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SPOTLIGHT: Despina Afentouli (ΜΑ International Journalism, 2004)

Alumni Stories.

Our alumni are really amazing and we want to share their achievements with the world! In the SPOTLIGHT this month is Despina Afentouli (ΜΑ International Journalism, 2004)

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I did my Master’s degree in International Journalism at “The City University London”, as it was then called.

I chose the broadcast (radio) path and I remember that every week, under the guidance of our professors, Mike Gandon and Christabel King, we had to prepare a radio package to be broadcasted live on City University’s radio station. It was a unique experience, as we were working as journalists under real pressure conditions. I also I gained work-experience at London Greek Radio and BBC Greek Division.

Many important journalists and experts taught us and visited the City University Department of Journalism, including Roy Greenslade and Mark Bryane from The Dart Europe.

I remember the international news professor, Roger Tooze and how his effective teaching approach made me re-consider my perception about the world.

My thesis supervisor Lis Howell provided me with a great moral and professional support.

Tell us about your journey in journalism?

After I graduated, I stayed in London for my doctoral research on the British Press at the British Library and gained work experience at CNN International. In 2006, I moved back to Athens to work on my Ph.D. thesis. Whilst also continuing to work as a journalist.

I worked for media, such as ANT1 TV, Τouristiki Agora magazine, and Economist-Intelligent Life magazine. I also served as a special advisor at the Press Office and Public Relations for the Ministry of Education, LongLife Learning and Religious Affairs in Greece.

Since 2012, I have taught as a professor in Journalism and Social Sciences for the Open University of Cyprus, the Technological Educational Institute of Athens, the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands, the University of Wolverhampton/College of Professional Journalism – to name a few.

For about eight years, I served as a City Council Member of Dionyssos City and then, as a Regional Member of the Attica Region in Athens, Greece. I was the youngest and the only woman elected in the local parties I was a candidate with.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your idea/business?

The biggest challenge I faced as a journalist is working overseas. But this experience helped me to adjust quickly to new cultural environments, create context for international audiences and diverse communities, and build strong professional relationships.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

One of the most rewarding experiences was when I received my PhD degree in Sociology in 2010 and then, in 2012, when I published my doctoral thesis as a book entitled, “The position of the British Press in the Greek-Turkish relations, 1955-1965” in Greece.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

If I could give an advice, it would be this; be authentic, honest, fair, and objective to the best of your abilities. Time reveals the truth. Be the one who foresaw, discovered, and defended it.

Migration Made Easy

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Tripti Maheshwari (Finance, 2015) recently won the ‘International alumni of the year’ award at The Pie PIEoneer Awards. Now her platform Student Circus has been selected as one of the businesses to participate in the Mayor of London’s International Business Growth Programme. We caught up with Tripti to hear more about Student Circus and why students, universities and employers should watch this space.

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

I had a few offers from different universities after I completed my degree at Lancaster but all of my professors said you should go to Cass for finance. Coming from an Economics degree and reading about what Cass has done, it was a no-brainer to say ‘let’s do it’. The masters is so industry relevant. They get experts who are working in the industry to teach you. It is not only academia and research, it is very very practical. It was the best time ever.

What happened graduation?

Soon after graduating I realised that I wanted a job. I finally landed an internship with a start up in Soho in London. They wanted to have me full time but I couldn’t because of my issues with my visa issues and that’s where the idea came up.  I wanted to know why is it so difficult to find a job if you’re skilled and only your visa is a problem. Apparently because of a lack of a direct way to apply international students and graduates have been applying for the wrong jobs. Out of desperation we focused on quantity – how many applications have we sent out today – rather than understanding where to apply and who would sponsor.

How did you set up Student Circus?

We did three months of market research, made a business plan, did panel interviews. Oliver from the Cass Entrepreneurship fund helped us to break down and focus more clearly on our business idea. We also got in touch with the City team and we were offered a place at the City Launch Lab incubation space. We got so much support from how to deal with people, who to contact, how to sell your platform, and soon after Cass was one of our first clients.

