Categories
Career planning employability Employer events Employer Insight Employer Q&A Employers Graduate recruitment Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair MyFuture MyFuture App Uncategorised

Student Quick Guide to MyFuture Virtual Careers Fair

PREPARE FOR THE FAIR:

CLICK ON “MEET THE EMPLOYERS”, CHECK & EDIT YOUR PROFILE:

Browse the employer booths to check on who is coming, star your favourites and set up your profile (Tip: Upload your CV via your profile to share it with relevant employers).

AT THE LIVE FAIR:

CHAT WITH EMPLOYERS VIA LIVE VIDEO CHATS – YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS:

  1. GROUP CHATS: Just click on Group Chat for the relevant employer in the list to view instructions/click on meeting links.
  2. ONE-ON-ONE CHATS: Some employers are offering both 1 on 1 and Group chats. You can join up to three 1 on 1 chats at a time. Make sure to check your progress/wait time through 1 on 1 queue(s).

TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR PROGRESS IN ONE-ON-ONE QUEUE(S)

  1. JOIN QUEUES WITH DIFFERENT WAIT TIMES. MyFuture will keep your place in each of these for you. When you see your wait time is down to 5 minutes – you are next and could be called in at any moment! You can check on your progress up through 1 on 1 queues via the tab beside “Meet the Employer Exhibitors”.
  2. STAY ALERT TO A QUEUE WHERE THE WAIT TIME IS DOWN TO 5 MINUTES OR LESS. When the employer is ready, you will see a “come in and meet me” invite from them on your screen in their queue. Just click it and follow the join instructions to take you into the 1 on 1 virtual meeting room.
  3. WARNING: If you do not accept/click on the invite within two minutes, the employer will move on to the next student in the queue.
  4. YOU CAN ALSO MANAGE YOUR TIME BY ATTENDING A GROUP CHAT IF YOU ARE WAITING FOR A 1 ON 1 QUEUE WITH A WAIT TIME OF MORE THAN 20 MINUTES

OTHER TIPS:

YOU CAN ALSO BROWSE THE EMPLOYERS JOB ADVERTS AND PROFILE VIA THEIR VIRTUAL BOOTH (including during the days before the fair goes live)

NEED SOME TECHNICAL HELP DURING THE 3.30PM TO 6PM ONLINE ELEMENT OF THE SPRING FAIR?

  1. Technical help will be available to students for the duration of the online element of the Fair via the Careers Service booth Group Chat.
Categories
employability Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers Graduate recruitment Graduate success

Autumn Fair: Employer Q&A

“What do employers look for in students and graduates for employment?”

“Its very much understanding what each individual has done with their life, not just their academic life. So, its understanding where they have worked in teams, being able to work with different people, how they have been able to manage projects” – Mark Shimmings, Deloitte

“It’s really important for students to try their best to speak to as many employers, putting themselves out there and see if they can do volunteer days, work placement opportunities different things like that because it really gives you a great idea of the industry that you want to go into and the different people you can meet and also helps to build your confidence with talking to different people and professionals” – Eilish Crickard, ESO

“A lot of our interviews as about your collaboration, your teamwork, your communication skills” – Claire Brennan, FinTrU

“We look for people who can put into practice what they’ve learned and can take a practical approach and a very personable approach to what we do” – Brian Moss, Worthingtons solicitors

“You see a lot of amazing CVs but its not really just about what you’ve studied and what you’ve done its about being able to apply those skills, being able to communicate with people… its really important to try different things  and put yourself out there and just try build your CV because lots of people have a degree nowadays so its trying to find that niche that will make you more attractable to employers” – Eilish Crickard, ESO

“Obviously, a degree is important in a lot of the roles but not all of them but yes additional to that, its how they utilise what they’ve done through their life as well as their degree and can align the skills that they’ve learnt in order to use those in their roles moving forward.” – Emma McCourt, NIE Networks

“We don’t expect people to have working experience but there are so many transferable skills from the clubs, societies.” – Niamh Heaney , FinTrU

“Extracurricular activities such as the, you can see everywhere here about the clubs and the societies that’s very important for us at Baker McKenzie as well, we have so many clubs and committees, so if they have any information like that on their CV, again just makes them stand out a little bit more.” – Sarah Fowler, Baker McKenzie


“Why do employers come to QUB campus for recruitment?”

