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Green Banking: a fairer economy for a sustainable future

Alumni Stories.

If you thought being green was limited to your diet and recycling habits, think again! Hanifa Azri (Professional Legal Skills, 2013) is helping to forge the way in ‘alternative self-sustainable green financial systems’ with her search engine Regall11, and we caught up with her to find out all about it.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

After successful completion of my LLB, I undertook the Bar Professional Training Course at City. It was a great experience for me. I met lots of special people throughout the year; I remember Veronica (Ronnie) Lachkovic, who was always around to support us and my favourite lecturer. I mainly enjoyed the advocacy classes and maritime law which is directly linked to some of the projects I am working on today.

What happened after you graduated?

I undertook training in common law and decided to move into the corporate field. I worked in several international law firms (Skadden Arps, and Cleary Gottlieb), mainly on dispute resolution and financial sanctions related matters. I then worked in financial institutions advising on the regulatory and compliance process (The Bank of New York Mellon, HSBC and Europe Arab Bank).

What is Regall11?

Regal 11 is a search engine based on artificial intelligence for financial institutions. Linking Eastern and Western regulations by principles into one. Compliance is at the heart of financial institutions; allowing continuous training and all related tailored mandatory documentation. It helps emerging countries grasp the international regulatory framework, compete in all markets and lead the way toward international regulatory innovation.

How did Regal11 come about?

I was working in a small international bank that used to be a family-owned business with strong leadership. Like most financial services, they were in need of the right technology in order to be more efficient. Whilst we were implementing several regulations at the same time, I brainstormed with a few colleagues and the following week I had created the visual model of what Regal11 is today.

The main idea of HG2 (a green trading platform) was finalised when I met with Fabrizio Francone, Vice-Chairman of Regal 38i83, who was also working on a similar platform. We then started working on the Regal 11 prototype; our regulatory search engine with the help of several astute developers. HG2, OIII3 BANK and Flyup (an accelerator for emerging countries) came later and as part of the new green financial system we have been implementing.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Meeting unique souls every day, and seeing our dream unfolding. New learning experiences happening continuously and the enjoyment of leading a team of people who share your vision. The prototype of Regal 11 going live was a major event and setting foot in Dubai, UAE is a fabulous achievement. Starting the implementation of OIII3 Bank is also very exciting.

Can you give us a short overview of platforms you just mentioned?

OIII3 BANK ( the first green virtual banking platform): OIII3 BANK is an alternative honest and transparent banking system running alongside the current financial stream based in London, the UAE, and leading the way to green blockchain expansion. Offering real trading opportunities to all emerging countries by the use of a simplified Regulatory Framework. Promoting emerging countries’ leadership in Green Circular Economy.

HG2: HG2 is a green trading platform using human time and influence online as a commodity. It will allow countries to comply with the international mandatory obligation toward being green equities.

FLYUP: FLYUP provides funding to green start-ups from emerging countries through OIII3 funds.  For example, a new virtual schooling system to benefit vocational training for children who think outside the box and fulfilling educational rights all over the world through our virtual portal.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your setting up Regal 11?

People are often reluctant to accept new ideas and we were not really taken seriously when we talked about having an alternative self-sustainable green financial system using blockchain or virtual schooling systems. Today people see that we were right and that we have the correct vision for the well-being of our planet.

Why is a self-sustainable system a big deal?

We are all witnessing the end of capitalism and it needs to be replaced by a more equitable economic system,  an alternative system where the actions of individuals and businesses benefit themselves and the society in a more sustainable and equitable manner. A self-sustainable system will allow all of its participants to use their banking power self-consciously by contributing to a more ethical banking system.

The system will allow all participants to be more aware of their banking rights through the usage of self-regulated and transparent tech tools.

It will allow decentralisation of the banking system, providing fairer wealth distribution. It will contribute to the preservation of our planet ecosystem through the promotion of a green circular economy, which is essential to humanity.

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

Follow your heart and your dreams, they are tied to each other for the better.

 

Keeping motivated during your studies and working life

Alumni Stories.

