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From Queen’s to global peacemaker

Conor Houston, Queen’s Law graduate is Director of Houston Solutions Limited, and Chairman of several organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses Northern Ireland, One Young World 2023 Belfast, and of Fleming Fulton School. He is also the Governor and Trustee of the Irish Times Media Group.

Conor Houston

What does Queen’s mean to you?

 I’m often reminded of Seamus Heaney, his famous line when he talked about the original centre. I think, as I reflected, I’m making this video today, Queen’s University very much is for me, my original centre. It’s where I formed my passion for Law, which was the career I practised in for most 10 years. But it also gave me a number of skills, perspectives and opportunities that continue to this day, and I’m very proud that I have for almost 20 years, I’ve had an association with Queen’s University. 

What was your Queen’s experience like?

I graduated in 2004, with my Law degree. I had a fantastic three years at Queen’s, made a lot of friends who are still very much friends today, and I suppose it ignited my passion and interest in in law and the rule of law. I was very fortunate through my times at Queen’s to be involved in a number of summits and conferences, but also to go and study at the European Public Law Group Academy in Greece, in 2004, which was a really fantastic opportunity. It was my first time, I suppose, with young people from right across Europe studying together, all the different languages, cultures coming together and united by European Union law. 

That was a very formative and special time. And in fact, a number of the things that I’m continued to be involved in, tend to have that international perspective and lens. After I had completed my Law degree, I went on to study for my Master’s in Human Rights law, and was very fortunate that there was an opportunity to do a cross border element. So I did the first half of my Master’s in Queens, and the second half of my masters at the National University of Ireland in Galway. And again, that was a very special time and experience and a number of the friendships and relationships I enjoy to this day were because of that cross-border experience. 

What was your first graduate role?

I graduated from Queen’s with my Master’s and I then went back to Queen’s to study at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, where I was finally admitted as a solicitor in 2008. I was lucky that I had a firm that I did my apprenticeship with John J. Rice and Company in Belfast, which was a criminal and human rights firm.I worked there for almost 10 years and was fortunate to be involved in many of the pioneering human rights cases of that time. I was dual qualified in that I was qualified both in Northern Ireland and also in the Republic of Ireland. So I practised a lot in Belfast and Dublin. And during my time in practice, I was very involved in the profession. Firstly, through the Young Lawyers Association, the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors Association, which I ended up becoming Chair of, and we had some fantastic conferences and events and a lot of fun with that group. I was then the first lawyer for Northern Ireland to be appointed to the board of the European Young Bar Association, which our relationship continues to this day. And 2010, we actually brought the European Young Bar Association conference to Belfast, so it was fantastic to bring all these international lawyers to our city. 

What has been a career highlight?

I suppose a combination of all those roles, as well as being so very fortunate to be representing some leading human rights cases represent journalists, politicians, and many others. I suppose I became very interested in how law can affect change, I was very passionate about making a difference. And that’s what attracted me into law, the power of law to create change in a society. 

I was very fortunate that the cases I got to work on, were very much about driving that change. But I suppose I became interested in how could I do even more so in 2014, I was awarded a scholarship by the United States State Department. And I spent a few months, I took a sabbatical and took a few months out to Boston College and then into Washington, and on their rule of law programme, which really started to develop my thinking more around the skills and experiences and perspective I had, and what I could do. 

Whilst my mission was very much about helping people and making a difference, trying to refine what I could do with that, I became very interested then around maybe getting involved around politics and trying to create change to help complete our peace process, and to, I suppose, realise the enormous ambition and potential of Northern Ireland. 

What are some of your favourite work-related projects? 

I was very honoured to be appointed as the programme director at the Centre for Democracy and Peacebuilding. And I worked there for a number of years and worked on some fantastic projects around working with, for example, community organisations, youth groups, loyalists bands. And it was a great privilege to be involved in their work in trying to help to complete the peace process and build capacity within both civic and political society. 

One of the amazing projects I got to work on with them was the EU debate programme, which was set up about nine months before the EU referendum. And the idea was to create a space for informed thinking and debate in Northern Ireland, on the issues that the Brexit referendum would have, particularly as it pertains to Northern Ireland. 

I was involved with the board in rolling out a very ambitious programme where we engaged with community groups, youth organisations, religious organisations, every political party in Northern Ireland. And we really began a conversation, we weren’t trying to determine the outcome of the debate, we were trying to make sure that there was a debate. So we were neutral in that we weren’t trying to tell people to leave or remain, we were just trying to present all of the arguments and create that space. And that was a very humbling experience. 

Queen’s University Belfast were very involved in supporting that project. In fact, we launched a new debate in the Great Hall in Queen’s and academics from the School of Politics, including Professor David Phinnemore were involved in writing a briefing paper for us. So it was very important to us that it would be underpinned by that credible academic expertise, but also the have that support of the reputation of Queen’s.

Why did you set up your own business? 

I decided to set up my own consultancy, and I suppose what brings together a number of the clients and projects that I work on, is that one thing to realise the ambition of Northern Ireland. So I work with a number of leaders, all of whom may be coming from very different backgrounds and sectors, but all of whom are very passionate about realising the enormous potential of Northern Ireland, and trying to drive change here. 

I suppose that’s what unites the number of projects that I’m privileged to work on now. And as I mentioned, I’m government trustee of the Irish Times Media Group. So the Irish Times is owned by a trust, and there are eight of us appointed to effectively act as the shareholders of the group. So we’re there to sort of look at the long term vision and that’s been particularly interesting, interesting in an age of post truth and thinking about the lines around freedom of speech, etc. So, and a lot of that, of course, goes back to the learnings that I had when I studied both my Law and Master’s degree around the issue of proportionality and competing rights. 

What is One Young World? 

I’ve been involved in leading a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023. So in 2017, I was asked to address the one Young World Youth summit in Bogota, Colombia. One Young World is the world’s largest youth summit. It brings over 3000 young people from every country in the world, to a city each year. And it’s one of the only organisations aside from the Olympics that actually gets every country in the world involved. 

And this is about identifying the future leaders, both within business but also within NGO sector, just young people that are passionately driving change right across the world. So I was very fortunate to be invited to address this summit in Bogota, Colombia in 2017, and was introduced on stage by the then president of Colombia, President Santos and the late Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations. Both of those men spoke about the impact that Northern Ireland had on their journeys to peace, and this was a very humbling moment for me. 

When I addressed the summit, I realised the power of our generation and the generation watching this video, to effect real change, not just within the place we will call home, but also in terms of making an impact in the world. So I then began the process of building a team to put together a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023, and we were successful in that. 

How has your degree from Queen’s helped you?

Queen’s is that passport, not just for your career, but to accessing opportunities, and a fantastic network right around the world. So, you know, I’m extremely proud of the many hats and roles and things I’ve been involved in being a graduate of Queen’s University is really up there, and I look forward to continuing that role with Queen’s. 

What challenges have you faced?