“Queen’s produce some really excellent graduates and it’s the range of graduates that come out of Queens within Deloitte we are looking for a wide range of skills and Queen’s equips the students with those range of skills, not just academic but softer skills that we are looking for” – Mark Shimmings, Deloitte

“The reputation the university, the quality of the teaching is all huge positives for coming specifically to Belfast, and to Queen’s.” – John Paul Cooney, Bank of America

“There is a number of Queen’s students that are already working for us and that their dedication, enthusiasm and desire to work for our business is just amazing and we love having them on the team, they’re great fun and absolutely know their subject” – Helen Sayers, Cooneen Group

Categories
Career planning Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employers Graduate success motivation Strengths-based interviews Student experience Uncategorised

6 things we learned about resilience from our Employer Hotseat

Beth MacDougall, EY

Beth MacDougall from EY delivered a session on Resilience. Here are the top takeaways.

Its normal to be nervous

“The one thing that terrified me literally more than anything was what am I gonna do for work. How am I gonna go into the workplace with this really strange title, this really long list of symptoms? And a degree that I don’t know how to be of use anymore and no experience. I was completely shook. I was absolutely terrified because all I wanted to do was work.”

But Beth goes on to say…

“I wish that I could go back to myself six years ago and say it’s going to be okay. It’s gonna be fine.”

Challenge = Change

“I learned that it is absolutely OK to challenge things in a process or on an application form, or in a procedure that you feel like you’re going to make you feel disadvantaged or unfair. There were plenty of times in an application form that actually will ask you to disclose a disability way before the ‘do you have a disability question’…that was my first lesson that it’s okay to challenge things. And that it’s the only way that we’re going to change things, by challenging and by asking the questions.”

People’s opinions are not your reality

“I remember the first time that I spoke with someone about my disability in a workplace, they actually told me that I was a health and safety risk, and it was selfish of me to be wanting to work in a workplace environment, after speaking to me for all of 2/3 minutes. I just wanted to have a conversation and explain, you know, but I can do this! But then why do I have to explain something? Why am I defined by this label that I have attached to me?”

Beth then speaks about how working as a recruiter allows her to speak to a range of people from all works of life

“We can learn from so many different people by having those conversations and again as recruiters we are in that position where we can constantly speak to a diverse group of people and learn from every single one of them. Giving someone a voice, really means that person is going to be able to bring their true authentic best self to the workplace.”

Play to your strengths (and find out how to play to your strengths!)

“Strength-based recruitment was definitely my friend…We might not have as much experience as persons who don’t have disabilities because it’s been harder for us to get that 0r maybe we’ve needed to take a break at times”

“So strength-based recruitment for me was so powerful in terms of I knew I didn’t have the experience that probably everyone else applying for this job did. I actually had no recruitment experience. I had plenty of student experience, plenty of mental health, well-being, events, development – but it was all dotted around different areas. I could only get small different bits of experience in different ways. I didn’t really know how to combine that. Until, I spoke to someone who help me do that”

Be proud and honest of who you are

“My interview at EY was actually the first time I ever disclosed my disability in an interview, outright. First question, “what are your motivations for EY” – well I have a disability. Straight up there. I’ve heard about this and this is why I did it because EY’s brand was all about a culture of belonging – our world your way. And I really truly believe that. I could see the images I could see the stories and I could see the things EY were doing to support people like me.”

“70% of people with a disability actually have an invisible disability which brings its own challenges. You can hide that until you get into your workplace, but if without disclosing a disability it’s very hard to get the support that you might need to be able to thrive and employ yourself the way that you want to.”

