July 10, 2020, by Emily Bateman
Alumni Spotlight: Yolanda King
The University of Nottingham alumni community stands at over 280,000 worldwide. For many, sport defined their university experience and has had a lasting impact on their careers and personal lives.
In our latest alumni blog, we hear from former sports scholar, Yolanda King (Geography BA Hons, 2016 & Criminology MA, 2018), University Partnership Executive at Unibuddy and Co-founder of AKM Sports Agency.
In in 2014/15 season, Yolanda won BUCS team gold, which was the start of an undefeated streak for the University of Nottingham Table Tennis Club and the University’s Performance Programme. In this blog, Yolanda shares her experiences of balancing training, studying and university life, along with her career journey to date and her advice for current and graduating students.
My Nottingham story
“Nottingham came onto my radar due to a combination of influences – as the first member of my family to get A levels, my parents encouraged me to look at University and, at the time, alumnus, Alex Perry (the current Assistant Director of Sport for Performance at Nottingham), was Head Table Tennis Coach at Grantham College, and Nicola Deaton, my College mentor, was Head Coach at the University! Nicola took me on a tour of University Park and I was sold.
“My time at Nottingham was an amazing whirlwind – from my first week, I was busy balancing training, my studies and other elements of student life – including trying to rush back to halls for nights out with my corridor – whilst also remaining in the England Seniors. As a sports scholar, I was involved in open days, talks and primary school visits, and I was lucky enough to go to Ningbo Campus – my first of 3 trips to China whilst at Nottingham!
“In my second year, I got involved with Students’ Union politics with my first campaign for the role of Sports Officer. The Table Tennis Club also won Performance Club of the Year and two gold medals at BUCS for the first time, and I was voted Sports Woman of the Year!
“Although I completed my degree, I was disappointed with my results. I went home for the summer and dwelled on what I was going to do, whilst looking after my Dad who was recovering from an operation. I applied for an MA in Criminology, with the support of the current Head Table Tennis Coach, Kelly Sibley, and the aim of joining the police service. I really enjoyed my Masters and had vowed not to get involved in the student elections again, but I ended up running for Postgraduate Officer and was elected. The role was a huge learning curve and set me up for life after university. Throughout my five years at Nottingham, my three highlights were Grad Ball (thanks to the committee and UoNSU events), Sports Ball (massive shout out to Lynn Turton) and of course the Varsity series!”
“After leaving Nottingham, I joined the police service as an analyst for a year, but I didn’t expect the lack of funding and the slow movement of the public sector. I was gutted after studying specifically for a career in the police, but I remain a volunteer. I’m now a University Partnerships Executive at Unibuddy – a fantastic opportunity to be at the forefront of a fast-growing company and I’ve learnt so much in the last few months. In all 3 positions, I have relied upon the skills I developed at university: analytical and critical thinking, communication, resilience, teamwork and empathy.
“My experience at Nottingham certainly made me strive for more and be brave enough not to settle in the job I was in. The University nurtured by ambition, and I have also launched a Sports Agency with fellow alumni, Gabriel Achampong and Paul McCreery, to support (initially) table tennis athletes to capitalise on their skills and potential, whilst making their expertise, experience and achievements more accessible to communities and businesses.”
A day in my locked down life
“Since lockdown, I have been at home with my parents who are in the vulnerable category. I do not envy those working on the front line – it is extremely difficult time to police during such uncertainty and stress on social norms.
“I spent 3 weeks at the Unibuddy Head Office before having to resort to working from home – it’s a pretty cool company and I look forward to spending time back in the office – we even have a table tennis table! The service Unibuddy provides is also more important than ever, as our mission is to virtually connect prospective students to universities. Working at the Students’ Union helped me understand the institutions we contact – especially Nottingham with the University being so prestigious and huge, with realms of boards and departments to navigate.
“It has been a change moving back home, but I am very fortunate that our family is so close and we live in the countryside. My average day includes exercising, working, debating with my Dad what we’re going to watch on TV and progressing our new AKM project.”
My words of advice
“I would encourage prospective students to go ahead and start their courses if that was their plan. Universities will be returning to campus and I realise the student night life won’t be the same, but nightclubs at home are also shut – social lives are going to be different wherever you are, so why not start a new course, keep building your skills and knowledge, and meet some new wonderful people along the way.
“For graduates, it’s time to learn something new and challenge yourself. Lots of my friends have also started new projects – Liam McTiernan is hosting a podcast, Maria Tsaptsinos a Youtube channel, Marcus Giles a blog, and Ross Brown a Sports Agency – and it’s very exciting to see! I am aiming to come through this period up-skilled, with more knowledge, maybe a new business, and feeling fitter – ready for what life presents us with.
“Just remember to seek advice, but to trust your gut – even if you’re wrong you’ll learn from it. Life is all about mistakes and your career path isn’t set in stone! If you aren’t enjoying your job or degree, don’t be afraid to try other things. A degree from the University of Nottingham is more than a degree – the sports, societies and Students’ Union facilities enable you to become a well-rounded, skilled individual, and my time at Nottingham helps me find the positives during tough times and see the glass half full.”
Many thanks to Yolanda for sharing her story. If you’d like to share your experiences in an alumni blog, email our Sports and Alumni Relations Officer, Emily Bateman, at Emily.Bateman@nottingham.ac.uk – we’d love to hear from you!