When I was a lawyer, and some of the projects I work on, particularly some of the Civic roles that I have, I think one of the challenges your generation is going to face is how we engage with the people we disagree with. So one of the challenges is always when you have very passionate about change, or seeing something happen, and you encountered the resistance to that.

I think that one of the big challenges that I challenge myself every day, I think that we have to all turn on is what can we do to engage with the people that we disagree with, how we, I’ve often said we don’t have to agree but being disagreeable is a choice. So we need to find more places and spaces in which we can find that ability to respectfully engage with each other and actually see that compromise is an art, it’s not a sellout.

I think this is something that I encourage your generation to really challenge I think that the future will belong to those who can build relationships that can be constructive that can respectfully disagree with each other, but can see the common good can work together for the common good, can see the bigger picture that is the challenge of your generation. 

What gets your out of bed in the morning?

I don’t feel that there’s an average week. For me, I think that’s probably what I love most about my, my work. In fact, I don’t even feel like I have a job because I’m very fortunate that everything I do, whether it be in my business life or my civic life, they are projects and issues that I’m very passionate about. So I jump out of bed in the morning, passionate about making the change in the area that day, whether it be through being on the border shadows and LGBT youth organisation, whether that be in promoting the role of small businesses through the five and a half 1000 members, and I have the privilege of being Chair of the FSB, and speaking up on their behalf, whatever I can do to to advocate change, to advance those who are trying to make a real impact. 

That’s what sparks me on in the morning. 

What advice do you have for graduates?

I think that’s one of the most exciting things about this generation, the graduates of today is that you really do have a blank canvas to create the kind of life and career that you want for yourself. And Queen’s University, as I say, is the ideal place to give you that toolkit for you to be able to do that. 

It’s for me, it’s that life journey, it’s not just about getting that degree wasn’t really that important that you do, and it’s about the relationships that you build, the skills that you have, and they will sustain you for the not just years but decades ahead. And you know, as I said, it’s 20 years this September since I started Queen’s, and I’m reminded of something my late grandfather said to me, he said 20 years is a long time looking forward, but nothing looking back. 

And for the first time, I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like two decades ago I entered Queen’s University, but those two decades, I’ve had that original centre of Queens, which has, as I say, been a constant thread throughout my career both here in Northern Ireland and through the international experiences and opportunities I’ve had. 

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Lessons from a tech leader

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Alumni Deloitte Diversity Gradfest2021 Graduate success Transgender

‘Bringing my whole self to work as a transgender woman’

Queen’s graduate Kristen Guy, a transgender woman who specialises in the development of training solutions for Deloitte on how she gained the confidence to become her authentic self in the workplace.

Kristen Guy from Deloitte

How did Queen’s shape your journey?

I’m an ardent, proud trans woman, and it wasn’t always the case, I’ve only recently come out a few years ago, and I only recently found fulfilling employment in the last five years. So getting to where I am now it is, it was a challenge. But I’m glad where I’ve got. I’m proud to say that I am an alumni of Queen’s. I studied Psychology at Queens, and I graduated in 2013. My time at Queen’s was amazing. I had the time of my life, I made the most amazing friends and I’ve got nothing but good memories. But one of the main things I absolutely loved at Queen’s was I joined the Queen’s LGBTQ+ Society. And that is when my life really took off. I made friends in that society that I still have today. And that provided me with the foundation of becoming my authentic self.

What skills did you learn at Queen’s?

So, I picked up a few key skills at Queen’s, for instance, Teamwork, public speaking and research, which is a big part of Psychology, which is definitely beneficial for my job now. So I’m really thankful for the education I received at Queen’s. It was amazing.

What challenges did you face after graduation?

After graduation, I was feeling quite anxious, scared because I didn’t know what was going to come next, I had the usual anxiety about am I going to find a job, what’s it going to be like living in the working world. And for me, I just, I was feeling really anxious or really depressed because I knew I wasn’t being true to myself. And I was still identifying as male back then. And for me putting on a suit, going to interviews just felt wrong to me, I just oh used to destroy my confidence in myself, because when you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re not going to portray yourself in a positive light whenever you’re going to be interviewed by people. So I struggled my first few years, because I hadn’t taken the decision to transition at this point. But I was still looking for work. And I had no confidence in my ability. So I wasn’t putting myself forward for graduate jobs. It was call centre jobs I did here and there. I did have fulfilling times and made good friends, but I just was never happy. And then one day, I was just like, no, I need to get a job that I find fulfilling, personally. So I started to plan for more jobs, more based around admin jobs. But I found I was quite unsuccessful and it must have been because I just wasn’t portraying myself in a good light. I had such a barrier up around myself, that I wasn’t being authentic in the interviews. And I think that really comes across.

What interview tips do you have?

My advice to anyone out there not just people who maybe are in the LGBTQ+ community, but for everyone, is that when you’re going to job interviews, just be yourself. Because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We all have our own friends, family, personal lives. And I think that’s very important to bring with you and to be proud of. And if you’re passionate and positive about something that will shine through during your interviews and people are more likely to gravitate towards you.

How did you find your current role?

I saw an advertisement for Deloitte’s Assured Skills Academy, a training course for nine weeks that trains you on all of the main aspects of working in consulting and business consulting. I googled Deloitte and I was really excited because I saw loads of positive stories about how Deloitte puts diversity and equality on their agenda. So, regardless of your gender identity, your sexuality, your ethnicity, they don’t mind as long as you are hardworking, and you just become a member of the family.

Why do you think you were successful in the interview?

In the interview, something changed, like an epiphany, a light bulb moment. And I didn’t wear a suit to the interview, I just wore a shirt and trousers, because I wasn’t going to compromise myself any further. And in the interview, I decided to be myself. I spoke passionately about my time in Queen’s, and also my time being involved with Queen’s LGBTQ+ society. And the interviewer started, asked me about that, and they were really excited to hear more about that. And obviously, I got more passionate when I was speaking about that because it’s something that was really important to me.

And so, I got onto Academy. It was amazing, but I’ve got to say, there was tears along the way.

What was your first graduate role like?

I started Deloitte not knowing what to expect, because I won’t lie I didn’t even know what I was planning for. For the most part, I didn’t know what Deloitte did. They were an accountancy firm, but they did consulting, I didn’t really know what consultancy was.

So, basically in my job, we work for private and public sector clients. And if they’re introducing a new technology or like a new HR system, our team is involved in the transition from what the company used to use to what they use now. So there’s some members of the team who actually are the functional team who go and develop the new software. Some members of the team work in the chain side of things, which is tracking what the changes are, and mitigating all the changes for any potential sort of risks to the audience or the company that are getting it, and where I come at the very end is I create training and learning materials for the new system. So this includes demo videos, interactive learning, quick reference guides.

It’s fabulous. I’m quite a creative person and creating demo videos and the voiceovers and all it doesn’t really feel like work to me, like I get absorbed in it. And I really, really enjoy it. So my videos are viewed by thousands of staff members for some of the companies and clients I’ve made it for. So, I definitely feel like I’d make a real difference to the clients that we serve.

