James Whitbread: from business to the education sector

James tells us how studying at Plymouth helped to shape his career

“Studying with Plymouth gave me access to a wealth of experienced staff and lecturers that supported me in finding out about the variety of career options available to me. This helped me shape my career plans and allowed me to pursue all areas that interested me.”

James Whitbread holding The Enterprise4U Business Award – awarded to a student team from North Somerset Enterprise and Technology College.

James Whitbread graduated from BA (Hons) Business Studies in 2012 and a PGCE in 2014. He is currently Interim Assistant Vice Principal and Head of Department at North Somerset Enterprise and Technology College.

This is James's story

Choosing Plymouth

I had originally pursued a career with a Microsoft Partner as a ‘Solution Sales Specialist’ and although I enjoyed my role for a year, I decided I wanted to return to study and complete a PGCE (which I also completed at Plymouth), and am now working in the education sector.

My main reasons for choosing to study at Plymouth were that I wanted the opportunity to study a degree from a well-established, highly recommended university that also had a wealth of social and development opportunity available outside of the degree programme that would enrich my entire experience. Furthermore, the University offered a work placement year with excellent support from their careers and employability service that gave me the best opportunity to access some of the top work placement programs available to undergraduates.

Both the careers and employability service as well as the library service were crucial in my development at university and provided me with excellent support during my studies at Plymouth. These services had a wealth of staff expertise as well as a wealth of study resources that were crucial in supporting me with my studies.

Plymouth prepared me for the challenges I faced by ensuring there were plenty of opportunities for me to be challenged during my degree. The variety of different assignments and the way in which they were assessed ensured I developed many ‘soft skills’ such as my ability to present in front of a large audience, answer challenging questions from my peers, work effectively as a team, organise myself and be efficient in my work practices. The development of these soft skills have certainly prepared me for the challenges I face on a daily basis in both careers I have pursued.

The most fun I had pre-education training/sector working was having the opportunity to work with ‘big’ clients on multi-million pound transactions/contracts and providing the solution to these clients’ problems.

Prior to studying with the University, I certainly had a lack of understanding of what career options were available. The placement opportunity given to me during my degree, combined with the quality of placement I had with Microsoft, had an enormous impact on both my short and long-term career plans. My placement developed many soft skills needed across a variety of careers and really opened the door to a wide range of career options for me. It helped me develop academically and, more importantly, apply the theory and knowledge gained at university in a real life context.

Favourite memory

“I actually have two that are tied for the most favourite memory during my undergraduate course. The first was working with a lecturer, Andy Phippen, who inspired and challenged my understanding of technology use both in business and in the ‘real world’. Andy really supported me through my studies, specifically my dissertation piece on the gaming industry and meant the whole experience for me was a real defining moment in both my personal and academic development. The other favourite memory of mine is of my first lecture with recently retired Gordon Smith, who paired his phone via Bluetooth with the lecture hall speakers and played both the notorious ‘BBC Apprentice’ and Darth Vadar music when entering the lecture theatre before delivering his lectures...it certainly gained our attention!”

University support


I would highly recommend the University to anybody, the design of their courses and support service available ensure undergraduates develop both academically and personally. The development of both of these will be a key important factor in bridging the gap between university studies and starting your career post-graduation.

With all the support available at the University, you will be in a great position to understand what career you are aiming for and ensure you gain the degree you need as well as the advice and guidance to get you there.

The reality is that there is plenty of support in most areas you might struggle with that are available to you, all you need to do is seek it out and ask for the support. You just have to be open to being ok with failing at certain aspects of your life at university and continue to work at getting better at it a small chunk at a time. This is why I would have told myself to accept that you may not be great at everything, just continue to work hard and you will be rewarded at some point in your life, whether it be pre or post-graduation.

If I could have done anything differently since graduating, it would be to have focused on the rewarding aspects of both my life and career rather than focusing on the monetary rewards/opportunities available to me. At the time of graduating, I believed monetary gain was far more important than quality of life, and I wish I could have had this mind-set after graduating.


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