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Graduate profiles

Graduate profiles

Mathematics alumni are following their passions in multiple career paths.

Mathematics programmes have given our alumni the skills and mindsets to develop their careers in unpredictable, self-directed ways.

Accordingly, our Mathematics alumni are now working in roles across industries, from medicine to film.

Name: Matthieu Le Mintier
Subject: BSc Mathematics with Statistics
Graduated: 2012
Position: Gasoline Trader at Vitol Group

Why did you choose to study at Royal Holloway?
At the time of applying, Royal Holloway was ranked top 15 university in the UK. I wanted a campus experience whilst staying close to London so that was a perfect fit. The courses they offered for Mathematics with Statistics seemed very interesting and diverse.

What did you enjoy most about your course?
What I enjoyed the most (and typically the reason someone enjoys studying mathematics) is that there is only one correct answer but infinite ways to get there. I particularly enjoyed exams and having no essays to write! Spending a year at Hong Kong University was also a great experience.

How did Royal Holloway help you to discover opportunities and prepare you for life after university / to find your purpose in life?
Royal Holloway offered help whether it be via their career office when looking for my first internship, the job fair, asking and discovering about what opportunities I might want to consider after graduating with staff from various backgrounds and students from all over the world.

How did your experience at Royal Holloway enable you to discover your passions / help you to grow as an individual?
My year abroad enabled me to discover how much I enjoyed travelling, learning about different cultures and reading news about the entire world which gave me a drive to one day find a job that is not only linked to a small patch of the world but the whole planet. The diversity of students at Royal Holloway made me learn, adapt and understand new cultures which would then become very useful in the professional world.

Tell us about your career journey since graduating and what you are doing now.
After graduating Royal Holloway in May 2012, I then went to Cass Business School to study Energy, Trade and Finance as a masters degree. I decided to do this as I spent the two previous summers and even winter breaks interning for Vitol and Glencore, two major commodity traders and it gave me the motivation to add an additional degree to improve my chances of one day getting a job offer from a major energy trader. I graduated Cass Business School and before even finishing, I was offered a job at Vitol conditional on starting that very same week which was 2 months before the end of my masters degree. Vitol helped me finish my master with a 1st class and has been an amazing company to work at since then. I started as a Commercial Analyst on the Gasoline desk for 2 years, had a week of testing and trading simulations which went well enough for me to move to a commercial role. I love every minute of it, always having to be aware of what goes on in the world and how it impacts your market which right now is Gulf Coast USA physical Gasoline.

What advice would you give to students thinking about a career in your sector?
I was lucky enough to know early enough what I truly wanted to do in life. My advice would be, the sooner you get your foot in the door the better whether that be via internships, contacting people working in the industry for help, reading relevant books to improve your knowledge of the industry. It’s an industry that is ever changing with climate change playing a bigger role and shaping the world of tomorrow. Energy will always be needed, it’s just a question of what form it will take and understanding the economics behind it helps to know how the world operates.

Name: Dr Helen Warren
Subject: BSc Mathematics with Statistics
Graduated: 2007
Place of work: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Position: Research Fellow in Statistical Genetics & Epidemiology

Helen is a researcher on an MRC-funded project grant, researching into genetic risk prediction, with applications to cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, and also continues to publish her own research.

What first attracted you to Royal Holloway?

The best bit about the Maths course was the flexibility. Most of the study units were optional modules, so you could choose your preferred topics, and there was such a variety to choose from.

If I had any queries between the interview and the start of term, the Maths Admissions Tutor was really helpful, and you already felt as if you had got to know some of the staff before term had started.

What did Royal Holloway teach you?

When you study Mathematics at university, you appreciate it more. At school, everything is textbook focused. It’s fascinating to discover the history of maths, rather than just taking it for granted and there’s a lot more to explore.

In the final year some of the lecturers gave us an insight into the current research questions related to this topic. That’s when I realised that maths is an ongoing subject and still has unanswered questions needing to be researched.

What’s happened in your career?

I developed a real passion for research, so I applied for academic jobs. London had the best choice of positions and I was luckily successful for the first job I was interviewed for.

I began as a Research Assistant in Statistical Genetics & Epidemiology, and was then promoted to Research Fellow. I am also continuing to publish journal papers related to my PhD topic to increase my publication record.

My main project researches into statistical methods for genetic risk prediction and is applied to real-life datasets. I also have lots of teaching responsibilities, which as well as being great career experience, also provide a nice variety to my job.

 

Name: Mark Arnold
Subject: Mathematics
Graduated: 1973
Place of work: Albion Investors, LLC
Position: Managing Partner

Mark is an actuary working as an investment advisor, with over 30 years of experience. He is a managing partner based in the Rockefeller Centre in New York. Albion specialises in buying smaller middle-market companies and growing them, through organic growth and acquisition, to make them more profitable businesses.

