After graduation, I pursued a career in marketing communications and completed a Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I started my career as anaccount executive in a busy advertising agency in Holywood, County Down and left nine years later as their Account Director, managing a range of integrated marketing campaigns with clients such as Norfolkline, Centra and Tourism Ireland.
I had always been very interested in tourism, especially with my languages background and tourism is an ever increasingly important aspect to the economy in Northern Ireland. With this in mind, I took up a post with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board as Project Officer for the momentous ni2012: our time, our place campaign. NI 2012 is a programme of eight international events designed to change global perceptions of Northern Ireland,increase visitor numbers and generate economic impact and return. I am involved in the delivery and co-ordination of these events such as the recent Titanic Belfast Festival 2012, Irish Open 2012, Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and the 50th Belfast festival at Queen’s.
From my degree, many valuable skills were learned such as project planning and management,research, writing skills and very importantly excellent presentation and communication skills. Whilst at Queen's, I worked in the Alumni Relations team as a student caller, contacting past Queen's alumni to raise valuable funds for the university.
I really enjoyed my time at Queen's and am a strong advocate for the value of a good degree in languages for entering into a wide range of careers.
After graduating from Queen’s in 2003 with a First Class Joint Honours degree in French and Modern History, I applied to join the Northern Ireland Civil Service through the direct entrant Staff Officer graduate recruitment scheme. The application process involved sitting a series of aptitude tests (including verbal reasoning) and spending a day at an assessment centre where candidates were tested on a variety of interpersonal and other skills, including their ability to draft a letter on behalf of a Government Minister following a very quick browse through a substantial dossier of information. I am confident that the skills I acquired through studying a language at degree level gave me a significant advantage over other candidates and helped me not only to secure my graduate level job in the civil service, but also to adjust quickly to the demands of my position in the Department of the Environment’s Planning Policy and Legislation Division.
The work I am now involved in is often complex and enables me to draw on the research and analytical skills I developed through studying French at Queen’s. In order to prepare briefing papers and develop policy proposals for the Minister’s consideration, it is essential to be able to write effectively and to present information in a coherent form. The ability to analyse the structure of language and to ponder the precise meaning of words has also assisted me in liaising with Departmental solicitors on the interpretation of legislation. It is crucial to be able to appreciate linguistic subtleties when drafting legislative provisions to give effect to new policy proposals and there is no better way to grasp the nuances of language than to study a language at degree level!
Moving from school to university was quite a daunting experience, but the Irish department in Queen’s has always been known as a friendly department; the classes were relatively small and we got to know one another very quickly. When I started off on my Irish degree, I presumed I’d have to go into teaching but it wasn’t long before I learned of the opportunities available to Irish language graduates. Without my undergraduate degree from Queens, I would never have had the fortune of gaining employment as an Irish language development officer in Armagh. Since then I have also been involved in starting a business, CultÚr, which sells gifts, cards, clothes, toys and pottery with an Irish language theme. I have great memories from Queen’s, especially from An Cumann Gaelach events, and I’ll never forget the annual trips to Rann na Feirste or our regular visits to some of the other Gaeltachtaí all over the country and to the Gaelic-speaking areas of the Isle of Skye. I am very grateful to my lecturers, who helped instill in me a love and passion for my own language and culture.
I studied Spanish and English at Queen’s from 1982-1987 – five glorious years to put off having to grow up and get a job!
At Queen’s I was friends with some guys who did Law. They wrote comedy sketches. We, as a group, eventually became The Hole In The Wall Gang, with many comedy series on BBC radio and television, the best known of which is Give My Head Peace.
I then went on to have my own comedy show, McKeever, on UTV for four years.
Since the heady days of television, I’ve been writing and performing in plays and comedy shows, contributing to radio and tv shows and writing a regular column in the Belfast Telegraph.
I did Spanish and English because I loved language. Still do. My father wanted me to do Law. I got the grades at A Level but decided to do what I loved instead, even if a career path didn’t seem so obvious. I’m glad I did.
