Alumni Network USA Committee and Ambassadors

Our Alumni Network USA Committee and Ambassadors are volunteers based across the States, and are there to host events, provide networking opportunities and offer advice and guidance to students and alumni.

If you could help provide advice and support alumni activities in your area, then the committee would be delighted to welcome new volunteers. If you are interested in giving back to the University and would like to know more, please get in touch.

Your Committee

Find out more about the members of the Alumni Network USA Committee.

Luke Hawkridge (LLB Law, 2009)

If you have made a donation to the University via the British Schools and Universities Foundation, the thank you card you will have been sent by Luke. Due to the challenges of international post, he kindly sends a card on behalf of the University. Thank you Luke!

Profile picture of Luke HawridgeWhere did you spend your childhood and what did you want to be when you grew up?
Nottinghamshire; A lawyer.

Where do you live now and how do you spend your days away from work?
Manhattan; exploring New York and traveling.

What particular obstacles did you have to overcome as you were growing up?
I was the first in my family to go to University.

Was going to University always going to be your career path?
It was not expected, but I was supported in my decision.

Why did you choose Birmingham as a place to study?
The academic reputation of the University and the Law School; plus the draw of a campus University in a major city.

Does Birmingham continue to have an impact on your life experiences?
The USA Alumni Society helped me settle in New York and build personal and professional relationships. I stay in touch with the University by helping to support local fundraising activities and mentoring current / former students.

Did you participate in extracurricular activities while at Birmingham? If so, how have they helped you in your career?
Volunteering at the Student Advice Center in the Guild of Students, helping students understand and navigate the University’s procedures. In my career I similarly support the business in complying with laws / regulations.

What was your first job after University?
Personal Banker at Barclays in the City of London.

Can you describe the arc of your career?
Starting on the ‘shop floor’, I progressed to an Analyst role in Compliance supporting the UK Retail Bank before relocating to the US to help implement a global risk assessment program. I then transitioned into a role supporting the US Investment Bank, and recently moved to a global investment firm to support their growing Capital Markets business.

What opportunity that you took has most influenced the course of your career?
I'd have to say the international relocation to New York.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received (career or life)?

The 80/20 Rule; and 'Perfect is the Enemy of Good'.

What advice would you give to current students at the University?
Be open to exploring opportunities and trying something new. Just as importantly, seek to do something that you enjoy.

Alumni Ambassadors

Whether you're looking for careers advice in a specific industry, or are moving to a new area, take a look at our ambassadors to see how they can help.

Qasim Ahmad (MSc Clinical Oncology, 2014)

Location: New York/ New Jersey

Business details

Current position: Global Executive Medical Director, Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation.

Areas of expertise: 20 years of Global Pharmaceutical Drug Development, Strategic Medical affairs expertise and Health Management policy planning. 

Brief summary of career: I am a pharmaceutical physician trained in oncology and internal medicine and health management. I have held global and regional drug development and medical affairs teams based in US, Europe, Middle East & Asia Pacific regions. My pharmaceutical/biotech industry expertise includes drug development, strategic medical affairs, drug regulatory affairs and drug approval (experience with FDA/CHMP/PMDA) and access to drugs. I am a British National, have lived and worked in Europe, Asia Pac and US, currently residing in New Jersey.    

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: I look forward to offering advice and mentorship to anyone considering a career in the health care and pharmaceutical industry, including strategic planning, health care comparison and cultural and life style challenges.

Aydin Alptekinoglu (MSc Manufacturing Engineering, 1994)

Location: Pennsylvania

Faculty profile

Visit Aydin's LinkedIn page

Business Details

Current Position: Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management, Robert G. Schwartz University Endowed Fellow in Business Administration, Research Director of the Center for Supply Chain Research, Supply Chain and Information Systems, Smeal College of Business, The Pennsylvania State University.

Areas of Expertise: Supply Chain Management, Operations Management, Product Variety Management, Retail Assortment Planning, Mass Customization.

