August 1, 2017, by Carla Froggatt
From Maps to Apps – The First Year of My Career
By Alex Davies, BSc Geography (2016)
Somewhere around my final term of university, I realised my dream of becoming a pro MMA fighter was probably going to be hindered by the fact I had forgotten to attend any training. Desperate not to end up living with my parents after I graduated, I researched the next careers fair, ironed my (only) clean shirt, and headed on down to the East Midlands Conference Centre with a batch of freshly printed CVs.
Within a few minutes I spotted the ERT stall. Having never heard of the company, I wandered over and was immediately attracted to warmth and enthusiasm of the staff. They encouraged me to research the business in my own time, and then got in touch a few days using the details I had left on my CV.
The first interview
The first step in securing a job with ERT was a brief interview discussing my skills and experience. This also gave me a better idea of the opportunities available at the company. I was invited to a second interview with a panel of the operations senior management team. It was fairly informal and I was made to feel very welcome and relaxed. The pile of Ferrero Rocher wrappers on the table when I arrived suggested they had had a long day, so I endeavoured to make my interview as exciting as possible.
I gave a short presentation about my background outline what I would bring to the role. They asked a few follow-up questions, but then the conversation quickly moved to my time at university. They were interested to hear how my love of country music led to a very questionable topic for my dissertation. The ease with which our conversation flowed assured me I would fit right in. I was contacted a few hours later, and was delighted to learn I’d secured a position as a placement graduate, starting in August 2016.
From maps to apps
A geography degree doesn’t tend to leave you with a particularly in-depth knowledge of either pharmaceutical trial processes, or app development. That meant joining a company that builds apps for pharmaceutical trials initially seemed like a bit of a leap. I quickly discovered that the skills I had developed over my three years at Nottingham were not only applicable but highly valued.
In my first year with the company I’ve had to apply my analytical thinking that were honed from years of reading, dissecting and applying discourses. When a reporting program from a lung disease study I was assigned to failed, I needed to quickly throw together a series of spreadsheets and formula that would provide nurses across the country with the data necessary to check on their patients’ safety. I was then able to review where and how the program had gone wrong. It wasn’t enough to sit around a table with a group of developers and nod along to statements about “ODM failures,” I needed to know my stuff going forward.
Similarly, when an issue with SIM cards arose, the communication skills I developed through engaging in tutorials and seminars became vital to my role.
I’ve juggled lost phones, forgotten passwords, screaming custom officials, having to carry birthday cakes safely on a moped, and even a murder investigation (long story). And the skills I gained from my geography degree have been incredibly useful. Especially when I had to convince a FedEx customer service representative that New Zealand, was in fact, not in Africa.
Learning more about myself
Despite encountering issues such as language barriers and poorly-matched time-zones, the part of my role I enjoy the most is interacting with people. From one-to-one catch-ups to review a task, to weekly conference calls with clients halfway across the globe, I know I am in my element when I am working with others.
If I’m not developing new skills or learning more about a topic I had little experience with, then I can get bored easily. Since starting work, I’ve discovered that I want a career that’s going to be constantly challenging me to grow.
If I had to give you just one piece of advice, I would say start thinking about your career early. I didn’t start thinking about my future until my final year, and while I was lucky with finding ERT, I regret not making better use of the careers service. You don’t need to have decided on your first job after university by the end of Welcome Week, but start thinking about the kind of experiences you want from a career. Think about your strengths, and what you could work on in the next few years. If you haven’t got a CV, write one, review it with the Careers and Employability Service, and keep updating it every couple of months.
Looking for some help and guidance over the summer? We’re open. Come and see us at Jubilee, University Park or Sutton Bonington.