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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.

 

Career Profile | Independent Sexual Violence Advocate

UCL Careers7 February 2019

A former UCL student reflects on how her role as a sabbatical officer for Students’ Union UCL led her to work in the charity sector.

Annie Tidbury was Women’s office for Students’ Union UCL, an experience she describes as “transformative”. Each Spring UCL students elect seven full-time, paid sabbatical officers. Four of the seven act as charity trustees and all gain a great wealth of experience working for a registered charity. The deadline for this year’s nominations is 22nd February at noon. Interested? Find out more on their website and think about nominating yourself or a fellow student!

Annie, what is your current role?

For the past year I’ve been working as an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate – that means that I support and advocate for survivors of sexual violence who are going through the criminal justice system.

What made you decide this was for you?

My time as Women’s Officer is what made me want to work in the women’s movement. Back in 2014, I organised some training for myself and others at the Students’ Union and that training was delivered by the rape crisis centre I currently work for. It was honestly something as small as this that introduced me to the job that I do today.

What experiences helped you along the way?

Being Women’s Officer was really transformative for me and it is undoubtedly the main reason I was accepted onto a charity sector grad scheme after leaving UCL. Let’s be honest; there aren’t very many graduate jobs where you go straight in at the top of an organisation and get to make really big decisions about how it runs. As Women’s Officer I had the time, platform and resources to run university-wide campaigns, change policies and procedures, advocate to management and create the kind of spaces that I wanted to see within the union. All of those things were important in and of themselves, and they also gave me knowledge and skills that have been invaluable ever since; in my role as a project manager at a small charity, as head of membership and communications at a slightly larger learning disability organisation, and now in my role at a rape crisis centre.

I feel that it’s important to say that whilst being a sabbatical officer will almost definitely be useful for whatever you want to do next, your future career should absolutely not be the only reason you stand for election. If you don’t particularly care about the Students’ Union, or the position you’re running for, then you will most likely have a frustrating year and do a bad job. Trust me, it’s happened. But if you do care and if you think that students having collective power is important, then do it and you will reap the rewards throughout your sabbatical year and beyond.

This article was written as part of Charities and NGOs Themed Week.

Find out more about upcoming Themed Weeks on our website! 

Assistant Management Accountant: Inspire Me

Weronika Z Benning24 August 2016

September 2016 sees the first cohort of students starting at the new School of Management postgraduate campus at Level 38, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf. Located just one floor above is Level39, Europe’s largest technology accelerator space for finance, cyber-security, retail and smart-city technology companies. Level39 offer small businesses the space and support to grow, through a tailored curriculum, expert mentors, and a variety of events, and have helped entrepreneurs turn simple products into multi-million pound businesses.UCL School of Management’s Employer & Alumni Engagement Officer, Ally Hawley, spoke with UCL alumna Vesela Vukova to discuss her role at Level39.

Vesela Vukova

Vesela studied the Finance Pathway of Masters in Management, graduating in 2015, and is now an Assistant Management Accountant at Level39.

How did you get into your role?

In my third term at UCL School of Management I was doing a consultancy project that was focussed on technology and co-working environments in London. I was doing some market research and Level39 just stood out from the other places I had researched as an amazing place! It is the largest accelerator for fintech, cyber security, retail and smart cities led technology companies. I checked their website careers section frequently and an opportunity came up, I applied and got the job!

What are the best things about working in your role?

I love that my role goes beyond crunching numbers, it’s about understanding what stands behind the numbers, and what can be done in the future to accelerate a company’s growth. Also I like that my role involves working with all the stakeholders of Level39, from Team39 to our parent company Canary Wharf Group, to Level39’s members, to the suppliers that we use.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

I previously worked in corporate banking and in this role the answers to all the questions that came up in my job were either written down somewhere, or there would be a department within the organisation to help. In start-up industries there is no guidance already written, you must set up the processes and procedures, which can be really challenging. On the positive side Level39 has a really entrepreneurial team and we always find a way around the problems that we face.

What does a typical day in your job involve?

My job is really diverse, there is no typical day. Some days I’m focussed on accounting and financial reporting as that is a major part of my role. Some days I am meeting with suppliers or meeting with Level39 members to support them with financial matters. Other days I will work on other projects with my Level39 Team, for example helping to integrate a new system.

What skills are important in this role?