Brief Summary of Career: Prior to Birmingham, I had studied industrial engineering (at Bilkent). Post Birmingham, I switched to the field of operations management, and completed my PhD studies at UCLA Anderson School of Management. I have been in academia since then. Most of my time (around two-thirds) goes to research, primarily into the management of product variety. I have been studying the supply and demand side aspects of product variety, with an eye toward optimizing relevant firm decisions, such as inventories, prices and assortments. Currently my teaching activities (primarily at the undergraduate level) are focused at supply chain strategy.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: I look forward to offering thoughts and advice to anyone considering academic or industry careers in supply chain management.

Matt Archdale (MEng Chemical Engineering with Management, 2003)

Location: San Diego USAMatt Archdale

Visit Matt's LinkedIn page

Current position: Financial Planning & Analysis (‘FP&A’) Manager, General Atomics

Areas of expertize:  Financial Planning, Mergers & Acquisitions, Chartered Accountant, Project Management

Brief summary of career: I spent eight years with EY in Birmingham and London, first as an Auditor and later with the Corporate Finance team focused on financial modeling and transaction support.  In 2011 I moved to the engineering firm GKN as a Mergers & Acquisitions manager, which led me to a move to Sweden to work as Financial Controller for a division formed through acquisition.  Through my network I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to take the lead role in FP&A for General Atomics in San Diego. This enabled me to use my experience with accountancy, financial planning and mergers and acquisitions in an exciting company with a great team.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: Act as a point of contact for any students considering a move or located in the San Diego area. Share experience and offer advice to students who may be considering international moves or simply are looking for advice on careers in finance and accounting.  I made both of my international moves with young children in tow and have too often seen people put off by this and would like to help encourage people to take those opportunities, if they are right for them. Assist DARO and students or alumni with accessing networks in San Diego area and support organization of local events.

Katie Banchick (BA American and Canadian Studies, 1998)

Location: BostonKatie Banchick

Visit Katie's LinkedIn page

Current position: Technology & Business Consulting Relationship Manager.

Areas of expertise: Relationship Management, Sales Strategy and Negotiations, Marketing Strategy, Technology & Business Consulting, Executive Level Presentations and Engagements.

Brief summary of career: My career path has centered on sales and account management, with a focus on technology market research and business consulting, and past experience in academic fundraising. In my current position, I regularly partner with executives on the cutting edge of technology development and work with high profile subject matter experts and a team of strategic consultants. Confidence and knowledge across a myriad of interactions is crucial. My liberal arts education (in particular my experiences at the University of Birmingham and an international MBA) has provided the multi-faceted worldview and a broad-based perspective that have been essential to my career growth. 

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: As an Alumni Ambassador I look forward to meeting with and hosting any member of the University of Birmingham family. I would like to share my business network and further alumni relationships.

Natalia Coenen (MPH Public Health, 2014)

Location: Los Angeles, CaliforniaNatalia Coenen

Visit Natalia's LinkedIn page

Current position: Project Manager, IBM Watson Health

Areas of expertise: Project Management, Data Analysis, Technical Assistance, Interpersonal Skills

Brief summary of career: I have been in healthcare services research for seven and a half years, starting with an entry level analyst position and working my way into management. My analyst roots have given me a better understanding of the data and processes we use to generate our statistics and reports, and has, in my opinion, helped me become a better project manager. The work I do is primarily for the U.S. Federal government under the Department of Health and Human Services. I am fortunate enough to work both in an office in Santa Barbara two days a week and telecommute from home three days a week.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: I would be happy to discuss what it is like living and studying in the U.K. as a student that grew up experiencing the U.S. education system. I would also be happy to discuss and provide advice to any students interested in a career in healthcare services research.  