How did you learn to be your authentic self at work?

When I first joined and Deloitte, I decided straight away just to be open and transparent with my managers about my intent to transition because I was still presenting as a male. My manager was amazing, she’s absolutely fabulous. She was like, that’s not a problem at all, let us know what support you need and what we can do to help you. And Deloitte actually has a trans champion scheme, which means that a senior member of the business and directors and partners will partner with you to ensure that you’re being fully supported in your work.

My transition was slow. I was presenting as male in Deloitte for maybe my first two years, just because I didn’t get to the point where I wanted to be in terms of being on hormones, my hair length, different issues like that. But what was great was, Deloitte is very flexible, when it comes to your working hours. So, I actually have a condensed working pattern and Wednesday was my day to attend all my appointments I needed to go to for my transition, it was great. And then two years into my job I got promoted, which was amazing. And I decided I needed some time off to socially transition from my previous self Ben to Kristen who I am now, so I took a month off.

And that’s when I started you know, and dress and feminine full time, I legally changed my name to Kristen. It was very nerve wracking going back to life to Deloitte because obviously everyone knew me as Ben before, although my intent to transition was well known as people knew that I was transgender. And then I remember the nerves, but no one cared. There’s a few slip ups here and there with my old name but nothing was intentional, just people were so used to calling me that before, it happens with my family and friends as well.

But I am two years on from that, amazing. People just know me as Kristen. Being trans isn’t what defines me in the work anymore. And I thrive because of the effort that I put in to my clients and the work that I do. And I got some actually amazing news today, I actually got promoted, I just found out I got promoted again today. So four years on from feeling hopeless, not knowing where I was going to go in my career, I can say an area that I am really proud of myself as a Queen’s graduate, because I didn’t think that day was going to come. I thought I was going to be unemployed forever or in a job that wasn’t fulfilling that I wasn’t going to be my authentic self as a trans woman. And that’s not the case anymore at all. I live life to the full, I enjoy my career and I am looking forward to the future, it’s going to be great.

What advice do you have for graduates?

The advice I’d give you is be confident in yourself, even if you don’t feel confident in side, portray yourself as confident to the outside world, because that is a big skill that I’ve picked up in my professional and personal life. Because with my transition, there was a tendency to think, oh, people are looking at me or I feel awkward, anxiety. And I just decided, you know what, screw it. If they’re looking at me, they’re looking at me because my hair is looking good.

Want to hear more from Kristen? Watch her live stream here.

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advice Enterprise SU Gradfest2021 Start Ups

‘Finding the confidence to launch my own business’

Francesca Morelli, International Business with French graduate on pursuing her start-up dream. 

Francesca Morelli

Business in the blood

I loved my degree. I was one of those people that was just so interested in what I was studying. I come from a family business background, my family owned an ice cream business on the north coast of Northern Ireland. I’ve worked in my family business most of my life, so I already I always had an interest in business. But as well as with my Italian background, I kind of loved thinking about business in a more international context. So really, this was the perfect degree. 

International experience

For me, I love travelling, I love languages. But then, as well, I was really keen to enter into the business world like, like my family have done since 1911. What I really loved about the degree was the placement aspect in the third year. So that was a compulsory element to my degree, we had to go to a foreign country to a French speaking country, to undertake a placement. So in 2017-18, I find myself in Paris working in a startup studio. So a startup studio is a fairly new model. It’s essentially where there’s kind of one founder or funder, really, he partnered up with some early stage entrepreneurs, to develop their businesses from the ground up. 

First taste of the start-up scene

[In the start-up studio] they pull resources, which is great. So it meant that not only did I have the chance to work in one start-up, but I had the chance to work in a few start-ups, and that we were in the one office together, we shared knowledge. We all worked together nearly as part of the one company even though we were all working on little separate companies. I just loved the whole start-up aspect I was started working on one of the start-ups when their platform had just under 2000 followers. And by the time I left at the end of that year, the platform had grown to over 10,000 followers, I was starting to generate some revenue. So for me in the very kind of traditional sense of business, I was very used to you know, you give me £1.50 for a scone, and it cost me 50p to make it and I make my profit. And this is very different model where a lot of them were building for acquisition. So I got very used to ‘Okay, we’re working every day towards an end goal, we might not make money straight away.’ But that’s kind of start-up life. And I really fell in love with the whole thing. The fact that these people around me were so passionate, they were so dedicated to a common goal, knowing that maybe years down the line, they would sell out to a big platform or a big company and make loads of money. It might have taken them years to see that. But it was in everybody’s minds. I think I just really fell in love with it, with the passion of everyone I was working with. 

Entrepreneurship at Queen’s

I came back to Queens in the middle of 2018 to finish off my degree. I was contacted by a start-up founder in Belfast to come on board his team after he had seen what I’d done in France.I had been on his LinkedIn network for a while. We started working together on a tech start-up in Belfast. And my final year ended up being completely crazy. I was a director in this start-up. I was doing pitching competitions. I was going for funding. I was starting to ask business people to you know, become involved in what we were doing. And that really gave me amazing experience. And in my final year of uni, I also got involved with everything.

There are so many amazing opportunities out there that disappear once you’ve graduated. So really do try and get involved in stuff. The things that I was interested in were the likes of QUB Dragon, Innovate Her, these are run by Enterprise SU and the Students Union. If you’re interested in business, if you’re interested in start-ups, do go on to Enterprise SU’s website and see what all they’re up to where they’re on social media as well on Instagram and Twitter, and they’re always running great things. So do go and have a look. But I got involved in those programmes, which, you know, come out of it with Degree Plus as well which was fab.

Giving back to the start-up community

Enterprise SU gave me amazing support. After final year, I’d spent so much time with the Enterprise SU team that helped me so much. And I’ve done some so many of their programmes that I actually then applied for a job in their department. And I, this was really good timing for me, because while I was working on the start-up, while I was trying to build this early stage business, I was able to work with a team at Queen’s and kind of advise those students coming behind me so they can learn from my mistakes.

So two years later, I’m actually still at Enterprise SU. And I continue to support and advise students, start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Spotting a gap in the market

I now own completely my own business called VAVA Influence. We are Northern Ireland’s first dedicated influencer marketing agency. I decided that there was a great opportunity there for the event marketing agency, and I took a step back from the tech start-up. It means that it’s okay to try new things. And there was an opportunity there a gap in the market and myself and my business partner, Chloe really jumped at the chance. So I mean, it’s working okay, for me right now, our influencer marketing agency is doing really well.

