1. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Taylor Hughes, I’m a Business Management graduate (1st Class BA Hons) and have been working for IBM as a Technology/Business consultant since October 2017.
Prior to this I managed leisure centres for 3 years and then moved on to working as a Data Analyst at an NHS trust whilst I studied for my degree.
I have lived in Chelmsford for around 5 years, and enjoy playing squash, football and training in parkour and rock climbing.
2. What is your fondest memory at Anglia Ruskin University?
This was a bit of a tough one, as I purposefully chose to keep myself fairly separated from a lot of the socials that most people look at as part of “University Life”. I kept to myself outside of my courses, rep duties and any competitions I entered. I was 22 when I started my degree and had always lived around Essex, so I already had my social circles and my life outside of uni set up, and when I first started I saw the degree as a means to an end. Being a student mostly changed what I did 9-5, so I haven’t got many specific memories of things I got up to there. The one notable exception was something I was only able to do thanks to the uni:
I think my absolute fondest memory though was the University giving me a grant to go on a week-long trip in Denmark. I was doing some voluntary work with a local Parkour team and planned to do a coaching qualification at the time. This trip was a week-long parkour coaching event, and was basically going to improve my skills to carry on doing this voluntary work, but to a higher standard. The team did a lot of work with at-risk youths and community outreach programmes, so it was beneficial to the local area – hence being able to apply for the grant. The whole team went but I was only able to go thanks to the grant I was awarded as the trip cost about £600 all told. It was one of the most fun weeks of my life; training in the sunshine, meeting new people including one of the founders of the sport, and learning a huge amount about technique, and how to prepare yourself for all sorts of new mental challenges from some of the best coaches in the world. I’m going again this year, but don’t have the luxury of giving all my receipts to the finance team at ARU this time!
3. What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?
I'm a bit biased here, as I went on to apply at a big firm when I graduated, so most of my experience is focused around that!
The extra-curricular competitions that the Uni gets involved in are actually really useful for when you apply to jobs. You might look at them and think “I can’t be bothered with that”, but they exist for the express purpose of highlighting good talent to graduate employers. Make use of them if you can and it’ll stand you in good stead when you apply for things.
Do things that grow your eminence. Get yourself known for doing good things, to a high standard. It will give you the sort of attitude and presence of character that graduate employers are looking for, and you’ll be miles ahead of lots of other grads they have to interview.
If you want to apply to a big firm when you graduate, you’ll likely be against dozens of other students/recent grads, so your one and only job is to make it easier for them to remember you over the others. If you can make yourself stand out because you’ve got more experiences, and those experiences have given you a bit more of that competence and drive that they’re looking for, you make it easier for them to say yes to you, and that’s the goal.
Also, the more things like that you’ve done, the more prizes and scholarships you can apply for at the uni. I did a load of extra-curricular stuff every year, but particularly in my 2nd year. It let me apply for a grant for an educational trip to Denmark, which was amazing, and helped me win a scholarship for £1,000 when I graduated. I also won some cash prizes from several of the competitions I entered.
If that isn’t what you want to do when you graduate, then try and find extras you can get involved in that still support your post-graduating dreams/goals. If you want to start up a business then get involved in the business simulations and the pitch ideas, because that’s what you’ll end up needing to be good at. If you want to do further study, get involved in events with external speakers who have a wealth of experience, and use their knowledge to help you with your own studies, and forming new ideas.
The key thing is don’t just go through your degree without doing anything extra, because if you do, you’re missing out and wasting an opportunity.
How to shop more cheaply! I’m still getting out of my student overdraft and credit card... (the answer is Aldi/Lidl).
5. How did your time at Anglia Ruskin help you?
I was working as a manager in the Leisure Industry when I joined, and the goal was to use the degree to get a promotion at work (essentially skip a level because there weren’t opportunities at the level above me, but were at the level above that). I quickly realised that with a degree I could do more than that, so I got a bit braver in what I wanted.
My job as a Data Analyst for the NHS came from an advert sent out by the Uni. That job gave me new skills, improved my ability to present myself professionally, helped me support myself through my degree, and was flexible in my hours to support me being a student. It was honestly one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
It also gave me the chance to enter 4 competitions that helped me gain my job at IBM and give me some career direction. I did the Universities Business Challenge every year (and ended up at the final at IBM’s London office during my second year, which is when I decided I wanted to work for them), and an Emerging Leaders Competition sponsored by Credit Suisse in my second year. This competition introduced me to the concept of using the internet of things (things like phones and smart watches) to change how the health care system works: i.e. using the data those devices collect to help doctors change healthcare from being a mostly reactive industry to a proactive one, which is something I am now pursuing in my career at IBM.
6. What did you love about your chosen course?
The economics and accounting modules. They were truly interesting and helped me change how I was looking at the world.
7. What would you tell someone thinking of studying at ARU?
The strength of Anglia lies in the variety and number of things it offers you in addition to the degree. You gain experiences and opportunities there which really help you to do well afterwards. I came out of my degree well rounded, and prepared to go and face the world and get what I wanted out of life. As with most things in life, you get out rewards equal to the effort you put in, but you have a bounty of opportunities to do that here, and that is a huge benefit. You need to be prepared to take those opportunities, or you could end up disappointed.
8. In one word how would you describe Anglia Ruskin?
9. Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Robin Gowers and Craig Duckworth. These were the two economics lecturers who really made me enjoy my degree. I found that they both presented things in a gripping and thought provoking way, and made me genuinely want to go and learn more about the topic. Craig was only my lecturer briefly as he moved to the Cambridge campus, so I ended up having most of my lectures and discussions with Robin, who took on a mentor role with me.
As a result of these two I focused my dissertation on an economics topic and chose to read widely enough around economics that I could understand and argue convincingly about politics.
Robin was also my supervisor in my dissertation and in the Universities Business Challenge, and ran the Careers module where we had a guest speaker from IBM so was a big part in me getting myself known by some of the Grad recruitment team at IBM.
10. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Winning the Vice Chancellors' Student Leadership Award. It was a culmination of every single other thing I did during my time at the university, be it fundraising, volunteering, extracurricular competitions, being a student rep, or helping mentor some younger students. Plus, I won £1,000 for it, and had it presented to me in front of my family at graduation. That certainly helped.
11. What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t stress as much. You’ll get it (whatever it is) finished in time if you just sit down and do it, but being worried and panicky about it will do nothing except make it harder to sit down and start.
12. What drives you?
I always want to push myself to get better at whatever it is I’m doing. Be it sport, personal or work-related. If I’m not doing something that will help me progress at something I have an interest in, then I struggle to find motivation and it can get me down very quickly, so I always try and put myself in a position where I’m pushing myself.
13. What’s next?
I’m a consultant with IBM, so my job is all project-based. I’m finishing my first project soon, so the next step for me is to find a project that helps me work towards some of my career goals, and pushes me. I don’t want something boring and administrative, I want something that makes me think and problem solve, so that’ll be my next task over the coming weeks. Beyond that I’ve got some training I want to do around coding languages, and I’ve just started talking to a sportswear brand about sponsorship related to some of my parkour videos.
Taylor is also a mentor for our Business School, giving back and inspiring our next generation of graduates. You can find out more about our intern programme here.