How does Student Circus work?

The core of the platform is information about which jobs should you apply for versus which ones you shouldn’t. We get in touch with employers and verify with them whether or not they are using their license to sponsor for graduates and what criteria they have in place. We’ve built a customer algorithm on the platform which basically aggregates these jobs. It works like Sky Scanner. On Sky Scanner you find the cheapest flights, on Student Circus you can find the jobs which would sponsor and you can filter them based on industry or location. Students and graduates sign up using their university email ID and are able to access the jobs platform, do their applications and do their application management. We’ve also got features like immigration assistant; we have partnered with a legal company in London. Our features center around the user journey of a student. Because we went through it, we understand our user so well, and so we know where to plug the gaps. We call ourselves a seamless extension to careers resources. But we always welcome feedback, so every university that comes on board have full rights to ask for new features included in that cost that they are paying. They are building the platform with us essentially so it’s very user-driven.

Where is Student Circus based? 

We’re a UK based company but we outsource a lot of our work to different parts of the world.  Some of the team are based in the city I come from, Jaipur in Rajasthan in India. We’ve also got some content writers, who are primarily students across the globe and we take a lot of contribution from alumni. So it’s pretty much all over the world.

What has been the biggest challenge in setting up Student Circus?

I think the biggest challenge we face is perception. issue. The moment that we tell people that we have a jobs platform and a skill-building platform for international students, they ask ‘why would you do that, students don’t get jobs’. But this is absolutely false because students do get jobs and companies are ready to hire them, as long as they fit the criteria.  Also students think ‘why should I apply, it’s so difficult to get a job’. It is difficult but it’s not impossible. Even if you’re a home student, it’s equally difficult to find a job these days. It takes 4-6 months for any graduate and as an international student you get only 4 months on your visa after you finish your degree. That’s not really enough. So you need to get it right from the very beginning. So I think enforcing that message again and again is the biggest challenge.

What has been the most rewarding part of it?

The fact that we’re able to help. As a student I would have wanted this and now we’re able to help those who are so talented, who come in with such high hopes and aspirations, and they finally have a gateway to make it happen. The moment we hear someone has got a job or got accepted, it’s like the best day ever.

Do you have any advice for people looking to start up their own business?

I think what I’ve learnt and what I really tell others is you really have to step out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t help to search on Google, you have to get in touch with people. You may feel they won’t answer but the worst thing they’ll do is say no. But if you don’t ask you don’t get and we often say that we’ve become shameless in asking for things because that’s the only way to get what you want. Unless people know that you need something, you’ll never get it so that’s the one thing we follow, just ask, ask, ask until you get it.

What are the next steps for Student Circus? 

We are currently fundraising to take us to the next level. Last year we had four universities as partners, this year we have almost 25. It’s a huge increase and a huge responsibility to deliver. We‘re also launching a job readiness platform very soon. It’s called Ignis by Student Circus which will essentially prepare a student. I think there is still a large gap in the readiness of a student to apply for these jobs and on our journey we’ve met experts in their fields. So we want to bring them all to our platform and create learning content and job readiness content. And if anyone from outside the UK, wants to come to the UK market, they have to understand how it works. So we want to create the international mobility community but make it very information friendly and accessible. And hopefully, in the next 2 years, we are planning a launch in Australia. So those will be the next steps.

Exercising Ethically

Alumni Notice Board, Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

In the dawn of the paper straw and the reusable coffee cup, it’s no surprise that Gareth Evans (MBA, 2017) and his business partner Joe Lines, saw a gap in the market for truly sustainable, high performing, ethical activewear. Here Gareth tells the story of his new venture Peak+Flow; activewear that is kind to the earth but tough enough for your weekly HITT session.