It’s doing well we’ve built a client base. And we’re still growing. We’re still learning every day. But I wouldn’t had that had I not just throw myself in. I took advice and support from everybody. I got all the free advice go in. I talked to everybody that would talk to me. And it really is working out for me now. And we’re hoping that it will grow and grow into the future. So if you do want to start your own business, if it’s something you are thinking about if you want to get further support, advice, do get in touch with us at enterprise SU and we will be able to signpost you

Leveraging your network

Since graduating in 2019, I’ve had some amazing experiences. I would not have the network I have no I had it not been for LinkedIn. Some people cringe at the very idea.

But if you can at try and work up the courage to get on LinkedIn, to start posting, you don’t have to pretend to be this whole other persona. Be yourself on LinkedIn post about what interests you. Post about what you might like to explore, do some reading, connect with people that you think are relevant in the industry, you might want to go in to connect with people you admire, read and learn, LinkedIn is brilliant. And I really would encourage anyone studying at the minute or anyone who has just graduated to get on it and start building up that network. It can be a scary thing to do. But it doesn’t have to be you know, just try and take it in your stride and, and start putting yourself out there. 

Don’t be scared to reach out and talk to people ask for help. Even more so now I think after COVID people are really willing to support graduates to support students and give advice, you know, you’re not being cheeky asking for it. And if there’s somebody you admire, or somebody you’d like to ask for advice, do send that message, you will find it really worth it.

Keeping the faith

There is a lot of pressure [on graduates]. It can be difficult that I’m no stranger to that. So what I would say is that if you do find yourself in that position, don’t lose heart, everybody is in the same situation right now. And what I were trying to say is, you know, look online at stuff you can do to improve your skills, there are so many free courses and things you can take online at the minute that will improve your CV at the will improve your skillset. There’s, you know, Google digital garage, there are so many courses online now that you can take for free, that are going to improve your skill set and your CV as you go out and look for opportunities.

The more you do and the more you get involved with the more appealing you’re going to look to an employer.

Got an idea for your own business? You can contact Francesca at Enterprise SU and check out theEnterprise SU website

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Alumni Global Opportunities Gradfest2021 Graduate success History and English Teaching

Career lessons from a graduate teacher

Maddie Warren, a Queen’s History and English graduate and a newly qualified teacher offers her advice to students and graduates.

Maddie Warren, teacher and Queen’s graduate

You are supported to explore your options at University

When I started at Queens, I thought that I might want to be a teacher. And I did my first year of Queen’s and I kind of like I loved it. I loved getting involved in different things at Queen’s, I became a student ambassador, and did lots of tours for Queen’s, and kind of really, really enjoyed my first year. And towards the end of it. I had a bit of a careers crisis where I thought that maybe I didn’t want to teach. Maybe that wasn’t the right role for me.

I kind of had a bit of a freak out and really, really didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I had a chat with my university professional tutor, which was really helpful. And I also went to a few talks that were run by different businesses at Queen’s and one of them was an organisation which organised things like camp America and stuff like that, and I got in contact with them. And they ended up getting me a placement to go and work in Spain for the summer. So I went over to a lovely place near Marbella, in the south of Spain. And I spent my first university summer kind of working there looking after some children, learning Spanish and teaching English there. And that was amazing. 

Education is an experience, not just a route to a career

My summer in Spain was kind of life-changing for me. I realised that I didn’t need to have a career when I finished university like straightaway. I met a lot of different people who were travelling around and I realised that there were kind of like loads of different things I could do and doing an English degree or humanities degree didn’t lump me into doing just the one career. So that was a really, really great opportunity for me. When I came back to Queen’s for my second year, I got really involved with the Widening Participation Unit, and started to do a lot of outreach stuff with the university. So I started to help to run workshops for primary school children, who might be the first in their family to go to university and kind of really work with some of the deprived communities around Northern Ireland.

And I found that so rewarding, probably the most rewarding experience that I ever had. I met some really, really interesting people from all over Queen’s and I met some people who

really kind of motivated me and helped me to think about what I actually wanted and to think of education as, or my education path and my degree as more of an experience than a direct route into a career.

Build up work experience where you can

I ended up going and spending my summer in America where I worked for a camp for young girls, and doing a lot of empowerment work with young girls in America, and sort of building them up to feel like they can, they are equals and have the same opportunities. The camp was a no-technology camp, and fully outdoors, we were living in the woods for the whole duration of it. And that was really, really great for the kids, especially some of the girls who had sort of had no confidence in society without things like makeup, or their phones or things like that. So that was really, really great.

Yeah, I loved it. And kind of ignited that passion, again, to work with young people. And yeah, to work, it was nice to get to work with them sort of outside of an educational setting, and do different kinds of workshops and things with them.

Life experience will benefit your career

The experiences that Queen’s had given me made me feel like I could become a better teacher if I had more life experience. So it was really important for me after graduation that I didn’t just kind of graduate from my degree and become a teacher straight away because I wanted to have experiences that I could bring to the classroom and bring to young people to help them become rounded people. I think that school is so much more than just your kind of academic education. I think it was really important to me that I was able to shape children as citizens. So I really wanted to get some more life experience. So I decided that I wanted to do an International Development Master’s.

Global experience is life-changing

My Master’s degree is in gender violence and conflicts. And when I went into the Master’s, I knew that I wanted to do some work in India. So when I was writing my thesis, I got the opportunity to move out to India and become a research assistant for a charitable organisation called Men against Violence and Abuse.

It was about working with men, especially in deprived communities in Bombay, to prevent abuse against women. It was really, really tricky for me to kind of set that placement up, I had to do it all myself. But luckily, whilst I had been at Queens, I was given the opportunity to kind of sort some placements out. I went to college in America for a while and had a lot of support with that at Queen’s, but had kind of been taught the skills to set things like that up. So I went out to Mumbai, and I didn’t know anybody. And going out there was probably the scariest experience of my life. But I did make some amazing friends and I got to work with this brilliant, brilliant organisation. I got to do some really great research with them, which benefited them and also write my thesis at the same time. So kind of a win-win situation really. I worked a lot with boys who were at college, so between the ages of 16 and 18 running workshops, discussing the treatment of women in their society, especially by sort of the older generation of men and how they wanted to improve it and what they already knew we did a lot of training around sexuality, and around transgender people, which is kind of still a very, can be a very frowned upon thing in some Indian societies.

There are different routes into teaching

I applied to a few different teaching courses. And there are lots and lots of routes into teaching, which I think people kind of don’t really realise. I ended up doing a route called Schools Direct where you are kind of placed with a school and you have a university link. So I worked at a school in West Sussex and had a link with Sussex University and found it so rewarding from kind of day one. It was definitely the most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done in my life. My interview was to teach a year eight class of 13 year olds, I had never taught before, I had kind of worked with, with young people to do workshops and things like that. But there are a lot more interactive than lessons where I had never kind of led from the front like that. So that was really scary, but it obviously went okay, I got the position. 

Life throws your curveballs

I went onto my teacher training in September of 2019. That’s was an absolutely exhausting year. I think a lot of people say that teacher training is one of the hardest years of your career if you become a teacher. I don’t know if I’ve been in the career long enough to confirm or deny that. But I can definitely say that it was exhausting.

