advice, personal development, the future is female, ucl, undergraduates, women in technology

Politics to AI: My Pivot Into Tech

It’s coming up to a year since I graduated from UCL in the manic haze of Lockdown 1.

So, it feels poignant to have just been interviewed by my previous university about my journey into tech since graduating!

You can read the full interview below:

UCL Careers: Interview with an Alum – Isabel Scavetta and the ‘Career Pivot’

1. Since graduating from UCL, you’ve spoken about a “complete career pivot” and being “grateful for having to re-evaluate”. Can you tell us more about your career journey so far?

I’m currently known for my work in the technology field, especially around improving its accessibility and diversity, which feels ironic given that I come from a non-technical background!

During my studies at UCL, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduating. I did a couple of internships, attended a variety of careers-focused events and studied in both London and Seville. Through that time, I learned that I loved creative problem solving, teamwork and building solutions with real-world impact. I graduated in the pandemic summer so decided there was no time like the present to challenge myself to pursue my interest in tech.

What makes technology stand out for me is how I’m engaged by learning more. Many other industries have a slower pace of change whereas, for me, tech has only become more interesting as my journey has progressed.

So, I started coding with Code First Girls, studied for and passed several Microsoft qualifications, participated in technology conferences and Hackathon challenges, and reached out to women in the industry. Before long, my hard work started to pay off and I was able to use this experience to start giving back to others, achieving a Fellowship at Code First Girls, advisory position at Microsoft on their TechHer Student initiative, and an internship in Rolls-Royce’s Data & AI Hub (R2 Data Labs).

2. As a UCL graduate, BA European Social & Political Studies (ESPS), you have commented that your degree helps you “every day to quickly understand new concepts, communicate clearly, and draw connections across diverse subject areas”. Could you expand on this thought? What other transferable skills have your UCL experiences given you?

People often say to me that I’ve made an amazing transition from my undergraduate studies, but I think there’s lots of complementary elements between them. The main skill that ESPS taught me was the ability to pick up new concepts and develop an in-depth understanding of them in a very short period of time. In one degree, you could study across 9 different humanities departments, and in our first year, we had an exam covering all of them! This is vital in industries such as consulting and technology because you’re constantly introduced to disparate subjects and you need to try and figure out ways in which they are similar to things you’ve seen before, and also what differentiates them.

I was an active student at UCL, as I was involved in several societies, mentorship programmes and sports clubs. Balancing my various commitments and part-time work alongside my studies helped me to become proactive and self-organised, which has been helpful in my career so far.

Also, as a London based student I got the chance to go to some really brilliant networking events over the years and these taught me a lot about presentation skills, strategy, communication and clarity which have helped in developing my personal online presence and a compelling story as to why I could be a great leader in technology.

3. You recently taught yourself coding, and volunteered at the online project, Class of 2020. How have extra-curricular activities and voluntary experiences aided your career journey?

My voluntary work and extracurricular activities were essential to making the transition into technology, and “bridging the gap” between my degree and my interest.

To begin, they showed I had an active interest in this field, which gave me a lot of content to talk about at interviews. Furthermore, they helped me to expand my technical knowledge, which wasn’t something that I had the opportunity to do during my time at UCL.

One of the silver linings of the pandemic was that so many organisations made their online learning resources accessible and free to use, which was the purpose of the Class of 2020 project. I’ve written an article where I’ve listed some of my personal favourites.

4. You’re now undertaking a remote internship in Artificial Intelligence at Rolls Royce. What does a normal working day look like for you?

My time is primarily spread across two parts of the AI Hub. I’m interested in business and strategy, so I don’t actually code in my day job!

Firstly, I’m working on an innovation project where we are designing a new capability that has potential to disrupt the industries that we operate in. Secondly, I work to implement agile methodology on an AI-based project, where I liaise with my cross-functional team to ensure that what we’re building runs to our business objectives.

Due to this there’s no such thing as a typical working day for me, but often I will be conducting interviews with experts in AI across the field, ensuring that our data scientists in the UK and abroad are working collaboratively, resolving any impediments my team may face and contributing to group synthesis and design thinking workshops.

