MSc Practising Sustainable Development
Place of Work: Research and Higher Education Division (RHED), Royal Geographical Society with IBG (RGS-IBG) & Reboot
Position: Project Assistant & Intermittent-Consultant (respectively)
What does your current position involve and what do you love about it?
Currently I’m working on two projects in the RHED office concerned with teaching and research in University Geography departments across the UK. As a project assistant my work can be varied, sometimes working with raw data, sometimes creating website content and sometimes using my data visualisation skills to help other members of the team produce presentations and reports. I enjoy the variation in the work, the fantastic environment of the RGS (and the numerous events held here) and the real sense of involvement in UK academic Geography.
I also have an intermittent consultancy role with a service design firm based in New York, and will involve contracted work when an appropriate project matches with my specialities. Reboot recently produced a joint report with infoDev ‘Tunisia; From Revolutions to Institutions” a study of the present ICT landscape in Tunisia. I’m really excited about this role, it will involve active research and participation in international consultancy projects with the rest of the Reboot team.
How did you come to get that position?
The key is to build, and maintain, networks. And do it with long-term visions in mind. My relationship with the RGS started at the beginning of my third year, when applying for a research grant. The subsequent research impressed contacts, when the work was completed I was invited back to the society to present the findings and to run a workshop on developmental research. When an unadvertised role at the RGS opened up, my name was suggested, and I believe that my past interactions with the society had a lot to do with me being successfully offered the role.
I first spoke to Reboot when trying to organise my MSc dissertation research. This really is one of the best opportunities to build relationships with organisations with which you’d like to work. In the end I couldn’t collaborate with Reboot for my research, but they wanted me to keep in touch. Two months later I sent them an update of my research from Nairobi, they were really interested in the topic and asked if they could interview me for their consultancy pool. Since then we’ve spoken a lot, and in September I was officially welcomed as part of their team. I’m now eagerly anticipating my first assignment. It hasn’t been a quick process, but it’s one that has built a relationship, given them a proper idea of my abilities and specialism’s, and shown me that they are the type of group I’d like to work with.
How do you think your degree has helped you?
Just being on the MSc course alone was a brilliant networking opportunity. It’s much easier to build relationships with organisations if you can express a real and evident interest in the work that they are doing. Better still if the work that you’re doing is of interest to these organisations. This is the best position to be in.
The practical skills that you learn on the course can make such a difference to the way you are perceived. You may have had only a couple of hours of experience using a certain type of software, or using a certain research technique, but if that basic familiarity is enough for you to perform a task with reasonable confidence then it’s another skill under your belt.
The various guest lecturers on the course meant that we were working with, and had access to people who really know their subject area. Working with them was such an invaluable experience. The Geography department at Royal Holloway is fantastic, and an incredibly supportive and exciting environment in which to work.
Is there any advice you would give to current students?
Build networks with groups you’d be interested in working with – show them that you are involved in that topic – make them interested in you; make the most of learning every practical skill that you can; and network and get your name out there.