I needed BBB in my A-levels to study Engineering at university. When opening my results envelope I knew it wasn’t going to be what I needed. In classes I was great at science, design technology and maths but for some reason I really struggled during my A-Level exams. There were so many of them, the questions were tough and the pressure of it all affected my performance.
I had some tough decisions to make, do I retake a year and go for the grades I knew I was capable of achieving? Should I change direction and pick subjects that weren’t so maths and science focussed? Or could I attempt to continue onto university knowing that my grades wouldn’t be up to scratch even though my knowledge was.
I decided to go with the latter and I got into City University, London through clearing on a BSc Engineering course. In order to upgrade to a BEng degree I would have to take on additional modules in the second year and show potential and improved results to progress.
On the course I noticed students came from varying backgrounds, not all had studied in the UK and not all had done A-levels. Some had done a foundation year, others had BTECs and Diplomas. The great thing was that the first year of university was all about bringing everyone to the same level of knowledge. In my second year I worked hard and formed good working relationship with the students and the academic staff to ensure I was on the path for a BEng and thankfully my hard work paid off.
In my final year I was a student ambassador, the only female on my course and by the end of it I received a first class degree with honours in Mechanical Engineering (BEng)!
There were exams throughout my years at university too, but I felt much more in control compared to my A-levels. I guess it’s because I had done some growing up, I had more time to prepare and I had a genuine interest in the course content.
I carried out my final year project in Sainsbury’s where I was working part-time, it was an energy study exploring engineering solutions to reduce energy used by the store. The project and its findings impressed the Head of Energy who after some email exchanges offered me a full time job in the energy team.
It’s important to remember:
A-Level’s aren’t the be all and the end all of your education. It’s what you do after your results that matters. I no longer even put my A-level results on my CV, now people are only interested in my degree and my experience.
If you didn’t do well in your A-levels don’t forget:
- Exam results do not define who you are and what you have to offer the world
- Opportunities exist in everything you do; I turned a checkout job into a career in energy management. Be brave enough to create the opportunities and ask the questions.
- Use the summer to learn skills and get experience in your subject area; relevant experience can speak volumes.
- Work on exam techniques, because unfortunately exams will not go away!
- After a while nobody will ask about your A-level results, they will be more interested in what work experience you have, what your social and team working skills are like and how well you suit their business.
- Apprenticeships are a great alternative to university. Hands on experience in industry that can open just as many doors as a university degree.
- You can get a degree at any point in your life. Get some work experience; figure out what it is you really want to be a specialist in and then go on to do a degree. (Better still get your employer to sponsor it!)
Lastly I would say don’t take my word for it, go out there and do your own research.
Engineer your career, just like I engineered mine.
About the author
Jaz Rabadia is Energy Manager at Debenhams Plc, a leading international multichannel retailer operating in over 160 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland. With over 7 years of retail energy management experience, Jaz has driven year on year reduction in energy bills and emissions through active data management, intelligent procurement, energy project rollouts, engaging communications and behavioural change programmes.
Jaz began her career in energy management with Sainsbury’s where she worked part time whilst studying for her Mechanical Engineering degree. By undertaking an energy study in a Sainsbury’s store, Jaz caught the attention of the Head of Energy who offered her a full time position in the energy team upon graduating. During her 5 years with the supermarket retailer, Jaz continued her personal and professional development and was the youngest person in the UK to be awarded Chartered Energy Manager recognition from the Energy Institute.
Through her role as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Ambassador, She is keen to raise the awareness of energy and engineering management careers with students, to create a pipeline of future energy professionals.