Who you are will show in what you do

Beth speaks about how people with different disabilities are often overlooked for employment and workplace stigma towards those disabilities

“People with disabilities are the largest pool of untapped talent. And that is because we do have, again those natural barriers, and sometimes that natural stigma of – traditionally disabled has meant something that someone cannot do.Whereas I would challenge that… people with disabilities are nature’s greatest problem solvers. We have to learn to live in a world that isn’t actually built always for us. We have to find different ways to do things. Which kind of brings me to my final point in terms of people with disabilities are some of the most valuable workforce that you can bring into an organisation. Those qualities of resilience communication, because you’re constantly having to communicate things, and ask for things and explain. Problem solving, creativity innovation, you name it, a person with a disability has to show that every single day in their life.”

Categories
Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employer Q&A Employers student success Student success stories

Workplace insight: Dale Totten: Allstate

Dale Totten

What are the values of your organisation?

Here at Allstate our values are extremely important. It is how we represent and conduct ourselves and not only as colleagues, but also towards our customers. Honesty and integrity is one of our core values. This is where we show honesty towards our customers and our integrity to do the right thing. We also have a core value of inclusive diversity. This is of course bringing in people from multiple cultures as not only as colleagues, but also as customers and this brings forward great ideas, drives innovation and is very important here at Allstate. We also have engagement as one of our core values. This is of course being engaged with each other to help along our shared purpose and to make sure that we are achieving our goals here at Allstate.

How inclusive an environment is your organisation?

Allstate is a very inclusive organisation. We welcome people from all different backgrounds and cultures and we encourage team engagement across these different cultures. This helps bring an inclusive environment for people within Allstate and for new people joining Allstate also. This also helps with our shared ideas and our different perspectives within our teams. It also can help with having a different out look on our goals, both within our team and also within our areas. So it is very important to have a good inclusive environment here within Allstate.

What social events bond you as a team?

Allstate host multiple events within different business areas across the organisation and these events are a great way of not only meeting new people but also getting to know your team better and your business areas better. Some of the events that I have been to have been pizza and barbecue meetups that have been provided for by Allstate. I’ve really enjoyed these events. I thought they were great for getting to know people from my team better and there’s also events that are hosted for across different teams and across the whole organisation. So there’s different events for different communities of practices, such as Dagrad community of practice which I am a part of and there’s also events that are for the whole organisation such as the sports and social events which I’ve also attended. All have been a great way to meet new people and to have some fun.

How easy is it to progress and carve out a career in your organisation?

When you first join Allstate as a graduate, you get introduced into all the different types of roles and areas within Allstate and that you have the potential of joining as a graduate. This is a great way of exploring all the different areas that are available and also finding out what you like and what you would find most interesting in going into as your role within Allstate. Once you’ve decided on your role, you’ll then be put into the two-year graduate programme. This programme is there to help you with your skills and help you with your ability to move up the ranks within Allstate. It offers you different types of promotion opportunities as well as different levels of training such as technical and soft skills training throughout as well.

What personal attributes are you looking for in recruits?

One of the key personal attributes you can have within Allstate is being a team player. You work within your team and you’re there to help share ideas, be collaborative and bring together solutions to problems you may have within your team and achieving goals within your business area. Largely you will work with other teams also within your business area and they’ll all be working towards a shared goal. This is why it’s such a key value within Allstate to be a team player as Allstate is always striving towards a shared purpose and therefore it requires teams and employees to work together to achieve Allstate’s goals.

Allstate are proud sponsors of our Autumn Fair.

Categories
Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers student success Student success stories Uncategorised

Workplace Insight: Clodagh Nugent, Allstate

Clodagh Nugent

Hi, my name is Clodagh Nugent and I’m a part of the talent acquisition team at Allstate Northern Ireland. So I started as a placement student, I then worked part-time and returned as a graduate and I’m now a junior consultant in entry-level talent.

Why are you excited to come to the Autumn Fair?

Queen’s University offer fantastic curriculum and careers services to prepare students for the world of work. Allstate Northern Ireland are passionate about investing in the talent of the future and always interested to meet ambitious students ready to kick start their career. Allstate have a strong partnership with Queen’s University and actively recruit students with great success so much so that we’re delighted to be acting as one of the sponsors for this Careers Fair this Autumn.

What opportunities will you be showcasing at the Fair?

