'The BSc program taught me to think critically, to value evidence-based action, and also helped me grasp the statistics that I use every day in my role now.'
Sarah Lee Cunliffe
I am currently working for a Dutch Marketing Research firm called SKIM, working in the consumer goods sector, helping companies such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble design the architecture and pricing of their portfolios.
After graduating I volunteered in Mozambique for 5 months before returning to a UK in the months post-Lehman-brothers-collapse. A stifled employment market gave me the boost to apply for a Masters which I’d always wanted to do (it also had the benefit of stopping people from asking if I wanted to be a PE teacher with my SportEx degree!). I worked several jobs to save, but then was awarded a full scholarship to do an MSc in global health and public policy at Edinburgh University. After graduating I looked for work in Edinburgh but eventually conceded that London offered more opportunities and as my parents lived there I returned and got a job almost instantly that involved first living in Holland for 5 months and now for the same company but based out of their London office.
I love work at SKIM – they offer great travelling experiences, fun and likeminded colleagues, with a great work-life integration.
Outline the course you studied at the University of Birmingham and how it benefited you?
Sport and Exercise Science – not the most obvious course for the role I am in now, but at the time, finishing A-levels sport was simply my biggest love. The BSc program taught me to think critically, to value evidence-based action, and also helped me grasp the statistics that I use every day in my role now.
How did you find your first year in Birmingham?
At the time I thought it was brilliant – it was only in hindsight that I realised how much more fun and less stressful as the next two years were better – at least socially, counteracted only slightly with harder workloads! I came out of that year with a great group of friends though that I remained close to throughout uni and since.
How did going to University as a whole benefit you?
Mostly for the confidence I gained, the ability to present myself clearly and articulately. Studying a range of subjects under the BSc title helped me identify what I found most interesting.
How did you find campus life?
Lectures can be (and were) attended in sweatpants and hoodies!! A much more campus lifestyle, I don’t think there was a day in my third year where I didn’t bump into someone I hadn’t arranged to see, so it’s really fun and you can make plans spontaneously. The city centre is really not far away so it’s a cheap taxi ride for nights out, but around Birmingham campus it’s nice and green and you don’t feel that you’re living in England’s second largest city.
How did you find living in Birmingham?
Living in Birmingham as a student was great, the student community is incredibly supportive and you can take up so many opportunities to try new things.
Did you join any student societies during your studies?
Sure did! I co-captained our halls (Pritchatts Park) hockey team in my fresher year, whilst playing waterpolo for the uni. In second year I was injured so had to put sport on hold and got more involved with the CU. In my final year I made the uni volleyball team, and continued to play hockey on an adhoc basis for SportEx.
Any tips to pass on to students thinking of coming here?
The breadth of experiences Birmingham Uni offers are incredibly diverse. Do things you never thought you’d do – whether that’s skiing or African drumming, you’ll meet people who are also up for fun and a challenge, and they’re the friends you’ll still have years later.
What are your aspirations for the future?
My company has offered to send me on a 2 year placement in New York from next summer, either way, I’m looking forward to continued experiences to work around the world, and increasing amounts of responsibility. I’m working towards becoming an Account Director, as I have a real passion for building business relationships.