Current employer: Royal Society of Biology
Current job title: Director of Membership and Professional Affairs
Current location: London
"I spent four years in Plymouth completing both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. It was quite honestly the best four years of my life."
In this video Rachel shares some of her insight into studying at Plymouth
Tell us about your career path since graduation.
I joined the Institute of Biology directly from my masters at Plymouth University. The job was originally supposed to be an entry level office job and my plan was to stay for one to two years; over eight years later I remain at the same organisation (having gone through a merger and name change). I have, however, moved from an administrative role to one of three directors of the company in charge of a medium sized team.
Has your career path changed since graduation?
No, but my expectations have. I thought that after graduating I would follow a marine policy pathway but instead fell into education policy. I have, however, learnt to take whatever opportunities arise and that by using my initiative I can create my own career pathway.
What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?
Being relatively young in a senior role. I often chair or participate in meetings at the very highest levels with MPs, senior civil servants, eminent academics, and industry figures. Building the trust and confidence for my advice and opinions has been a struggle, occasionally, as some individuals only see my age and not my experience.
What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?
Over the past three summers I have accompanied the top student biologists in the UK to the International Biology Olympiad in Indonesia, Denmark, and Vietnam. The UK is hosting the next competition and it is my job to project manage the whole thing. It is the single biggest event the RSB has hosted and we are developing a really exciting programme of activities for students from across the world.
What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?
Believe in myself a little more and take more risks with projects. When I have taken the biggest risk at work it has had the biggest rewards both for myself and the organisation.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?
Have a passion for policy, work on your diplomatic skills, and always be ready to take criticism with a pinch of salt. Take up opportunities of work experience or internships; I have been told by my interviewers that the fact I had completed a 12 week work placement at Devon County Council whilst studying for my masters got me the job over my competitors, as I could use real examples of how I had developed the skills they were looking for.
How did studying at Plymouth help you?
Plymouth University gave me a sense of self. My degree taught me that I loved science, but that conducting research wasn’t for me; my masters cemented my interest in policy and policy development. Lastly, my time in the hockey club developed my leadership and diplomacy skills. All these things have led me to the position that I occupy now.
What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?
Playing for UPHC (University of Plymouth Hockey Club). I loved playing for the ladies club and even went on to chair it for two years. It is where I met my husband and some of my closest friends. Weekends were filled with hockey matches, social events in the UPSU, and I loved every minute.
Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?
Yes, my husband is a business studies graduate and many of my closest friends studied at Plymouth. Despite being spread across the country we meet up for big events like weddings and birthdays, but also weekends away and nights out. The godfather to our child is even a Plymouth alum. I met my friends for life there.
Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?
Absolutely! I spent four years in Plymouth completing both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. it was without a doubt an amazing four years.
During my undergraduate I got to work with the National Marine Aquarium and during my postgraduate I worked with the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Nowhere else in the country could I have had such a good experience in the marine sector.
Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?
Just that experience and passion really are key to getting ahead, but that experience doesn’t necessarily need to be formal. I used my role as Chair of the hockey club to show that I had leadership, team working, and budget management skills when I first started applying for roles, and I definitely think this experience made me stand out from the crowd.
Inspired by this story?
For more information about studying marine biology and coast ecology please visit our BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, please visit the school page.
Want to find similar alumni?
If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni are currently doing, please visit the marine, earth, geography and environment interest area.