Queen’s opened my eyes to loads of new experiences; meeting people from different backgrounds, challenging long-held religious beliefs, protesting at social injustice, drinkin’ an’ smokin’ an’ actin’ the big girl... great life skills for later.
The chance to live in Spain on my year out was fantastic! My Spanish improved immensely and my social confidence with it.
When it came to work, after uni, I started in the BBC as a temporary secretary, having done a year’s Post Grad Bi-lingual Secretarial course. From secretary, to researcher, to Assistant Producer, to freelance writer and performer. At every stage, language, self-expression and fun have been my mainstays.
Follow your heart. Do what speaks to you. And if you can’t hear what your heart’s saying, quieten down a bit and give it time. You’ll hear. Then take all your courage in both hands and leap off every scary cliff you come to. That’s how you know you’re alive. Enjoy it all!
After completing a BA in French and Spanish and an MA in French in the School of Modern Languages at Queen’s, I began to apply to Graduate Programmes across a range of professions including brand marketing, advertising and media. In many cases you were asked to submit an essay as part of the application so that the employer could gauge the quality and originality of your writing skills. One of the companies that I applied to thought I would do well in Public Relations and so recommended me for an interview at a company called Burson-Marsteller. I got the job and worked there for two and a half years with a host of clients including Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, Sony Ericsson, Danone and Intel. It was great experience, plus I got to travel to press events in glamorous locations like Paris, Barcelona, Evian, Hamburg and Berlin. In January 2011 I was head-hunted by an ex-colleague and I now help to run the press office for an international Built Asset Consultancy called EC Harris. On a daily basis I supply ideas or written content to media outlets ranging from the Financial Times through to Utility Week. Often this involves reviewing large volumes of information and distilling it down into something that will resonate with the relevant audience. My background as a Languages graduate has been invaluable here as it equipped me with the very skills I need to do my job well.’
David graduated from the Queen’s University of Belfast with a BA (Hons) in French and German. He was subsequently awarded a PhD by QUB for his thesis on the work of the Frenchpolymath Raymond Queneau. David established his consulting practice in 2009, having been leader of a specialist Tax business with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Northern Ireland and a senior Inspector of Taxes prior to that. David provides business advice to a wide range of start-up and growing business clients and High Net Worth individuals, as well as financial and strategic advice andmentoring to numerous businesses and not-for-profit organisations. Since 2005 David has been volunteer Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Crescent Arts Centre. David was Senior Responsible Officer for the £7m capital refurbishment project, which saw the centre reopen in April 2010 on time and within budget. The project has subsequently won several awards including RICS NI Project of the Year 2011, a William McKeown Trust Award for Accessibility and a UNESCO Man and the Built Environment Award.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed my time at QUB and made many friendships which have lasted ever since. The same is true of the skills that Ideveloped, especially through my PhD research, as I continue to use theseskills on a daily basis in providing creative, tailored ideas and the best outcomes for my clients.’
Having graduated from QUB with a BA in French and Spanish in 2005, it was initially a bit of a long and winding road for me, trying out several different possible career paths. Eventually I decided to try a career in Human Resources, a field I was very interested in, as it provided a mix of both interaction with people as well as business and administration experience.
My languages degree has certainly benefitted me in my career in Human Resources due to the number of transferable skills I’ve gained from my time at university. These have included strong communication and intercultural skills (particularly important if you end up working for an organisation with a worldwide-remit), the ability to collate, analyse and interpret information as well as develop opinions and propose ideas. I do feel people sometimes underestimate or sell themselves short in what exactly they have gained from doing a languages degree but in today’s HR market, employers are looking for prospective candidates to not only hold degrees but also be able to apply their learning from study into the workplace, regardless of the background. I have also found a languages degree is a great talking point at interviews so you will really stand out!
I have now been working in the HR field since 2007 and am currently undertaking a postgraduate degree back at QUB so things have come full circle for me. Looking back, I am very glad to have followed the path of study that I did and feel it has set me up in good stead for my career.