Student story: Merott Movahedi

merottMerott Movahedi is a senior software engineer at CompareTheMarket, part of the Marketing IT team, responsible for updating and maintaining the content management system of both comparethemarket.com and comparethemeerkat.com. He graduated from QMUL with an engineering degree in 2010, and shares his story below.

When I was a child, I wanted to become an adult, finish studies, and go to work, so that I wouldn’t have to study anymore… Such naïve thinking!

Just over 10 years ago, my mum and I left Iran and moved to the UK so that I could build a better life here. I was 17 years old, and I couldn’t even speak English beyond very simple phrases, so the first thing I had to do was learn English. I studied English for about 9 months, before I started my Bachelors studies at QMUL. Following three years of university studies, I graduated in 2010, and immediately started working full-time.

Despite my childhood hopes, working full-time hasn’t meant that I’ve stopped studying or learning. I don’t take exams any more (I hate exams), but I continue to learn new things every day. If you want to be successful, you’ll want to study and learn for the rest of your life, more so than you did during school or university. When you’re a junior on the job, you’ll be mentored and guided by your more senior colleagues. When you become more senior and experienced, you’re expected to mentor and support the new juniors, for which you must learn first. You’ll be expected to share knowledge and help your senior colleagues too.

Knowledge sharing, mentorship, learning and development will always be around, and are applicable to every field of work. Whether you intend to set up your own business, work in a startup, or in a massive corporation, you’ll be continually learning and improving yourself while helping others. At QMUL, you have a massive opportunity to give yourself a head start in that direction.

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Guest blog: A role in the construction industry

james_purdie_-_photoHello, my name is James Purdie and I am currently working through the graduate scheme at Turner & Townsend, working as a Cost Manager based in the London office. I joined Turner & Townsend in August 2015 after completing my degree in Quantity Surveying at Edinburgh Napier University. I had taken an interest in working in the construction industry during a work experience placement at high school and a family history in this field which gave me an opportunity to see the many different roles available.

My first role upon joining Turner & Townsend was working on Crossrail, based at Tottenham Court Road Station, helping manage the costs of design changes, cost estimating and reporting of periodic cost analysis. This was a great opportunity for me to immediately gain valued experience straight out of university, being able to work on the largest infrastructure project in Europe. I am currently a member of the Cost Assurance team performing audits for clients in the UK rail sector. This involves producing reports which help our clients understand where they may be exposed to overpaying contractors and giving them a better understanding of the way the project information is being captured and managed.

In addition to my day to day role, I am also involved in some of the broader initiatives at Turner & Townsend. For example, I am involved in our YPF (Your Professional Future) recruitment team where most recently, I have taken part in a delivery focussed exercise with graduates from another organisation in the industry, discussing the possibility of a combined service offering and identify opportunities for our combined service. 

My advice to people interested in developing a career in the construction industry would be to obtain as much work experience as possible; even aiming to gain a week in the summer break can give you contacts with organisations and promote your interest in the industry which future employers will recognise. I would also recommend aiming to gain experience in a variety of different roles to allow you to understand how they all connect on a particular project and also help you define where you would like to work in the industry.

For more information about a career in the construction industry, see the Prospects website.

Creating social change with ParliaMentors

Afsana_blog_imageAfsana Salik, 3rd Year International Relations student

ParliaMentors is a political leadership programme I’ve been on this year while studying at Queen Mary. I’m in a team of 5 Queen Mary students, all of us from different cultural and religious backgrounds. we’re supported to run our own social action project and we also get mentored by an MP. It has been an amazing experience for me.

It’s such a wonderful initiative that gives students from various cultures and faiths the chance to participate and make a change in society. The great thing about it is that it gives opportunities to students like me the experience of parliamentary life through mentoring by MPs. I’ve been mentored by Labour MP Stephen Timms for the last year. He is a very active and committed MP and so passionate about what he does. ParliaMentors also trains us to make social change in our communities. I’ve loved the training that I’ve been given throughout the programme. Each of these training sessions is based around skills like teamwork, leadership and public speaking, and they have been so useful and beneficial. And the training didn’t just support my participation in the programme – it also helped me in other areas, helping me to look at my community from a different angle.

