UCL News


Spotlight on... Mykal Riley

11 November 2021

This week we meet Mykal Riley, Communications, Marketing and Events Manager at UCL Mechanical Engineering. Here, we hear about Mykal's work developing a Bloomsbury Theatre show, his favourite London haunts and the financial advice he'd give his younger self.

Mykal Riley

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m the Communications, Marketing and Events Manager at Mechanical Engineering and a UCL FAIR recruitment specialist. The day job is incredibly varied and includes our web presence, social media, making films or writing stories and conceiving and executing events. Alongside “selling us” I think an important part of my responsibility is trying to facilitate the building of community through our work, which is challenging in a sprawling city like London and an institution as complex as UCL. My rationale is that we need to make the student experience as amazing as it can be. So much good flows from that.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I’ve been here for eight years and it has been and continues to be a privilege to work with amazing colleagues from around the world but especially gratifying to watch our students learn, grow, develop, leave and thrive. I meet many of them before they get here and tear up at graduation. I decided after uni to only work in not-for-profits. I worked in much smaller charities for quite a while but coming to UCL… I took to it like a duck to water.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I’m certainly no stranger to imposter syndrome but the list of things I’m proud of is very long indeed. Nominations and awards – keep ‘em coming people! Co-leading the Events Community of Practice was great. As a single project though, nothing beats the pride and relief of developing and pulling off MechEng Day/Night. A Bloomsbury Theatre show about mechanical engineering doesn’t initially sound like fun but because of the special talents we can pull together in the department and uni and the people we work with, it’s an absolute delight. When it’s finished, that is.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

Our 175th anniversary is coming up next year, starting in spring. We want to do a lot more with it than just say “aren’t we great?!”, so watch this space.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Albums? Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins and Parade by Prince and the Revolution. Film – two way tie between The Matrix and Jean de Florette. I don’t read much fiction. Get a copy of Influence: The Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini – so insightful and huge fun.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Pre- watershed? Ha ha. I’m going to have to pass on that one.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I think Plato would get the conversation going wouldn’t he? Prince (as long as he brought his guitar). Russell Brand, Silkie Carlo, Abby Martin and Baroness Shami Chakrabarti. Bob and Damian Marley and of course my lovely family. I’ll cook and DJ but I’m not washing up.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Oh that’s easy if I’m allowed to go back in time. “Save. Buy property in London as soon as possible. Ignore your doubts and grab some Bitcoin. You’re gorgeous, just ask them out.”

What would it surprise people to know about you?

When they don’t know me that well, people often assume I’m smiley, warm and fuzzy fun and the life and soul of the party, which is largely true. Some get surprised and even a bit freaked out to find themselves quickly nudged into the middle of a ‘deep and meaningful’ about the corrosive nature of capitalism, corruption, mortality and our place in the universe. Not everyone can handle that in a Tuesday morning tea break, apparently.

What is your favourite place?

Ooh can I be cheeky and choose two? In London I think the amazing view from Primrose Hill just about pips a sunny day on the Southbank or a winter walk in Hampstead Heath. In Jamaica, where I grew up, it’s definitely Doctor’s Cave Beach. People don’t understand when I turn up my nose at going into the sea in Britain. I show them a photo of “DC” and say, “…so that’s where I spent my summers growing up.”. They get it then.