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

When I decided to study an MBA, I had a very clear goal of leaving my career in sales, and wanted to develop a deeper understanding of how businesses work. I didn’t know what field I wanted to move into precisely, but I felt that an MBA would help me to explore my options.

Cass Business School ticked all the right boxes for me due to its excellent London location, which was near my work and home. Plus, the fact that it offered an Executive MBA programme allowed me to fit study around my busy work schedule.

What happened after you graduated?

The day I handed in my Business Mastery Project, my company changed my role, so I achieved my aim of getting out of sales on the very day I finished the programme; a brilliant return on my investment.

Since then I have, along with my business partner, gone on to grow a consulting practice and also to launch a new sustainable activewear company, Peak+Flow.

How did Peak+Flow come about?

Gareth and Joe

 

Peak+Flow was born out of three simple realisations which developed over time:

Most activewear was created using materials that were damaging to the planet. Our options were to either buy from established brands who occasionally pay lip-service to sustainability, or end up with hessian-type clothing which didn’t perform.

Secondly, we saw activewear as a category being dragged increasingly towards fast-fashion: resulting in clothing that was over logo-ed, over-designed and released faster than necessary to the consumer. Not everyone wants to walk around advertising a brand in fluorescent yellow.

Lastly, we spent time researching brands and companies manufacturing activewear and found a lack of transparency and purpose. We believe many consumers see through the gigantic advertising budgets and would like to see a company delivering on values that people care deeply about.

The result of these was both of us asking how would you build a company that would ethically create sustainable clothing.

What has been the biggest challenge?

We knew when we set out it was going to be very challenging, and it still is.

While sustainability and ethical manufacturing are being discussed more and more today, when we started out two years ago it wasn’t so common. It was a challenge trying to find suppliers and partners that met the standards required, while we are selves were trying to establish our principles at the same time as learning about the industry. Quality and function have always been paramount but equal to sustainability and ethical production.

It is challenging as a new business to find partners that will work with you, and you multiply that when your demands surpass that of nearly everyone in the industry.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Seeing the response that people have had to the brand, both online and at the trade shows we have done. Hearing people tell us that this is what they have been waiting for is very rewarding after a 2-year journey.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

It is going to take longer than you think, and that is ok.

Enjoy the journey and realise that no one wants it to go as quickly as you do.

 

Peak+Flow is currently fundraising via Kickstarter. To find out more and support the cause, please visit: kck.st/2Rn1Jzh

You can also follow them on Instagram: @peakandflow

 

The Eye Protector

Alumni Stories.

Dhruvin Patel (Optometry, 2015) is City’s very own super hero. His power? Protecting your eyes from harmful blue light. But this isn’t a mission he’s embarking on alone. Enter fellow alumnus, serial entrepreneur and chief supporter Asad Hamir (Optometry, 2007). We spoke to Dhruvin and Asad about what brought them together, and their hopes of become the leader in digital eye health awareness’.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

Dhruvin: I studied Optometry and graduated in 2015 from the School of Health and Sciences. Although I had already been living in London, university at City was a big part of my life with so many great experiences and the chance to meet so many amazing people. I took a lot away from my time at City.

Asad: I did Optometry too and graduated in 2007. It was like a family, everyone knew each other. Everyone congregated in the same place. Secondly there was a lot you could get involved with. That’s how I learnt how to hustle, through the things I got involved with; societies etc.

Dhruvin: I’m happy I chose to stay in London rather than go away to another university. The support for researching and developing Ocushield was great! Ocushield wouldn’t have got off the ground without the help of the Optometry department and the CitySpark team.

How did you meet?

Dhruvin: Towards the end of 2017, a member of the CitySpark team advised me that someone called Asad Hamir was doing a talk at City. He said Asad was an entrepreneur but also did optometry and asked if I knew him. But I didn’t. I didn’t think there were many optometry students or alumni that ventured out of the [optometry] space. So, I went along to see what Asad was presenting. To my surprise, I was already aware of one of his ventures – Kite Eyewear, which at the time was located in Westfield, Stratford. They’ve now moved to Shoreditch.

