learn from their experiences. 

How important are face-to-face and virtual networking opportunities, including engaging with social media platforms, as part of a focused careers strategy?

Eeva Ellenberg: I have found LinkedIn to be an invaluable tool during my career, for finding new employment opportunities, building my network, and researching potential employers. It’s great for building your own brand, too.

Can you share any mistakes you’ve made along the way, or any tips of things to avoid?

Anne Byrne: Change can be daunting and it is easy to keep plodding along with what you know well. I’ve found that the best opportunities come through being willing to take on something new or follow a different direction.

What is the best way to approach a mentor?

Ajaz Hussain: Do your homework. Review several mentor profiles. Identify which potential mentor/s might support you with your query. Craft a message to briefly introduce yourself, state why you are reaching out and what you hope to gain from the mentor relationship. Your mentor is busy. Stay flexible and remember that you and your mentor might be from different cultures, located in different countries and time zones.

Is it hard to find a job if you only get a pass in your Masters?

Joy Martindale: A pass is still a pass! Be proud of yourself for completing your Masters and look forward not back. I think ambition and dedication to achieving your dreams and goals matter far more that what mark you achieved in your Masters.

Other people have loads on their CV and I’m struggling. What can I do to find opportunities?

Joy Martindale: There may be lots of things you are doing already that could be included on your CV. What is it that makes you tick? Where do you think your strengths and talents lie? What makes you leap out of bed in the morning? What are you curious to know more about or learn to do?  When an employer looks at a CV they want to see a rounded individual and a CV should be exciting to read for both you and your potential employer.

Dimitri Visnadi: Add your side projects or uni projects. Write about the objective of the project and your impact. You will have some relevant content in no time. For many a job like a “dog walker” may not seem worth putting on a CV but there are lots of transferrable skills to be learnt such as: responsibility, customer service, scheduling client visit, acquiring new clients. Think business and showcase your skills.

UCL is really not going well for me. Do you have any advice to improve my experience during the pandemic?

Joy Martindale: I would recommend reaching out and asking for support from UCL to talk through how you are feeling right now. There is lots of support available ranging from your tutors to Student Support and Wellbeing and alumni mentoring support.

Natasha Winnard: Try to reach out and talk to someone about what it is that is not going well. You are not alone in trying to figure out what you may need to change for things to improve.

 Did you know what kind of job you wanted before you graduated?

Conor Courtney: I think I’ve always had a clear idea of the field that I want to work in, but new experiences and meeting people from other industries always shows me that different paths and opportunities are always available, which can be really uplifting when one career path seems to not be progressing as planned.

How might connecting with a mentor boost my confidence when searching and applying for jobs?

Dimitri Visnadi: Mentors are simply people who have lived through similar situations that mentees are currently facing. During a conversation with a mentor, the barrier to the unknown gets broken down and the confidence is rising.

Michaela Clement-Hayes: You can practise! Try out presentation skills, interview questions, general business chats. It’s always good to ask others – no matter how much experience you have, you can always learn from someone else. Even if they have less experience than you, they may know things you don’t! 

Do you think lockdown will help or hinder getting a mentor?

Ajaz Hussain: Be proactive. Use the UCL Bentham Connect platform to overcome the artificial barriers that lockdown might have created. There are more mentors available than students reaching out. We’re a helping hand away. Lockdown or not you need to take (sometimes small) intentional steps towards your goals. Mentors expect you will demonstrate those professional behaviours that the workplace is seeking. Reach out. Be courteous. Stay focused. Be flexible and patient. The positive change you are seeking, will come.

Michaela Clement-Hayes: You can be more flexible. It’s not the same as F2F but it’s easier to jump on a 20-min call with a mentee, rather than drive to meet them in a coffee shop. See what works for you. But – it’s worth getting used to video calls. They’re not going anywhere and businesses expect confident employees who can talk using Teams / Zoom etc.

Why do you think it’s beneficial for students to connect with alumni mentors?

Eeva Ellenberg: Building a relationship with mentor who is working within the sector that you would like to enter is useful because you can gain insight into how they got their foot in the door. Getting that first role without much previous experience is often the most difficult part. They can put you in touch with a recruiter that they may have worked with in the past, or even a hiring manager.