5. You’ve spoken candidly about overcoming “decision fatigue.” If you could give a UCL student any advice when thinking about future career planning, what would that be?

Some really good advice I was given was to work backwards when you think of career choices. So, rather than choosing a job you think you want and seeing if it fits, think about what lifestyle and experiences fit you, then see what jobs align with that.

For example, do you prefer to work independently or collaboratively? Do you enjoy more analytical or qualitative work?

This is a useful frame of reference because it’s something that you can map your existing experiences to, no matter how much or how little work experience you have.

When I first started my job search, I actually sat down and wrote out a map of everything I knew about myself in terms of what I was good at and what I wanted to develop. This is helpful because it helps you take a more open-minded approach to job hunting. I applied for a really wide variety of roles – some in strategy, research, tech, healthcare – but the constant was that I knew that this was the kind of work I would find engaging. Sometimes that meant I was applying for very different roles and very different Industries!

6. Did you make use of the services/events UCL Careers offer during your time here?

I booked a one-on-one UCL careers appointment in my final year, which was useful because it allowed me to articulate to someone new what kind of careers I was interested in, and why I wanted to pursue them. I think that was a really good exercise to start thinking about my job hunt and also not to feel like it was such a solo mission. It depends on what you’re interested in, but I know that UCL Careers do sector-specific career weeks etc. that a lot of my course-mates in the Politics department enjoyed.

7. What is on your bookshelf right now?

The book I tell everyone to read is Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, which is all about the implicit gender bias in data. It’s a harrowing but impactful read about the ways in which the systems we use can work against us, and a great first introduction to why an intersectional approach is necessary in technology (and other industries!) as we build for the future.

Source: UCL Careers: Interview with an Alum – Isabel Scavetta and the ‘Career Pivot’

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UCL Student? How to Bag Free FutureLearn Campus

Are you a UCL student? Did you know you’re entitled to free FutureLearn access til the end of the year? Nope? Me neither.

I only found out about this lately, and recently posted about my experience studying Innovation Management via FutureLearn. I received several messages afterwards from UCL students asking about how I did this, so thought I’d make a summary blog post!

What is FutureLearn?

FL is an online learning platform with hundreds of online courses from top universities and specialist organisations.

How do UCL students get free access?

UCL students (and, I guess, alumni with working credentials) are eligible for a free upgrade to FutureLearn Campus.

To access this, you’ll need to sign in with your existing UCL credentials as per this guide.

What FutureLearn courses can I study for free?

This UCL access lets you access any course listed under FutureLearn Campus for free and its certificate of completion.

Here’s a list of eligible courses you could study.

Can I link my existing FutureLearn account?

Yes, you can link an existing FL account with your institutional login. You can do this by going to “Account” -> “Connected Accounts” and adding your UCL institutional login account.

Already started/finished FL courses, but now want the certificates etc that you are eligible for via FL Campus? If you leave the course and rejoin under the “FutureLearn Campus” access, you will be able to get a certificate of completion. This does not erase your previous progress.

Happy learning!

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Why Young Women Should Post on LinkedIn: An Anti-Cringe Crash Course

Isa, how do you even start to post on LinkedIn?

– too many people, to me, in weird and wonderful scenarios (including pre-Covid house parties..?)

Now, whether or not this is something I’m okay with being my core personality trait (unsure), there’s a lot to be said for getting your name out there, especially as a woman just starting out on the career ladder.

But, why should you post on LinkedIn?

Here’s a couple of reasons why I think posting on LinkedIn is a great thing for young women to do:
  • Updates your network (and potential interested parties) about what you’re up to. You never know who’s paying attention! A lot of my opportunities have come about because seeing a post of mine has encouraged someone to get in touch.
  • Normalises being proud of your achievements – something that women are statistically much less likely to do. However you dress it up, self-promotion is a part of career progression, and an important part of closing the pay gap. A disclaimer that posting on LinkedIn doesn’t need to come across as “bragging” or ego – you are in control of your words and what impact you want to make.
  • Helps to build your professional identity – for your career, but also for yourself. Writing about your lessons, goals and aspirations helps you to reflect on your progress and gain confidence in your own skill set and abilities.
  • Makes your LinkedIn more “human” and personal. I was nervous about posting about starting out coding, but have since had 10+ people in my network contact me to say they are starting to learn, based off of my content. Sometimes that personal connection is really important in giving others the confidence to try something new!

