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Cherilyn Mawby: International Business with French – Unlocked Graduates and PwC

Cherilyn Mawby profile picture

What degree course did you study and when did you graduate

I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2018 having studied International Business with French at Warwick Business School and spent a year abroad living and studying in France, where my academic focus moved towards public policy and international affairs.

Why did you choose that particular degree course?

I went to a lecture by Dambisa Moyo on Dead Aid. She argued that aid had failed in its aim to deliver poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth in African nations and instead empowerment via business partnerships was required.

I always knew I wanted to be a part of improving the world for others and, after that lecture, I decided that business may be the new way of achieving these aims rather than via the traditional government or NGO routes.

The course at Warwick Business School was highly varied, allowing me to explore the world of business and its various facets in depth, whilst also learning about neuroscience, ethics, behavioural economics, the economics of well-being, and even how lessons in rhetoric by Shakespeare could be applied to the business landscape.

Tell us about your employer

I currently work for PwC as a Consultant in their Advisory practice. I work primarily with government clients, from central government and policing to international development, although PwC has a large range of clients from the private and financial sector also.

Before arriving at PwC, I engaged in a two-year graduate scheme with Unlocked Graduates where I worked full-time as an operational prison officer for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service whilst also completing a master’s parttime, fully funded by Unlocked Graduates, and co-authoring a policy paper for the Ministry of Justice. I also completed a two-week internship at PwC via Unlocked whilst I was on the Unlocked programme. Unlocked provide work placements with over 100 of their partner organisations in the second year of the programme.

What was the position you were recruited for. Please briefly outline the position you were recruited to within your organisation and summarise the business needs and role you fulfil

I was recruited onto the PwC Consulting Graduate Programme as an Associate.

The graduate programme is two years and gives you the opportunity to explore the consulting practice via chargeable client work, including the various go to markets and sectors within that, to make an informed decision on where you want to promote.

I also got involved in a lot of ‘above and beyond’ work, including bid work, producing blogs, putting on events, and presenting to clients on my experiences as a prison officer before joining PwC. I was recruited onto the graduate scheme following an internship with PwC the previous summer through the Unlocked scheme.

What attracted you to this position?

I was attracted by the graduate scheme with Unlocked Graduates for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it offered me multiple opportunities to make a difference. It offered me the opportunity to make a difference directly, via frontline work as a prison officer working with some of the most vulnerable in our society.

It also offered me the opportunity to make a difference indirectly, via my Master’s dissertation, which used frontline data from the establishment I worked in to inform its conclusions and recommendations and was then shared with the Youth Custody Service. I also co-authored a policy paper for the Ministry of Justice, which drew upon a survey and qualitative stories collected from prison officers and governors, ensuring frontline lived experience determined policy recommendations.

Following Unlocked Graduates, I chose to move to PwC. I spent a two-week internship with PwC whilst still working with HMPPS and enjoyed having both the headspace to think through strategic problems and the remit to change things for the better as a consultant. It also offered me lots of variety and opportunities to learn in the role.

Through completing the Unlocked programme, I was able to develop lots of transferable skills such as leadership, decision making and relationship building which have benefited me at my current role at PwC. Unlocked and PwC now partner with PwC to support their participants with project management during the programme.

What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?

The course at Warwick Business School was highly varied, promoting an inquisitiveness to look at problems through multiple lenses and perspectives.

This skill helped to develop my problem-solving skills, both for strategic and operational issues working with clients via PwC where there was slightly more time to think through a solution and in emotionally charged situations where a quick response and resolution was required in the Prison Service.

What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?

Amongst a cohort of new graduates, I was able to differentiate myself and add value quickly by using my prior experiences.

For example, my experiences in the Prison Service granted me a unique perspective on certain issues in the Justice landscape which I presented back to a client. My internship with New Local gave me an understanding of local government issues that I could apply to a pro-bono business case for a social enterprise.

Time spent volunteering in the Gambia demonstrated my interest in international development and led me to an exciting opportunity of working for the world’s largest girls’ education programme. Never underestimate where saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities will take you in the future.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?

There isn’t any rush to find your perfect career and start moving up the ladder.

You still have time to try new things and make up your mind on what works best for you and change it again. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities and don’t set your mind against something before you try it.