Problem solving is really important, as are attention to details, pro-activity and people skills.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

In general terms I would advise students to develop their networking skills and to search for opportunities that are out there. More specifically in relation to my role I would advise them to develop their problem solving skills. One way to do this is by obtaining as much knowledge as possible either from lectures, case studies or any other UCL activities. The real life cases that I studied as part of my Masters really helped me to gain practical, hands on experience.

What do you think about the new Canary Wharf Campus for UCL SoM Post Graduate Students?

It is quite similar to the reason why Level39 is located here. Fintech, Cyber Security, retail and smart cities are all present right here in Canary Wharf. Being here makes it much easier to connect with organisations in these sectors, as well as the other located here such as banking and finance. This is the same for students, it is much easier for them to attend employer events, interviews and internships. It also means it will be easier to attract high quality employers to come onto campus and engage with students. I definitely think that students will benefit from being based at Canary Wharf!

To find out more about the School of Management and its Canary Wharf Campus go to: https://www.mgmt.ucl.ac.uk/

To find out more about Level39 visit: www.level39.co

Account Executive: Inspire Me

Weronika Z Benning1 June 2016

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Arthur talks to us about his Account Executive role at Gorkana, an award-winning media intelligence company.  Here he talks to us about how he got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the sector.  For more insights from recent graduates working for smaller organisations, visit https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-careers/ and search #SMEProfile.

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How did you get into your role?

My name is Arthur, I’m 24 and have been working as an Account Executive at Gorkana since April 2015. I finished a master’s degree in Autumn 2014, followed by two comms internships in the charity sector. Because I was involved in PR, I’d obviously heard of Gorkana, though not for its analysis services. I had spent a (perhaps excessive) amount of time ‘playing’ with its media database – a must-have tool at the outset of any PR planning and campaign targeting. I found out about my current role simply by going on the Careers section of the Gorkana website. Having always had a keen interest in the media, the description of the role really appealed to me, was roughly in line with what I’d recently been studying (political communications) and let’s be honest – I needed a job. Slightly disenchanted by the early days of my job hunt, during which I was told I was either “overqualified” or didn’t have “enough experience”, I applied to Gorkana with relatively low hopes, I must say. I was impressed with the first contact I had – a prompt response by HR and a real demonstration of interest in my background. From that moment, it all went quite fast. I had an interview, a test, and a few days later – I had a job!

What are the best things about working in your role?

I think one of the best things about Gorkana is that it really invests in people. Pretty much my whole first month in the company was dedicated to training me and other newbies. When so many companies are obsessed with work experience – even for entry-level positions – and simply won’t give you a chance if you don’t have the experience – the experience that no one gives you the opportunity to build – it was refreshing to find Gorkana was not one of them. While a solid academic record and some experience are undeniably valuable, Gorkana gave me a chance to demonstrate my value in the workplace without a set range of pre-selective, arbitrary requirements. And I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself by saying that, but I think it’s been relatively successful so far.

As for the role itself, there are many rewarding aspects to our work. Finding out that your report is discussed at an organisation’s managerial meeting or used as the basis for PR strategy is one of them. Generally, when clients express gratitude for what we do for them, it’s a nice feeling. I also like working in a fairly niche industry, which simultaneously gives you an interesting overview and glimpse into the world of media. There is huge variety of clients here at Gorkana: from government agencies to financial groups, charities, clothing companies, transport companies, videogames publishers, tech companies… We get a lot of insider knowledge on a vast array of sectors, some of which we probably wouldn’t learn anything about otherwise.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

The technicality of the job can be a bit overwhelming at first, but that’s what the training is for, and like everything else, it takes time. I never felt like I was thrown into the deep end, but at the same time, I was trusted and given the opportunity to get stuck in right away and progress rapidly. Deadlines can be demanding and inevitably clash. When new to a company, it’s virtually impossible to predict how long things are going to take or anticipate the various issues that are going to arise, so it has its challenges. But it’s not something to panic about – we work in teams and people help eachother. There is a huge sense of accommodation and problem solving. People work hard, but not blindly and unnecessarily hard. I hear of workplaces where you have to stay until at least 7pm everyday even if you don’t have anything to do, just to look good in front of management – Gorkana is not one of those places.