Conor Courtney: I can keep this answer short- they have so much experience to offer. Reading about an industry or a job is not the same as hearing about it from someone who has experienced it.

Benefits of Mentoring (Part 1)

Joe O'Brien19 March 2021

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Victoria Abbott, Recruitment & Selection Adviser at UCL Careers

Defined simply, mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional development. In reality, mentoring provides a multitude of benefits, which can be summarised into three broad areas; personal growth, career development and health & wellbeing. Let’s look into these more closely.

  1. Personal Growth

A mentor is key for aiding and assisting with your personal growth, providing an encouraging and empowering influence. Gaining a higher self-awareness is often the first step towards gaining valuable personal skills, which in turn help you to discover your strengths, identify resources and set goals.

  1. Career Development

A mentor is often the first step towards building essential global connections and boosting your network within your chosen industry. Mentors may have expert insight into upcoming events, internships and opportunities, as well as relevant insider knowledge. In your early career, mentors are often credited with helping graduates gain promotions and increase job satisfaction.

  1. Health & Wellbeing

Sometimes overlooked, mentors play a huge role in increasing confidence, lowering anxiety and supporting isolation. If you are feeling overwhelmed, a mentor could provide exposure to new ways of thinking, whilst allowing you to gain feedback in a safe and productive environment.

Not sure where to find a mentor?

Look no further than UCL Bentham Connect, an exclusive social and professional networking site – home to 24,000 UCL students, alumni and staff. Make global connections and find the support you need. Ask the network, find a mentor, and learn from personal and professional development resources.

You can also take advantage of our Graduate Guides – alumni volunteers, who dedicate their time to helping students and fellow graduates find the support they need. Whether you’re looking for a mentor, or just want to ask a quick question, the Graduate Guides are always happy to help.

We reached out to a number of our Graduate Guides and asked them questions sent in to us by our followers on Instagram. We hope that you’ll find the advice below useful as you navigate finding your future!

Did you benefit personally from the guidance of an alumni mentor? If not, how could this have helped you when planning your career steps?

Conor Courtney: I didn’t get a mentorship from an Alumni Mentor, but mentoring has always been so important as I’ve progressed from a student to a young professional. It always surprises me how much a mentor really has to offer, and how willing they can be to help. My most influential mentor helped me with an extra-curricular project while I was at UCL, and later went on to give me a pep-talk before an important job interview. I think what I would note about a mentor relationship is that it can always surprise you.

How important are face-to-face and virtual networking opportunities, including engaging with social media platforms, as part of a focused careers strategy?

Ajaz Hussain: Having a multi-strategy approach to networking is critical for any student (or early career professional). It is difficult to find a role, sector or career path that does not require employees to build relationships, proactively engage at work or connect with people. Every interaction (face-to-face, by phone, or online) is an opportunity to make a positive impression. Seek feedback from your fellow students, lecturers, tutors, family and friends on how you might contribute more, present yourself differently, improve your presence and influence. Get started today!

Can you share any mistakes you’ve made along the way, or any tips of things to avoid?

Joy C Martindale: I think my number one tip would be to prioritise your mental health. In my experience when I am in good mental health, I feel open and positive about reaching out to connect, network and ask for guidance. Prioritise doing the things that make you feel good, whether it is exercising, eating well, getting out in nature or staying in touch with family and friends, and the rest will follow!

What is the best way to approach a mentor?

Conor Courtney: I think the best approach is to be honest and enthusiastic. Mentors are looking to help, so be sure to tell them exactly what you want help with, or what you want to hear about, and then make sure that you really engage with their advice.

Natasha Winnard: Approach a mentor in a way that feels most natural to you. There is no right or wrong way.

Joy C Martindale: It is really easy to find a mentor through Bentham Connect: https://uclbenthamconnect.com/mentoring

Is it hard to find a job if you only get a pass in your Masters?

Ajaz Hussain: Recruiters are looking for more than just a degree. Carefully analyse job adverts, descriptions and person specifications. Identify why the company is recruiting and what specific problems they (and their industry) are currently facing. How do you meet the requirements? Think holistically. Reflect on your skills, qualifications, experience, qualities and knowledge. Some countries might ask you to provide the overseas equivalent of your ‘pass’. Do your homework and find out (from credible sources) the implications of this.

