August 21, 2020, by Emily Bateman
Alumni Spotlight: James Bramley
The University of Nottingham alumni community stands at over 280,000 worldwide. Many of these graduates were involved in sport during their time at the University and their experiences have had a lasting impact on their careers and personal lives.
This week, we hear from another alumnus whose university experience and career to date have been defined by sport at Nottingham – former Sports Officer, James Bramley (Geography BSc, 2015).
James is now the Commercial Partnerships Manager at British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), and in this blog he shares his highlights from his time at the University, his experiences of working in the HE sport sector and his advice for students and recent graduates navigating the current climate.
My Nottingham story
“Choosing Nottingham was the best decision I ever made. The campus was the big seller for me and sport was another major factor – I was by no means a performance athlete, but sport has been such an important part of my life and Nottingham catered for everything I required. The transformation of the sports offering during my time at the University was unbelievable – when I first joined, the gym was a small box, there was no UoN Sport brand and clubs were all working in isolation. Over the past 12 years, the University and the Students’ Union have completely transformed the programme, brand and facilities. It’s up there with the best sport offerings in the country no doubt.
“My memories of student life are incredible. From being on JCR in Willoughby Hall in first year, to living with my best mates in Lenton – I’ve created friendships with lads I still speak to all day every day. Sport was a big part of my experience – playing IMS Football three times a week, being part of the Cricket Club and touring Barbados, and going on three ski trips, all stand out as memories I’ll never forget. Being elected Sports Officer in 2015 is to this day still the best moment of my life. The campaign trail was tough and my dissertation was due during the campaign week complicating things somewhat. I was surrounded by an amazing team, who I am still thankful to, and when it all came together in that one moment I was overcome with emotion – that night in Ocean was a big one! Nothing in life has yet beaten that single moment of jubilation.
“My year as Sports Officer was unbelievable; overseeing the Students’ Union and working with such a passionate team at UoN Sport and UoNSU was brilliant – the responsibility we had was incredible. Hosting Sports Ball, being Team Manager at Tri Campus Games in Malaysia, winning Varsity (sorry Matt Nicholson!) and working on the David Ross Sports Village Business Plan were all brilliant experiences. We made some great changes that year that still impact students today, including working with the University to include a sports course as part of their academic offer and even formalising new clubs, like Synchronised Swimming. I’m proud to have played a small part in these lasting impacts. I am grateful to everyone who helped me get that role and helped me achieve what we did.
“I’ve been lucky that my time at Nottingham has shaped my early career so far. After my year as Sports Officer, I interned at BUCS for a year. This was a fantastic next step in my career; gaining international experience at the World University Games in Kazakhstan, Australian University Games in Perth and running the BUCS Awards. I then spent three months solo travelling around South East Asia before following England around Australia – unfortunately the results didn’t go our way but it was great fun! I came back and, after a short stint at a digital marketing firm, I applied for a commercial role back at BUCS. Luckily, I was successful and have been part of the Commercial Team at BUCS for the past two years. My experience at Nottingham and BUCS definitely made me want to come back into the HE sector and the stakeholder management skills used as Sports Officer, as well as negotiation and strategy planning, have been key to me securing and excelling in my role.
“Luckily, my previous experience in Kazakhstan and Tri Campus Games in Malaysia also helped me secure a role at the World University Winter Games 2019 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. It was one of the most unbelievable three weeks, working with GB students in the global arena and living in an athletes village with Olympians was an experience I will never forget.
“My goal is to work for Team GB and the skills to get there started at the University of Nottingham. Still a long way to go, but hopefully I am on the right path.”
Life in lockdown
“Working in HE sport during the last few months has been a challenge. We had to cancel all activity just as we were coming into the peak of the season. BUCS has so many stakeholders to manage – from students, to universities, to partners, to national governing bodies, suppliers and staff. The situation is further complicated by having a 47 sport programme combined with 160 universities. All sports and national governing bodies have different rules and approaches, and all universities initially were reacting in different ways. As the NGB for university sport, finding the best route of travel with a significant number of stakeholders when the parameters were changing on a daily basis was challenging. I’ve been lucky to continue my work in the partnerships team and BUCS partners have been understanding of the situation. We’ve needed to adapt and innovate to continue to offer value and, looking at COVID-19 positively, we will come out of this a much more innovative organisation.
“We’ve been working from home since March. It was initially hard to adapt, but now I enjoy it. It gives me more time to focus, and my physical and mental wellbeing has improved through being able to exercise more and manage work life balance better. I do miss the team though, so looking forward to being back in an office when we can! I wake up early and try to exercise before work. I cycle round Richmond Park twice a week with mates from UoN, run and play tennis the other days. I work by my garden (which beats our office to be honest) and get on with speaking to partners, organising their activations or planning new commercial opportunities for BUCS in the future. I try to switch off by 6 o’clock and have a lunch break to keep me fresh and then either spend the time enjoying the sun post-work or watching the football!
“I am intrinsically very motivated. I always want to be progressing and learning – to do that you need to deliver day-in-day-out in what you do. I want to be the best at what I do to then ensure I can progress and be successful. Focus can be tricky when away from the teammates, but it just takes time to learn what suits you best.
“Sport at UoN has had a major impact in my life since leaving University. I am part of the committee for Nottsborough FC, an alumni club formed in the 1980s. The network of people, level of football and group of lads across the 6 teams is truly unique and the club have improved my quality of life in London ten-fold. There are people in the club who have had very successful careers in commercial sport roles and I have built great relationships with them to support my own career progression. I also play for a UoN alumni cricket club in Last Man Standing Leagues in London. Some of my current teammates I played with in nets with at Trent Bridge and toured Barbados with, so playing with them five years later now that we all have jobs in London is great.”
My words of advice
“Through sport at Nottingham I developed skills in leadership, communication, confidence, resilience and teamwork which have been incredibly useful in my career to date. I’m no expert, but the best advice I can give is to believe in yourself. You’re graduating from a phenomenal institution and have built up so many skills – make sure you remember that when you are in interviews and doing your role. It’s sometimes hard as you feel quite junior in organisations, but your voice is worth just as much as the CEO’s and can often provide fresh thinking. Believe in yourself, show humility, work hard to always learn and you can be anything you want to be.
“My advice to new graduates would firstly be to not panic and control the controllables. You can’t control COVID-19 or the job market, so there’s no point worrying. Focus on what you can control – be structured and methodical in your applications, and build a network of people from an array of sectors. Be brave and proactive, reach out to companies and people and you will be surprised at how helpful some will be. Focus on short term goals and don’t worry too much about long term. There is a thing called the ‘trying twenties’ where everyone tries a load of jobs and sectors to see what they enjoy and are good at. Don’t worry if you don’t land your dream job right away – that very rarely happens! Lastly, be prepared to be flexible and learn from others. Yes, you are no doubt talented and will go a long way in your career, but you will be surrounded by people with years of experience. You may have to do roles that you don’t want in the short term to get where you want to be long term. Trust yourself to be a big contributor and provide constructive challenge, but do it in the right way and always be prepared to listen and learn.
“Finally, try not to take life too seriously. There are a lot of external pressures to be successful, but success comes in many forms. Don’t feel success for you is the same as it is for your mates and be brave enough to follow your own route.”
Many thanks to James for sharing his story. If you’d like to share your experiences in an alumni blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you!
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