Job roles at Gorkana are also really interwoven, which can be challenging when you’re used to working by yourself at university. Even back at uni, I used to dislike working with others on projects, presentations etc. It was always somewhat chaotic – people would disagree and go in different directions, I was never happy with what came out of it. In a professional context, it’s challenging but also much more ordered and efficient. And necessary. You don’t achieve anything by yourself in the workplace – or not quite. You have to listen and be heard. Team work is the essence of any work.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

I always found that spending a decent amount of time on a company’s website was key to taking in what the company was about, its ethos and where you would fit in – what you would bring personally. There is a reason why all that stuff is written on there – companies showcase themselves in that way and communicate things that are meaningful to them. So they should be meaningful to you. You don’t have to be an expert in a sector you’re trying to get into – your interest will be more crucial but will need to be substantiated with a perceptive understanding of the work you might be doing and its wider environment. That applies particularly to companies where the technicality of the work is not necessarily something you can learn from previous experiences. Rather than looking at whether you know things, what will be looked at is whether you’re capable – and in particular able to learn and to adapt to a team, immerse yourself in an environment that you’re by definition not familiar with.

I regret not having taken more advantage of my uni days to build up a greater amount of work experience. This is primarily what is looked at by a lot of companies, although I do believe the key is – rather than accumulating lots of experience – to build good, relevant experience. Quality over quantity. And be smart and selective about how you present yourself to an employer – tailoring your profile to their needs and expectations.

 

Gorkana is attending UCL Careers’ Global Citizenship Employability Programme, where they will be participating in a “speed interviews” event. They will also be at the UCL Jobs Market, taking place on Wednesday 8th of June, advertising vacancies with immediate starts.

Head of Business Operations: Inspire Me

Weronika Z Benning30 May 2016

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Marco Attanasio talks to us about Gousto and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the sector. For more insights from recent graduates working for smaller organisations, visit https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-careers/ and search #SMEProfile.

 

Gousto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where do you work and what do you do?

I work as Head of Business Operations at Gousto, the number 1 recipe delivery service in the UK. I have two parts to my job, Customer Care and Strategic Projects.

In Customer Care we help customers get the most out of their Gousto experience – from tracking their deliveries, to explaining how the service works.

In Strategic Projects the team works on Gousto of the future, figuring out how we can continually innovate and push the boundaries for our customers and the company.

How did you get into your role?

I’ve had quite a varied career to date, but I’ve always been doing something I love. After my Masters at UCL I went to work in the renewable energy sector, project managing in product development.

Five years later I decided to follow a lifetime ambition of opening and running my own restaurant (it’s hard work!), which I did for a couple of years. When I returned to London, I had a strong desire to combine my passion for food, technology and the startup world; I found Gousto, applied for an internship and have been here for the last two years.

What are the best things about working in your role?

I love the people, the challenge and the opportunity.

We have a team of incredibly smart, motivated and passionate individuals who all pull together to make Gousto one of the best places to work around. Working at Gousto presents daily challenges and problems to solve, we succeed because we tackle the difficult problems head on, which means I’m constantly learning. Gousto has a huge opportunity to disrupt an industry and it’s great to be a part of that journey.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

One of the biggest challenges of working in a successful startup like Gousto comes from one of the business’s great strengths – adapting quickly. We’re a fast-paced company, and this means we sometimes have to pull out all the stops to deliver continual improvements in short timescales; but that’s also what makes it such a rewarding job!

What top tips would you give to a student interested in this type of work?

Test, measure, adjust and test again.

What does a typical day in your job involve?

I don’t really have a typical day as projects evolve and are always in different phases. It could involve meeting with new suppliers, carrying out testing or figuring out how we’re going to tackle a particular challenge. It’s so varied, which makes it even more enjoyable.

What skills are important in this role?

Passion, attention to detail, a love of problem solving and great people skills.

Do you currently have any opportunities for students at Gousto?

We’re constantly on the look out for smart, passionate and eager students and graduates in all areas of the business. Apply for an internship at Gousto via our website and we’ll take a look at your application, as a former intern, I meet and interview every intern as part of the process. Being an intern at Gousto is a fantastic opportunity, 60% of our Management team joined the company as interns, so the sky’s the limit!

A day in the life of a Programmatic Account Manager : UCL Alumni

UCL Careers3 March 2015

Ahead of UCL Careers Media week, Grace, UCL Geography Graduate,  gives us her insider’s view on what a Programmatic Account Manager does.

After studying a Ba Geography degree at UCL for 3 years and finishing with a 2.1. I had no set idea what career I wanted to pursue. After toying with a few career paths I was informed by a recruiter that my life was destined for digital marketing. My recruiter promised I had the ideal transferrable skills; good balance of numeracy and writing, some experience in the online world (marketing an event on social media and getting involved in a blog) and an eagerness and confidence to learn and get stuck in.