How did the idea for Ocushield come about?

Dhruvin Patel (Optometry, 2015)

Dhruvin: I started the business while I was at university. In 2014 the idea came about when I was working in Vision Express on the weekends. They had just released blue light blocking lenses for people that wore glasses. The research showed the lens coatings would be used for people that wear glasses to reduce eye strain. So, Vision Express brought out that product and I was quite intrigued by it, but I didn’t wear glasses. At the time Cass Business School had a competition called CitySpark. You had to submit an idea and I thought the blue light blocking lenses were really cool but wondered how I could make it something that I and others can use. That planted the seed of the idea.

So, I got a brand together, called it iSleepEasii and I launched the concept at CitySpark. Having entered and won the first stage, I went through to the second stage. They invited 50 tech entrepreneurs and asked which business they believed in out of the 10 that were shortlisted, essentially based on whether they thought it was a feasible finished product and if the problem it addressed was big enough. Fortunately, I won and was given about £3,500 to start the business. It was a dream come true.

While completing my undergraduate degree and running the business on the side I’ve sold over 20,000 units, been featured on Forbes, The Telegraph, The Guardian and have both the Welsh Rugby team and West Ham United players are using our products.

What have been some of the challenges?

Dhruvin: Running the business whilst studying and working was a real challenge. Now it’s more about finding new areas for growth and scaling the business.

Asad: Reinvesting cash, thinking about cash flow. And managing Dhruvin to a certain extent. Dhruvin is very ambitious, so I help to make sure the brand is focused and delivering the right message. It’s important that we’re spreading the right message in a market that is just developing.

Dhruvin: Yes, talking to people about an innovative product in an immature market is an interesting challenge. But awareness is growing around blue light and the issues it poses in people’s lives. We’re also showing people that they don’t have to use colour-altering apps to protect their eyes from blue light – they can use Ocushield and see better results without having a clouded or discoloured screen.

What have been some of the rewards?

Dhruvin: Just the whole process of having an idea, researching it, developing it and bringing it to market. The opportunity to help people in their day to day lives is really special. When we receive positive reviews from happy customers it makes it all worthwhile.

Asad: The development of the brand. Making sure it has a warm message, the right art direction and tone of voice. It’s been exciting to see this brand develop into a company which has something fresh to offer, delivering an innovative product which resonates with people.

Asad Hamir (Optometry, 2007)

Asad, why did you want to invest in Ocushield?

Asad: Whilst we are both alumni there are aligned interests. It’s telecoms, I know telecoms. It’s eye health, I know eye health. I’ve built businesses in both of these spaces. When you’re involving yourself with a new business, it’s important to look for ways to bring your expertise into play in the most impactful way possible. I see that opportunity in Ocushield.

Dhruvin: There wasn’t a need to grow the business because it was cash flow positive. Asad saw the vision and it was refreshing to have someone’s input who is in the area. Someone who can add value with their expertise. The investment is smart money because Asad knows the space. When seeking investment, go for smart money.

Asad: For the investor you’ve got to do your research. Immerse yourself. Be passionate. A lot of the entrepreneurs need someone to bounce off of. If you’re investing, think about the return. Don’t be afraid to challenge the person you’re investing in. Don’t throw in your investment and hope for the best.

Dhruvin: I think the person that is investing has to have a proven track record. You should be able to admire and respect what they’ve accomplished. Also, have open ears to feedback when collaborating.

Do you have any advice to someone looking to start their own business?

Dhruvin: As a bootstrapper, I’d say don’t think too long about executing. If an idea is stopping you from sleeping or you can’t get it out of your head for a few weeks, get started. Speak to people, see what they think. Then take it day by day, eventually you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Asad: Identify the problem and solve it. Think about how you are going to bring it to market.  Think about the content, the product, the packaging, the purpose and the margins – ultimately you need to make money.

