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Warwick Graduates


The UK’s first female black Cabinet Minister, former Leader of the House of Lords, appointed British High Commissioner to Australia in 2009.


Wrote, directed and acted in the British television series The Office.


UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service.


Founder of the charity ‘Kids’ Company’.

EMBRACING NEW CHALLENGES - Joe Howlett / Economics and Politics, 2007 

I threw myself into activities at Warwick: helping to lead AIESEC, joining St John Ambulance, playing mixed hockey, working as a university gardener and volunteering at Warwick Hospital Radio.  Each summer I worked as a tour rep – organising bicycling tours in France and Germany. Near the end of university I approached the Centre for Student Careers and Skills for advice on what I might do for a career. By attending employer presentations and talking to careers consultants I realised there were opportunities to gain key skills and still preserve my wish to affect people’s  lives and make a difference.

A careers consultant coached me through application forms and mock interviews and I got an internship in the government advisory division of one of the major financial services organisations dealing in public sector consultancy. I was offered a permanent graduate job there but decided to pursue other options. I applied to the Teach First scheme as a  business studies teacher. After two rounds of interviews and a psychometric test, I was offered a job and placed in a school in north-west London where I have worked for two years.

Teaching 20 lessons a week in an under-resourced school was difficult at times, especially with students who have such a different background to my own. The first year was particularly challenging as you start from scratch, with no experience and few teaching materials. This makes for long 60-hour weeks spent marking and preparing resources. However, in addition to the satisfaction and  fun of teaching such challenging students, I have gathered a wealth of stories that I can draw on in future job interviews. I have used my degree to launch A level economics in our school,  organised a trip to Canary Wharf and taught myself A level statistics after having it added to my timetable at the last minute! After my initial two-year commitment to teaching I decided to continue for another year as subject leader for business and economics.

Teaching has allowed me to apply knowledge gained at university as well as develop new skills in a challenging environment. I really enjoy the work and feel there is lots more to do. My sponsoring firm is happy for me to defer for another year and I hope eventually to enter operations consultancy.

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A CAREER IN INFORMATION - Alison Watson / Classical civilisation, 2006; MRes, 2007

I enjoyed my first degree and made the most of the opportunities available at Warwick, both academically – by going to seminars and conferences – and socially, by getting involved in many different societies. I gained valuable skills and confidence by trying new things such as tap dancing, singing in a choir, volunteering in an infant school and working backstage at a theatre. During my masters it was good to have the freedom to study exactly what I wanted, and also the support to feel confident enough to do so. Warwick continued to offer many opportunities and I  enjoyed being involved in the Postgraduate Society, where I became social secretary.

My study was self-funded using money I had saved over the years – although I also worked to ensure I   had enough to live on. I got a job as a steward at the Arts Centre, as well as working for the disability service. The latter involved assisting four disabled students with different aspects of  university life. I also got several jobs through Unitemps, which included selling balloons and working for a courier firm.

During my postgraduate year I realised that I would be unable to get funding to continue to a PhD so I started to look at other career options. I wanted to continue within an academic setting and began to research the possibility of going into academic  librarianship. I applied for several traineeships (which are a requirement for studying for a masters in librarianship) and accepted the offer of a place at Warwick in the Centre for Student Careers and Skills. My job was mostly in information management: I assisted students in finding information on different careers, as well as updating databases and resources. Although it  wasn’t a big library, I was able to visit and experience art, history and architecture libraries in London, as well as working with the main library on Warwick campus. I enjoyed my work in the  Centre so much that I decided to take on a similar job at University College London Careers Service, where I continue my work in information management and also organise some events. I  think I will carry on working in careers information management for the foreseeable future. I continue with my academic interests though, and will soon be giving a paper at the annual classics  conference at Warwick.

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A FUTURE IN FASHION - Alex Kostias / Classical Civilisation, 2006

I went to Warwick University to study classical civilisation because I absolutely loved the subject. I feel that the best way to figure out what you want to do after university is to undertake as  much work experience as possible. A couple of months into my first year at Warwick I realised that I wanted to work in the fashion industry. Before the summer break I wrote e-mails to all of the top fashion magazines to see if they had any fashion work placements. One magazine got back to me and I spent three weeks working with the fashion team on shoots and carrying out general business around the office. If you can make an impression on the team you are working with and show that you are eager to do anything and work very long hours, then the likelihood is that  they will ask you back to assist next time you have a break – which is exactly what happened to me. The following Christmas break and summer holiday I worked for Marie Claire magazine and  even got to go to New York on a shoot for a week.

As I was still not sure that fashion styling was what I wanted to do, I also did work experience at different in-house fashion PRs during my other holidays. This gave me exposure to both sides of the fashion industry and helped me to make up my mind. I managed to get some work experience at the fashion PR company, BCPR,  during the Easter holidays in my final year. As I had already amassed a lot of experience by that point and knew how things worked it meant that I made a good impression. I absolutely loved it there and got on so well with everyone that I was lucky enough to be offered a job with them to begin after my exams. After being the junior at BCPR for a year, I then applied for the PR manager position at Rupert Sanderson, a top British shoe designer. I managed to get the job and have now been in the role for ten months. If I hadn’t done as much work experience as possible during my time at university, I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s vital!

