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Making your own history

What do a golden retriever called Bowie, women’s rights in history, and a start-up supporting later living have in common? They all set arts alumna and marketing expert Harriet Stanger’s (BA History, 2016) heart on fire.

Tell me about your undergraduate degree and time at Warwick.
I absolutely loved it. The community feel, meeting people on my course, the modules, the lot! The lecturers and support staff were encouraging and helpful. It was clear from the beginning how the course was going to be structured which set a precedent. My time at Warwick felt like quite a unique experience. I graduated almost eight years ago and there’s still one lecturer who sticks in my mind – Dr Laura Schwartz – because I found her module on feminism, politics and social change in Modern Britain so interesting.

Why Warwick, and why History?
It was well respected to study History at Warwick which influenced me. I’ve always had an interest in history, especially modern history, and Warwick was quite renowned for history post-1945. I also loved the campus aspect with everything being on your doorstep. There was a nice community feel on the open day, which made moving from Manchester feel less intimidating.

What happened after you graduated?
I always knew I wanted to do something creative after graduation. I attended a careers talk at Warwick that opened my eyes to the world of marketing. I did some work experience and a few internships at media production companies in Manchester to test it out and loved it. A few months later, I joined Bupa as a content writer.

How did your history degree equip you?
Being a content writer, I was writing up a lot of medical commentary for the press. A skill Warwick gave me is the ability to substantiate comments. History is a very broad degree that leaves you with lots of transferable skills which I think is a real credit. More than that, Warwick taught me the skills of knowing what to look for in a job. This is instilled in you. You have to plan for what you want to do and more importantly put yourself out there. Your degree goes hand in hand with work experience.

What happened next?
I was with Bupa for five and a half years and ready for a change. I took the plunge and moved to a start-up company which was a complete change and a leap of faith for me. I joined Lottie in March last year and it’s been absolutely incredible so far. Lottie helps families and retirees find the best care and retirement living communities. Our goal is to drive real change in the elderly care space. I’ve been exposed to everything within the business which I think is a big benefit of working in a smaller company.

How do you know when to leave your first graduate role?
I think it all comes down to whether you feel challenged. For me at Bupa, I reached the point where I felt like I was doing the same thing day in, day out. I was emotionally ready to leave, but not actively looking. I think you can feel a big emotional tie to your job because you spend more time at work with your colleagues than anything else, which can make it hard to know when it’s the right time to go.

What’s your proudest achievement to date?
At the end of last year, we launched our 1,000 free stays for carers at Lottie - an initiative that gifts three-night holidays to UK carers through giveaways. The response has been overwhelming and there’s nothing better than seeing your work making a positive change.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to work in PR and marketing?
Try and follow the news, trends and what’s happening in the industry you’re interested in. There are so many lenses to PR – lots of people I know went down the fashion route for example – so make sure to find the one that sets your heart on fire. Drive, passion and awareness go a long way. For me, it’s raising awareness, which is why Bupa and Lottie were the perfect fit for me. My calling is trying to evoke a real, genuine change and helping people.

How do you balance work and home life?
I’ve been very lucky. Bupa had a big focus on employee wellbeing and Lottie has a ‘switch off’ culture. I have three people who report in to me, and I always tell them never to email me after 5pm because that’s their time. I had a daughter when I was quite young, and I'm grateful to have had two employers that genuinely care. It’s also so important to set your own boundaries. Never get into the habit of switching your laptop on or looking at your emails in the evenings.

What are your top tips for content writing?
Use words or language that evoke an emotion. Read around your subject and make sure you know your stuff. You can mimic what other brands are doing but be sure to put your own spin on the content. Before any big meeting go for a walk outside, you never know what’s going to spark an idea. Then finally, and it might sound a little cheesy, but believe in your own ideas.

Do you have any advice for upcoming history graduates?
I used to hear ‘don’t you want to be a history teacher?’ when I told people my degree. In reality, history has given me the skills to pick the path I want. If you’ve done an arts degree, you can go into anything and everything. It opens the way to lots of opportunities. In some cases, the biggest challenge can be knowing which path you want to follow, which is a powerful position to be in.

"My calling is trying to evoke a real, genuine change and helping people.