Dimitri Visnadi: In my opinion it depends on the company and more importantly the drive the candidate has. So far no one has asked me about my grades.

Other people have loads on their CV and I’m struggling. What can I do to find opportunities?

Michaela Clement-Hayes: Use your personal life and hobbies. If you want to work in marketing, set up a blog or make an Instagram account. If you want to work in customer service, volunteer for a charity on the phones, create a website for your drama group, send out a newsletter for your son’s rugby team. Take some free courses. Don’t sit still; every hour you have free is an opportunity to learn skills.

UCL is really not going well for me. Do you have any advice to improve my experience during the pandemic?

Abhishek Gulati: Stop and reflect what is not working for you. Is the root-cause external or internal, this will give you a lot of clarity and once you find out, reach out to someone who can help or you can have a conversation with, there is always a solution.

You can also get in touch with UCL Student Support and Wellbeing who can provide expert wellbeing, disability and mental health advice and support a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space, in which you can discuss any issues that may be affecting your ability to study.

Did you know what kind of job you wanted before you graduated?

Anne Byrne: Yes but that’s because commercial law is a structured career path which can often start before graduation. Lots of graduates do not know though, and connecting with mentors may give you some ideas of jobs which you would never have considered.

How might connecting with a mentor boost my confidence when searching and applying for jobs?

Ajaz Hussain: Job search can be a long, tiring and arduous process. Sometimes students send out hundreds of applications hoping for employers to respond. Likewise employers might receive many applications per vacancy and may not respond to candidates that are not shortlisted. A mentor can provide that missing feedback. Speaking with a trusted adviser can open up new possibilities. You can learn what other ways there might be to getting into the sector. Ask for introductions to insider connections. All of this can boost your confidence, while enabling you to successfully transition from academia to the world of work.

Do you think lockdown will help or hinder getting a mentor?

Eeva Ellenberg: Without the usual distractions, I think potential mentors have more spare time on their hands, and many (myself included) genuinely enjoy supporting others start/progress in their careers. So, I think it will help, as mentor availability is probably higher than it would otherwise be.

Why do you think it’s beneficial for students to connect with alumni mentors?

Joy C Martindale: Alumni mentors understand that being a student can be challenging because we have been where you are now. Alumni mentors have the benefit of hindsight and we can share all our learning from the decisions we have made along our career paths with you!

Nick Lawrie: Real life stories, neutral advice, and it’s always good to have a mentor to bounce ideas off.

Enjoyed reading the thoughts of the Graduate Guides? Want to find out more about what they think of these questions? Benefits of Mentoring Part 2 is out now and you can read it on our blog.

Interview with an Alum: Sarah Fortais, PhD Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art 2018

Joe O'Brien24 November 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Interview with Sarah Fortais, PhD Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art 2018

What is the core purpose of your role and what typical activities does it involve?

As a self-employed artist I create work for exhibitions, performances, private commissions, and public artworks. These include large-scale, permanent bronze works as well as ephemeral works made from found materials. I also teach, running courses during the Slade Summer School and giving lectures both across London and in Canada. My specialisation is sculpture and performance and so most of my teaching revolves around these subjects, but sometimes it also incorporates the study of creativity and ways of implementing creative methodologies, which relates to my PhD research.

I live and work in my studio and so a fair chunk of my time is spent ensuring that all my equipment is running safely and also coming up with new ways of storing more and more work.

Another important part of my day-to-day operation is organising logistics for installation and delivery of artworks, and keeping up to date with necessary safety training and licensing. This has at times involved learning to use different types of 3D rendering software, so as to ensure work can be approved before installation. Because I build and install most of my works by myself, staying physically active is extremely important to my job, and I try to take time away to hike and stay active. Most of the time however, I seem to get my exercise by wearing spacesuits or carrying giraffe parts across London.

What kind of people and clients do you work with?

I have worked with UCL on a number of projects including the UCL Donor Wall, which involved working with hundreds of different people including students, staff, volunteers, charities, private and corporate benefactors, and recipients of research scholarships or patients of medical procedures directly resulting from UCL’s research. I also work with artist groups such as London Sculpture Workshop and London Bronze Casting and institutions like the Pompidou Centre and the Victoria & Albert Museum. I have taught students aged 10 and upwards but primarily I focus on teaching University students completing a Bachelor’s degree in a creative subject. In addition to lecturing on fine art programmes, I have also lectured for London College of Fashion because my PhD research focused on defining cool, which also included defining concepts such as trend and copying. Through exhibiting and performing my work I have been able to travel across the UK as well as France and Canada, and have been able to work with local residents, tourists, refugees, and first-time gallery goers. Part of why I have chosen to be self-employed is because I enjoy working with continuously changing clients.