My group and I have decided to deliver a social action project on mental health. We started by doing broad research into mental health in our local borough of Tower Hamlets, and after some thought, we have decided to focus on our campus. We are bringing together the students’ union, counselling service and students to bring changes in our counselling system, in order to make it more accessible. We believe our work will benefit the future students of our university and hopefully others in Tower Hamlets who also uses similar services.

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Why more graduates are (and should be) considering SMEs

While it may feel like the Holy Grail of graduation to have secured a trainee scheme with a Top 100 company, SMEs (small and medium enterprises – defined as companies that employ 250 people or less) make up a whopping 99% of UK private businesses, thus providing very real opportunities for graduates to start, and develop, their careers. It is easy to see, of course, the draw that many students have to the bigger and more illustrious companies; apart from typically higher starting salaries, who wouldn’t want the career clout that comes with having those names on your CV? But by focusing on these employers alone we risk overlooking the endless possibilities and benefits that come with starting your career in an SME. Consider some of the following advantages:

Early responsibility

Without a lengthy initial training programme, SMEs can be very well suited to individuals who want to get stuck in from the get-go. The relatively flat structure of these organisations, along with smaller team sizes, means that you will be in a position to put forward your own ideas and concepts and help shape business decisions from an early stage. On a personal level, this means that you are more likely to see the fruits of your labour and achieve the career confidence and satisfaction that comes from this.

Career flexibility

SMEs tend to provide less structured career paths which, for the right person, can be a wonderful thing. This puts you in the driving seat and should allow you to shape your career more easily in the way you want it to go, rather than the ‘expected route’ that the company has laid out as part of a longer term plan. Less hierarchy means that you will be given more direct access to major influencers in the organisation allowing you to network with the right people should you decide you want to develop your career in a certain direction.

A more relaxed working environment

Not everyone wants to be suited and booted nor feels comfortable in a workplace that is. This will obviously vary from company to company but chances are, the office environment will feel more relaxed and less bureaucratic. A number of recent research findings have shown that SMEs tend to foster better job satisfaction and more employee loyalty, plus they often drivers of innovation and creativity, making SMEs particularly ubiquitous in sectors like technology. With growing incidents of work place stress in the UK, SMEs are also seen to be more supportive of a healthy work-life balance amongst their staff.

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Guest blog: From Law to Tax Consultancy

Ross Markham0561Ross Markham, 29, is a Consultant in Deloitte’s Global Employer Services. He joined Deloitte in September 2014 having studied Politics and then Law. He advises organisations who have a global footprint on all aspects of their internationally mobile employees.

  • Explain your background to coming to Deloitte

In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I secured a vacation scheme at Latham & Watkins, a leading-US law firm. I really enjoyed this experience, and decided to pursue a career in Law by undertaking the GDL and LPC degrees. During the LPC, I undertook a tax module, and seemed to be the only person who enjoyed it! The College then held an alternatives careers to law fair, at which Deloitte were in attendance and spoke about the transferability of legal skills to a career in Tax. I was really impressed by the similarities between careers in Law and Tax (i.e. prestigious clients, opportunities to travel, working alongside market-leading practitioners) and so applied for the graduate scheme. My law background really held be in good stead throughout the application process, as I was confidently able to talk about tax legislation and case law, which underpin everything that we do in Tax.

  • What skills gained from your Law studies have you found to be most transferable to Tax?

I use my legal skills on an almost daily basis, whether it is analysing employment contracts, drafting policies, interpreting legislation or liaising with HMRC to resolve a dispute. Being a lawyer by training has also given me strong attention to detail, which clients really value.

Furthermore, being able to construct a sound and structured argument, and then being able to verbalise or write that argument, is a really useful tool to convince others and bring them around to your way of thinking.

  • What have you accomplished?

I have been on a six-month secondment to one of the world’s largest insurers, where I worked with their in-house team to stabilise their Global Mobility program. I was also on a pitch team alongside a Partner and Director where we won a leading client for a major project.

  • What is the most exciting part of your role?

