Spotlight on Shak Chowdhury
24 March 2014
This week the spotlight is on Shak Chowdhury, Employer & Alumni Engagement Manager, UCL Management Science & Innovation (MSI).
What is your role and what does it involve?
Employed through UCL Careers, my role primarily focuses on developing stronger partnerships between the department and high profile employers across a wide range of sectors and activities.
I work closely with employers to deliver a meaningful and effective employer engagement strategy, the overall objective of which is to maximise student opportunity to engage with employers in a broad range of activities, including employer case studies, curriculum-based teaching, one-to-one coaching and mentoring, etc.
My work focuses on improving students' commercial acumen, their understanding of the soft and technical skills sought by employers and equipping them with the tools to demonstrate such skills much more effectively, ultimately improving their employability.
In addition to this, I'm developing and implementing an alumni engagement strategy so that we can utilise our MSI alumni much more effectively as a source for potential business and employment opportunities, and as another route to industry in the promotion of departmental research.
Being embedded in both UCL Careers and MSI has been a huge plus in terms of enjoying stronger relationships in both areas and ensuring that the work I do in relation to graduate careers, employer and alumni engagement contributes effectively to the department's overall objectives.
My work in the UCL Careers team also puts me in an excellent position to become involved in other exciting projects related to improving student employability.
Working in close collaboration with Royal Bank of Scotland and City University, I've been involved in bringing the prestigious Sprint Programme (a development programme geared towards tackling issues typically faced by female students) to UCL.
Based on research carried out by Oxford University, Springboard Consultancy designed a programme which uses a highly interactive style of teaching and development with the aim of improving female undergraduate and graduate self awareness and esteem, equipping them with the skills to use assertiveness positively, build their own image, confidence and networking skills and develop a useful network of peer and industry contacts.
After piloting the programme in MSI last summer, we rolled it out to the rest of UCL to great success and are keen to continue working with Royal Bank of Scotland and City University to deliver more, so that future students will benefit from this unique programme!
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I've now been at UCL for about a year and a half, but before that I spent approximately 10 years working for a number of organisations in the private sector including PWC, EY, KPMG, Mercer and BSkyB.
I recruited into a wide variety of business areas, including consulting, investment banking, corporate finance, marketing and software engineering. Though I've worked in experienced hire and global mobility, the majority of my experience has been in graduate recruitment, where I enjoyed a really diverse range of responsibilities.
This included implementing best practice in-house recruitment and selection and rolling out effective graduate inductions and development programmes, as well as managing projects on diversity, corporate and social responsibility, summer internship programmes and website and marketing campaigns.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
In a previous life, winning "Best of the Best" awards for innovation on campus strategy and diversity at EY, and more recently winning the AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) award for Careers Service/Academic Partnership in recognition of our collaborative work with UCL MSI and Engineering.
For those who don't know, AGACAS are the professional body for careers and employability professionals working with prospective and current students and graduates in higher education, and our team beat off some very stiff competition from other universities.
I work with a very creative and commercial minded group of people, all with varied industry experience, and its incredibly rewarding to get recognition from such a well respected professional body!
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
As the MSI department grows, international relations and student opportunity for global exposure are becoming increasingly important.
As part of our efforts to grow these areas, this year for the first time we are running an International Summer Programme in collaboration with a number of prestigious institutions around the world.
The programme will introduce students to business and management concepts and practices in the UK and EU. It will give students from our partner universities the opportunity to experience teaching from both academics and senior professionals in leading organisations.
Having developed the employer-led content of the programme, I'm now working on securing buy-in from employers in relevant industries to ensure that visiting students enjoy top quality employer-led activities and get the opportunity to network with key industry professionals, thereby significantly improving their commercial and cultural understanding of business practice in the UK and Europe.
I'm looking forward to collaborating again with industry experts to ensure that the content that our students receive is both meaningful and current!
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Very hard to pick one favourite of any of these, but right now my favourite album is Janelle Monáe's Electric Lady, my favourite disturbing film is Kill List and the Northern Lights series by Philip Pullman are some of my favourite books.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
I don't do jokes and I'm not about to start now!
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
My hubbie, family and closest friends.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To enjoy living in the moment and not worry about the future as much!
What would it surprise people to know about you?
That I used to be a fairly advanced Kathak dancer (a form of classical Indian dance) and used to be all right at flamenco!
What is your favourite place?
Spain and Italy, and Ireland because I love the people and always have a right laugh when I'm there.