Graduate Profile - Sophie Charlotte Bennett

Sophie Bennett, Maths StudentHaving entered my fourth and final year of study in the University of Birmingham's School of Mathematics, there was one huge question on my mind: what next? It has been a dream of mine to live and work in London. It is for this reason, the first step in answering the above question was fairly simple; however, acknowledging the vast yet highly competitive graduate market, I was concerned that answering the questions of what to do and how I would get there were going to be much less straightforward.

It has been with the support of School of Mathematics I was able to address the former of these two concerns without trouble. When studying mathematics at UoB, we are regularly sent emails informing us of work experience and job opportunities, networking events and discovery days to expose us to the different options upon graduation. From day one in Maths, we are encouraged to engage with these opportunities, having always been told ruling a career choice out, is just as valuable as ruling one in. An example of this is in response to a job advertisement sent to us from a lecturer within the School, I have tutored Maths at University College Birmingham for two years now to not only develop my mathematical abilities, but also to explore the avenue of teaching.

I have also attended many careers evenings organised by the Maths Society, MathSoc, in which different companies who have an interest in hiring mathematicians showcase what their company has to offer and network with students. At these events we can learn about businesses and discover what roles have to offer, whilst also developing our own contacts within the graduate world and beyond. It is as a consequence of these well-established connections between the community of graduate employers and the School of Mathematics I have been presented with opportunities and received information that on my own I simply would have not been able to find.

Through the above experiences alongside many others from the wider university community (such as the Careers Network, Women in Finance Society and through my role as a Student Ambassador for the Maths Department) and discussing my options with lecturers I knew in the department, I decided the consulting sector was where I wanted to start my graduate career journey, both for its focus on project working and a core that, like maths, is centred around problem solving.

The graduate employment market is brimming with thousands of roles so I knew almost definitely that there was something out there for me; but with thousands of graduates leaving top universities every year, it is also very competitive. Having spoken to some of my lecturers in Maths, they said that the key to securing a role was research and practice. After researching companies, roles and the application processes, it did not take me long to notice that the same skills and requirements (both for consulting and for other industries I had explored for comparison) were coming up time and time again: solving problems, resilience and team work.

Problem solving is a fundamental aspect of any degree in any discipline, but what studying maths gives you is the ability to solve problems well. When solving unseen, complex problems forms your daily routine over the course of 3 years, you soon learn the methodology, thought processes and research methods that work best for you and your brain. This makes you a skilled, practised and efficient problem solver. Inevitably, with this comes the frequent hitting and, with determination, hard work and perseverance, overcoming of obstacles, also ticking the box of resilience so many employers look for.

Being so familiar with problem solving and being resilient not only gave me many examples to refer to, but also it gave me confidence in myself and my abilities that I could do an excellent job of any role out there. The School of Mathematics at UoB push you to achieve your full potential, but they also encourage you to ask for help and reward your hard work. Over the years this has taught me it is OK to not be right the first time but I should never lose faith in myself. For maths students at UoB, this is an attribute inherently within us and it is one you maybe cannot convey on a CV, but most certainly can in person. I believe it has been the skill of most value to me in interviews and I do not think I could have developed this inner confidence as well as I have anywhere other than in here.

Finally, as well as giving career advice on a one-on-one level, the School of Mathematics recognise that they can facilitate the development of essential employability skills for every single student via their module design. The Mathematical Modelling and Problem Solving (MMPS) and Mathematics in Industry (MI) modules studied in the first (so these skills are being developed from day one) and second year respectively, involve being allocated into project teams and solving a mathematical project brief. The content and working methods of these modules mirror so accurately the team working seen in daily life, and therefore, MMPS and MI provide unique experiences for students at UoB that so many graduates across the country have not been exposed to and such an in depth level. In the various different CVs, cover letters and interviews I have had, in every single one of them I have mentioned either MMPS or MI. Without the skills and insight I gained from them, my journey into securing a role would have been much harder.

After a lot of research, perseverance and practise, I secured a role at Deloitte – one of the Big Four Accounting Firms - as an analyst within the Consultancy sector in their London office and I am so excited to start my graduate career this September. I am eternally grateful to the School of Mathematics: the advice from lecturers, skills I have gained and opportunities been given to me have been of immeasurable value and I could not be more grateful for their part in helping my dream of living in the big city come true.