I work in a small consulting team, where we work on a variety of projects advising organisations with international employees about the tactical and strategic implications of having a global footprint. This means that I work with clients from a range of industries and with varying problems. Consequently, no two days are the same – I could be advising a Financial Services company on the soundness of their employment contracts one day and running a strategy workshop in the Netherlands for a Consumer Business client the next.

  • What has surprised you most about working at Deloitte?

Not a surprise as such, but it is genuinely been a pleasure to work alongside the most eminent people in their fields in the world. This means I have never stopped learning and genuinely find what I do interesting.

Student story: Work experience in the heritage sector

jessJess Weeks, 3rd year History student

Every professional I have ever spoken to in the museum and heritage sector has told me experience is key. Unfortunately, it took me until my third year to understand how serious they were and how many resources were available to me at Queen Mary. One day I finally went to the careers office as I was struggling with making the decision between applying for an MA or just going straight into the world of work. They very clearly told me that work experience should be my top priority during my studies; my CV was limited and needed more to it, and the work experience would highlight the different fields and different jobs available within the sector.

I started looking at all the different companies and museums in the sector, paying particular attention to the Historic Royal Palaces because I love the Tower of London and Hampton Court. I noticed on their website they recruited volunteers and had apprenticeship and internship opportunities. Although none of these opportunities were advertised at the time I wanted to make a start and therefore I emailed all the people listed on the ‘contact us’ page because I was taught that there’s no harm in trying. I received a reply pretty quickly saying that there weren’t any opportunities. However, after a few weeks I received an email asking whether I would like to come in for an interview for the Learning and Engagement team of volunteers.

The interview was not what I had expected at all. It was much more informal and was primarily the team discussing their individual roles, what is expected of us as volunteers and what events we will be assisting with. We had to introduce the person sitting next to us and that was pretty much our talking done! We were then asked to select which palace was our preferred choice of work, I chose Kensington Palace and the Tower of London, and then that was it- we were officially HRP volunteers.

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Student story: How to make the most of your time at QMUL

kamrulKamrul Alom, 2nd year Politics student

Why you need experience:

They often say you need experience to get experience, which I believe is important. In this day and age, this saying has pertinence as many students have upped their games. It’s your job now to match them in the challenge and really stand out from the crowd with real life experience. However, experience can come in different forms – it does not have to be a job or structured internship. For example, many students make the most of the many student experiences available to them; if you were an Events Officer for a society, you can often relate this to jobs requiring organisational skills, media skills and of course event management. During my first year I got involved in a number of work experience opportunities available at Queen Mary – such as the QProjects roles, QConsult and SU roles. One role I undertook was the Public Relations Project Lead (QProjects), where I was able to gain an insight into what PR is really about, and it allowed to me gain new and relevant skills, including relationship management and the ability to project plan events. These kinds of experiences allowed me to stand out from the crowd at interviews and applications, as I had already gained experience and exposure to a number of fields, from PR to Banking, as well as gaining a variety of transferable skills.

A masterpiece does not take shape until you add all the pieces (Nyeeam Hudson):

Again I’d like to stress that it is important to gain any, and as much, experience as you can fit into your timetable (time management is key). Another reason why, is that it fits into the greater masterpiece that is your CV, profile and character. Every experience will undoubtedly add to your CV, regardless of how short, relevant or complicated it was, as well as helping you to learn more about your strengths, skills and what you’d like to do for a career (or not). For me this was my experience at Morgan Stanley (Summer Analyst) and Queen Mary Widening Participation (WP Ambassador), where I realised that I actually really enjoyed working as part of a Bank and giving back through Queen Mary. These experiences had also allowed me to come to see what my strengths and areas of improvement were, which allowed me to develop myself and look to improve my skills. It taught me the different ways to connect and communicate with others, for example the way I would communicate at Morgan Stanley was very different to how I supported classrooms through the Queen Mary Widening Participation scheme. Communication is one area that I’ve come to develop, as I learnt how to be an effective and confident speaker in different situations. In summary, it really shaped the way I am through chances to grow and learn, the way I present myself and my confidence in my abilities. Also, adding to my CV and as a result feeding into the bigger picture, no matter how small each experience was by itself, it played a part in my CV and development.