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A CAREER IN TEACHING - Natalie Clark / Mathematics, 2007; PGCE, 2008; MSc in Mathematics education, ongoing

I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate years at Warwick both academically, in a leading mathematics department, and socially, as part of the Warwick women’s netball team. It was during my  second year that I discovered that teaching mathematics was what I was really interested in. I was given the opportunity to study a couple of modules on the psychology of learning  mathematics and the link to practice in the classroom (as part of the Student Associate Scheme). This provided me with sufficient experience to directly apply for teacher training after my BSc.

After gaining my degree, the PGCE in secondary mathematics was the obvious route for me, giving me qualified teacher status in many countries and allowing me to continue studying the theory behind learning that had initially attracted me to teaching. I chose to continue tudying at Warwick because of the excellent support I had received from the mathematics department and Institute of Education staff during the earlier modules.

During my NQT year I have decided to make the most of the academic credits I gained during my PGCE (equivalent to one third of a  masters qualification) and study for two years part time for an MSc in mathematics education. I am now in the first of those two years and while it is certainly challenging studying at evenings and weekends and coping with the NQT pressures during the week, I have had plenty of support from my tutors and have continued to enjoy linking theory to practice.

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WORKING FOR GCHQ - Megha Desai / French with International Studies, 2008

I enjoyed a mixture of different experiences on arriving at Warwick, in addition to my studies. As a member of the Hindu Society committee I was involved with the events for One World Week. I  was also secretary to the Campaigns Committee at the Students’ Union, which entailed organising meetings and helping out with campaigns such as Go Green Week and Anti-Racism.

In my third year, I went to Paris through the British Council and worked as a teaching assistant. My class was made up of children aged 12–18 and I had total autonomy in the way I ran my  lessons. I had to plan lessons and think of activities where I could encourage the students to improve their English. It was a really good way to meet people, improve my French and gain confidence.

On my return to Warwick I got a job as a marketing assistant for the Centre for Student Careers and Skills. I was keen to sort out my plans for the future before the pressure of  finals hit, so I went to careers events and thought about what I wanted. I decided to work in the public sector and use my languages. At the Graduate Recruitment Fair I met GCHQ, who were  impressed with my French and also interested in my knowledge of two Indian languages: Gujerati and Hindi. I applied for a position, went for an interview and was lucky enough to be selected. It was good to have my future planned, so I could concentrate fully on my finals.

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YOUNG WINE WRITER OF THE YEAR - Rebecca Gibb / History and Politics, 2002

My passion for wine arose from a summer spent in Australia at the end of my second year. While I was there, I met a friend whose family runs a vineyard in Victoria – my interest came from  staying with them. In my final year, many of my friends had jobs in the City arranged but that route didn’t appeal. I returned home to the north east and decided to investigate the wine trade. I  took a job as a receptionist to finance a wine course, which I really enjoyed and, on the strength of that, wrote to wine merchants in the local area. Eventually, I was offered a job by a small wine company. It was a great position and I learned a lot because the company was very small. I worked for them for two years and they put me through a Wine and Spirit Education Trust  diploma, which is the first step on the Master of Wine course.

When I left I went back to Australia, where I worked in winemaking in Victoria. Although I decided that winemaking was not for me, I enjoyed writing and so sent articles about wine to various  magazines. On my return to England, I continued writing and won the Young Wine Writer of the Year competition in 2006. Winning this opened many doors for me. I was offered a fortnight’s  work experience on Harpers Wine & Spirit magazine as a result and I now work for them full time. It’s hard work but great fun – I’m always busy and I get to meet interesting people. Another bonus is the travel: I’m off to Italy soon and will be going to Chile in the future. The skills I gained at Warwick have helped me – studying history and politics is all about learning quickly about an area and then writing it up – there are definite parallels with journalism.

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SPOTTING A GAP IN THE MARKET - David Peto / Politics, 2000

Before starting at Warwick I gained a place on IBM’s pre-university management scheme, where I had my first experience of dealing with high-profile clients. At Warwick I was involved in various drama societies, both producing and acting, and appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe. This took up a lot of my spare time but I also enjoyed filmmaking and was involved both in front of and behind the camera.

I enjoyed my politics degree, which helped me to develop debating and negotiating skills that came in useful later on. I particularly recall one module where the lecturer was good at stimulating debate and encouraging students to express opinions. I think university was helpful in enabling me to cope with a high-pressure environment. After leaving Warwick I went to drama school, started my own production company and produced shows in London and Edinburgh. I then moved into film – running a production company with a friend. Together we spotted a gap in the market: we were using Apple editing equipment in-house but couldn’t find a company to finish it in High Definition. We set up a business to provide an editing facility that used Apple equipment.