I was intrigued by this suggestion but also slightly hesitant because I didn’t know what this industry was all about. One of the first roles I was put forward for was for a ‘Programmatic Account Manager’ position with a small but growing company called Periscopix and since then I have not looked back! One of the most exciting aspects of my job is that no day is the same, however here is snippet of my working life here at Periscopix!

First things first:

In a nutshell my role is to purchase online advertising space on behalf of my clients. I buy this ad space using DoubleClick, a bid managing platform owned by Google. I select inventory that will be relevant for my client and only enter an auction if the ad space fits the criteria I’ve chosen. This auction then takes place programmatically, i.e. as a page loads DoubleClick will work out who has selected this particular criteria and who has the highest bid and that person will serve the ad. So you’ve got the gist.. how does my working day pan out?

Quick Check:
Programmatic display is still a baby in the online arena. This fledgling industry is thriving YoY and it’s exciting to be catching the wave of such a ground-breaking practice. As with such young systems it is constantly developing, although this is all in the name of improvement, it is difficult to always stay on top of new features, settings and changes. Thus every morning we will spend 15 minutes looking into our clients’ accounts to check everything seems in order, examining performance and making bid adjustments where necessary.

New client – handover:

Then it’s straight to a meeting room for a sales handover. Eeeek very exciting! A member of the sales team confirms a fitness clothes retailer wants to launch programmatic buying with us. In this internal meeting we discuss what their goals are, what they know about programmatic buying and what they expect to get out of it. It seems relatively standard, they know a little about online display advertising, they are keen to gain brand awareness and quality traffic to their site. Meeting over and it’s straight to the desk to begin thinking about what targeting will be the most relevant and responsive to launch with.

Within around 3 months of working at Periscopix I began being solely responsible for a client from handover. This means I am in control of every aspect of an account. I am in charge of designing the campaign, building the account, ad trafficking, reviewing the set-up, optimising the account on an ongoing basis and, of course, managing all client contact.

This autonomy is unusual for a digital marketing company, but having ownership of an account means I have so much vested interest in the performance, I know the client and the account inside out and I have fantastic variety in my day-to-day working life.

Ad trafficking:

A couple hours of this day I am spending ad trafficking. This is necessary every once in a while with new clients and also existing clients wanting to change theirs up. Today is because a travel agency client has decided to carry out some rebranding. With the industry-wide developments mentioned earlier, the set-up process of uploading ads is always changing. This means there is always a new system to crack and new ad requirements to get to grips with and this process can be a challenge. With internal support from within the team and Bid Manager Support readily available when the job is done it is always a rewarding feeling finally seeing the shiny new ads uploaded into the interface we use. J Especially as they get slicker by the month!

Lunchtime!
The size of Periscopix is growing really fast and the average age of an employer is 27. With an open plan office and new starters every month it is really fun to just sit in the kitchen and meet new people. I was surprised at how quickly I made really good friends here. Often we will take a stroll to borough market or saunter to Potter’s field, a walk is often needed after the free posh coffee, toast and the array of fruits we stock up on in the mornings!

Client meeting:

After lunch I have a meeting with a B2B client that sells mobile analytics. The meeting is taking place at the client’s offices in central London. I am looking forward to the catch up as I have great relationships’ with all my clients, something that is nurtured since handover. It is easy to get on with clients whilst working at Periscopix because our USP is our transparency and commitment. We only have a handful of clients each to ensure we are able to commit time to working on the accounts. Plus we are sharers; we want the client to know what we are doing, why and how we are doing it and what we are planning.

Optimisation:

Aaaah it’s nearing the end of a busy day and I get to optimise! This is the back bone of our job, pouring ourselves into our accounts to tease out trends and work out where to go from here to progress the accounts even further. We have a dozen optimisation tasks we can tackle to improve accounts. My favourite part of my role is finding the gems during optimisation sessions; sites that outperform others, user lists that are responding really well and discovering fascinating insights using lookalike modelling to provide clients with useful insights into who their target online market really is. We foster a test and learn ethos here at Periscopix and so as long as your tests are based on data, anything is acceptable. This freedom and encouragement means although you have in mind what your clients expect, you also get to explore and test what you find interesting.

Home time!
As always the day went too quickly! However its 17:31 and I am out of the door. The directors, Simon and Marc, believe efficiency and productivity stems from a happy workforce and Simon says ‘there is nothing worse than watching the clock and having a boring job’. Hence the company are forever trying to strike a balance of being busy but getting it all done in the working hours – which is a refreshing change from the nightmare graduate schemes I hear about from my friends. Now it’s time for a quick gym session (read: sauna) – membership subsidised by the company of course!