Allstate Northern Ireland offer various entry level pathways including 12-month placement opportunities across IT disciplines. We also offer placement opportunities in our corporate functions such as human resources, marketing and graphic design although these will be offered into the new year. We also recruit a high number of IT graduates across a variety of technology roles and we also offer an IT insights programme and potential summer internships to first year IT, Maths and Physics students.

What is the best thing about working at your organisation?

So I’m afraid there probably isn’t enough time to cover all the benefits that Allstate Northern Ireland offers, but my favourite part about working here has to be the the social aspect. So I think joining a large company in an entry-level role, it’s important to have a support network there, such as Allstate graduate community of practise. We also offer a lot of employee resource groups such as Sports and Social, Embrace Awesome, Women in Technology, Allgreen, Allcare; so there really is something for everyone.

Why should students visit your virtual and or online stall?

I’m excited for this Careers Fair to be in a hybrid capacity, so myself and other Allstate representatives will be available in person and virtually throughout the day hoping to offer some careers advice and direct you to potential opportunities with us such as IT placements and graduate roles with start dates across 2023 and they will be advertised around October so looking forward to seeing you there.

Allstate are proud sponsors of our Autumn Fair

Categories
Employer Engagement Employer events Employer feedback Employer Insight Employers international students student success Student success stories

What impresses employers about Queen’s students?

 This blog celebrates some of the encouraging employer feedback we have received about Queen’s students during our employer events and activities over the last year. 

“Fantastic students”

Beth MacDougall, Student Recruitment Associate at EY welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. She told us:
“What a brilliant day meeting these fantastic Queen’s students! We couldn’t have been more delighted with our first event back in person! The students developed an understanding of the different roles we offer, and were keen to know what it’s actually like working here day to day. Biggest thank you to all those in the group for signing up and being fantastic participants – we can’t wait to see what all your futures hold!”

“Delighted to see classroom learning translated into a professional environment”

Louise Dooley, In-House Recruitment Specialist at Andor Technology welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. She told us:
“Andor Technology were delighted to be one of the partner organisations participating in #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. We welcomed students from Mechanical and Electronic Engineering and Physics disciplines. Thank you for helping us provide opportunities for students to gain valuable insights into the world of work and how classroom learning translates into a professional environment.”

“Eyes opened to the future potential”

The Interior Fit-Out Team at Graham welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. They told us:
“We opened the doors to 7 students from Queens University Belfast to see and learn about the works being carried out, whilst giving them an understanding of how a live project runs.

Project Manager, Eóin King MCIOB along with Contracts Director Neill Gillespie MCIOB took the students on a tour of the project and shared their own experiences of working and studying whilst building their career within GRAHAM. We were pleased to hear from student participants that their eyes had been opened to a potential future in the construction industry as a result of the visit.”

“Important real-life insights”

The Bloc team welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. They told us:
“Recently we had the pleasure of welcoming students from Queen’s University Belfast onsite. The main objective of the day was for students to gain very important real life organisation insights. The students got an insight into Bloc, the sector and got the opportunity to observe professionals in practice.”

“Learning from graduate engineers”

The team at Dawson-Wam welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. They told us:
“DAWSON-WAM were pleased to support #QUBWorkShadowingWeek offering students work shadowing opportunities with NI employers. Our students Kieran and Alice got the opportunity to visit our Shimna Flood Alleviation Scheme in Newcastle, Co. Down. Their site experience included a mini survey camp hosted by our Graduate Engineers, James Carinduff and Conor Magorrian.”

“Great to meet students interested in grad opportunities”

Leah Tohill, Recruiting Graduate Talent, First Derivative took part in the #QUBStockMarketChallenge. She told us:
“It was great to meet so many students that were interested in the graduate opportunities First Derivative have to offer.
Congratulations to Charles and Toby who won the Stock Market Challenge. We’re delighted that you picked First Derivative as your first choice for an Insights Day.”

“Quickly grasped the flavour of the work we do”

Niall Elliott, Legal Professional at Baker McKenzie welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. He told us:
“It was great to meet some of the #QUBStudents in the Baker McKenzie Belfast Centre as part of the Careers in Law Insight Programme 2022.