Sounds good? The next step is actually writing something.

I’m not a professional, but as we just said, hearing from someone you know can sometimes make all the difference!

Here’s my advice & experience:

  1. Get over yourself (..!) – no one is as invested as you are. The main roadblock for most people I have spoken with is the idea of judgement. Ironically, these same people themselves generally have a positive perception of others posting on LinkedIn. If other people can do it, so can you, and you have a lot to offer! It also gets easier the more you do it.
  2. Link to relevant organisations using @. This helps to increase the exposure of your article.
  3. Use relevant hashtags – but not too many. LinkedIn will often autosuggest hashtags dependent on what you’ve written. Use some of the most relevant ones to improve engagement but don’t #use so #many that your #post feels #artificial and #awkward.
  4. Bring out your personality. It’s cliche, but ultimately, we like to listen to stories and hear authenticity. Over-the-top clickbait or corporate content doesn’t tend to do well; your audience will be interested in you and how you’re doing!
  5. Photo content tends to perform better – especially if it has you in it. If you feel comfortable with this, it makes your post more personal.
  6. Keep it simple. Most of the time, your post doesn’t need to be incredibly long or complex. Think about what kinds of posts tend to grab your attention on LinkedIn, and where appropriate, mirror their length / content.
  7. Most importantly: create value. Whether this is what you learned, your story, giving thanks to others, an offer of help… think about how your post could help others around you. If you’ve have me on LinkedIn, you’ll notice that most of my posts include an offer that I’m more than happy to chat about the subject with anyone interested. You’d be surprised how many people take me up on it!

Here’s an example:

All together, that looks something like this ->

In this short post, you get an idea of where I’m at:

  • Developing my research skills, especially quantatitive data analysis
  • Working in a remote environment to achieve project goals
  • Positive experience at the Constitution Unit and grateful for their support
  • Looking forward to my next chapter at ClassOf2020

Feeling good?

We’ve covered why it’s a good idea to get comfortable with “self-promotion”, and how you might go about it.

This concept goes beyond LinkedIn, and I would encourage you do to further reading on why it’s important to own your achievements.

Got any questions? Drop me a message and let me know if I can help. And, if you’re ever feeling nervous, link me your post and I can show some support!

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5 Lessons I Learned as a Research Assistant

When I handed in my final university essay, I thought my days of journal reading were over… little did I know I’d be invited to join a team at a political research institution over the summer!

Whilst most of my work experience has been in management consulting and (recently) technology, I’m always keen to explore new areas. Here’s what I learned by volunteering in a different sector for the past 3 months:

  1. You never know who’s paying attention! My invite to join the team was a surprise to me. However, following a discussion of my background, the team decided that I would be able to contribute well to one of their research streams. By building your skill set and understanding where your strengths are, you are positioning yourself to be ready when the time comes. Luck = when opportunity meets preparation.
  2. A lot of the skills you have are surprisingly industry-neutral. I had experience in academic research from my undergraduate degree at UCL. However, I was surprised by how much of my abilities I’d developed on my 2019 consulting internship came in handy, from communicating the results of my findings, to data analysis, to creating logical and informative slides. This helped me to build confidence in my core capabilities and in my ability to take up new challenges in future.
  3. Push to be involved in project streams which help you to develop your areas of interest. When I first joined the project, I was heavily involved with reviewing existing research and article coding. As it progressed, I put myself forward for opportunities to conduct additional research on areas I was interested in, such as debates over a virtual Parliament and further opportunities to work with data. This meant that by the end of the summer, I was responsible for the project’s data analysis stream, where I got to extend my Excel proficiency.
  4. Working remotely is here to stay, so it’s good to gain opportunities to do so. In my entire 3 months at the research unit, I never once stepped into the office. Onboarding and working remotely was a new experience for me, but this role gave me the chance to get used to build effective and communicative working habits. This was really useful when I then had to use remote working software for other roles, such as volunteering on a UCL Social Action Hackathon.
  5. Keep a wider awareness of what is happening outside of your specific workload. The wider team at the research institution were so welcoming, and it was fascinating hearing about what research they were all working on. Meeting and understanding others from different parts of the institution will help you to learn about different working styles and priorities, as well as introduce you to areas which you may have future interest in.
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10 Tips to Break into Consulting at Uni