Funding for teaching degrees is quite limited. It’s becoming even more limited. So I was having to work at the same time. I would go to school Monday to Thursday, University on a Friday. And then Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays, I would work at a restaurant. I was lesson planning and marking in the evening, I was still writing University assignments. I was absolutely shattered. And when the pandemic came in the March I was our placement stopped. And I was absolutely crushed.

Honestly,, at first, the pandemic was a bit of a, I was slightly grateful for it, because I don’t know if I would have been able to keep going at the rate that I was. Luckily for me, I had been offered a job just before the pandemic hit. And the job that I had been offered was to start in June. So I had a couple of months between finishing my teacher training and starting my job were kind of nothing was happening. And then I started my job in June and I started teaching online, which is not something I think any teacher had ever planned to do was a massive learning curve as elsewhere a lot of things during the pandemic. But I found it really rewarding, you know, found that I was kind of getting to know some students online, which was really nice. And, and yeah, it was great. And then I went and started in school in September, and have been at the school for just over a year now.

You’re still learning on the job

During the year, I have been involved in a couple of other things. I do some mentoring. So I do mentoring for students who are often economically deprived eor socially deprived in some way. And I also work with the woman’s voice group that we have in school. I do some mentoring there and I help run some some workshop sessions, which is kind of more like the stuff that I had been doing before.

I have found teaching so incredibly rewarding. I absolutely love it. I think that’s the skills that I learned at Queen’s, the things that I was able to do in terms of student ambassador in terms of working for the WP Unit, in terms of the trips abroad, going to college in America, working in Spain… they helped to set up for me all of that really. It gave me a huge amount of confidence. It also allowed me to be independent and kind of gave me guidance on how to do things whilst ensuring that I did them myself, which I think are things that you kind of don’t necessarily learn whilst you’re at school.

The hours are long

In terms of my career now, I think that people massively underestimate the hours that go into teaching. I leave my house by seven o’clock, most mornings, and it is not uncommon for me to get home, you know, half, five, six, I would say. The last week of term has been quite lovely, because I’ve been able to leave nice and early.

There is always extra, your job is never finished, there is always extra things you can do. There are always kind of students that you care about that you want the lesson to be tailored for them in a certain way. There are always more things you can plan. There are always more parents you can contact. It’s a job that is never finished. And it has been really, really important to be able to prioritise tasks in, otherwise I would live at school.

So that has been a thing  I underestimated, kind of how never ending the to-do list is and the fact that you just can’t like it’s it is impossible to do at all. I am a person who loves to finish things and you just can’t do it. So I think I definitely underestimated that.

The rewards are huge

Working with young people is just so rewarding  –  seeing the difference in their progress both academically and as people is phenomenal; having kids come and tell you that they love your subject or they have a great lesson,; having kids email you over Christmas to say Happy Christmas because they have built relationships with you. Back in May, I had a group of students invite me to a birthday party in my classroom for me, where they had baked me cupcakes and decorating my classroom and hid in a cupboard.

Lots of people have said to me that they think they would enjoy teaching, but they think it would get really samey which always shocks me because I have never done anything which has been so varied in my life! I can teach the same lesson four times in a week, and it would never be the same.

And just  knowing that you can shape their future. And knowing that, as well as being able to shape their future, you can really make students feel seen and feel represented. 

There are no career wrong-turns

To an extent there are no wrong decisions. I think that everything can teach you something. I think the decision, the people that I have met because of the choices I’ve made… I can’t imagine my life without the people that I’ve met at university or my travels in in the different organisations that I’ve worked for. And yeah, I just think that things come around. If you’ve done something and it’s not right for you, then make another decision and find something else. I don’t think that careers these days have to be linear.

I felt a huge amount of pressure coming out of university to know what I wanted to do. I felt that from my family, I think, to kind of know what I wanted to do; to get job; to settle down; to make money for myself. And actually, it’s okay to just take a break to figure things out to try different careers. You don’t have to get it right first time.

You can re-watch Maddie’s recent live stream here:

https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/graduate-support/UpcomingLiveStreams

Categories
Alumni Business Analytics Gradfest2021 KTP Student experience

“Never hesitate to apply even if you think you won’t make it – I ended up getting the job I always wanted.”

MSc. Business Analytics graduate Sneha Parajuli is now a Strategic Management Analyst at KTP. Here is how she got there…

Sneha Parajuli, QUB alumni

Describe your career path to date.

After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from my home country Nepal, I was working as a Data Quality Analyst over there. My original plan was to complete my Masters and then go back to Nepal to apply my learnings. I had multiple job offers there, but right after I submitted my dissertation, the KTP role caught my       attention. The role was somewhat related to my dissertation, so I decided to give it a shot. Through a series of virtual interviews during the pandemic, I was able to get more info about the goals of KTP partner company SDG and how my analytical, marketing and data-science skills align to drive that goal. Soon after the interview, I was told I had been successful, and I would be starting in January next year. The job began with few weeks of university and company inductions and product trainings. With plenty of support from both my company and university supervisors, I feel like I have adjusted well to the role now and I love my new job!

Why KTP?

The idea that I will be able to solve the business goal of the company all while being supervised by expert faculties is what intrigued me. On one hand, I had the fresh ideas from my graduate program that I was hungry to apply in the real world, and on the other hand, the fact that I would be under the supervision of the faculty with the proven records; and that is exactly what I need at this point. Owning and managing a challenging project which is central to the strategic development and long-term growth of the business all while receiving full support from brilliant supervisors at Queen’s? COUNT ME IN! 

What is your current role like? What about it makes you want to get up in the morning?

Currently I have been working mostly on capturing the overall view of how things currently work within the business, analysing it, developing, and recommending new models/strategies which requires a lot of interaction with the team. The amount of support I have received from the team here at SDG and my supervisors is incredible and I am always motivated to do more.

What does an average week look like for you?

My main goal has been about providing strategic analysis on different areas of SDG. That goal has wider scope, and my week is all about solving a subproblem from that big scope of work. This means I take part in the thoughtful discussions and meetings with the respective stakeholders, and design data-driven models as needed. Moreover, KTP has this amazing program for personal development, which I constantly use to improve my leadership, management, personal effectiveness and more through online courses throughout the week as a part of my mandatory KTP module.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

Because I “own” my own project, sometimes this can be stressful as I have to work under tight deadlines and get the work done on time. The project I am working on is something entirely new to the business and the business is changing rapidly which means it doesn’t always work out as we want it to. But with the support of my supervisors both in SDG and Queen’s as well as the team at work, we manage to get the work done.

What is the most rewarding?

Even though it has only been about four months into this role, I feel like being able to take charge and manage my own project ultimately working towards bringing a transformative, long lasting change within the organisation all while implementing what I have learned throughout my academic journey has been the best experience of my KTP journey so far. Not only this, I have also met so many talented individuals through KTP network where associates working in different companies across the UK share their experiences which is really exciting.

