University of Birmingham alumni speak to Redbrick

With exam results for most courses being released today, a cross section of University of Birmingham alumni have spoken to Amani Hughes about their experiences and the careers they...

With exam results for most courses being released today, a cross section of University of Birmingham alumni have spoken to Amani Hughes about their experiences and the careers they have entered since graduating, offering advice to students on how to get where they want to be.


James Eder
Graduated: 2005
Studied: Business Commerce
What they do now: Co-founded the Beans Group which runs popular student website studentbeans.com

James Eder co-founded the Beans Group and set up the popular student website studentbeans.com after graduating from Business Commerce in 2005.

A win-win environment

He told Redbrick: As part of my final year Business degree I had to come up with a business plan. Having grown up in the age of the internet, we knew that when students arrived in a new city they would turn to the web for help. Being in an unfamiliar city and living on a limited budget is tough, but we knew that with the internet and a little entrepreneurialism we could solve these problems. We have set up a website where companies get increased awareness and students save money, it is a win-win environment.’

Whilst at university James worked as a brand manager for Yellow Pages, did work placements in the Philippines and Colombia and organised events on campus that taught him the skills necessary for his life after graduation. ‘A degree is not simply a grade on a piece of paper, but an opportunity that allows individuals to learn and grow. Following different opportunities lay the foundations for my next steps, I knew I wanted to run my own business and do something that really makes a difference.’

A degree is not simply a grade on a piece of paper, but an opportunity that allows individuals to learn and grow.

Take control

His three steps to making a business happen are ‘do not to take no for an answer; be persistent, be prepared to work; success is not going to be delivered on a silver platter, nothing worthwhile is easy and take responsibility; do not blame other people around you as to why things have and have not happened but take control yourself.’

‘My advice to students would be take all the opportunities available to you at university and get involved. You never know what you might learn and what connections you might make that will make a difference in the future. I also find myself quoting from The Naked Leader by David Taylor who says in a simple statement: ‘Imagine if you couldn’t fail. Who would you be? Where would you go? And what would you do?’ It was then on the brink of graduation instead of going to work for someone else I launched the company.’


Linley Lewis
Graduated: 2005
Studied: Economics
What they do now: Co-founded the Ticket to Ride Group – which runs Ticket to Ride, a surf adventure company operating tours in South Africa, Costa Rica and Morocco; and Basecamp Ski and Snowboard, who run instructor and performance courses in France and Canada.

After graduating from Economics in 2005, Linley Lewis co-founded Ticket to Ride, a company that offers worldwide surfing adventures and training.

‘Ticket to Ride was born out of ideas I had from taking a gap year with my friend Will Hayler before university. We wanted to offer an adventure experience that was unique and one which would stand out from the competition.’

We wanted to offer an adventure experience that was unique and one which would stand out from the competition.

Advice and knowledge

Lewis joined the university's surf club which he believes cemented his passion for starting a business offering surfing adventures and training across the world. He wrote the business plan for Ticket to Ride in his third year of university while in the business school: ‘the enterprise department at the business centre really helped to troubleshoot my ideas for the business, they encouraged you to go along to seminars and gain advice and knowledge from other people.’

Experience of organisation

Before starting university Lewis was unsure what he wanted to do: ‘I was definitely not the boy selling lemonade in my front garden from the age of eight but I knew I wanted to do something I enjoyed.’

Lewis became president of the surf club in his third year which helped him gain experience of organising large groups of people, it also allowed him to qualify as a surf instructor. He took a business module in his third year which he explains helped him ‘to crunch numbers and ideas onto paper. After graduating I continued to seek advice from the enterprise department who really helped to push me off in the right direction and put me in touch with contacts who had experience in the field.’

‘The advice I would give to current students would be to do what makes you happy and work hard to get where you want to go.’


Duncan Shrewsbury
Graduated: 2011
Studied: Medicine
What they do now: Junior Doctor in the NHS within the West Midlands and studying a doctorate in Education at the University of Exeter.

Specialist training

Duncan Shrewsbury entered the NHS on a Foundation programme rotating through medical and surgical specialities after graduating in Medicine in 2011. He applied for the programme in his final year at Birmingham which he explains as ‘the first step after medical school for further medical training. I hope to train as a consultant in paediatrics for my specialist training.’

The advice that he would give to students wanting to enter medicine is to ‘go for it, there have been hurdles I have had to pass and phases of training can be very hard but in the end it very rewarding and provides so many wonderful opportunities. I can say there are at least three people who are alive today because I was around at the right time and place and that gives me a real sense of pride.’

I can say there are at least three people who are alive today because I was around at the right time and place and that gives me a real sense of pride.

Birmingham goes the extra mile

Shrewsbury also believes that Birmingham is different as it goes that extra mile: ‘it has a wealth of experienced and motivated professionals and the medical school put on special seminars and talks, even a dedicated careers fair. The university prepared me well for my job and when I compare myself to graduates from other medical schools I can see I am equipped well to deal with what first Foundation Year throws at me.’


Sophie Johnson
Graduated: 2010
Studied: Business Management
What they do now: Retail Business Manager of Mitchells and Butlers - a leading operator of restaurants and pubs in the UK.

Work experience is key

Sophie Johnson entered the Mitchells and Butlers Operations graduate scheme after graduating in Business Management. ‘The industry appealed to me as it is very people focused and is about delivering experiences as well as food and drink.’

She believes that work experience is the key, ‘I did a Year in Industry placement which really helped to improve my understanding of the working world. Employers want to know you have taken the initiative whilst studying to gain experiences beyond what the university has to offer.’

Employers want to know you have taken the initiative whilst studying to gain experiences beyond what the university has to offer.

Believe in yourself

‘I found my course in Business Management was focused towards preparing you for work, I attended career fairs and also did a mock interview at the careers centre which was useful. My one piece of advise would be to believe in yourself and gain as much work experience as you can to boost your confidence and give you multiple talking points needed for interviews.’

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Amani



Published

15th June 2012



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