With its fast-paced learning environment and its consultants cracking some of industry’s biggest challenges, it’s clear why consulting is a popular career destination amongst university students. However, it’s also notoriously hard to get into and competition is fierce.

This week, an incoming first-year on my UCL undergraduate degree reached out to me via LinkedIn to ask:

Can you give me some tips to get into the consulting industry?

We had a conversation about the ways in which proactive candidates can stand out in the consulting applicant pool, which served as a reminder that a few years ago I had barely heard of consulting myself.

Fast forward to now, as an applicant from a non-traditional background with experiences and insights at firms like McKinsey, BCG and Oliver Wyman, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned over the past 4 years.

Here are some of my key pieces of advice for breaking into the sector:

1. Gain leadership experience – for your application, but also for yourself. Leadership is not only a highly employable skill, but challenges and develops you in an unparalleled way to many other roles. I’m a great believer that the things you take on during university and beyond should serve you as much as it would serve a potential future employer. Think about what you’re passionate about and research organisations and groups where you could get involved. Paid or voluntary, huge- or small-scale, learning to work with others to deliver impact will help you in a consulting fit interview.

2. Evidence problem-solving / overcoming challenges. And, importantly, not necessarily just in a consulting environment! There’s a common misconception that consultancies are exclusively interested in your experiences solving consultancy-style issues. Any opportunity to discuss assessing situations and solving problems comes in handy; I often end up talking about my experiences in leading youth social action programmes.

3. Network with people at consulting firms to understand what the role is like and get advice. This could be an entire article in itself, but doing this will help you start to piece together the industry. There’s various ways to do this – lots of unis have an alumni network, you can reach out to people on Linkedin or you can see if firms you’re interested in have “About Consulting” resources on their website. No link to consulting at all? Wrong, you have me! I’m no expert but drop me a message and I’ll do my best to help you out.

4. Try to “level up” your involvement with the industry. Rather than starting totally cold, you can build a background of evidenced interest in the industry step-by-step. (For example, going to talks > getting onto insight days > a first year spring week programme > penultimate year summer internship)

5. Make the most of your university societies. Some student-run “careers” societies do an excellent job hosting a variety of talks and events about getting into industry. I’d recommend getting on the email lists/social media of a couple to start you off; these tend to be quite passive, low-commitment memberships, which mean you can just keep an eye out for their upcoming events etc. and apply for ones you’re interested in.

6. Understand what makes you different, and how to express your story. In recent years, companies are starting to recognise that a diversity of workforce leads to better business. Therefore, it’s less of a disadvantage than before to have a “non-traditional” background for consulting. However, the trick is understanding how to summarise and pitch yourself to others. I recently completed a short, free LinkedIn Learning course on this which broke down this process.

my university’s Business Society invited members to participate in the DECA Case Study competition in Canary Wharf

7. Get comfortable with case studies. If you make it to the consulting interview, chances are you’ll have to complete at least one case study interview. Case studies are simplified examples of business problems, which give you an opportunity to demonstrate the way you tackle problems. There are lots of free resources online about this – if you’re interested in a follow-up post of some of my favourites, just drop me a message.

8. Research different firms and approaches. It’s easy to homogenise “consulting” as one big job bracket, but the reality is that there is enormous diversity within the industry. By researching different organisations and their approaches, you’ll gain a better understanding of what parts of the consultancy industry interest you most.