What’s next for Ocushield?

Dhruvin: Turnover has doubled since I went full time on the business after qualifying as an Optometrist, and we’ve spent this year redefining the product, brand and vision. We’ve also developed a computer screen privacy filter which we’ll be targeting towards businesses and individuals who feel a need to maintain privacy in the workplace – especially with recent data protection laws coming into place.

It will be available when we relaunch the Ocushield brand during National Eye Health Week this month. We’ll also be showcasing the brand at Employee Benefits Live at the Excel Centre in early October.

Asad: The focus is now turning Ocushield into a national and then an international company – the leader in digital eye health awareness. No one is leading this conversation, and it’s something people need to be thinking about and addressing. We want to secure big player retailers and work with the medical sector. The aim is to get Ocushield into every household. We really want it to bang!

Ocushield are currently seeking to recruit a Sales & Operations manager. If you would like to find out more about the role, please email info@ocushield.com.

For updates on new products and the upcoming exhibition, you can follow Ocushield on Twitter, IG and Facebook: @Getocushield

See their website for further information: ocushield.com

 

 

Student Support – Lesley

City Graduate School.

Our Student Hardship Fund is there to support students who find themselves in situations where there is a real danger that they will not be able to complete their studies. In the past year, your generosity has allowed us to award financially struggling students a record number of 155 hardship grants. Without this help, many of those students would not have been able to continue with their degrees.   

Students such as Lesley. Even undertaking a degree was a daunting decision for her.  Chronic illness and severe financial difficulties meant that Lesley did not follow a traditional route into Higher Education. Home-schooled and with no GCSEs or A Levels under her belt, Lesley nevertheless excelled when she eventually plucked up the courage to undertake an Access to HE course, achieving a Distinction.  This gave her the confidence to apply to City and pursue a BSc in Psychology.

However, without the award from Student Support which has provided the financial help that has allowed Lesley to pay her rent and get by, she would have had to drop out.  Her ongoing illness which led to the retaking of her first year had drastically slowed her down, but she is now ready to undertake her final year, with a real shot at achieving a First.

Lesley is now more optimistic about her future, with ambitions to continue her education when she graduates and eventually pursue a PhD in neuroscience.  “As well as chronic diabetes I also have Hypothyroidism and there is a significant lack of research regarding how different genetic variations effects thyroid treatment and its effect on brain activity. This means that there may be patients that are unknowingly prescribed the wrong medication, much like I once was. I want to explore and conduct research in this area, particularly brain activity in those with different genetic variations when on and off T3. I believe that if you become aware of something that needs to be changed, why wait for someone else to tackle them.  As for my degree, I just wouldn’t have been able to continue without the help of Student Support.  Thank you so much to those alumni who have supported this cause.”

This is what the Student Hardship Fund is all about.  Not only making sure that students complete their degrees, but sending them out into the wider world to do amazing things.  Every single one of your donations is an investment in society. 

Aphasia CommuniCATE Project

City Future Fund.

One of the biggest successes of this year has been the CommuniCATE Project.  Your generous donations have enabled us to continue this vital initiative, helping stroke survivors overcome the loss of their ability to speak, read, write and understand language. 

Aphasia is an acquired language disorder affecting approximately a third of people who survive a stroke and is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language.  It can be life changing for those who experience it, impacting their relationships with family and friends, their ability to work, and to engage in social activities and hobbies. Over 400,000 people in the UK experience aphasia, putting many of them at severe risk of isolation and mental health issues.

The project brings together three strands:

  • Research to find out if using technology in therapy can improve language and communication in people with aphasia, and if there are wider benefits for social participation and quality of life;
  • An online conversation service for people with aphasia, using Skype to help reduce social isolation that is experienced by many stroke survivors;
  • Supporting skill development in NHS clinicians and our students.