How did you get to where you are now?

I completed my PhD research in 2018 and so I have only been self-employed in the UK for the last year and a half. In order to gain contracts I first answered a lot of open calls for artworks and volunteered my time invigilating exhibitions for my peers, in order to gain a back-catalogue of work and experiences that I could draw from when applying for paid contracts. I still sometimes exhibit my work for free or for a small financial loss for the exposure which I feel has led to many groups independently contacting me with offers of commissions and performance opportunities. I also try to experiment with my performances in public and document them whenever possible. This means that even when I have a work-in-progress I can get public feedback and sometimes even free materials or meals!

What have been some challenges to your role due to Covid-19 and how have these been responded to/managed?

Seeing galleries and campuses close to the public has meant that many of my contracts/commissions have either been postponed or cancelled outright. I also lost a commission due to the fact that the client felt that they were no longer able to support an artwork that encouraged people to come together, which was a real shame because for me that’s what makes art-making worthwhile. As a result of losing these opportunities, I took on two key-worker roles in London, one as a part-time Art Technician at a public high school, and another at a bakery, to make ends meet. I have since left the bakery position as enough of my fine art contracts have picked up again, but I used the position as an opportunity to practice my fine motor skills, to increase my knowledge of health and safety in the public sector, and to divert/recycle food waste. I have found working as a technician with high school aged students to be very rewarding and it’s inspired me to begin private tutor sessions as well as revisit some mixed media projects that I did not resolve while on my BFA. Furthermore, as a key worker I have been able to commute without interruption and subsequently I produced a performance series with artist Emma Burdon to chronicle how London’s coffee shops have been adapting and changing over the past months.

How do you see your work, or that of the sector more generally, impacting on societal wellbeing as we learn to live with Covid, and do you see any signs that investment in the arts will increase as part of the health and wellbeing response? 

I think most people are aware that both making and experiencing artwork can have a profoundly positive impact on wellbeing. It’s also acutely apparent that there are many, many groups of people underrepresented in the arts and excitingly, I have seen a positive shift at the grassroots level toward supporting artists from a wider range of backgrounds. At the same time, I feel that most large institutions have yet to reflect these changes, and I also feel that overall, the arts industry places far too much emphasis on exclusivity both for its commercial viability, and for determining its conceptual and social value. What I would like to see is a large-scale reimagining of the fine arts sector and for artists to become employed across a wider range of disciplines, so as to more deeply integrate art-making into every sector. I have always preferred to find art in unexpected places and so I feel that personally, in order to make work that I feel is relevant to other people, it should take place in any setting that people are willing to constructively criticise, interact with, or enjoy it. In 2018, artist Zeinab Saleh curated an exhibition titled Widening the Gaze at UCL’s Slade Research Centre, which included an astounding array of works by artists whom I feel are already challenging and profoundly impacting the arts industry in ways that can only result in improved societal wellbeing.

How would you go about getting experience (placements, work experience, internship) in the industry you work in?

There are many online opportunities available on an international level that have recently become exclusively online. As for work experience, I would suggest that artists continue to answer open calls (many groups like A-N and Curator space have been posting calls consistently over the last few months) and asking for feedback whenever possible. I also have found it immensely helpful to look outside my industry for experience. For example, while completing my education I worked as an Assistant Foreman and Environmental Resource at Habitat for Humanity, and also was employed by my Students’ Union while studying at Central Saint Martins. As it might not be possible at the moment to gain experience invigilating or assisting other artists in their studio, I would instead suggest honing your skills on small, manageable projects or experiments and document them in a way to build up a portfolio for future assignments.

What is the one thing students can be doing right now to boost their career prospects at a time where opportunities in the arts may be limited?