MandeepRecent graduate Mandeep Kaur (Computing Science, 2018) reflects on her time studying at City and how the experience has supported her with entering the working world. Mandeep also provides useful tips for others who are graduating and hoping to make the most of their career.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

My first day at City was an important event in my life, as I was the first in my family to attend university. To me it is an unforgettable day. I first became a student at City when I was 18 years old (2015), studying Computer Science. I entered the City premises with new hopes and aspirations. I was glad to that the city presented a new sight, it was quite different from what I had seen at school. I found all newly admitted students in high spirits. They were all happy to make new friends. This was one of the best things I have ever done, meeting new friends, making memories.

I really enjoyed my course, and the opportunities it’s given me. City is very international as a university. Learning about different cultures and customs, and their differences and similarities with mine, was very interesting, and made for great relationships. Joining different societies, interacting with other students.

Most of my professors and tutors were very good, and showed passion in the subject they were teaching. They were always available for any questions we had too. I felt that most lectures were very clear and straightforward. Overall, City was one of the greatest experiences. Walking down the hall in July 2018, holding a degree in my hand was a milestone.

What happened after you graduated?

After graduation, it was another battle between the next steps to go for a postgraduate degree or take a break have an experience and then come back to studies.

I choose to continue with my part-time job, and start the search with graduate roles. A lot of time was spent on correcting my CV, searching for jobs, hoping to get a call for an interview. In addition, City’s Professional Liaison Unit was very helpful, and provided great insights to review my CV and give me tips on interviews.

In September 2018, I started my graduate role as a Network Planning Engineer at TATA Consulting Services, a prestigious and multinational information technology company. Thus, began the journey of my 9 to 5 working life.

How did you get into your career?

Often, getting a job means you have landed you dream job. During the journey to becoming a Network Planning Engineer, I came to realise that “I was not learning and I was not enjoying the role”. I had to decide to change my job. Do I keep the job where there is financial, job security throughout your life or do I begin to search new roles? Again, it was the process of correcting CV, waiting for interview calls, getting nervous answering those calls and having insecurities about not getting the job. Applying for jobs is quite the process – getting rejected due lack of experience or someone with better grades.

Despite searching for jobs for a few months, alongside working and producing the best work for the company, I received couple of calls. It was time to think about what I would enjoy doing for work, plus the usual aspects of financial, progress security. I landed a role with the Royal Bank of Scotland, as Technical Product Specialist. The role consists of managing stakeholders, including third party software providing internal and external vendors, across multiple time zones. I am also developing an online knowledge base of known issues/solutions to share with colleagues, customers, both locally and overseas. Furthermore, helping to re-design the CRM system to collect comprehensive triage and implementation of product support. My role is fulfilling and I enjoy what I do. The team is amazing and the support around the co-workers is fantastic. I will be continuing to grow my skills sets from communications to product life cycle management and focus on progress with the company or any opportunities that comes along.

Lastly, being visible on sites such as LinkedIn, helped me to progress in my career, do not ignore any message by recruiter, or don’t hesitate to add new people to your network. Growing you network means growing opportunities for yourself.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The most rewarding experience is when the work you put in is being recognised and appreciated. Overcoming the challenges, set on daily basis or the unexpected.

It is also great to make an impact at work – how the business operates and how your work helped the company to achieve a certain goal.

What has been the biggest challenges to working life?

The biggest challenge was to overcome the fear of what will people think of your idea – how they might react or wondering if it is a good idea to mention or not. You should believe in yourself and express your views and points, where you feel like you have something to contribute.

Another challenge was the rejection from the jobs I applied for. Even though, rejections are part of life we often step back and let the ONE email determine who we are. So, overcoming this is a positive step – if you get rejected, apply for another one. If the role is right for you will get it.

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

I think we should all choose our own footsteps. But I would like to remind everyone, if you are graduating – you do not need to rush into accepting the first job you land. Think, will you be happy doing what the job requires, will you enjoy the job and the environment? Nothing is worth it if you are not happy where you are.

Do not be afraid to take a step back and think about the circumstances again, if you want to change your job, change it! There are plenty of opportunities around us every day. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for help, someone to talk to.

Do not be disheartened, if you have not landed your dream job on the first go. Work towards it, get every experience you can and never be afraid to commit to a new challenge.