The group quickly became familiar with the various teams that operate from within the Belfast Centre. This was followed by a negotiation task to give the students a flavour of the kind of work we do.”

“First-hand experience of legal expertise”

The team at Carson McDowell welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. They told us:
“Senior Partner Neasa Quigley and Partner Gerard Armstrong hosted students from Queen’s University Belfast as part of their #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme 2022. Having enjoyed some ice cream on arrival, a team from Carson McDowell took participants around the legal world, giving them first-hand experience of a range of legal expertise.”

“Will welcome students back as colleagues”

The team at Herbert Smith Freehills welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. They told us:
“We were delighted to host a number of Law students from Queen’s University Belfast as part of the #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme 2022.

The students met some of the Belfast team and gained an insight into our Alternative Legal Services practice group.  

Belfast colleagues and Queen’s University alumni Linet Kurian and Luke Osborne shared their experiences since joining HSF and how their careers have progressed from starting as a Legal Analyst.

The Belfast team really enjoyed meeting with the students and hope to be able to welcome some of them back as colleagues in the near future.”

“Delighted to network informally”

The team at MKB Law welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. They told us:
“Lynsey Henderson and Ruairi Maguire were delighted to speak at the final session of the #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme 2022, giving students an overview of their legal career, answering questions in a panel discussion, plus chatting informally with attendees afterwards at the networking buffet.

Thank you for a fantastic event.”

“Incredible ideas and presentations”

Beth MacDougall, Student Recruitment Associate at EY met a group of #QUBStudents on our #QUBInsightIntoManagement Programme. She told us:
“EY were absolutely delighted to participate in #QUBInsightIntoManagement Programme with Ruby Hopkins and John McMorrow acting as group facilitators over the course of the programme.

A truly fantastic event. We completely in awe of the incredible ideas and presentations all of the students gave and were thrilled to attend as judges.”

“Amazing applications”

Francesca Morelli, Co-Founder of VAVA Influence took on #QUBStudents as part of #QUBImpactProject. She told us:
“We are delighted to be taking part in the #QUBImpactProject for the second year in a row as employers. In partnership with #QUBImpactProject, we’re hiring two Part-Time Marketing & Events Interns to work with us at VAVA Influence | Influencer Marketing this summer. We had some amazing applications; looking forward to welcoming the talent from QUB!”

“Hugely impressive”

Peter McCleery, CEO at Get Sociable took on #QUBStudents as part of #QUBImpactProject. He told us:

“We’re very grateful at GetSociable for all the help from @QUBCareers. The calibre of students has been hugely impressive, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Queen’s University Belfast as we grow.”

Read what else employers say about Queen’s students here

Categories
Adaptability Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers flexibility Non Linear careers

Four top tips from employers on breaking into tech

Did you know Belfast was recently ranked as one of the best places in Europe for tech firms by fDi Intelligence, a specialist division of the Financial Times?

The tech sector in Northern Ireland is booming but how can you break into the industry if you come from a non-computing academic background?

The IT sector is constantly changing with developments and advancements in technology. Employers in the sector need graduates with technical know-how to solve problems, but they also need graduates to work across their business, marketing, human resources and finance functions.

We talked to key players from the tech industry and here is their advice:

Tech is about more than computing

“You start to ask yourself, ‘there’s a heck of a lot more [to tech] than just computing?’ and you’d be absolutely right.” – Columb Duffy, Senior Manager, Allstate

You don’t need an IT degree

“People studying non-IT degrees, you can definitely have a career in the Tech sector.” – Marguerite Clarke, Business Development Manager, Version 1

You can learn on the job

“We’ll talk to anybody; if you’re smart, we want to hear from you, regardless of your background.” – David McGarry, Senior Director, Riskonnect

Problem-solvers should apply

“The number one thing that we want you to be able to do is be a problem-solver.” – Dr Aidan McGowan, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, Queen’s

Discover more about non-linear career paths on our Graduate Support site.