Bright Network organised a Women in TEC Conference at Old Street

9. If applicable, get involved with events and networks aimed at underrepresented groups. The industry is changing, but the reality is that the majority of business leadership remains straight, white and male. To combat this, lots of consultancies have networks aimed at recruiting and retaining underrepresented talent (including but not limited to: women, BAME, LGBT, first generation). If you identify with an underrepresented group, I’d recommend that you search for the social media sites, newsletters and groups of these networks, as you may be eligible for additional events and opportunities to help counter this imbalance.

10. Gain experience in other sectors. It sounds bizarre to say “to break into one industry, try out another”, but consultants gain a breadth of experience across industries throughout their careers! Don’t be disheartened if you can’t gain direct consulting experience; most consulting firms acknowledge that it’s a difficult industry to get experience in, and are receptive to hearing about what you’ve learned and enjoyed in other areas.

Got any questions? As always, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

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Our CFG Project: Analysing Statutory Homelessness in the UK

After a great response to my article about my first coding lesson, I thought I’d do a follow-up article to show you what kinds of things you could learn to do with Python, or achieve by the end of a course with Code First: Girls.

Designing our project

I partnered up with my classmate Michelle to develop what we’d learned about .cvs files (comma separated values) into our final programming project. We were given three potential project options, and as we wanted to challenge ourselves, we chose the assignment we understood the least!

We were provided with a sample data set by CFG, which we initially used to practice what we’d learned. However, we then decided to apply our new knowledge to a new data set: the GOV.UK statistics on number of households in statutory homeless, by ethnicity over time (2007-2018).

https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/housing/homelessness/statutory-homelessness/latest#full-page-history

After successfully completing the course requirements, we set ourselves the following extension goals:

  • Collect all of the data for each ethnicity for 2007 and 2018 into lists
  • Compare the numbers of homeless for each ethnicity for 2007 vs 2018 
  • Compare the ethnicity percentage breakdown for 2007 vs 2018

To do this, we worked together to use our understanding of csv. files, functions and variables to process and calculate the figures. We had to reformat some of the statistics for them to be processed, but had a great chat with our instructor Marlene, who helped us to do this.

A sample of some of our project code, using what we had learned over the previous 5 weeks

Our results

Our programme analysed the original dataset and output a variety of statistics:

For example, we found that the overall number of households in the UK in statutory homelessness has decreased -22.87% from 2007-2018 (-16,780). The majority of these households come from a white ethnic background. However, in the same period of 2007-2017, whilst the number of white households in statutory homelessness has decreased by -35.6% (-19,350), the number of BAME households has increased by +18.6% (+2,820).

Furthermore, we got some hands-on experience in how using Python can be used to tackle real-life dataset issues. As part of our process, we asked our programme to sum up the different ethnicity statistics and output the total homeless for 2018. However, we found that our results (56,590) differed from the listed government figures for total households (56,580). Upon further investigation, we discovered that we had found a flaw in the official statistics – the total number given was more than the sum of the components added together. This taught us a valuable lesson in how good programmes can catch flaws and irregularities in data!

Lessons and next steps

We were really pleased with our project and enjoyed presenting about it to the rest of our CFG cohort. I was so impressed by the quality and creativity of my class’ work, and learned a lot from my peers about their coding journeys!

Having passed the 8-week course, I’m now working on self-teaching more Python, and exploring other programming languages. I’ve completed a Coursera Introduction to Python Course and am now getting to grips with Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science CS50!

I will shortly be creating a blog post of all my favourite free e-learning resources for anyone interested in beginning to code. As always, feel free to drop me a message if there’s anything I can help out with.

Finally, I just wanted to say thanks to my great teammate Michelle for all her hard work, and our brilliant instructors! This has been a challenging and inspiring first step into developing my technical skill set.

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5 Final Year Tips

The past few months have been an exciting and fast-paced return to life at UCL.