As a sculptor, I would suggest focusing on resourcefulness and using any time that can be made available to develop new ways of sourcing materials, techniques, and ways of presenting, and then resolving a few artworks that can be used to showcase your adaptability to employers/clients/institutions. My advice is not to focus on self-reliance, but rather, to use the changing environment as part of the process of generating artwork and finding safe ways of being visible. For instance, I used the changing rules about travelling in London to my advantage and was able to produce a performance which took place completely masked on the London Underground. Prior to lockdown, the TFL told me I was not allowed to create such a performance but with the changing rules it actually meant that my performance became not only allowed, but became the safest way to travel. The only misstep at this time would be to stop producing artwork.

Do you have any top tips for current students who may be interested in your career area?

For any portfolio it is paramount that it includes what appears to be completed works. However, I want to stress that whether or not you as the artist thinking that the work is completed is irrelevant to whether it appears completed to others. Thus, my advice is to focus on how you frame or present your works so that each time you share them they can, for each client, uniquely and contextually be experienced as completed works. This will give you a competitive edge compared to other student portfolios that stress artworks as assignments or experiments, as they are not using their portfolio as an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of the client’s needs or sensibilities.

Insights from UCL Class of 2008 Webinar

Joe O'Brien31 August 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Glyn Jones, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers

Nick Coveney, Publisher Relations and Content Lead at Rakuten Kobo Inc took part in a recent UCL Careers, Class of 2008 insights webinar. I’ve summarised 5 of the key messages from Nick’s journey about how he went about navigating the job market during the last global recession in 2008.

  1. Having a clear idea of where you want to go can be very useful

Nick knew exactly what he wanted to do when he applied to university. He had a clear career goal of working in publishing and becoming an editor. Through having this goal in mind, Nick was able to seek out relevant opportunities, make the most of societies, volunteering and work placement opportunities that presented themselves to him. Nick spoke about how knowing exactly what he wanted to do helped him embrace opportunities such as getting a placement with a publishing house, volunteering with the most suitable societies and picking the right postgraduate course to study. This confidence in knowing exactly what he wanted to do helped him hone his skills and tailor his experiences, which would ultimately lead to him working in his chosen sector of interest.

Not everyone has a clear idea of exactly where they want to go, but having an idea of a sector of interest can be really valuable as it allows you focus on getting key experiences that will prove relevant further down the line.

If you want to learn more about specific industries and the graduate opportunities available, take a look at the Job Sectors section of the Prospects website.

  1. Things may not go according to plan: adapt and be resilient

Nick had three goals when graduating with his BA in English from the University of Nottingham.

  1. Get a good English degree from a good university
  2. Secure a graduate job with a major publisher
  3. Become an editor

The plan was ticking along nicely and Nick had even secured a graduate scheme. Then the financial crash of 2008 happened. In the matter of a few weeks, Nick went from being well on track, to graduating with a 2:2 and having his graduate scheme cancelled. Despite these setbacks, Nick didn’t allow this to prevent him from pursuing his chosen career path. He adapted his plans and took what opportunities he could, eventually ending up in his dream role as an editor.

Resilience and the ability to adapt is key when searching for career opportunities. There are very few people who have never been rejected or unsuccessful at some point in their career. What’s important is to not give up. Adapt to the circumstances you’re in and continue to strive for your desired end goal.

Read our blog post on Building Resilience in Your Job Hunt: How to Progress Your Career Planning and Overcome Setbacks in Challenging Times for tips dealing with setbacks.

  1. Any opportunity can offer skills

After hearing that his graduate scheme was cancelled, Nick had to move back home and extend his part time job, working full time just so he could earn a living. Although not what he wanted to do, this opportunity still provided him with experiences that developed his transferrable skills.

This opportunity also maintained Nick’s drive and energy to succeed in his sector of interest. Through doing something he didn’t want to do, it reaffirmed his desire to work in the publishing industry and acted as motivation for him to pursue his goal with even more vigour.

In challenging times you may sometimes need to compromise on your first choice job, but don’t forget that the transferrable skills you develop in these roles can still be useful when it comes to applying for more desired positions in the future.

If you want to learn more about how and when you can develop your transferrable skills be sure to visit the UCL Careers Skills Hub.

