In celebration of the winter graduation ceremonies, we caught up with four alumni to see where they are now since graduating and how their time at York helped them get there
Dr Jess Walkup
Sustainability Strategy Manager at the British Antarctic Survey
Studied Biology, Graduated in 2009
“My time at York laid the foundation for my career in three distinct ways. Firstly, I obtained a fantastic biology degree that was highly regarded in my field. This degree not only inspired me to continue learning but also provided me with the credentials to pursue further academic education. It propelled me straight into a PhD program at another university.
Secondly, my involvement in the university’s caving and potholing club equipped me with a diverse set of transferable skills.
“From teamwork and problem-solving to logistics and rope skills, I learned invaluable lessons, including how to thrive in challenging environments.“
Finally, I formed incredible friendships that have endured for 15 years and counting. The support and camaraderie we share have been unwavering, even when I was thousands of miles away in Antarctica.
In the years since leaving York, I’ve spent nearly five years in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), initially as a Zoological Field Assistant monitoring Albatross populations in South Georgia. Later, I served as the base commander of two British stations. Today, still with BAS, I hold the role of Sustainability Strategy Manager, focusing on reducing carbon emissions from the UK’s ships-based marine science. Every day, I rely on the data analysis, critical thinking, and research skills I acquired during my degree. Some things truly never leave you.”
Freelance TV Executive
Studied Social Policy, Graduated in 2002
“My Dad once gave me a solid bit of advice which was whatever you do try and have a career in something that you love and are passionate about and like most students I loved watching TV, so I always knew what I wanted to do which did help.
“You don’t need to have a degree in media if you decide you want to try to have a career in the media.“
I remember going for my first interview to be a runner in TV and was told one of the reasons I got the job was because I didn’t have your typical media degree but rather a degree that showed I had other interests. My very first job in TV was as a runner on a risqué late night channel 4 show called Eurotrash where, much to my mum’s embarrassment, one of my jobs was being in charge of the porn cabinet, the only way was up.
My actual degree was in Social Policy which on the face of it doesn’t have much in common with making light entertainment TV shows but it gave me a solid base with many transferable skills, like learning how to write clearly and concisely, ask good questions and to think outside the box. I was also involved in the student newspaper Vision and dabbled with York Student Television Society (YSTV) which helped my CV when I was first starting out. The area that York University helped me in the most though, was that I was able to grow as an independent person and importantly socialise with people from all different backgrounds, something that is vital in television.
I’m now a freelance Executive Producer in comedy entertainment and have Executive Produced shows as Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Late Night Lycett, In For A Penny, The Big Narstie Show and Lateish with Mo Gilligan for which we won a BAFTA.
There are many aspects to my job but in a nutshell I’m in charge of deciding the content of the show, I need to make sure that it looks good, that the shows run smoothly and successfully with original, funny and creative ideas. I help run the team and crucially liaise with the network, talent, team and production company making sure that everyone is happy with what decisions have been made and we’re all on the same page.
“I’ve had many career highlights and surreal moments from taking Harry Styles speed dating through to trying to fit as many Maltesers as possible into Ed Sheeran’s mouth (an impressive 41 as it turns out).“
TV can be a brilliant place to work, there are many different types of roles that might suit different skill sets, so you could become an editor, cameraman, work in the art department, become a sound person or make-up artist, the list goes on and is huge, you don’t just have to go down the producing route. Although TV is very competitive, requires a lot of work outside of conventional hours and at the presenttime is suffering from the economic downturn, it is in general fun, creative and inspiring.”
Laura Camille Gravini Rodriguez
Senior Associate at DAI
Studied PPE, Graduated in 2021
“A degree like Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at York pushes you to make links between seemingly unlinked contexts, go beyond surface-level analysis, and engage in complex discussions. This is exactly what we do in international development, and is what has helped me in my role as Senior Associate for DAI’s Economic Growth Unit: we identify the problem, we understand the context of implementation, we listen and engage with the perspectives from the territory and, pulling from economic models, governance, and technical theory, derive solutions that, sometimes, force us to walk the untravelled path.
Studying PPE was one of the best decisions I have made. Not only at a personal level, as I always catch myself referring back to material I covered in the modules I studied at York in everyday conversations, but also at a professional level.
“York has a very special place in my heart. Beyond my degree and my career, it gave me my first home in the UK, magical memories, and friends for a lifetime.”
York’s culture also helped me thrive as an individual. Its collaborative approach, and its push for students to be self-starters, were real assets when I was part of the Business Development Unit, where we wrote winning proposals amongst teams of four or even more people. The confidence and skills I developed at York encouraged me to share my ideas, volunteer to take on work, and support my team, no matter how big or small the task. For my role in the delivery team, as the Project Manager of British International Investment’s flagship Technical Assistance Facility for Financial Institutions, Financial Services Group (FSG) Plus, my participation in societies such as Latin Soc, for which I was the Vice-President, was formative. Co-leading the Latin American Society empowered me as a leader, strengthened my skills in stakeholder management, and showed me what great teamwork looks like.”
Technology Consultant at Accenture
Studied Economics, Graduated in 2021
“In my role as a Technology Consultant, I work with clients, particularly from financial services and consumer goods industries, to assess their current business processes and leverage cutting edge technology solutions to address clients’ unique challenges and strategic objectives. This role involves extensive cross collaboration with client stakeholders to understand their needs and offer guidance on solutions to achieve their business needs. I enjoy the chance I have to work at the intersection of unique business challenges and advancing technological innovations in this role.
Reflecting on my enriching journey at York, I can confidently share that I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a comprehensive student life experience, equipping myself with a diverse array of skills that greatly helped me succeed in my current role. Alongside my academic journey at York, I took on the role of Department Representative for Economics and Social Studies, fostering enhanced communication between students and the department. My efforts directly contributed to improvements in teaching quality, departmental support, and the facilitation of networking opportunities, including the organisation of career networking and mentorship events.
Apart from that, my part time job experiences involved first working as a Helpdesk Assistant in the University of York Student’s Union (also my first ever paid job!), where I developed invaluable skills such as patience, dependability, and adaptability through direct customer interaction. Eventually I joined an internship with the Together York project in my second year, a project aimed at enhancing writing and quantitative skills among students, especially international students, while guiding them through various opportunities at York.
My adaptability and professionalism faced its ultimate test when I took on the role for Lateral Flow Testing Site Supervisor during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ensuring the wellbeing of the student community, both on and off-campus, and providing adequate health support for students underscored the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges, and has since acted as a source of great inspiration for me.
“I always remain grateful to the Sharifah Sofia Albulhary Scholarship Fund for supporting and inspiring my learning journey throughout the 3 years I spent at York.”
Without a doubt, my time in York has been a pivotal stepping stone in my career journey, and I could not be a more proud alumni of York!”