Everyone said we wouldn’t succeed because we were going into an industry that traditionally relied and sold itself on very expensive equipment. However, 20 months on we are the world’s largest finishing facility of its kind and our clients include Virgin, Sony, SKY, BBC, Volkswagen and Mazda among others. You need dedication and passion to succeed in this industry; there is no course or entry route that prepares you for it. But I loved my degree at Warwick and I would recommend anyone hoping to enter the industry to go to university and take advantage of all the opportunities there.

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AIMING FOR ENTERTAINMENT PR - Kate Dawson / Theatre and Performance Studies, 2008

I have always wanted to work in entertainment PR. I spent most of my time at Warwick getting involved in marketing activities of various kinds – I was press officer for StripSoc (a new  magazine), worked on the Careers Marketing team and helped with the marketing strategies for a number of events.

I am very interested in music, particularly music promotion. I obtained six weeks’ work experience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, which was hard work but great fun. As press and  marketing assistant I co-ordinated PR for companies, wrote press releases and issued tickets. I learned a lot from the experience and decided to pursue a career in this area.

I didn’t want to work in London (where most of the PR agencies are) but instead decided I’d prefer to stay in the Midlands. In order to gain additional work experience I followed up contacts that I made during the Marketing and PR week organised by the Centre for Student Careers and Skills and wrote directly to firms in Birmingham that interested me. As a result I have been offered three months’ work experience over the summer by a PR firm in Birmingham that specialises in entertainment PR. Their work includes music broadcasting, TV, the internet, leisure, lifestyle and music management.

I am looking forward to it as it combines the areas that interest me most. I hope the placement will lead to a permanent position, but if not, it will still be a really valuable experience and I should learn a lot.

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AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE - Samantha Woolven / French Studies, 2007

Going to Korea was a spur of the moment idea. I’d put my CV on so many job websites looking for a ‘real’ job, that when a recruiter contacted me and suggested a year teaching in South Korea, I thought, why not? I knew very little about the country or culture before I arrived. I had one phone interview with a school, in which the only question they asked was ‘When can you come?’ I  landed in Seoul 13 days later.

Teaching is a lot of fun. During my degree I spent nine months teaching in France; it was good preparation but nothing compared to being thrown into the deep end with a class of four-year olds who speak no English. It’s not quite the holiday life I expected nor the opportunity to explore Asia, but it’s certainly been an eye-opening experience. It’s the first time I’ve had truly disposable cash; with the rent paid for by the school, a decent enough salary and cheap living costs I’ve been paying off my student debts and living better than ever before.

It’s been a tough year; yes, Korea really is a long way away and their system of respect and work ethics are more than a little different. Learning the culture and language has been interesting  and extremely enjoyable. My time is nearly up and with the money I’ve saved here I’m planning a four-month trip around South East Asia before I head back home.

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After my second year at Warwick, I worked as a horology assistant at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. I returned to Warwick to complete my third year and applied for my masters and  internships.

In the summer of 2006, I interned at UBS Investment Bank (equities – operation) for a ten-week programme. At the end of this I was offered a full-time graduate place at the bank, which I could  take up after compleTing my masters. During the internship, I was assessed on competences such as team working, communication skills, drive and commitment, leadership and problem solving skills. My time at the Royal Observatory definitely came in handy as most of my peers had not previously worked in a formal environment. I was able to manage my time better and work  well with minimal supervision – I was able to judge when to involve the managers and when to use my own initiative. My work experience had also enhanced my computing and networking  skills, and mentioning that you used to work at the Royal Observatory for world-renowned horologists is a great ice-breaker!

I joined the bank full time in August 2007. I was part of an 18-month accelerated graduate programme, which I have now successfully completed. My business area is equity derivatives, which is  a slight departure from traditional financial products and deals with bespoke financial instruments. For the first 13 months, I was a project manager for this business area. My role was driven by  project delivery and I had my own portfolio of projects – a great amount of discipline was required as I was managing my own book of work. After that, I moved to my current role in trade support (in equity derivatives), where I manage and mitigate risk for trading, ensure all regulations are adhered to, and investigate and resolve discrepancies. This is the complete opposite of  my first role – here, the use of my time is driven by the market and the important skills are prioritisation, thinking on your feet, problem solving and being meticulous.

A rule of thumb I have always used is to work in areas where there is scope for learning, and I think this will stand me in good stead throughout my career. The challenge of learning keeps me  motivated.

Other Warwick graduates in the public eye

Anne Fine, award-winning author (BA history, 1968)

David Davis, former shadow home secretary (BSc molecular science and computing, 1971)

Jennie Bond, journalist, broadcaster and presenter (BA French and European literature, 1972)

Torin Douglas, BBC media correspondent (BA history, 1972)

Andrew Dismore, MP (LLB law, 1975)

Simon Mayo, radio presenter (BA history and politics, 1980)

Frank Skinner, comedian (MA English literature, 1982)

Ruth Jones, actress (BA theatre studies and dramatic arts, 1988)

Julian Rhind-Tutt, actor (BA English and theatre studies, 1989)