Categories
Baker McKenzie Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers Spring Careers Festival Spring Recruitment Fair student success Student success stories

Jump-Starting My Career With Baker McKenzie

Sophie Martin, Baker McKenzie

My name is Sophie Martin and I am a Legal Project Coordinator in the Legal Project Management team.  I joined Baker McKenzie, Belfast, as a Legal Professional in September 2019, where I worked in the Contentious Support Group. This was a fantastic opportunity after university, which provided me exposure to a breadth of document review and due diligence projects, and in-turn, the opportunity to develop an array of skills, from analytical to communication skills. 

One of the best aspects about working for Baker McKenzie is the endless career opportunities. During my time as a Legal Professional, I had the opportunity to apply for two secondments. The first secondment provided me with the opportunity to work with one of our key clients in their London offices. This was a great experience, providing me with the opportunity to work directly with our clients, providing insights into their working culture and develop relationships with our London colleagues. 

A pivotal moment in my career, was the second secondment, where I joined the Legal Project Management team, initially for a 6 month period. Like many of my peers, prior to joining Baker McKenzie, I was unfamiliar with Legal Project Management and what a career in Legal Project Management entailed. The opportunity to combine legal and management, two of my career interests, and my curiosity to explore this niche career opportunity further encouraged me to apply for the secondment. When I joined the team in January 2020, I was instantly exposed to a variety of work and endless skill development opportunities. The variety of projects, global exposure, client-facing role and autonomy to shape my projects, provided me with the platform to catapult my professional career. This, combined with an extremely supportive and welcoming team, confirmed that this was a career that I wanted to pursue. This is where my career in Legal Project Management commenced, as shortly after starting my secondment, I successfully applied for a permanent role in the Legal Project Management team.

As a Legal Project Coordinator, no two days are ever the same, meaning the learning and development opportunities are endless. The core roles and responsibilities entail managing client matters, including liaising with the client and Firm’s matter team; supporting the legal team to track and manage projects by integrating matter management, fee management, technology and process improvement techniques; analysing complex reports, flagging key issues and designing bespoke reporting; budget monitoring; and providing support for client team collaboration sites.  To ensure that the Legal Project Management team ensure our overarching objective that all projects are managed on time, in scope and within budget, this requires multijurisdictional collaboration with our Legal Project Management colleagues and legal teams across the globe to ensure that we provide the highest quality service to our clients. 

In addition to the development opportunities I have received through my role, Baker McKenzie are committed to each individual’s career progression and provide various opportunities to facilitate an individual’s career progression, such as internal and external secondments, promotions and development programmes, such as the Baker Excellence Programme. 

I would highly encourage any student wanting to join a global, high performing firm, to join Baker McKenzie, where you can commence and develop your career, surrounded by friendly and supportive colleagues.

Interested in working at Baker McKenzie? You can chat to the team about upcoming opportunities at our Spring Recruitment Fair.

Register here: https://virtualcareersfairs.qub.ac.uk/event/5725

Date: 9 Feb, 2-6pm

Baker McKenzie are proud sponsors of the Spring Careers Festival 

Categories
Employer Engagement Employers transferrable skills

Why Queen’s Produces The Best Graduates: Transferable Skills

COMMERCIAL AWARENESS AND IMPROVING BUSINESS PRACTICES

 “We actively encourage our students to research their target industry to develop a commercial understanding and a big-picture focus of the challenges an employer is facing – so they are better placed to communicate how they can actively contribute to improving business performance,” says Sandra Scannell, Head of Employer Engagement at Queen’s.

Courtney Ward, a Quality Team Leader at Randox adds: “Commercial awareness means having a real understanding of all the key companies operating in a specific industry or sector, a knowledge of the different products that those different companies sell, what services they offer. We demand graduates who have done their market research, and know who the key players are in their area.”

EMBRACING WORKPLACE SYSTEMS & TECH

“Even outside the tech sector, employers are demanding graduates who can embrace innovation to maximise performance,” says Sandra. “Queen’s students not only understand, but they ‘live’ technology.”

Dermot Murray, Senior QA Engineer at Version 1 says: “In terms of innovation and bringing a fresh perspective to companies, Queen’s graduates are at the forefront of theoretical thinking. We demand graduates who can apply this knowledge into the real world and be the catalysts for leading change.”