Grahame Conibear (BSc Medical Biochemistry, 1976)

Grahame ConibearLocation: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Visit Grahame's LinkedIn page

Current position: Senior VP (Consulting) at Adelphi Communications NY

Areas of expertise: Global Pharmaceutical Industry (commercial rather than R&D), Healthcare marketing, Healthcare communications agencies, US healthcare

Brief summary of career: Final year outplacement experience (Good Hope Hospital) revealed that I did not want a career in clinical chemistry! I stumbled across the role of Medical Representative at the Student Union’s Careers Fair – it appealed. After four years as a Medical Rep I became UK Brand Manager, then Global Brand Director (all at ICI Pharma) – then moved to Boots Pharma and became Executive Director of Marketing. Then moved to the agency side of the marketing mix – and to the NYC office of Adelphi.  This led to experience at the corporate center of Omnicom – the huge global network of agencies.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: I am able to help new/imminent graduates become aware of the many job opportunities within the commercial and marketing areas of the pharmaceutical industry (and associated support industries).  In my experience, academic institutions like UoB, are quite well informed about the R&D aspects of healthcare and Pharma, but are not as aware of the business side of these massive industries and the opportunities within them.

David Drinkwater (BSc Chemical Engineering, 1987)

Location: New York CityDave Drinkwater

Visit David's LinkedIn page

Current Position: CFO, Manikay Partners LLC

Areas of Expertize: Hedge Funds, Finance, Compliance, Investment Management

Brief Summary of Career: I've worked in the financial industry for 30 years with jobs in London and New York. I've had experience with public accounting, consulting, banking and investment management. For the past nine years I've been CFO of an investment advisor with offices in New York, London and Sydney. I've lived in New York City since 1991 and have helped coordinate the alumni activities here for over ten years.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: I look forward to offering thoughts and advice to anyone considering working in the financial industry in the US and/or living in New York City.

Mark Lees (MEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering, 1989)

Location: Washington DCMark Lees

View Mark's LinkedIn profile

Current position: Solutions Lead for IBM at Fannie Mae

Areas of expertise: Marketing Strategy, Sales, Technology

Brief summary of career: My career has focused on technology, initially in the telecom sector with Cable & Wireless. Over the next ten years I grew to lead marketing strategy and marketing communications teams. Key highlights include working in different cultures (Macau, Panama, UK and US); leading teams, launching campaigns and executing mergers and acquisitions.

I then shifted focus to get experience of delivering services, initially with a dot com and then Starbase.  After a brief stint at Microsoft, I lead CSC's North American sales enablement and marketing team before taking over responsibility for an outsourced account. 

After taking over sales for CSC Public Sector for Foreign Affairs, I joined IBM to lead their solutioning of cloud and application services at Fannie Mae.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: I look forward to offering thoughts and advice to anyone considering working in the technology industry in the Washington DC area.

Ross Miller (BSc Money Banking and Finance, 2004)

Location:  Los AngelesRoss Miller

View Ross' LinkedIn profile

Current position: Global Financial Controller, Movember Foundation

Areas of expertise: Accountancy, Business strategy, Compliance, Financial analysis and modelling, Team management and development

Brief summary of career: I've worked in finance and commercial roles for the past 13 years, having gone from the facilities management industry in the Midlands to the charity sector in LA, it’s been quite a change! I progressed in finance from an analyst position into management, and qualified as a chartered management accountant. I currently lead a global accounting team across four countries, managing everything from day to day accounting to analysis and decision support to external reporting and audit.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: I previously mentored students while living in Birmingham, and would be happy to help with career advice, whether in accounting or more generally, and give perspective on moving overseas to study or work.

Dr Lee Sayers (PhD Biochemistry, 1995)

Location:  Arlington, Massachusetts (Boston metropolitan area)

View Lee's LinkedIn profile

Current position: Senior Director of Program Management at Ultragenyx Gene Therapy

Areas of expertise: Drug development, program management, portfolio management, clinical operations, cross-functional team leadership

Brief summary of career: I trained as PhD biochemist, completed two post-doctoral research positions before moving to industry. I have spent nearly 20 years working in small, medium and large biopharmaceutical companies. This has included work in in portfolio management, program management and clinical operations roles, oncology, immuno-oncology, cardiovascular, auto-immune and neurology. I have lived and worked in UK, Japan and the USA, and have true global experience to lead cross-functional drug development teams.

How I can help as an Alumni Ambassador: Provide career guidance in biopharma industry, provide guidance on Cambridge/ Boston area (where to live etc.) for people moving into area. Provide mentorship in program management in biopharma industry.

If you would like to get in touch with any of our ambassadors, please email us