What first attracted you to Royal Holloway?

Royal Holloway seemed to have a good reputation so I came for an interview and I really liked the campus. As I left the college for Egham station I had already decided ‘I’m going there!’.

I liked the fact that Royal Holloway was self-contained and based in one location, unlike many other universities. I chose Mathematics as my degree subject because I enjoyed it so much.

What did Royal Holloway teach you?

In my first year we were introduced to metric spaces, a concept entirely new to me. My professor gave me additional help outside of the classroom which helped me get the top grade at the end of the year.

Also the thought processes were enormously valuable to me when I left Royal Holloway. I felt confident that I could handle, and maybe even dominate, the technical aspects of business.

What’s happened in your career?

Thanks to my background in mathematics I was able to apply new techniques that had never been used before. I moved to New York as an investment advisor and worked there for fifteen years before setting up my own business.

My company buys control equity positions in private companies and, after reorganising and growing them, sell them some years later at (usually) a profit.

We look for small and stable companies in simple business sectors, typically with earnings between half a million and three million dollars. The client list includes royalty and wealthy people from all over the world.

Name: Suzie Halewood
Subject: Mathematics
Graduated: 1986
Place of work: Self-employed
Position: Writer/Film Director

After graduation Suzie became a portrait painter and opened a restaurant in Primrose Hill. She then started writing scripts and her first screenplay was turned into a feature film, One More Kiss. She directed her first feature which made The Times Top 100 Films 2008, starring Ben Barnes. Suzie is now setting up a social networking hub for students.

What first attracted you to Royal Holloway?

I was thrilled to be accepted at Royal Holloway. It was a great place to study and a privilege to be in such surroundings.

What did Royal Holloway teach you?

It felt magical following in the steps of Pythagoras, with the same excitement of discovery. There is a huge comfort in the purity of mathematics. It can be perfect and doesn’t lie (well, apart from the odd singularity). It just waits patiently for us to find it.

Although it’s better to regret the things you do than you don’t do, I wish I’d made more of the potential to study there. There are some phenomenal brains in the Mathematics Department.

What’s happened in your career?

I first opened a restaurant in Primrose Hill. It was my sister who then suggested film. It combined the problem solving of maths with the visuals of art.

I made my first short film, One More Kiss, which was showcased at The Venice Film Festival. Another interactive web series was BAFTA nominated which led me into commercials. I then moved to Los Angeles for three years working as a journalist.

I set up sponsormestudent.com where students can find alternative funding to loans. I think that, if students who benefit from the site can go on to sponsor another student, this is good psychologically as you’ve turned a debt into a gift.

Bobby Seagull, BSc Maths and Economics, a former investment banker who became a teacher and went on to find fame on University Challenge is the ultimate polymath. As well as teaching part-time at a secondary school in his home borough of Newham, East London, Bobby is studying for a doctorate at Cambridge University, runs a money management course with Martin Lewis for the Open University, hosts a podcast, is a Financial Times columnist and is an ambassador for National Numeracy and is the Library and Information Association CILIP’s Libraries Champion. He has co-authored a book and presented a travel series with his University Challenge nemesis Eric Monkman, written his own book The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers and presented a TED Talk. He even recently advised the World Economic Forum on the mathematical spread of Covid-19. And that’s just to name a few of the different hats he wears.

It was Bobby’s indefatigable enthusiasm, as well as his unusual surname, which saw him become an overnight star when he appeared on University Challenge in 2017 as the captain of Emmanuel College Cambridge team. “I thought it would benefit my teaching career, nothing more than that.” But the reaction to him and his opponent Eric Monkman on Twitter was something he never expected. “By my second round, #seagull was trending at number one on Twitter. We had people like Stephen Fry and Louis Theroux tweeting ‘are you Monkman or are you Seagull?’ The BBC even had cartoon characters tweeting about us!” he laughs.

The show made stars of both Bobby and Eric, and the pair have teamed up on a book, a radio show and a BBC TV show, with a second series of Monkman and Seagull’s Genius Guide to Britain out soon (pictured below). “University Challenge really captured who I am: my sense of congeniality, my camaraderie, my giddy excitement when I got things correct, a sense of my deep range of knowledge and how I support people,” says Bobby. He admits that his unusual surname certainly helped. “Of course it did, but as I always think with a lucky break it’s all about what you do with it.”

He initially went on to Oxford but after a year, made the difficult decision to leave as his predicted 2:2 wasn’t going to get him the investment banking job he wanted. “I did too much outside of studying and so I decided to take a risk. Luckily, I got a place at Royal Holloway and got my work back on track.  I enjoyed being able to do a joint honours degree of Maths and Economics, was President of the Investment Society and the Debating Society, was involved in the College’s volunteering strategy and even ran my own six-week investment course. This time I played hard and worked hard!”