THINKING LATERALLY: PROBLEM SOLVING & CREATIVITY

“Problem-solving abilities are essential in virtually any graduate role,” says Sandra. “Employers want to know graduates can think strategically to tackle challenges and that they can use creative thinking to develop innovative solutions.”

Leona McGirr, a Team Leader at Fusion Antibodies says: “We want graduates who can think ahead and see the bigger picture; see how one little thing can impact another. It’s about having a different viewpoint and a different perspective on a problem. That’s key.”

WORKPLACE CULTURE: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND RESILIENCE

“In the global graduate job market, employers value cross-cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence,” says Sandra.

“Employers want to know that graduates can respond well to change, and that they have the ability to identify and deal with their own emotions and to recognise and understand the feelings of others.”

Rebecca Sinclair, a Student Talent Advisor at EY’s London office says: “Emotional intelligence is particularly valued in professional services, in the roles that you’re working with clients, and you’re building those relationships with clients. We value graduates with that emotional intelligence skill, who are able to collaborate really well with colleagues or with clients and build positive relationships.”

FUTURE LEADERS: INFLUENCING, PERSUADING AND TEAMWORK

“The mark of a leader is getting true buy-in from colleagues, clients and bosses.  It involves good communication, persuasion and negotiation – but ultimately, it’s about graduates with the ability to sell their vision for the future,” says Sandra.

Viktorija Mikalauskaite, a Senior Associate in the Legal Department at FinTrU says: “Influencing is a combination of communication and persuasion and negotiation, but it also involves confidence, which is an extremely important factor. We value graduates who can flex their communication style, according to their audience.”

 Read next: Why Queen’s produces the best graduates

Categories
Adaptability advice Alumni Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers Gradfest2021 Software With Digital Technology student success Student success stories Technical skills Technology

‘We build tech for human beings – real users that have problems to solve.’

Mark McCormack Aflac
Mark McCormack, Aflac

Mark McCormack, Head of Tech at Aflac Northern Ireland on his journey to tech leader.

‘We build tech for human beings – real users that have problems to solve.’ 

Mark McCormack, Head of Tech at Aflac Northern Ireland on his journey to tech leader

How did you get into tech?

I graduated in 1998 with a degree in Zoology. I always had an interest in science at school. I studied the sciences at A-level. Took that on through to university and kind of built on that learning and knowledge as I graduated and got to the end of my degree, I faced that question that many people face is basically, ‘what’s next?’. 

If you haven’t gotten a degree that has a very direct career path in front of you that can be a challenge sometimes, and so maybe the romantic part of me at one point thought I might study lions in the Serengeti or something… But unfortunately, David Attenborough wasn’t calling and so I had to think about what I might do next. And I’d always had an interest in computing … in computers, and I could see the advances of technology and where that was going. 

There was a conversion course running that was taking non-IT graduates and teaching them how to be software developers. I got enrolled into the very first pilot program of that initiative program called the Rapid Advancement Program or RAP. That was fantastic that that took graduates from a whole range of different disciplines and give them some skills in terms of how to be a coder, how to program and languages that maybe aren’t used so often today. 

As I moved into some of my first jobs and careers, I’ve been over 20 years in the tech sector here in Northern Ireland, based almost entirely in Belfast. Throughout that whole time, I worked with smaller companies, local companies and the tech sector of work for very large corporate organisations. 

Before joining Aflac two years ago, I worked at Citigroup. I led the Chief Technology Office at Citi and worked there for 11 years. 

What’s been your most valuable career lesson?

It’s not just about the technical side of things, not just about the engineering and the coding and all of that sort of thing. It’s about the people that you work with, it’s about working in teams, and you know, collaborating, sharing information, and solving problems which are too similar to how we work in many different industries as well, and so there are loads of parallels regardless of the background that you that you’ve come from.

I mean, going back to my early career and kind of coming from the university, I was kind of thrown in there into a course to teach computing skills with people from the whole range of different backgrounds – with law degrees, with engineering degrees, with marketing degrees, with English degree … like a whole broad spectrum …. I think that has been a really interesting part of the success of those programmes because what you bring together is a very broad range and a diversity of thought. And you have people that can represent a whole range of different ways of thinking, and they’ve come from different backgrounds with different knowledge, and they come together to work on, you know, problems. I think that’s incredibly valuable, and I think that today when we think about IT and tech, there’s so much more to it than just the ones and zeros and the data. 