Finally, it is challenging to find a job. Make yourself visible on sites such as Linkedln – show your skills, if anyone calls you for opportunities, do not ignore the message. Even if you are not looking for the opportunities, you never know how your future and career can change. Spend time on career websites to see what is around the world, how business are working, what is in demand. However, there is so much competition around us, so just remind yourself to always be ready to take a challenge and convert failure/rejections into learning experience and constructive feedback. Each time you fail or get rejected from a job application, try to remember failure is not the opposite of success, IT IS A PART OF SUCCESS!

Do not compare your progress with others, everyone learns on their own terms.

Enjoy your time at university, take every opportunity to be a part of City. Go out with friends, after all they might be your best man or bridesmaid at your wedding!

How can the global aviation industry chart its way out of Covid-19?

Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering News.

Linus BauerThe travel and commercial airline industry has suffered considerable damage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recently-released figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global aviation industry is set to lose US$252bn in 2020, with many airlines filing for bankruptcy and slashing up to 90 per cent of their flight capacity.

Linus Bauer (Air Transport Management, 2019) is an outstanding City alumnus, Managing Consultant at Bauer Aviation Advisory, and a Visiting Lecturer on the MSc Air Transport Management programme.

We caught up with him to ask about his perspectives on the future of commercial aviation.

CitySTEM Newsletter: Passengers still have a not unreasonable degree of anxiety about flying, even if they are wearing masks while travelling on aeroplanes and would have completed pre-boarding temperature checks. What further measures can airlines take to lessen their concerns?

Linus Bauer: Health and safety will become an ever-present factor because fear and trust will be the two emotions at the forefront of people’s minds when planning a trip. In the past two weeks we have witnessed new air rage triggers: Airlines breaking their promise to keep middle seats empty; and passengers failing to take precautions by not observing social distancing. Airlines need to be more transparent and confident in communicating social distancing protocol, especially so in the era of social media. Passengers are demanding to be informed through video messaging what airlines are doing to make travel safe for everyone – from preventive measures onboard and special cleaning processes, right through to minute-by-minute changes to flight schedules, etc. Such activities would certainly lessen the fears of health-conscious passengers and those in the 50+ age bracket. When people do not feel that an airline adequately respects their health and safety, they will quickly find one that does!

CSN: With the ever-deepening crisis in global aviation and major airlines filing for bankruptcy, is government assistance the only option?

LB: For a large group of major airlines across the globe, government assistance is the only option for their survival. In Germany for instance, the reinvestment of stabilization funds with special loan schemes from the previous global financial crisis offers the best solution for German stock corporations like flag carrier Lufthansa.

CSN: With current low oil prices and the correspondingly low demand for travel, will airfares become more affordable for travellers?

LB: Due to the fuel hedging activities at the end of 2019, the majority of airlines will, unfortunately, not benefit from the low oil prices at the moment. Airlines have been reporting massive losses in fuel hedging as fuel prices have plunged. The market-to-market losses from surplus hedges also arose because capacity cuts resulting from COVID-19 have meant that the fuel consumption needs of airlines will be lower than previously anticipated in the next fiscal years. Coming over to the demand side, the airline industry will suffer less demand in the next three years.
Due to technological advantages (e.g. video-conferencing) and economic recession (bankruptcies of companies), business travel will be limited to meet essential needs and a portion of business travel may never return (5-8% reduction in the medium-term). Those events (capacity cuts, reduction in demand and higher fuel costs than anticipated) will contribute to an increase in air fares in the medium-term. However, we may expect cheaper air fares for a limited time period at the very beginning, and methods will be devised to stimulate traffic and demand during the recovery phase.

CSN: Are there any specific geographical areas or travel markets of the world better prepared to return to normality?

LB: Normality is not likely to return before 2023. That said, I believe that countries like Australia and New Zealand have a geographical advantage and have done a great job of cementing links between themselves during this pandemic. A Trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble‘ will be established as soon as it is safe to allow flights between both countries. If it works well, they may consider inviting the Pacific islands and Singapore to join it. This model could prove to be a good example for the rest of the world to kickstart travel between countries on a step-by-step basis.