To find out more about UCL Careers Media Week, visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/getinto

What is a Diplomat? : Nikesh Mehta, UCL Alumni

UCL Careers4 November 2014

Ahead of Government and Policy week,  Nikesh Mehta, Counsellor (Foreign Policy and Security) at the British High Commission in Malaysia, gives us his insider’s view on what a Diplomat does.

“What is a Diplomat? This was the question that my family and friends asked me when I told them that I was going to be joining the Foreign Office. It’s surprisingly difficult to answer.

Nikesh Mehta
The Oxford English Dictionary describes diplomacy as “…the profession, activity, or skill of managing international relations” and a Diplomat as someone who “…typically represents a country abroad”. The famous American travel writer, Caskie Stinnett, once said: “A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.”

For me, a Diplomat is someone who enjoys building relationships and understanding cultures; someone who is adept at gathering information and influencing decision-makers; and someone who takes pride in promoting national interests and keeping people safe.
I joined the Foreign Office because I wanted to make a difference in countries around the world and to promote our interests and values. I have been very fortunate during my career to have had some incredible experiences and I would like to tell you about them in the hope that you might also consider applying to the Diplomatic Service.

After completing a Masters in Chemistry at UCL, I spent three years working as a teacher in rural Japan. My first experience of culture shock was trying to explain why I was vegetarian to a group of sceptical Japanese students. I really enjoyed the opportunity to be an ‘ambassador’ for the UK and this, together with a long-standing interest in international affairs, prompted me to apply to the Foreign Office.

I joined the Foreign Office Fast Stream in 2002 and spent a year on the NATO desk in London. I then volunteered to serve in the Coalition Provisional Authority as the Political Officer for southern Iraq based in Basrah. Being in Iraq just after the war was an amazing yet humbling experience.

Flying on a Chinook into Basrah
After Iraq, I was posted to Uganda for three years. This posting had huge significance for my family as my mother had been expelled from the country by Idi Amin’s forces in 1972.

Nikesh MehtaI was responsible for reporting on the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army, the ensuing humanitarian crisis, and the subsequent peace talks in Juba. At times, particularly in 2004, the situation was awful with almost 2 million people living in Internally Displaced Persons camps. But the experience of working with these communities was also hugely rewarding and by 2007, many people were able to return to some form of normality.

Interviewing a former LRA victim in an IDP Camp
There were some particularly surreal moments during my time in Uganda not least having dinner with Gillian Anderson during the filming of The Last King of Scotland. It was strange to meet her in person after spending several years staring at her poster on my bedroom wall…

Nikesh MehtaAfter Uganda, I returned to London and spent four years working on counter-terrorism issues. I was involved in a number of high-profile kidnap cases involving British nationals and got to see first-hand the efforts that our government makes to keep our nationals safe.

For the last two years, I have been posted to the British High Commission in Malaysia with responsibility for foreign policy, security and press issues. This was my dream posting because of the breadth of opportunities: One day, I could be lobbying for Malaysian support on a resolution in the UN and the next, I could be preparing an event to promote UK education.

The highlight of my posting so far has been the Royal Visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I was tasked with overseeing the preparations for their three-day visit and then accompanying them throughout. Our programme took them 2,000 miles across Malaysia from a Mosque in central Kuala Lumpur to the rainforest canopy in Borneo. The impact that the couple had on our relationship with Malaysia and the Malaysian people was incredible. In conjunction with the visit, the Malaysian Government announced an expansion of the network of protected forests in Borneo to an area larger than that of greater London. And the Duke and Duchess’s visit to Hospis Malaysia helped to kick-start Malaysia’s national paediatric palliative care programme, which will revolutionise the support given to young people suffering from life-limiting illnesses.

I want to end by saying that the Foreign Office would really welcome more diverse applications. It is hugely important for the Foreign Office to be a true reflection of modern Britain. People around the world admire us for our diversity, and our deep understanding of cultures and languages gives us an unparalleled advantage. I also think it helps to build cohesion within communities in the UK if people can see that there are diverse individuals who are proud to be British and proud to represent Britain on the global stage.”