  1. Make the most of extracurricular opportunities, but know your limitations

Nick spoke about how he enjoyed working with societies and clubs during his undergraduate degree at Nottingham and added how useful these had been in future job applications. However, he did state that he was possibly guilty of getting too involved in these extracurricular activities, which meant that his studies suffered. When completing his masters at UCL, he seemed to find a much better balance. He still volunteered at some societies and was a course representative, but this time he made sure that he gave his studies enough time, enabling him to secure a distinction.

Finding the right balance between academic and non-academic commitments can be tricky whilst at university. Involvement with clubs, societies and work placements can be valuable when it comes to applying for roles, but try to make sure this isn’t to the detriment of your academic pursuits.

To find out about the range of clubs and societies you can get involved with at UCL, take a look at the UCL Student’s Union Clubs & Societies Directory.

  1. Find your niche

Nick had a clear idea of where he wanted to go with his career and was able to pursue this, even if it meant not following the most direct career path. However, it was interesting to note that while Nick thought he knew exactly what he wanted to do, he actually found an area within that sector that suited him even more. Through different experiences in his chosen sector and developing areas of interest during his academic studies, such as his dissertation, he carved out his own niche. He utilised the skills he’d developed through his experiences and combined these with knowledge of the sector he was interested in during his studies.

Sometimes, to identify your niche you can’t be afraid of moving away from your ‘dream job’. If you know the sector and are aware of what you’re good at, then this doesn’t need to be a scary prospect. Think of it as a matter of utilising the skills and experience that you’ve acquired, thereby offering something that no one else is able to within the sector.

If you’d like to discuss how you might go about finding your niche in a professional setting, or if you want to speak about any of the topics mentioned in this article please do book a one-to-one appointment with one of our Careers Consultants.

It was heartening hearing about Nick’s journey. He proved that even when times are challenging, it doesn’t mean that your dream job is off the cards. If you weren’t able to attend the session yourself, you can find the full recording of the session here.

Sector Insights: Market and Social Research

Joe O'Brien28 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Susanne Stoddart, Recruitment and Selection Advice Manager at UCL Careers

What is market and social research?

Market and social research is an incredibly broad and wide-ranging sector that is primarily concerned with using research as a tool to support decision making. The research could pretty much be about anything – from informing decisions about brand packaging to decisions affecting government policy.

The quantitative and qualitative methods that are used in the research are again extremely varied – for example, researching using the internet, analysis of data from consumer wearables, taste testing, focus groups and large-scale international telephone surveys. Social researchers use many of the same skills and methods as market researchers but their concern is always with improving the performance of the public sector through influencing national policy or policy at a local level.

The majority of market researchers work within a research agency. Some large research agencies within the private sector, such as Ipsos MORI and Kantar Public UK, also have specialist social research departments. However, other key employers of social researchers include central government departments, local authorities, higher education research institutions, social research agencies such as NatCen, charities, pressure and lobby groups and trade unions.

For further introductory insights into the market and social research sector, I would recommend this Career Guide put together by the Market Research Society.

Meet David Ireland, Research Manager at Ipsos MORI

I recently contacted David Ireland on LinkedIn to find out about his experience as a Research Manager at Ipsos MORI, and his route into the market and social research sector. David completed his MSc in Security Studies at UCL in 2015 and he told me that he enjoys a career that draws upon his academic training, allowing him to use his research skills to impact business.

David also kindly answered my following questions:

Did you do anything during your time at UCL or after you finished your degree that helped prepare you for your current job?

Whilst at UCL, research methods modules were key. Alongside that, work experience was key. Not just internships – some of the most useful lessons were from when I worked in a running shop as it really built my presentation and communication skills.

What are the key skills that you use in your current job?

Juggling multiple tasks and projects isn’t to be underestimated! Analysis with a curious eye – thinking about what research means and what should be done off the back of it. Presentation skills and communicating – I do quite a lot of presenting and talking and that’s super important. Other things include writing, data visualisation, delegating (up and down).

What does a typical day at work looks like for you? What do you find most enjoyable and most challenging?

A typical day starts between 9 and 9.30am. I catch up on emails and plan the day based on what’s going on. I typically spend time working on projects (PowerPoint reports are the norm), talking to other internal teams and having client meetings. Normally I have a client meeting once a week but that ebbs and flows (some weeks none, other weeks multiple). Most enjoyable is delivering something that is really good with powerful messages that has impact, whether a presentation or a report. Most challenging can be juggling multiple projects as there’s often a lot going on.