CSN: Will the airline industry be changed for the better? Given the role that government and private finance may contribute toward the restructuring of airlines, could COVID-19 force already poorly managed airlines to become more efficient?

LB: Every single crisis leads to new opportunities to improve things. What were viewed as the errors of the past can now be rectified. After receiving a wake-up call from this crisis, much more attention will be paid to issues like sustainability and the environment, leading to higher operational efficiency for the future.

CSN: How will the pandemic affect the pilot training pipeline?

LB: Pilots, flight attendants and gate agents are the groups most directly impacted by the sharp drop-off in passenger demand since the pandemic swept across the globe and essentially halted air travel for millions of people. The COVID-19 crisis has transformed the worldwide shortage of pilots into a surplus of them. The current crisis has changed everything, including carriers furloughing pilots by the thousands due to the deep cut in capacity for the next three years.

This interview was conducted as part of the CitySTEM Newsletter June 2020. If you completed your degree at City’s School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering and would like to receive the CitySTEM newsletter, please ensure we have your correct contact details by using this form

City Alumni Hero: Leigh Andrews – Uses speech and language therapy to help, motivate and uplift the vulnerable around her

COVID-19 Heroes.

Leigh AndrewsSchool of Health Sciences alumna Leigh Andrews (Speech and Language Therapy, 2019) works with people who are living on the streets or hostels and have hit hard times in their lives. As the pandemic started those were living on the streets were the most exposed and vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. “Some local councils have sourced hotel accommodation for people who are homeless so that they can safely isolate at this time. Many people welcomed the opportunity to be sheltered in a hotel, but it is not an easy time. All homelessness organisations have had to rethink how they work and there has been interruptions or closure of some services that are essential to people previously living on the street.” As the pandemic has caused disruptions in all sectors homeless organisations have opted to send the food packages, they would normally prepare, straight to the hotels.

Change Communication

Leigh got involved with the efforts of supporting the vulnerable through her company, “Westminster City Council recognised that some people hosted in hotels may have communication needs. They asked Change Communication to help guests understand the purpose of the hotel stay, the steps they could take to keep safe, and identify positive ways of spending the time while isolating.” She spent time getting to know people in the hotels, working with staff to support communication about important matters such as GP calls, and creating things like quizzes and puzzles that didn’t rely on literacy skills. “A City, University of London, student who had volunteered for our organisation joined us in paid capacity to support our work which was a great experience for us both!”

Having spent a great deal of time working in the hotels accommodating vulnerable people, Leigh found that their support helped some people to access and accept support from other health and care services while in the hotel. She was also able to talk about what speech and language therapy is with staff and raise awareness of how they could all help people with communicating needs.

As there is a growing need for effective communication support from homelessness and health organisations during the pandemic, Leigh has a lot of interest in the work she does which, together with getting to grips with Microsoft Teams and Zoom, has kept her busy helping the most vulnerable during the global pandemic.

 

On behalf of all of us in the City Community – thank you Leigh for all your work in alleviating the terrible effects caused by the pandemic isolation.

 

 

City Alumni Hero: Dries Jennen – Helping to organise 6.5 million articles of PPE to frontline Covid-19 workers

COVID-19 Heroes.

Dries Jennen

Dries Jennen (MBA, 2017) has, unfortunately, had a very personal experience with the current pandemic when he caught the virus himself in late March. For about a month he was unable to focus on his business consultancy job as he was quarantined with the virus. Once recovered Dries was presented with the less than ideal news that the companies he would normally work with have had to make difficult decisions regards to keeping doors open as the pandemic has hindered a lot of businesses.

Having felt the terrible effects of the virus himself, both on his health and his career, Dries got together with a few other entrepreneurs and decided to give back his community and help in any way he could “we came together with a few entrepreneurs to organise PPE for our region in Germany and Belgium. We managed to organise over 6.5mio PPE articles which include masks/respirators, gowns and gloves. These have been distributed to local hospitals, elderly homes, care centres, Red Cross, fire departments, schools etc.”

 

Dries JennenDries and his team actively approached any groups they thought could use the PPE as well as found contacts from their existing network. After the project, Dries says that his team’s network in the care sector has massively expanded.