To find out more about UCL Careers Government and Policy week, visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/getinto/governmentandpolicy and to read more from Nikesh, visit: Blogs.fco.gov.uk/nikeshmehta

Markets Relationship Management: UCL Alumnus

UCL Careers6 October 2014

Ahead of the UCL Banking and Finance Fair on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th October, we asked Yulia, what they do at Citi.

Name: Yulia Galasyuk

Degree: Economics BSc (2011)

Role: Markets Relationship Management, Citi

Can you tell me about the work you do?

I work in the Markets Relationship Management team at Citi. Our role is to ensure Citi’s largest Markets’ (Sales & Trading) clients have access to our products and services around the globe. This means I am constantly working with senior managers within our Markets business from different product areas and geographies. The majority of our focus and time is spent with clients. We are also involved in different projects that help define our strategy with clients.

What factors encouraged you to apply to Citi?

For me, the real decision maker was my interaction with Citi’s people. Prior to my internship at Citi, I organised a series of events with various banks and UCL’s Russian Society. Citi stood out in my experiences and I really connected with the people and sensed that they took a genuine interest in me. Through these conversations I was able to glean real examples of what Citi is famous for: very talented and smart people, the support of senior members of staff and being given responsibilities at an early stages. I obviously applied!

Can you tell me what tips you have for students wishing to pursue a similar career path?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be ashamed of saying “I don’t know”. Don’t forget that we are here to learn, so it is also important to follow up, show that you have done some work, investigation on the subject and try to find a colleague that can help. Please also make sure you come prepared for the interviews and are well versed in the history of Citi, its senior management and other publically available information.

What one tip might you have for students attending the Banking & Finance Fair in October?

Do your research and come prepared! There will be many companies at the fair looking for students like you. But how will you stand out? Research the organisations you are interested in first, by doing your research you can then ask the business representatives at the Fair intelligent questions based on your own opinions and ideas. You will also be able to work out very quickly which companies interest you and which don’t, then you can use your time at the Fair effectively networking and finding the right job opportunities out there for you.

The UCL Banking and Finance Fair on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th October 2014 is kindly sponsored by Citi and PwC.

What’s it like to be on a UCL Alumni Panel?

ycrnf0116 June 2014

As a UCL alumnus, you probably appreciate that job searching can be quite daunting. You are also most likely aware of the anxieties and importance associated with that dreaded term – ‘networking’. UCL Careers have made the process as easy, effective and enjoyable as possible, with a focus on employers and students both getting the most out of participation. I had the opportunity to see the mutual benefit in taking part during a UCL alumni panel and networking event, run during the successful Employability Summer School. With over 70 willing and eager UCL students, I joined more than 15 alumni from a range of employers including TFL, PWC and TeachFirst.

The value of networking can’t be understated. It can generate leads and openings, create worthwhile business relationships and offer up personalised information in a short space of time. Enthusiastic and talented students are aware of this and actively seek opportunities to talk to top employers, find out as much information as possible and learn more about how they can develop their skills within a specific industry or company.

As Marketing Communications Intern at UCL Careers, I was best placed to bridge the gap between encouraging students of the benefits in engaging with the alumni panel but also to offer, hopefully, useful insights about my own career path as well as answer general questions about what it’s like to work in marketing.Alumni Event - Summer School 2014

As per previously sent-0ut instructions, all alumni were greeted and briefed fifteen minutes prior to the event, with introductions and mini-networking in a separate room. The event then began – we were split in to two rooms and a semi-formal approach was taken with students grouped in 3’s and 4’s with one alumnus per group. Ten minutes was then allowed for discussion before we moved around and spoke to a new and eager group, with a total of an hour and six rotations.

This was a great opportunity to give a little information about myself, UCL Careers and the marketing industry and then take some well-thought out questions from motivated and genuinely interested students who appreciated the information given. Many took notes and asked articulate follow-up questions to which I was able to provide more detailed answers. A comfortable and enjoyable experience, I feel the students left with an impression employers, and UCL Careers, was engaged and approachable.

Concluding the event, we were given two drinks tokens and an opportunity to mingle in a more relaxed setting with all the students, other alumni as well as UCL Careers staff in the downstairs bar area. This was a great way to discuss topics in more detail and highlight to the students relevant aspects of our roles and companies.

Attending panel events are a great way to give back to UCL Careers if you are a past student as well as maximising your company’s profile with talented and eager UCL students from a range of disciplines. Well-organised and engaging, the events usually take a few hours of your time but offer huge and lasting personal and organisational benefits in return.

To find out more visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/recruiters or email careers.events@ucl.ac.uk