Indeed, it’s not only benefiting those who experience aphasia …

City student Ellie Hatch, who is studying for a MSc in Speech and Language and Communication, is working on the CommuniCATE Project as part of an internship.  One of the strongest motivators that she has encountered in her role, is seeing the joy on people’s faces as they get to grips with the life enhancing technology that the project works with.  Clients who are sending their first emails to their family, and being present at that moment and getting to see the reactions on people’s faces, is incredibly inspiring.

Ellie told us why the project matters so much.  “We are very much living in a modern world and technology is heavily integrated into the lives of most people. And the impact of using technology to support communication is often effective immediately.  Unlike traditional therapy, clients may enter the clinic for their first therapy session and will have written a text to a loved one an hour later, something they may not have done since their stroke. Typically, adults that have strokes tend to be older and therefore may not feel confident or skilled enough to explore different technologies.”

Every day that Ellie spends on the project is a day that is spent looking forward to building strong and impactful relationships with the patients.  The sense of achievement that she gets from this, confident that she is making a massive difference and with the knowledge that everyone who comes through the door will leave happier, is enormous.  She really wants to see these tools and this software taken out into the wider community and will advocate for this in the roles that she undertakes after graduation.

As Ellie says “Those alumni and friends who are supporting the CommuniCATE Project are making such a positive impact on so many people.  For my own part, and what it means for my experience, I cannot thank them enough!” 

Student Support – Teodor

City Future Fund.

Our Student Hardship Fund is there to support students who find themselves in situations where there is a real danger that they will not be able to complete their degrees. In the past year, your generosity has allowed us to award financially struggling students a record number of 155 hardship grants.  Without this help, many of those students would not have been able to continue with their studies.   

Students such as Teodor. Coming to the UK to take up his hard-won place at Cass and undertake a BSc in Business Studies, he put in long hours both with study and the part-time job that allowed him to get by.  Money was always going to be incredibly tight, but his financial situation was thrown into jeopardy at the beginning of his final year, when he was struck down by severe tonsillitis which, following surgery, was exacerbated further by complications brought on by numerous infections.  Unable to leave the house to work or study, Teodor found himself in a desperate situation.

Cass’s Student Hardship Fund saved the day, and quite possibly Teodor’s degree. Allowing him a period of grace so that he could recover, and helping pay off the bills that were accumulating, Teodor returned to his studies refreshed and ready for the vital final year of his degree.

Teodor can now carry on with the next stages of his plan.  He wants to complement the financial and economics elements of his BSc with a postgraduate degree in Politics, which would allow him to seek out a position working for the EU, an organisation that he is passionate about.  Teodor told us: “My ten year plan probably lacked one thing, a financial safety net.  However, the Student Hardship Fund provided that safety net, allowing me to get through my illness and its complications, and then fully focus on the incredibly important final year of my Business Studies degree. Thank you so much to all the alumni who supported this.”

This is what the Student Hardship Fund is all about. Not only making sure that students complete their degrees, but sending them out into the wider world to do amazing things. All of your donations are an investment in society. 

The Vicar’s Picnic – Kent’s Biggest Little Festival 

Cass Business School News.

Our alumni go on to do some pretty extraordinary things after they graduate from Cass Business School. Philip (Phil) Keeler (Executive MBA, 1993)  is no exception. Having “retired” from the City six years ago, Phil now co-organises the ‘biggest little festival’ in Kent. Here Phil tells us about his time at Cass and the upcoming Vicar’s Picnic. 

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?
The time at Cass was a challenge as I was working full-time as Head of IT at a major investment company, having two young children and still managing to complete the Evening MBA.  However, it was worthwhile as it allowed me to develop the business understanding and skills that I needed to further my career.

Phil Keeler

What happened after you graduated?
I was head-hunted by another investment company to manage the integration of a business that they had acquired, which then evolved into a business product management role for an outsourcing business.  The MBA allowed me to move out of a technical IT focus into business management which a specific focus on business stagey and business transformations.
 
