0

Guest blog: Working at a tech startup with an economics degree

Many UK university graduates struggle to find their first job after getting their degree. The competitive landscape makes it hard to stand out, especially if you aren’t from a target university. In many ways I think the system is flawed, but this post is not the place to talk about it. I will rather explain how widening my job search scope brought unexpected results.

As an economics student I was constantly pressured by my peers to do consulting or investment banking. However, I realised that it’s not all about these two choices, one never has to confine himself to such boundaries. There are a bunch of amazing opportunities out there which have nothing to do with consulting or investment banking. I would even argue that trying out something which is not “in your field” teaches you a lot about life.

After I got my economics degree in July I decided to apply for a program which supports startups in Hungary: Bridge Budapest. I was given a chance to learn how to build a business from Samebug, a tech startup which aims to change the way programmers solve errors in their code. In October I was put in charge of Customer Relations. Notice that this is very different from what I studied before. I had some sales experience from volunteering at AIESEC, a not for profit youth-driven leadership platform but nothing else. Speaking with programmers and building a product for them was completely new to me.

My first week was quite difficult as I had to get used to the terminology. On my very first day I was given a task to go through a list of speakers at an upcoming conference. As the founders of the company planned to attend the event, I was left with the task to choose the people worth talking to. I honestly had no idea what I was doing but asking questions from colleagues was very useful to get started. The week went by fast and my knowledge about the industry kept growing at a really high rate. Last week the conference ran its course and I managed to arrange meetings with a couple of speakers.

After a month I can still say that there’s a lot more to learn. However, I learnt as much to be able to devise strategies for going forward. I picked up ownership of a number of tasks and contributed to a lot more. This has made me appreciate how much responsibility I can take up since now I see how much impact certain actions can have.

Samebug is a startup, which has its pros and cons. There’s not much hierarchy so we have a friendly atmosphere where employers and employees work together at the same table. Whenever I have a question or need some input, I can ask anyone (including my boss) in my vicinity. This brings together the people at the organisation because we can see everyone working hard for the same goal and that’s very inspiring. We have regular meetings to plan ahead and talk through processes, everyone’s input matters. We usually have lunch together and there are teambuilding sessions as well (last time we went to an escape room and got out in time).

The downside is that there is a lot of uncertainty. To demonstrate this, let me give an example: on the second week we conducted a series of interviews, both with individuals and teams at companies, to understand behaviours and how we could build the right product. At the end of the week we sat down to talk through our learnings and the immediate learning was that the problem does exist, but the solution we are presenting does not apply yet. Developers are solving this issue somehow and it takes a lot more to “convince” them to change the behaviour. The meeting had a very negative tone and I went home with a really bad feeling. However, on Monday we came back, everyone had new ideas on how to proceed and address the learnings and we once again knew how to proceed.

At Samebug we always knew we will win if we are able to present a solution which is worthy for developers to change their behaviours. We continue to work on that harder than ever. The whole past month was like this: a roller coaster ride of emotions.

At the beginning I wrote that an experience like this teaches you a lot about life. I still uphold this statement. Life is sometimes unfair and difficult, but you alone are responsible for how you react to it. You can have a negative conversation after some talks about how what you are doing is useless but ultimately, it’s up to you to choose whether you’ll be reactive or proactive. We chose to be proactive and changed our assumptions of our product. Was it a good idea? No one knows for sure, however, at least we did something about it.

Written by Istvan Erdo, BSc Economics Graduate

 

0

Why should women’s employment matter this International Women’s Day?

Not to blow my own trumpet, but I’ve posed a good question here. Why should we be talking about women’s employment? More specifically, why should we be concentrating on women’s employment within the UK? There are arguably many other important causes and challenges that women face across the globe. We still live in an age where many women live in poverty, where the sex trafficking of women continues and where domestic violence against women does not appear to be ceasing any time soon. In and amongst all of these breaches of basic human rights, it can seem that women’s employment within a western country should take a back seat.

Contrary to the intuition that our focus should only lie with these more pressing issues, I would argue we should concern ourselves with women’s employment on the 8th March. Firstly, let’s make one thing clear: this does not to take away from the seriousness of the travesties highlighted above that regularly take place across the world, nor is it in an attempt to hold back or slow down the efforts being made against these problems. International Women’s Day (IWD) is an event that aims to bring together women who are supporting a range of causes. So, we can and should support multiple campaigns that aim to help women across the globe. We should be campaigning to better the serious issues I’ve mentioned and we should also be striving to continually improve upon the positive changes already made.

Aside from realising that IWD is a day to celebrate a variety of causes, we must also realise the important role that a job and career takes in a person’s life. In a full-time role, we are usually contracted to work a minimum of 35 hours a week. If we are asleep for 8 hours a night, then we spend 31% of our waking hours at work. If we include the time people spend commuting and the extra hours people often spend at work, the average person’s job takes up well over a third of their life. This is a huge portion of our time! With this statistic in mind, to spend time actively talking about and improving women’s life in the workplace seems to be of tantamount importance.

I can imagine a response to this thought might be something a little like this:

“So we spend a huge portion of our life working, but equality in the workplace has arrived in most countries now. Shouldn’t we be talking about women and men’s role in the office?”

Unfortunately, this is a misinformed answer. We should indeed be talking about both men and women in the workplace with the aim of improving it for all people. However, the workplace and the opportunities available are certainly not yet equal. According to The Economist, the work place is by no means equal and the glass ceiling is yet to be broken. Business in the Community have collated a fact sheet with a variety of facts about women in the workplace; some of the more shocking statistics from this article include facts such as:

  • Male graduates can expect to earn 20% more than female graduates
  • In the financial sector, women working full-time earn 55% less annual average gross salary than their male colleagues
  • Sexual discrimination continued to be the most frequent type of discrimination claim received by tribunals during 2011/2012.

In fact, if you search “women in the workplace” on any search engine you’ll be greeted by a barrage of studies that suggest we are yet to find equality in the workplace. The more you research, the more you realise that inequality in the workplace still exists. Fortunately, there are ways to counter and improve this situation, we’ve witnessed throughout the years how effective petitions, peaceful protests and social media has proved to be for good causes. Ultimately, two of the most fundamental tools one can employ when trying to change something is communication and knowledge. The more we know and the better we communicate, the easier it becomes to get things done.

Off the basis that IWD aims to celebrate a variety of causes that improve women’s lives, then we should feel free to use this day to engage in debate around women’s employment. It continues to be shown that there is still inequality in the workplace, leaving countless women disadvantaged. By continuing to engage, promote and talk about women’s role in the workplace we stand a far better chance of attaining equality.

At City University we have various different events going on for both IWD and women’s employability in general. Students and alumni can join us for our panel “Successful women in the workplace: What does success look like?” on 8th March. This event will help participants learn more and communicate with women striving in the workplace. We hope to see you there!

#BeBoldForChange

0

7 Work Tips Nobody Tells New Graduates 

No matter how many supermarket shelves you stacked in your summer holidays, nothing quite prepares you for leaving behind your comfortable university life and being thrown into the world of work full-time.

Sure, you’ll figure it out eventually, but at first the whole thing can be scary, disorientating, and really, really confusing. To help you out, here are the seven things that all workers wish they’d known as new graduates:

 

  1. The Most Important Thing About a Company is Its Culture

You are going to spend 1/3 of your entire life at work. Consider that you’ll be asleep for another third of your time and you’ll quickly realise that unhappy workplace = unhappy life. Whether a company is a household name, offers a certain job title or pays a certain salary is ultimately not as important as finding somewhere you fit in.
Continue Reading