The UCL community is proud to be home to leading role models in businesses, organisations and communities worldwide. In Ask the Alumni, they answer questions from the UCL students looking to follow in their footsteps; this week, it’s the turn of corporate strategy and innovation professional Michael Moore.
What advice would you give to your undergraduate self?
- It’s not all about work. Make sure you take breaks to rejuvenate yourself, both during the year and in a working environment.
- Take advantage of all the societies and talks – there are so many great speakers and panels from all walks of life that showcase UCL’s unique multidisciplinary approach to learning and developing yourself. It’s a philosophy that I try to carry forward into my career.
- Benchmark against yourself instead of others. Aim to achieve the grades for your personal goals, and avoid unrealistic expectations based on how you think other people are doing.
What makes a good CV? What top tips would you give to a new graduate writing their CV?
- Keep it concise – when hiring managers are reviewing CVs, there often isn’t time to read in immense detail. Depending on sector, a one-page CV is what a hiring manager would normally expect.
- It’s tempting to list all your achievements and stellar grades in your CV – after all, UCL is known for high-achieving students! But what is your hiring manager looking for? Take a moment to reflect, then tailor your CV to include the most relevant experience. For inspiration, take a look at the company’s values (usually found on their website or the job description) to see what behaviours they look for.
- Once you have cut down your list, take a look at your CV and think about how to tell a story to the hiring manager. For example – if someone had worked at a department store over summer, they might write “work experience with John Lewis during summer of 2015”. You could improve this as follows: “Sales assistant at John Lewis, with responsibilities for handling customer enquiries on the shop floor and sharing product expertise. Acknowledged by customers and managers for high levels of customer service despite a busy back to school season in store”.
- Make sure you tailor your CV for each employer – a copy and paste is rarely effective!
What key skills/characteristics do you think employers look for?
- Some sectors have degree-specific requirements or require pre-entrance exams, so make sure you are aware of those when considering your options.
- Many companies are increasingly operating in an environment where change is the only constant. There are always competitors to disrupt established companies, but on the flipside, start-ups need to work even harder to secure funding, scale their products and carve out their customer niche.
- Employers are looking to hire people who are keen to learn, adapt, and bring external ideas to refresh their thinking. Many of these attributes are transferable, so employers hire these individuals as they can adapt to different environments.
- Certain industries have very set career steps, often marked by gaining qualifications – finance is an example. I work at the intersection of healthcare, science and technology, which is a fairly new field and does not have the same structure – it’s not as simple as doing the next exam to ‘level up’. However, this empowers you to be aware about your personal drivers behind your career choices and make them for yourself. This means exciting opportunities can come your way that you never expected.
- When I first joined GSK, I and a fellow graduate pitched a debate series to the Head of Consumer Healthcare Tech. The concept was rooted in the external focus of UCL: we bring in external experts to our GSK offices across different regions to debate the latest trends in healthcare and tech. It was unnerving to put myself out on a limb, as I had no idea how it would be received. Two years on, we are still running events across our offices in London, New York and Singapore.
- There are a lessons from this: Firstly, if you have a great idea, trust your instincts and your capability, and speak up – you will never know if you don’t put it out there. Secondly, take on opportunities that make you nervous. These will help you grow the most.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What does progression look like in your industry?
- A lot can happen in five years – but I see myself still in healthcare, at that intersection between business, science and tech. There is so much that we can learn from other industries that have faced disruption, such as travel and finance. Sharing insights will help us all deliver the most value to the consumers and patients.
- There isn’t necessarily one set career path in pharma. You can progress in your direct hierarchy (i.e. gain depth of expertise) or make lateral moves to gain experience. In a corporate environment, many people have T-shaped expertise – an understanding of a range of business areas, and in-depth expertise in a couple of specific areas.
- As we see further new entrants in the healthcare space (e.g. tech companies), this will add career options.
How important is further academic study in your industry? What are the pros and cons of doing a PhD? What continuing professional development have you undertaken?
- If you want to advance your career in industry in the lab or in medical affairs, holding a medical degree or a relevant PhD will help.
- If you are looking to advance your career outside the lab in the corporate environment, the need for postgraduate qualifications becomes less clear cut. It depends on your personal aspirations, how you balance the qualification with the job, and whether the qualification will help you to advance. It’s helpful to have a mentor or career sponsor within your company or professional network, so that you can run potential qualifications past them. This will help ensure you develop a set of transferable skills to minimise the risk of set development paths becoming outdated due to the rapidly changing business environment.
- Apart from learning on the job, my development involves undertaking 1 or 2 relevant professional exams. Since graduating, I have completed qualifications in Project Management, Business Analysis, Agile Ways of Working, and Design Thinking. These are a mix of in-person training courses and exams, and online courses. To stay up to date, I aim to complete at least one professional course per year.