What has been the most rewarding experience, in your career?

Taking responsibility for a complete business transformation working with the management to agree the business strategy, designing the operational and systems solutions and then managing the three-year transformation process, which was completed on time, close to budget and the program was also recognised by winning a national innovation award.

What are you involved with now?
I “retired” from the City six years ago and have undertaken a number of interesting part-time consultancy assignments, with a focus on helping small companies through supporting their management or providing coaching and mentoring to senior people.

About The Vicar’s Picnic:

The Vicar’s Picnic is back with an outstanding musical experience held in the picturesque setting in Yalding between Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.  The Kent’s Biggest Little Festival in Kent takes place on the banks of the River Medway on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 July 2018, which will be the sixth year that the festival has been held.  The festival is run by a small group of volunteers with the aims of providing a true value for money experience.  We aim to provide a great weekend for first time and regular festival-goers from both the local community and from further afield catering for the needs of all ages so that everyone can experience a wide range of musical acts within a safe environment.  In 2016 the Vicar’s Picnic was short-listed as finalists for two national festival awards.  Last year we sold out of tickets prior to the event and had a total of more than 3,500 people for what was acclaimed to be the best Vicar’s Picnic yet.  This year the headline acts on the stages will be Fun Loving Criminals, Star Sailor, Cast, Nine Below Zero and in the dance tent we will have Norman Jay MBE, Mr Doris, Nightmares on Wax, Crazy P and many others.  As always all the profits from the festival will go to local charities, which this year are Dandelion Time, Kenward Trust and the Yalding Supper Club.

 

For more information about The Vicar’s Picnic, or to purchase tickets, please visit: vicarspicnic.co.uk/

The Economy of Words

Alumni Stories.

In 2011 Peter Sainsbury (Economics, 2000) started writing a blog about economics and financial markets. Six years later he has published not one but two books. Here he tells us what inspired him to start writing. 

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I studied for an economics degree at City, graduating in 2000. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 18 years since I left!  I loved my time at City and the great thing about it is the people that I met. My best friends from my time at university remain my best friends now. We’ve moved to different parts of the world, have started families and gone in directions which we perhaps couldn’t have foreseen. We rarely get to see each other now but when we do it’s a good reminder of how far we’ve all come since meeting at university.

What happened after you graduated?

During my last summer holiday before leaving university I was lucky enough to find out about an opportunity to work on trading simulations for the nascent electricity commodity market. The consultant organising the 6 week event had posted adverts in London’s universities, including City asking for students to act as ‘traders’ trying to make money buying and selling electricity. It was great fun and sparked the idea for my final year dissertation. The experience also sparked a broader interest in commodity markets.

I graduated in 2000 and went to work for a start-up company trying to revolutionise the world of energy procurement. My knowledge of electricity trading was starting to become useful. It may sound quite simple now but at the time the industry was dominated by quote by fax machines which then had to be individually entered into a computer. While working in a small start-up isn’t for everyone, you do get to do almost everything and (hopefully) see how a company goes about growing.

I then went onto to work for an energy market consultancy specialising in oil, gas and petrochemicals. Again it was a very small business, only about 10 of us, each with responsibility to cover one part of the industry. It was there that I focused on the supply side of the oil market; everything from understanding the motivations of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to what factors affect the long term decisions of oil production companies.

Since then I’ve gone on to the world of recovered materials (think scrap metal and recycled plastics). Another commodity market!

How did the idea for your book come about?

I always enjoyed writing but never really thought about the opportunity that it would present by taking it seriously. In 2011 I started a blog about economics and financial markets with the idea that I would help investors think better about the decisions they made. My website Materials Risk focuses on commodity markets and tries to highlight opportunities for investors in areas that other research has neglected. Although the motivation has been to help other people, the very act of writing has helped me to better understand my own investment process too.

