Graduate story: Beyond the lab

shahidMy name is Shahid Dharamsi, and I graduated from Queen Mary in 2015 with a Masters in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. As a ‘man of science’, it would only seem logical to utilise such a degree by working in a research department for a pharmaceutical company, or further the educational pursuit by applying for a PhD position with an acclaimed professor. Perhaps stretching, but not exceeding, the limits of the logical approach, one may try their hand at teaching science at various levels, working in schools and colleges across the country.

My story is a little different. As I sit here, on the 19th floor of a skyscraper in Canary Wharf, in between audit meetings and performance reviews, I’m able to conclude that it has been a rather unconventional period since my final exam (Colloidal Chemistry)! I work as an auditor on a three year graduate programme for one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, EY, and am 12 exams out of 15 on my way to becoming a Chartered Accountant.

The journey began when I embarked upon an internship, organised by Careers & Enterprise, working as a PR intern for a medical technology start-up called Geneix. I immersed myself within the business for my three month placement, learning new skills each day to include journalism, project management, and market research. Curiously, I felt very much at home whilst operating in an environment that was very much alien to me at the time. I enjoyed the feeling of the unknown, and the ability to be an effective part of a vibrant team. Whilst there was no aromatic resonance, or Schrodinger’s equation to solve, I felt the softer skills developed from my degree were utilised to great effect.

I returned to university for my final year, with a spring of optimism in my step. My mind was open to new possibilities after working for Geneix, giving me a totally different outlook on the vital application stage that was to come. After a lot of soul searching, open ended questions and beard-stroking, I decided I would like to work in finance. Using this as a starting point, as it was not nearly specific enough to pursue, I attended a number of careers fairs. It was here that I spoke to former QMUL alumni about the career paths they chose for themselves, and their inspiration.

Throughout the application process for all types of graduate schemes, I found that there was greater emphasis on my motivation for the role, and the soft skills I would bring, over the subject matter for my degree. In each interview I was asked about the reasoning behind applying for a position away from my specialism, and I felt it set me apart from my fellow applicants. I was fortunate enough to have secured three positions by mid-February (professional services, investment banking, and general banking), when I accepted my role in audit at EY. To this day, I feel like I have made the right decision; to broaden my horizons and skillset, and continue with my passion for learning by working towards my ACA.

Although not a conventional approach by any means, I encourage others to follow my example and open their minds to the possibilities of working outside of their respective fields. As one chapter leads in to the next in a well written novel, lab coats and rucksacks have turned in to suits and briefcases; I look forward to more twists and turns as my story continues. 

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