What are your career aspirations? What are your goals?

I believe I have a long way to go and want to keep learning more and keep developing my skills. I hope to continue working as a Strategic Analyst at least for a few years as I really love what I do. I would also love to learn more project management skills and work in a higher-level position someday.

In what way do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job?

I have received a lot of feedback about how my project, with new and innovative ideas, has brought a positive change in the business. I can also see how the business has started to incorporate a lot of my recommendations and is slowly changing to smarter ways of working and I feel like getting to be a part of this is very rewarding.

What expectations did you have about this career path that you have found differed from reality – either good or bad?

I have some experience of working a corporate job for a big company in Nepal and I felt like working for KTP is going to be somewhat similar. But I was so wrong in this regard as KTP offers so much more. KTP encourages the associates to spend approximately 10% of their time on training and development activities to help them gain valuable skills for their personal development and prepare for the future. In fact, we are also given a separate training and development budget which I think is huge.

What skills did you learn at Queen’s that have helped you in your career?

During my time at Queen’s, both as a student and working as an international ambassador, I learned a lot about time management, working under strict deadlines, teamwork, and most of my analytical skills from my course.

What advice do you have for students and graduates wanting to apply for a KTP?

Always keep being updated with the KTP openings and keep an eye out to something that interests you. Never hesitate to apply even if you think you won’t make it as there’s always a possibility that you will. Coming from someone who didn’t even think of working in the UK, I ended up getting the job I always wanted, and I am so happy I applied. KTP is much more than just a regular job, you will learn so much throughout your journey, hone your skills in so many areas and it will definitely be worth it.

How did your Queen’s experience help your personal and professional development?

Getting a master’s degree from Queen’s has been an added bonus for me in so many ways. Not just the technical knowledge from the course, I also undertook multiple leadership courses like Master your Leadership, Inspiring leaders, and Leadership in Practice which definitely helped me develop my personal skills, improve my communication and also enhance my leadership capabilities which I think instilled so much confidence in me.

What’s the one thing you’ll never forget about your time at Queen’s?

Actually, there are two – Sleepless nights during dissertation (which became so much rewarding to me later) and Graduation day as it was the day I finished my degree and was so happy!

Interested in KTP at Queen’s? KTP will feature on our @QUBCareers Instagram during the week commencing 19 July talking about creativity and lateral thinking. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more.

KTP are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021

Categories
Alumni Gradfest2021 Randox Student experience

“I’m proud to be involved in COVID testing and to be making a difference in the community”

BSc Hons Biological Sciences graduate Laura Cummings is now a Laboratory Manager at Randox. Here is how she got there…

Laura Cummings, Queen’s alumni

Describe your career path to date.

I studied Biological Sciences at Queens University Belfast and then worked at ALS Environmental in England for a few years as a Senior Organic Chemist. I was fortunate to be able to move back home and find a job not just in my field of science but in a company that has made such an impact in the fight against coronavirus. I’m grateful that the team at Randox have recognised my skills and achievements and given me valuable opportunities for career progression, including my promotion to manager for the COVID labs.

Why Randox? 

I have always had a passion for science from an early age and recognised that the opportunity that science can give you is incredible. It is a career path where I knew I would have a very fulfilling life with constant opportunities for learning and career progression.

I always wanted to do something valuable- something that genuinely helps others and makes the world a better place. I knew that Randox was the biggest innovators in Diagnostics and knew I had to get involved- I am proud to work for a company that is dedicated to improving healthcare and am excited our advancements for the future. 

What is your current role like? What about it makes you want to get up in the morning?

As the UK and Irelands largest COVID testing facility, Randox is critical to the national response to the pandemic. We run up to 120000 daily tests for the UK Governments National Testing Programme so the timely release of accurate and reliable results is key. We have a big focus on quality and are always looking for ways to improve our policies and processes. We have, for example introduced a range of innovative robotic systems which automate the unpacking and racking of samples before they get tested by our scientists. All this takes very active management. 

What does an average week look like for you?

Our staff work 24/7 and my role as a laboratory manager is to make sure that they have everything they need to do their job. I ensure that the labs run smoothly, provide solutions for any issues that may arise and monitor the performance of the testing process. 

What is the most challenging part of the job?

Diagnostics is constantly evolving, and we are always developing and streamlining current processes- currently we are expanding to mobile testing sites over the UK and Ireland therefore sometimes it can be a challenge to keep up but this is also one of the most exciting parts of my job. There is power and confidence in adaptability and to be given the opportunity to bring staff along with the processes through training is very fulfilling. 

What is the most rewarding?

Randox has employed more than 850 new staff into the COVID labs and to work with and learn from such a diverse and multi-disciplined team has been really rewarding. Everyone has risen to the challenge this pandemic has created and I am proud of how we have all pulled together as a team in a time of great need. 

What are your career aspirations? What are their goals? 

I am very fortunate to say that my current position as a laboratory manager has always been an aspiration of mine. Randox has provided me with opportunities which have been invaluable and I can only hope to continue to improve to become more involved in the growth at randox

In what way do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job?

I’m proud to be directly involved in COVID testing as it plays such a vital role in the effort to contain and reduce the spread of the virus and be to be making a difference for the sake of our family, friends and communities.

What expectations did you have about this career path that you have found differed from reality – either good or bad?

I thought a job in science would be very structured with little variability however, after starting my career with Randox it couldn’t be any different. The environment is such high paced with constant movement in terms of people, projects and patterns. 

What skills did you learn at Queen’s that have helped you in your career?

My time at Queens taught me core technical skills both practical and analytical that were essential to my career development. 

What advice do you have for students and graduates wanting to move into this area?

I think the future of the diagnostics industry is very bright and those thinking of a career in this area should definitely get involved. My advice would be to broaden your skillset, as long as your are willing to learn and put in the work you will find the career best suited to you. 


How did your Queen’s experience help your personal and professional development?

Queens taught me to be proactive in regards to building my resume both with personal interactions and experience. There was always a wealth of support from university staff who enabled me to develop in areas of practical, analytical and interpersonal skills. 

How did the people you met at Queen’s inspire you?

I found all the people I interacted with inspired me to succeed, one in particular was Dr Leonid Kulakov whose extensive experience, talent and rapport genuinely motivated and set a platform as to what I wanted to achieve in the future. 

What’s the one thing you’ll never forget about your time at Queen’s?

All of the people I met! 

Interested in Randox? Randox will feature on our @QUBCareers Instagram during the week commencing 28 June talking about commercial awareness. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more. 

Randox are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021 

Categories
Alumni Gradfest2021 Graduate recruitment Graduate success software development

“Thanks to what I learned at Queen’s, I’ve been able to hit the ground running in my role.”

MSc Software Development graduate Adam Hamill is now an Associate Consultantin Data Analytics Managed Services at
Version 1. Here is how he got there…

Msc Software Development graduate Adam Hamill 

Describe your career path to date. 

