UCL Careers


Careers' helped me to improve the quality of my CV

Interview with UCL History Alum, Matthew Parkes, shares his career journey and encourages you to make use of UCL's Career service.


30 November 2021

Degree programme: BA in History 
Graduation year: 2019
Current job role: Operations Analyst, Raindrop 

What did you study at UCL?

I studied History. I loved the international element of the course and completed modules on Asian Medicine, the Balkans and ancient Mesopotamia (to name a few!) I even went on to study Mesopotamia in more detail for my Masters at the University of Cambridge. 

Beyond my degree, I was involved in UCL’s prestigious Debating Society and regularly travelled to other universities for external competitions as well as Model United Nations events. At one point, I even temporarily entertained a career as a Radio presenter when I hosted my own show on Rare FM!    

However, a particular highlight was my time at Pi Media, where I edited the online news section of the website. It was certainly an exciting role as I often had to report on protests that were happening on campus. UCL students are very passionate!

Outside of UCL, I got involved in London’s famous food scene by getting a job as a chef in a Japanese restaurant, and I also conducted my own research into Aerial photography and archaeology during the First World War as part of a project at the Petrie Museum.

How did UCL Careers help during your time here?

Looking back on it, it must have been quite difficult to advise me because there were so many different jobs I wanted to do, which ranged from being an Archaeologist to a Lawyer. However, the Careers Consultants were always useful for helping me structure my own thoughts and decide on next steps. 

The most useful service that UCL have provided me is their CV workshops and application reviews. During the pandemic I was really struggling to get through to interviews – but UCL’s 1-to-1 guidance helped me improve the quality of my CV’s and cover letters – which eventually helped me land a job!

Did you know? You can access our service for up to three years after graduation. 

What does your career path look like?

It wasn’t a straightforward path. After UCL, I went to Cambridge to study Assyriology - a fascinating subject that UCL’s History department introduced me to, and I am considering studying in the future. However, jobs in that world are hard to come by, so I turned my attention to finding a role where I could use the analytical skills gained from my studies whilst also having an impact on the lives of others.

What motivated you to pursue this line of work?

After being introduced to the world of start-ups, I soon discovered the unparalleled opportunities graduates are given to take on real responsibility and influence top-level strategy, especially at high-growth start-ups. With this in mind, I focussed my job search on start-ups, drawing on sources such as the tech jobs board, Otta and applying to Jumpstart’s start-up graduate programme. While I didn’t make it on to the programme, one of the founders did forward my CV to the company I’m currently working for, Raindrop, and the rest is history!

What does your working day look like? 

At the moment my schedule involves conducting interviews for new Operations staff so I usually have one of them to prepare for in the morning. Otherwise, I am reviewing our internal processes and figuring out how to optimise our pension finding tool.

Studying History gives you the ability to critically examine information and opinions from an array of sources and people.

As an Operations Analyst, you often must come up with an efficient solution by examining and collating evidence from several departments including UX research, the tech team, marketing consultants and strategists. So, the ability to critically engage with these sources of information has really helped me cut to the chase in identifying the root causes of problems and designing effective solutions.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding part is being able to take ownership on a project that I am leading – whether it leads to positive or negative outcome!

What is the most challenging part of your work?

On the other hand, the most challenging part is keeping on top of all the technical and intricate details of the business. In my role, you have to be aware of financial compliance rules, the technical side of the product (how it is built) and some UX elements too. At the same time, all of these things make it an exciting place to work.

What are currently the most topical issues of your industry?

The biggest problem with pensions now is that not enough people are prepared for their future!

You won’t be able to survive on the State pension (even if you are eligible for the full amount), so it’s on the individual to prepare and save for their retirement. Luckily there are some excellent companies that can help you with this!

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your career so far? 

Probably to be a bit more open-minded and willing to take risks. Initially, I was a bit unsure about starting a career in the financial sector as I had basically no knowledge about it and had avoided the industry in the past.

However, now that I’m knee-deep in the sector, I’ve deeply enjoyed my time at Raindrop and it has been extremely rewarding to learn about a fascinating industry that touches all of our lives.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to move into your area of work?

Build experience in coding or data science languages. Even if you have a tangential knowledge of how to run a basic query, or how to read code, this will be extremely useful in understanding how the company works. Plus, it looks great at an interview!

Otherwise, take the time to really research the industry and the space and understand what issues the FinTech sector is trying to solve. Not only will this make you stand out in the application process, it will help you to refine what your own goals and ambitions are.

Need help with your job applications or CV? 

Get free access to VMock - an online tool that can provide immediate tips and advice on how to improve your CV. After this, don’t forget, you can book a 1-2-1 appointment with our dedicated team of friendly Careers Consultants. Find out more here.