There are so many fantastic opportunities in the sector because, at the end of the day, we build these systems, and we build these platforms and we build this technology. But we’re doing it for human beings at the end, right? We’re doing it for real users that have real problems that you know, we want to try and solve. So that kind of breadth of understanding is just incredibly valuable. 

What skills are important in the workplace?

Adaptability – because it’s all about how you can adapt to what the world needs. And if you look even at this small country here, that’s kind of what we’ve done. You know, once we were the linen capital of the world, once we were the rope making capital of the world, once we were the shipbuilding capital of the world and we don’t do any of those things anymore so much now. Now, it’s about world-class studios and being one of the cybersecurity hubs of Europe and one of the tech centres in Europe as well. And this is a place that can adapt and change what we do to whatever the word means. So, it’s all about as if you come to Northern Ireland, you see us now, and you want to see us in a year or five years, we’ll probably be doing something different, and we’re better to build a Centre for advanced technology here in Belfast. So, we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved.

And those other two words around resilience and reinvention. You know, we want our people to be able to grow, adapt, change, and reinvent themselves. And I suppose I don’t need to tell anyone that lives here and often about resilience. You know, we’ve had our fair share of some tough times, but I think as we grow, develop, and go through that, we look forward to an incredible amount of positivity and optimism about what we can do and can achieve from here. So, I love working here, I love being part of the community here in Northern Ireland, I’m very proud of what we can do from this place. I think it all comes down to the fantastic education system that we have and the wonderful people that we have from here because, for me, all the way work with computers, it’s really about the people that I work with – That’s what motivates me, and that’s what I enjoy doing. You know, we solve problems together, we collaborate on things, and we work together as a team.

Those qualities, those skills that you can build, regardless of what your educational background is, regardless of what your degree is, it’s those abilities to communicate to work hard to you know, demonstrate empathy, to bring problem-solving skills. Those things are universal, so whether you work in IT, in business, in engineering or a medical setting, these are the qualities that kind of separate us from the computers in a sense and bring you to know that uniqueness to the things that we can do.

What advice do you have for graduates?

I’d say build your network. This is because they’ll help you grow your understanding of the world of work. They’ll give you advice, they’ll give you some support. You can even do something as simple as building a good profile on LinkedIn and connect them with a few people that you know and getting introductions to some other people who maybe work in some companies that you’re interested in. You’ll find that people who do work in the industry are open to sharing their knowledge and their experience tells you about what it is like to do work in an office or to work remotely, or to work for a big company or to work for a small company? The culture of that organization and what you can expect? You know, those are the things that you’ll learn, and you’ll find that you know people from here are open.

And also, the other thing I would say is always be learning. You know, for me, if you’re not learning, you’re not enjoying yourself because it’s the ability to learn and adapt and to pick up new skills is that makes work exciting. And I’m working alongside great people as you do that is really what it’s all about.

What advice would you give your my 21-year-old self?

I suppose if I go back and ask myself that, I will say try and be as fearless as you can be. There’s a lot of things in life we hold ourselves back because we’re worried about what people might think of us, or how we might come across, or we don’t know anything. And because we don’t know it and don’t know anything we might not try. And I think in this part of the world where maybe not be on the front foot as much as we could be, and I can tell you all like we are as good as anyone in the world. We’re as good as anywhere in the world to do the things that we can do. I’ve worked with teams in eight or nine different countries across the globe, and I can tell you that pound for pound, we’re probably the best place in the world, particularly for technology, particularly for problem-solving, but for doing so many things, so I would encourage us all to be myself about that age to be more fearless and to get out there and get involved in things. Because we are as good as else and we’re just as capable. So that will be my advice to a young Mark McCormick younger, better looking, more McCormick. I’ll tell him to try and stay good looking, but I don’t know if we can.

Read next: Five tips for building a career around your passion