What would be your top piece of advice for current students interested in a career in research?

My advice would be to not just think of yourself as a researcher – especially if you’re interested in going into more of a commercial research role. Think about how research can impact business.

Next Steps to Building your Network

Despite the impact of Covid-19 and the current lack of in-person networking opportunities, here are some tips on how you can continue to build your connections and explore a career within the market and social research sector:

  • Whenever I reach out to UCL alumni like David and they respond with enthusiasm to help and fantastic advice, it’s a reminder of what great value and a source of support they can be to current students and recent graduates. So, if you’re interested in finding out more about a career in market and social research, reaching out to UCL alumni on platforms such as LinkedIn or UCL’s Alumni Online Community is a really great way to do this and to start building your network. Sometimes you might not hear back but hopefully sometimes you will – and it’s worth it!
  • You can find out more about using online platforms for networking in our recent blogpost on 5 Key Resources for Networking from Home.
  • For further insights into building connections within the market and social research sector, I would also recommend checking out networking advice provided by the Market Research Society.
  • Remember that if you would like to explore your career in the sector further – for example your networking plans, how to use the summer to develop relevant sector skills, or something else – you can book in with UCL Careers for a one-to-one guidance appointment.

Interview with an Alum: Theo Margolius

Joe O'Brien3 April 2020

Interview with Theo Margolius, UCL alum (2015) and Co-founder & COO at Otta. Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers.

How did you get to where you are now in your career?

After graduating from UCL, I started my career in investment banking, a popular career choice for Economics students. After two years of learning about corporate finance and building up my analytical skills, I joined Nested.com, a fast-growing proptech startup. I had the opportunity to work in a few different roles across finance, operations and strategy, which gave me loads of exposure to different parts of the business. My time at Nested taught me a lot about what it’s like to grow a startup. While there, I worked closely with my two current co-founders, and we would spend weekends in the office working on different ideas. I left Nested after 18 months, had a couple of months off and then started Otta in June 2019. Starting a business has been a great challenge and very different to my last two jobs. I feel like we’ve made a lot of good progress already and I’m excited to see what the next few years hold!

What skills are involved in your current role?

Being an early stage founder requires you to wear a lot of different hats! One hour you’ll be meeting potential investors to try and raise money, the next you’ll be on a call with a customer trying to get their feedback on the product, then you’ll be interviewing a candidate and trying to convince them to work for you. If I had to pick one skill, I would say persistence. You need to believe that your idea needs to exist even when things are going wrong. It’s persistence that gets you through the challenging days.

What advice would you give to current students on getting into your sector?

I’m really passionate about encouraging people to work for startups, which is why I started Otta. If you want to work for startups or build your own business in the future, it helps a lot to be entrepreneurial early on and try out different ideas. While at UCL, I tried to start a tutoring business. It didn’t work out (because we weren’t persistent enough!), but that didn’t matter because I learnt a lot of valuable skills that helped me the next time around. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to try and make something of it in your spare time, what’s the worst that can happen?

What is on the horizon within your industry/company that our students can learn and get excited about?

In my view, startups are by far the most exciting places to work. No two days are the same and the priorities of the business are constantly changing, which means you’re almost always learning something new. London is attracting billions of pounds of investment from venture capitalists every year, which is all going into funding and growing different ideas. Whatever sectors you’re interested in, you’ll always be able to find a business that’s doing something new and exciting. I don’t expect this innovation to slow down, and think Europe will continue to get more innovative and attract record levels of investment for many years to come.

If you could give a current student one piece of advice on something you wish you’d have known prior to starting your career what would it be?

If you find yourself in a job where you’re not learning, try to leave and find a job that pushes you. It’s really important to give yourself as many learning opportunities as possible during the formative years of your career, don’t play it safe!

Finally, can you tell us a bit more about Otta?

At Otta, we’re building the only place candidates need to go to find and secure roles at the world’s most innovative companies. We started Otta because the current options out there don’t put the interests of the job seeker first, with most recruitment companies focused on squeezing fees out of companies. Otta was founded in June 2019. We raised our first round of funding in November 2019, securing backing from some of the top investors in Europe, including LocalGlobe and Paul Forster, Co-founder of Indeed. Make sure to follow our journey ‘OttaHQ on Instagram!