Career Path: From biology to consultancy, music, technology and…..

12A Claire Pettitt photoCareerI remember being jealous of those people at school who were certain what they wanted to do with their lives: the ones who wanted to be a vet, or a lawyer, and so had a pretty clear path mapped out towards that goal. In contrast, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to end up; I was strong in several areas, from English and Music to Biology and Maths…and the prospect of narrowing things down horrified me, as I enjoyed working across several subjects!

Many years later, I’m pleased to have been able to maintain this desire for variety in my career to date, which has spanned a number of industries – none being remotely scientific. But I can say with confidence that I’m glad I chose to study science at university, as the skills I learned during my Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge have proved to be endlessly transferable.

I began my career in strategy consultancy, working on projects across industries from energy to healthcare equipment and private equity. After a couple of years, I felt frustrated with strategy work and wanted to ‘get my hands dirty’ by actually managing things myself. I couldn’t believe my luck when a client I was working with found out I was a keen classical musician and invited me to work at London Music Masters – the music charity he had founded. I became their Chief Operating Officer and stayed there for 3 years, learning everything there was to know about running, and funding, a startup organisation. This was the perfect grounding for my next role as Head of Operations & Finance at the social enterprise Spice, which runs the largest community currency scheme in the world. Most recently, I’ve moved into the tech industry with a similar role in an exciting and fast-growing software company, YouCanBook.me, which provides online scheduling solutions for entrepreneurs, small businesses and big companies all over the world.

My science background has undoubtedly assisted me in my career in many ways. Here are some of them…

  • Critical thinking. Science demands that you take a close look at the evidence presented and consider how best to interpret it. I’ve certainly found this helpful when trying to make tough decisions at work; often it’s important to look at the data rather than simply trusting your instincts. An example would be, at London Music Masters, deciding the best way to focus fundraising efforts to maximise the returns.
  • Unravelling complexity. Studying science involves being confronted with highly complex information, developing a detailed understanding of it, and ultimately taking it one step further. Throughout my career so far, I’ve regularly thrown myself into the deep end by taking on senior roles with no prior experience in that area and then proving that I can succeed. Knowing that I’m capable of quickly understanding and processing complex information has given me the confidence to progress more quickly and to push myself to discover what I’m truly capable of.
  • Continuous learning. Scientific knowledge is constantly progressing, so it’s essential to keep up to date with the latest developments. Being able to demonstrate a desire to continue learning throughout your career is a huge asset in any industry. For me, this hunger for new knowledge has persisted; I now follow numerous blogs and news articles relating to the tech industry, as well as continuously picking up new skills and technologies as they emerge.

Hopefully my diverse career path demonstrates that studying science doesn’t only lead you into science-related roles – it also prepares you for almost anything your working future may hold!

Claire Pettitt
Alumna

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