I graduated in 2016 with a degree in Electronic Engineering. I worked in an electronics company for around 3 years, then returned to university to do a Master’s course in Software Development and after I graduated I got offered a role in Version 1 which is where I am working now. 

Why Software Development? 

I always had an interest in IT and anything to do with computers. I knew a lot of friends that had got jobs in the industry too and had great things to say about it which made me apply for the Master’s course and I am now very happy I did. 

What is your current role like? 

No two days are the same, there’s a lot of variety in the types of work I could be doing and the different types of customers I could be working for. I enjoy that every day I know I will be learning something new.

What does an average week look like for you?

At the moment I’m still junior in my role so my week involves a lot of shadowing other members in my team, seeing their thought processes in working out problems and giving my own input if I feel I can help out. In a week I could be working with one customer on helping produce a dashboard in Power BI to suit their needs, while for another customer I could be trouble shooting any backend problems they may have encountered using SQL. 

What is the most challenging part of the job?

Keeping on top of all the various customers we provide support for and their ongoing requests. 

What is the most rewarding?

Receiving positive feedback from customers, knowing that you have made their day even a little bit more convenient is always a great positive about my job.  

What are your career aspirations? 

I would like to be highly experienced and knowledgeable in my field and feel that I am a great asset to the company.

In what way do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job?

I enjoy the fact I get to work with globally renowned companies and that my work contributes to making any processes or systems run smooth as possible for the customer.

What expectations did you have about this career path that you have found differed from reality?

Along with the technical skills required, there is a steep learning curve into learning each customer’s systems and solutions which is something I hadn’t expected.

What skills did you learn at Queen’s that have helped you in your career?

Good timekeeping skills has definitely helped me as I can have many tasks with deadlines all running at the same time just like University. Additionally, communication skills gained during group assignments in Queen’s have been a great help in my career. Technical skills learned such as programming, database design and security have enabled me to hit the ground running in my role. 

What advice do you have for students and graduates wanting to move into this area?

If you are thinking about doing it and know you will be able to give it your full effort, then go for it. 


How did your Queen’s experience help your personal and professional development?

I made lots of new friends at the course who I still see regularly which was a great bonus of attending the course! 

How did the people you met at Queen’s inspire you?

The passion from my teachers for their subjects helped inspire me to achieve my best results in the course.

What’s the one thing you’ll never forget about your time at Queen’s?

Changing very quickly from traditional lectures to virtual lectures thanks to a pandemic!

Interested in working for Version 1? Don’t miss our Instagram Live on 9 June at 3pm on @QUBCareers Instagram when our student host will be getting top tips on navigating the recruitment process at Version 1. Version 1 will also be talking about the importance of embracing workplace tech on @QUBCareers Instagram at 12pm on 15 June. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more. 

Version 1 are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021
Categories
Discover EY Employer Engagement Employer Insight Employers EY Gradfest2021 Graduate recruitment Graduate success

“I’ve travelled to Frankfurt and worked with exciting clients like Google”

Maths Graduate Shannon McAteer is now a Business Consultant in Technology Risk at EY, Here is how she got there…

Queen’s Maths graduate Shannon

Describe your career path to date. 

I began applying to graduate jobs during the summer of my graduation, and I had already decided to apply to EY and other “Big Four” firms. I had online assessments to complete for EY and then I had to attend an assessment centre for a day to complete various tasks with different interviewers and other candidates. Once I passed the assessment centre, I had one final interview with a Senior Manager in Belfast, and soon after this I was told I had been successful, and I would be starting in September that year. The job began with 2 weeks training in Dublin (with all expenses paid which was nice), and once back in Belfast I started on my very first audit for Belfast City Council. After a few other short projects, I joined the team working on the Google engagement in November of my first year, and I have been working on this project ever since. So, I was definitely thrown in at the deep end but there is always plenty of support, and all grads just learn as we work on different projects. 

Why technology risk? 

Even after I finished university, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do as my career, and with Maths as my degree, it didn’t really narrow down my options at all (which is good and bad). I had first learned about the “Big Four” at grad job fairs, and I started to do my research to see if any of the career paths they offered interested me. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be an accountant, so technology risk caught my eye, especially as this is a sector that is continuously growing and changing. As I had applied for several companies, in the end I was torn between another Big Four company and EY, but as soon as I completed the assessment centre, I knew it was the company for me. EY is very people orientated, and everyone I met seemed really nice and helpful, and I also knew there would be opportunity for travel through EY, which definitely interested me as well.  

What is your current role like? 

The current project I am working on can definitely be stressful at times, and sometimes the hours are long during really busy period, but the team I am working with is fantastic, and this always motivates me to do the best I can for the benefit of the project as a whole. There are always new tasks and things to learn because it’s such a huge company with so many internal systems, and the scope of work we do for Google is always growing and changing, which makes every day new and challenging. 

What does an average week look like for you?

I will be honest and say most weeks are not just a 9-5, but the team I work with is quite flexible in terms of the hours you work each day, which is great. There can be lots of calls with the client, but also time to work by yourself and get work done which I enjoy too. We also have regular check-ins with the team, which includes sub-teams in Belfast, the US and the Philippines, so the different time zones can also be an interesting factor.  There are also always lots of social events, for my project and for technology risk or just the Belfast office, all of them have been virtual recently of course, but hoping to start getting back to in-person events now too. 

What is the most challenging part of the job?

The longer hours in busy periods can be tough sometimes, I have had to work a few weekends and it can be stressful because of tight deadlines. But we always manage to get the work done, and the team will always be on hand to help. 

What is the most rewarding?

Getting to work as part of the team has been the best experience of my EY journey so far. It is a pretty big team consisting of people from all over the world, which is always so interesting and exciting. Also, at the beginning of my career in EY, I had the opportunity to travel to Frankfurt, Germany, to complete a data centre visit. I went completely on my own, and although it was scary at the time, it definitely helped me with my professional and personal development and is something I’ll always remember! 

What are your career aspirations? 

I want to keep moving up through positions in EY and hopefully become a Senior Manager one day (if not higher up). I also want to complete more qualifications to do with IT, cybersecurity, etc, to keep up to date with the ever-changing trends in this sector. 

In what way do you feel like you’re making a difference in your job?

Through our work for Google, we’re making one of the biggest companies safe to use for all of its customers around the world and getting to be a part of this is very rewarding. 

What expectations did you have about this career path that you have found differed from reality?

During the first 2 weeks training, I don’t think any of us thought we would be thrown straight into proper projects the way we were, I thought there would be a lot more training, or even just helping with smaller tasks on different projects. But I have enjoyed learning new things right from the start, and I always think it’s easier to learn on the job.  The Coronavirus pandemic has obviously changed things massively, so there has also been less travel and time in the office than I initially expected, but I am hoping to still experience this at some point soon. 

What skills did you learn at Queen’s that have helped you in your career?