From my dissertation-filled study schedule, here are some quick tips on surviving the final year rush:

  1. Make the most of your university opportunities – this is your last chance to! When chatting to my friends in the post-graduation world, this rings in as the top piece of advice. Whether that’s sports, travel or volunteering opportunities, there are so many chances to enhance your final year which will give you great memories to look back on.
  2. Sign up for your university careers service. Most universities will not only offer you career support during university, but also in the next few years post-graduation, so it’s worth having this set up and good to go.
  3. Spoiler: no one really knows what they’re doing. In final year, there’s so much pressure to have all the answers – none of us do, and that’s just fine. Be kind to yourself at a very challenging time!
  4. Make sure you have your basic plan sorted. What’s your worst-case scenario? If this does ends up being what you’ll be doing next, make sure you have given a thought to your basic logistics and considerations for this next step.
  5. Renew all your student discount cards and accounts. Your future self will thank you!

Hope those are useful! Are you in your final year at the moment?

There’ll be some exciting new content to come in 2020; for now, wishing everyone a great holiday break.

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HBN CV Clinic: Find out the 5 Top Tips!

Thank you for the great response to last week’s CV Clinic! I received over 20 CVs, the majority of which were from female undergrads outside my network, and was delighted with the response from participants.

Participant Feedback:

The process was very simple and I am so thankful that you got back to me so quickly! It was definitely very useful – I will be revising my CV keeping your comments in mind, and it’s great that I can implement them immediately. 

HBN CV Clinic participant, 2019

This review has been very helpful. Additionally, you have pointed out things that I would not have seen myself. So your knowledge and experience in this matter has been valuable.

HBN CV Clinic participant, 2019

Your points are really insightful! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my CV.

HBN CV Clinic participant, 2019

Didn’t have time to submit your application? Here are a couple of the most common feedback points that were made:

The 5 Most Common CV Feedback Points:

  1. Think critically about what content and roles really bring value to your CV. The ideal CV at this early career stage would be 1-2 pages (ideally 1), which is often possible with some content analysis and changes in formatting. Participant example: We decided to cut content that was largely irrelevant or felt arbitrary (eg rating oneself out of 5 for different skills), which had originally been included just because the original CV template had said to do so.
  2. Where you can, quantify your experience to show the impact you had. This helps an outsider to quickly understand the size and scale of your work.
  3. Don’t be afraid to rework the subsections of your CV into a structure that best fits your experience. Consider what subsection titles would best showcase your wide variety of positions. You want to highlight your most relevant and interesting roles which have helped you build your skillset to date. Participant example: We considered reworking their CV structure into Education / Work Experience / Further Relevant Industry Experience / Volunteering and Extracurriculars.
  4. A simple one but make sure to run your CV through spell check! It’s important that your CV shows you pay attention to detail and you would be surprised how often this comes up.
  5. If you can, add a predicted grade for your degree in your university section. When you’re applying for roles, most recruiters will want to see 1) that you’re eligible for the role 2) that you have good predicted grades (a First or 2:1) and 3) that you go to a target uni. You more than likely have all 3 (which is great!) so it’s worth having this information clear and up front.

As always, my inbox is always open for questions and feedback. Feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn or contact HBN via the website.

Good luck with your applications!

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Her Business Now: Free CV Review (NOW CLOSED)

This opportunity has now closed. Thank you for all of the positive engagement and feedback will be posted shortly!

Are you an undergraduate student working on your CV for that ideal grad job or internship? Not sure how to improve and need a bit of advice? This weekend, here at Her Business Now we are hosting a FREE CV review weekend to help you secure your dream role!

Why are Her Business Now running this?

I’ve been fortunate to have many people mentor me over the past few years. Their advice has been invaluable in securing some awesome roles, with successful applications to insight programmes and internships at companies such as JPMorgan, Google, Oliver Wyman, BCG, McKinsey, PwC and Barclays.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve already helped well over 30 people with their CVs and applications over the past year. However, I strongly believe in helping level the playing field and want to offer some guidance to others not in my direct circle. That’s why I’m dedicating this weekend to helping others!

What is Her Business Now?

Her Business Now is all about helping undergraduates realise their potential. Our advice and articles aim to make careers and applications more accessible for students, with a specific focus on female undergrads.

We believe that opportunities and self-empowerment are the key to more young female professionals taking on an increasingly competitive and intimidating environment, and this blog is our small contribution to that vision.