After graduating in 2007, Bobby joined Lehman Brothers and had been working there as a trader for just a year when it collapsed. “All of my last few years had been geared up to working at this bank and it was all gone,” says Bobby. After a stint at Japanese bank Nomura, Bobby decided to retrain as a chartered accountant and joined PWC. While there, he took a two-month sabbatical teaching new graduates who had joined the firm. “I really loved it, and it reminded me of running the investment society course at Royal Holloway. I realised then I wanted to go into education.”

After forensically researching the schools in his local borough of Newham, Bobby got his first teaching job. In 2015, while teaching full-time as the acting maths faculty head, studying for his Masters at Cambridge and completing his National Teaching Qualification, he was accepted to captain his college on University Challenge. “Sometimes I’d turn up to school on an hour’s sleep but nobody knew because I have lots of energy. I couldn’t do that now.”

Bobby’s team went out in the semi-finals of University Challenge but the show launched him as an engaging and entertaining champion of knowledge. His recent victory on Celebrity Mastermind – where he went up against another Royal Holloway alumnus Daniel Lawrence Taylor, and triumphed over Paralympic gold medallist Kelly Gallagher in a tiebreak – has only cemented his status. “It was one of the most daunting things I’ve ever done,” he says of his time in the infamous black chair. “I was so relieved to leave with my dignity intact.”

So, what’s next? As well as hosting his ‘Maths with Bobby’ lessons on Facebook during lockdown and online pub quizzes to raise funds for the NHS, Bobby  is setting quizzes for The Sunday Times. “I’m really enjoying hosting and I love quizzes. It’s a long way away but when Jeremy Paxman retires I’ve got my eye on his job!” But if he could keep only one line of work, he doesn’t hesitate with his answer: “teaching. I will always be in the classroom in some capacity. Bobby the educator is how I’d like to be remembered.”

Name: Abdul Karim Khan
Subject: BSc Mathematics with Statistics
Graduated: 2011
Position: Associate Director – Turnaround and Restructuring Strategy at EY

1. Why did you choose Royal Holloway for your degree?

During sixth form, I was eager to find a university that met my expectations of undergraduate education along with a social life to match. At the risk of sounding cliché, it feels like yesterday when I first stepped onto campus in 2008. I was absolutely blown away at the magnificent Founders Building and the surrounding beautiful sites. Royal Holloway exceeded my expectations, providing endless opportunities to better myself both personally and academically.

Royal Holloway and the department of mathematics offers a wide array of challenging programmes that are taught by industry leaders. The friendly environment coupled with the inspiring leadership encouraged me to follow my passion and challenge the status-quo. The inclusive nature of the degree focused on group-teaching, peer-to-peer reviews and workshop-based learning that further strengthened the learning process and developed my interpersonal skills. 

2. How did your time at Royal Holloway help your future career (academically or from an extra-curricular point of view)?

The variety of modules, from Linear Algebra to Dynamics of Real Fluids, contributed to structuring my career path from the first day. Gaining experience writing reports, leading presentations and completing group projects further developed my soft-skills and strengthened the key attributes employers seek in today’s market.  

Following completion of my degree, I accepted an offer at PwC to study towards the Chartered Accountant (ACA) qualification. Studying for a professional qualification whilst training on the job is hard work, but my time at Royal Holloway prepared me well. I was able to utilise my analytical and numerical skills, and my love for mathematics, and put them to practical use whilst thoroughly enjoying the challenge of working in such a stimulating role.

I then accepted an offer to work for EY’s Restructuring practice as an Associate Director. In light of the current economic climate, this has been a stimulating and challenging role allowing me to take on additional responsibility at an early stage in my career.

3. What do you do now and what advice would you give to anyone thinking about a career in your sector?

In January, I will be joining Duff and Phelps' Restructuring practice in the Middle East as a Senior Vice President. Companies are facing operational and financial challenges across a global level. As a young leader with high aspirations who embarked on his journey at Royal Holloway, I am excited to take on this new challenge and look forward to contributing to the future success and growth of the Restructuring market within the Middle East.  

The most important piece of advice that I would share with anyone who is thinking about a career in finance is to really make the most of your time at university.

In university you are balancing day-to-day life, academics and extracurricular activities, and learning real-life skills that are directly transferable to the workplace.

Join as many clubs as you can, partake in many sports as you can, host networking events, reach out to alumni and ask questions. This is the perfect time to capitalise on your networks and learn as much as you can about careers that interest you.

If you’d like any advice, whether it's finance related or otherwise, please reach out to me on LinkedIn and I’d be more than happy to have a chat!  

Abdul Karim Khan Maths Alumnus

Abdul Karim Khan, BSc Mathematics with Statistics, 2011

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