I learned so many skills during my time at Queen’s that have helped me, for example; people skills, organisational skills, independence to be able to work alone but also being able to work well as part of a team. I also learned how to manage strict deadlines, and how to try and keep calm under pressure. As well as this I picked up so many basic computer skills that I still use every day during work now, like google sheets/docs etc.  

What advice do you have for students and graduates wanting to move into this area?

I would recommend definitely doing some research about which service line you want to go into, and then also which sub-service line, as EY or other similar companies have so many different roles and opportunities available. However, I know for EY there is always the chance to move around within the company if you feel another role would suit you better. A lot of EY’s hiring process is based on whether you’re a good fit for the company based on what type of person you are, how you work etc, but this works both ways, so it’s really important to be sure big companies like EY are also suited for you and what your career aspirations are.  


How did your Queen’s experience help your personal and professional development?

Studying at Queen’s helped me gain and improve upon so many professional and personal skills, without which I may not be where I am today. It also enabled me to enhance my interpersonal skills through completing a volunteering programming at the Sandy Row Community Centre and obtaining the Degree Plus certification which has been a significant factor in my personal and professional development. 

What’s the one thing you’ll never forget about your time at Queen’s?

My graduation day was one of the best day’s in my life to date. Being able to celebrate finishing my degree with my family and friends and knowing that all of my hard work over the last 3 years had paid off, is something that I’ll never forget. 

Interested in working for EY? Don’t miss our employer panel on 10 June at 12pm on @QUBCareers Facebook. They will also be talking all things Workplace Culture live on @QUBCareers Instagram at 12pm on 17 June. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more. 

EY are proud sponsors of Gradfest2021

Categories
Alumni Clubs and Societies DegreePlus Graduate success volunteering

Six things you need to know about Degree Plus

Emma Kelly, a student on our MEDIA Programme, on why Degree plus is the secret CV weapon every student needs.

1.Employers recognise its value

Degree Plus is an employability award that you gain alongside graduation that demonstrates your dedication to extracurricular activity at Queens University. It adds an extra boost to your CV and is well renowned among employers as it signals to them that you worked hard to develop the skills that are needed for their workplace. 

2.It can give you an edge in the job market

University students are constantly being told that the job market is fierce and competitive, regardless of what field you are in. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened during the pandemic. Final year students may be feeling hopeless at the prospect of graduating into our economy; therefore, we are continuously looking for something to give us an edge over our competitors. Degree Plus could be that extra something to boost your CV. 

3.Alumni vouch for it

Queens University Belfast alumni Ciara O’Neill graduated with a BSc in Psychology. In her final year, Ciara looked towards Degree Plus as a way of strengthening her CV and received Degree Plus with her degree. Since graduation she has completed a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, worked as a project worker for a children’s charity and is now a senior psychologist. Ciara’s resume speaks for itself; she has done incredible things since her graduation and she credits Degree Plus for strengthening her applications to her Master’s programmes and subsequent jobs.

Ciara felt receiving Degree Plus demonstrated to her employers that she was well-rounded and was more than her First Class Degree. Her volunteering and societies participation were outside the realms of her degree, this strengthened the view that she went above and beyond just completing a degree at Queen’s.  

4.It provides great examples for interviews

When applying for her positions post-graduation, Ciara drew upon the skills that she developed through her experiences with Degree Plus. These extracurricular activities allowed her to develop her communication skills – which is the hallmark of any psychologist – and her Degree Plus experiences provided a great talking point in her interviews. It also demonstrated her flexibility and her ability of time management – skills that are valued by employers in all fields! 

5.You can choose how you earn it

Degree Plus has two routes, verified activities (previously known as route A) and combined experience (route B). Ciara opted for the Combined experience as she met the requirements through her volunteering and participation in societies which she fit around her completion of her Psychology degree. 

6.You might already qualify and not know it

Ciara recalls someone mentioning Degree Pus to her in her final year, she checked the requirements and realised she met them. She didn’t have to do anything extra. “It looks great on my CV,” she said, adding that the formal recognition of extracurricular activities was a testament to the life she lived on Queen’s Campus. Ciara thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent volunteering and in societies – the Degree Plus qualification was just an added bonus! 

If you are a final year student reading this post, it’s important you check the Queen’s website to view the requirements for Degree Plus. Perhaps you might be surprised to see you meet the requirements – there are hundreds of activities which could qualify you for this award. 

To learn more about Degree Plus, join our information session on 6 October at 1pm.

Register here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/115/10l0lsk0

Categories
Alumni Events Networking

GradFest2020: Valuable lessons from previous graduates

Our alumni session at GradFest2020 gathered together four successful graduates who told Rachael Corridan about the career lessons they’ve learned since leaving Queen’s. Here is what they had to say.

“Every rejection is a learning experience”

Niall McLaughlin, kdb+ developer, AquaQ Analytics

“I studied Chemistry at Queen’s and obtained valuable skills such as analytical skills, great communication skills, problem solving and adapting to new challenges. After graduation, I spent some time working as a chef, this was extremely beneficial as it’s placed me in a high pressure environment where time, teamwork, efficiency and multitasking were all critical to the day to day tasks. These experiences have helped me grow as a person and I now feel fully equipped to handle anything life throws at me. 

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; you will get there. I had a non-traditional route to a grad job, which taught me a lot of transferable skills. Take every rejection as a learning experience and learn to be the best version of yourself.”

“Develop your soft skills until you find the right job”

Jack McCloskey, Seagate

“I graduated Mechanical Engineering in 2019. On the back of my placement, I did an employer project with Seagate. After graduation, I developed soft skills through part-time jobs, volunteering, interview skills and travelling until a graduate job eventually came up. There are good and bad points about working in your placement company. You are familiar with the working environment, but you are straight in the deep in working with senior management.”

“Working as part of a team is so important”

Zachery Jordan, First Deriviatives

 “Make the most of the transferable skills you have gained from part-time jobs; it’s so important to work as part of a team and be coherent in the ideas you are putting across.” 

“Explore your options; squeeze every opportunity”

Michael Kelly, IBM London

 “There will never be a graduating class like this one, but the world will not pass you by. Explore your opportunities. I missed the big four application deadlines as I was studying abroad, so I got a job in recruitment with a high basic salary, but it wasn’t the career for me. It served as a launchpad to where I am now. Squeeze as much out of any opportunity.” 

“You don’t just graduate and get picked up by an employer, you have to be proactive; I opened myself to more graduate opportunities by looking in London. Take time to explore your options and find something you love. Throw yourself into everything you are asked to do in the workplace, even if a project doesn’t feel exciting, look at what you can learn from it.”

Skills our grads advised you to develop:

  • Discipline and proactivity
  • Good self-learning habits
  • Good routine
  • Make us of DegreePlus

Want to hear more from our inspiring alumni? Join our Virtual Networking Evening with Guest Alumni Speakers

 When: June 22 at 6pm

Join here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/54/y1010b7g