Read more of our articles and insights here.

How do I get my FREE CV review?

Drop me an email with:

  1. The title “YOUR NAME – HBN CV Review”
  2. A brief description of the kinds of roles you are applying for
  3. A copy of your latest CV

I will get back to you with 2-3 pieces of easy-to-implement advice to strengthen your CV.

Is there anything else I should know?

All CV information will be treated as confidential and deleted after the HBN response is sent. However, you are also more than welcome to anonymise your CV if this makes you more comfortable.

Advice is advisory only and will be given in bullet point format.

Feedback will be provided within the next week.

Whilst HBN often focuses on issues related to women in consulting, tech and finance, this opportunity is open to all students regardless of gender.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.

What were the dates of the HBN CV Clinic?

Submissions were accepted from Thursday 10th October til 9pm on Sunday 13th October.

Thank you for all of the positive responses and feedback will be sent shortly!

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5 Mistakes I Made on My Internship

As the summer draws to a close, thousands of students across the country are rolling off summer internships. Inevitably, that means nearly every third Linkedin post is a success story about the awesome things that undergrads have achieved this summer!

Social media is very much a highlights reel, and for young women to succeed in male-dominated industries, we need to normalise the day-to-day learning experience that comes with entering new environments

So, I thought I’d mix things up with something different. I’ve had an amazing time interning at a consultancy this summer, but in a world where female students are more likely to suffer from impostor syndrome, less likely to apply for internships in fields such as tech and often won’t apply for positions they don’t feel qualified for, I’m here to share some of my key mistakes over the past ten weeks – and the lessons I took from them.

The 5 Mistakes I Made on My Internship

Catch the key learnings in italics

1. Assumed that quant work and Excel was way out of my ability. As a humanities student whose IT education ended at the grand old age of 15, my mind was all over the place during the Excel workshop on my first week. Whilst most of my fellow interns were flying through the tasks, I was trying to covertly Google how INDEX/MATCH worked (or even… what it was?). However, after a couple of weeks of extra effort, learning by doing and incorporating feedback from my managers, my skills improved twelve-fold.

Don’t count yourself out before you’ve even started. Be honest about your familiarity with different tools and take a growth mindset.

2. There’s no comparison between you and your peers. My intern cohort was great and impressively talented, including numerous languages, coding skills and Masters- & PHD-level students. Initially, it was hard not to question how my own skill set would compare. Recognising that this bias came from myself and receiving the support of my fellow interns made me realise that we all brought something different to the table.

An internship is an opportunity to develop your skills as an individual: focus on how much you’ve grown and developed, rather than the progress of others.

3. Tried to use the printer for the first time: auto-stapled straight through my ID card. The less said about this one the better.

4. Not specifying task granularity. Once I ended up staying in the office til late, attempting to piece together an incredibly complex piece of work in a short time frame. I cancelled my evening plans and almost definitely drank too much caffeine for a normal human. Come morning, the research didn’t cover a key element of the task… and needed repeating regardless.

When taking on a new piece of work, make sure you understand exactly what information is required and to what level – it’ll save you time in the long run.

5. It’s never too soon to think of the bigger picture. My initial approach was that as an intern on a project in an unfamiliar technical space, it would take me months before I understood enough to grasp how the entire project linked together. With time, I realised that it wasn’t necessary to understand everything to make more meaningful contributions.

When you’re working on a task, think about what the impact of your work will be for the next stage ahead, or the next level up. When you’ve finished, before talking to your manager, take a minute to summarise what the key takeaways from your analysis are and what you think would be a good next step. This helps to build a proactive approach to problem-solving.

IN SHORT…

The key message of this article is that mistakes are normal and a huge opportunity to learn. I did numerous things this summer that I was really proud of, but above all, I was proud of my own resilience and growth-orientated approach.

I was fortunate to have this experience and know that internships and early careers can be a mystery, so I hope that this article is useful to you.

As always, my Linkedin inbox is open for any questions – drop me a message here.

What mistakes have you made lately, and how have you learned from them?

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