And then in 2014 I noticed that a number of the other bloggers that I followed had written and published their own books on topics relating to investment. So I thought, well I could do that. What’s stopping me?

In late 2015 I published my first book, “Commodities: 50 Things You Really Need To Know”. It’s really an introduction to commodities and commodity markets to help beginners and people with an intermediate level of knowledge. I’ve had some great feedback from private investors and investment banks that have used the book to help them and their colleagues get up to speed on commodity markets.

My next book was called “Crude Forecasts: Predictions, Pundits & Profits in the Commodity Casino” and was published in late 2017. When I was researching for topics to write about one theme kept coming back to me that was gnawing at me. Individual investors and indeed whole economies had been taken in by the prospect of rising commodity prices and part of what kept that narrative alive was the forecasts from investment banks and other pundits in the financial media. I decided to do something about it, to try and bring those forecasters to account, and at the very least make it clear to individual investors what incentives were at play.

What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is probably that moment half-way through writing a book when you sit down to write and start to question whether it’s really worth carrying on. Is anyone actually going to read this? Is it even any good?

Recently I found a quote by the nature writer Rachel Carson who said, “If you write what you yourself sincerely think and feel and are interested in… you will interest other people.” To have put in the hours day after day to write a book you must have found the subject very interesting. You, as I, are unique but we also have common interests that aren’t all that unique. If you write for yourself you will certainly find other people who will also find it interesting. And that knowledge can sometimes help to motivate you to carry on.

Now more than ever it’s possible to find readers with interests just like you. Not so long ago authors had to go through traditional publishers and chances are they would not be interested in what you had to offer. Now it’s much easier to capture those longer tail readers who the traditional publishers neglect.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Other than the day that my books are published, or I see them in paperback for the first time probably the most rewarding experience is talking about my work and getting positive, constructive feedback. Of course whenever you get that feedback it’s important to use it to promote your work even further.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Go for it, experiment, start small and just work from there. Whatever you do in life is a process, and if you don’t enjoy that process or get a kick from it then maybe try something else instead. But you definitely need to know that focusing on the long term requires practice every day. And writing is no different to any other pursuit.

You can follow Peter on Twitter: @PeterSainsbury7

Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018

Uncategorized.


Congratulations to the following alumni and staff who have all been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018

Mr Huw Thomas
Auditor General For Wales, Wales Audit Office
Administrative Sciences MBA, 1971
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Public Audit and Accountability in Wales.

Mr James Law
Professor of Speech & Language Sciences, Newcastle University
PhD Clinical Communication Studies, 1993
Order of the British Empire
For services to Speech and Language Therapy.

Professor Jane Marshall
Divisional Lead – LCS, City, University of London
PhD Speech and Language Science
Order of the British Empire
For services to Education in Health Sciences.

Dame Janet Vitmayer
Former Chief Executive Officer, Horniman Museum & Gardens
MA Museums and Gallery Administration, 1990
Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Museums and diversity.

Professor Jennifer Temkin
Professor, The City Law School, City, University of London
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Criminal Justice.

Dr Kathryn Adie
Presenter (former chief correspondent for BBC News), BBC Radio 4
Honorary Doctor of Letters, 1989
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Media.

Professor Kenneth Grattan
Dean of Graduate School, City, University of London
Order of the British Empire
For services to the Science.

Ms Mary Morley
Director of Therapies, South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust
MHM Health Management, 1998
Order of the British Empire
For services to Occupational Therapy.

Dr Ruth Caleb
Chair, Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education
MA Psychotherapy and Counselling, 1996
Member of the British Empire
For services to Higher Education.

Mr Thomas Ilube
CEO/Founder, Crossword Cybersecurity
Finance MBA, 1988
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Technology and Philanthropy.

Professor Tong Sun
Senior Lecturer, SEMS, City, University of London
BEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering, 1999
Order of the British Empire
For services to Engineering.

Image credit: royalcorrespondent.com

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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