Dries and his colleagues used their business contacts and teams in Asia to source the best materials and suppliers for the products. Another complication arose when apparent issues with transport halted the pace of the operation, “A big challenge was also air fright the past few months. Through our business partners, we had an aeroplane chartered to bring the supplies over to Europe as soon as possible.”

 

Dries Jennen

Furthermore, “we had great reactions to our project. The organisations were happy that they could get access to the needed PPE materials when their normal supply chains broke. We supplied the Red Cross of Bayreuth with gowns. They were picked up using the catastrophe vehicles, then they were welcomed by the mayor of Bayreuth, Doctors of the hospitals etc.”

Dries expresses his optimism that the Intensive Care units in his area are fortunately not maxed out and the heroes on the frontline are still passionately working to contain and beat the virus. “In Germany, the country is slowly opening up again. Shops have been opened, restaurants are slowly opening – I would describe it as a careful but hopeful atmosphere.”

 

 

On behalf of the City Alumni Community, thank you Dries for the great work you, your colleagues and teams have done to aid in the efforts to alleviate the pandemic.

Mohamed Farid Saleh (Quantitative Finance, 2008) takes home prestigious prize at British Council Alumni Awards in Egypt

Alumni Stories.

In 2012, Mohamed Farid Saleh (Quantitative Finance, 2008) founded Dcode EFC, a leading economic and financial forecasting and advisory firm in Egypt, which went on to grow successfully despite being established during a time of economic uncertainty. This commitment to help businesses and organisations to better face improve economic uncertainty across the country rightfully earned Mohamed the Entrepreneurial Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Egypt earlier on this year.

Following the awards, we caught up with Mohamed to find out more…

Congratulations on winning the Entrepreneurial Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards! What does this new title mean to you?

It means a lot to me. It is a recognition for an effort and risk taken in a period of extreme difficulty. Moreover, receiving this recognition after I left the entrepreneurial project indicates its sustainability of impact. Being a Study UK Alumni Award winner from the British Council is an honour and recognition that anyone who has studied in the UK would want to receive, especially that’s based on a competitive process.

If we go back a little, can you tell me about your time at Cass and what happened after you graduated?

My time at Cass was challenging and rewarding at the same time. The challenge came from the fact that my chosen course covered both rigorous theory and practice, which required several hours to be put into studies compared to other courses, and of course from the fact that 2008 was the year of the financial crisis. The rewarding part was being close to all investment firms and banks, which enabled me to create networks that are of great value for my career and are considered an asset.

After graduating in 2008, I joined the Egyptian Ministry of Investment (MoI) as a Senior Financial Economist and Head of Capital Markets and Economics Unit. The unit was mandated to handle several projects, including Egypt’s capital market development, and monitoring the performance of all regulatory bodies governing the non-bank financial services. In 2010, I was appointed as the Vice Chairman of The Egyptian Exchange to 2011, which was one of the most turbulent times facing Egypt’s capital markets as it was during the January 2011 revolution, the Arab spring.

After finishing my term in 2011, I decided with a group of entrepreneurs and economists to found the currently prominent consulting firm, Dcode Economic and Financial Consulting (Dcode EFC). It provided a wide array of consulting services among which is economic intelligence and rigorous economic forecasting in a period of serious economic ambiguity to cater for the needs of private businesses, international and domestic investors. Dcode EFC‘s economic forecasts and scenario analysis was a corner stone for many businesses to design responses to economic shocks and variables such as foreign exchange and interest rate movements, economic and consumption growth…etc. Furthermore, economic policy advocacy was another line of business that enabled the private businesses voice to be heard in a period of economic ambiguity that smeared all expansion and operational plans of companies in Egypt.

In August 2017, I left Dcode EFC to embark on another endeavour and I was appointed as Chairman of The Egyptian Exchange. What was really rewarding about my exit was the continuation and expansion of the company after I left. Founding a startup and ensuring that along the way you are setting the sufficient processes and institutionalisation is one of the biggest challenges in start-ups. Having succeeded in establishing a sustainable business that is not dependent on the founders for surviving is the most important aspect. It is one of the key successes that any entrepreneur should be looking for.

So, tell us how Dcode EFC came about?

The idea of this firm came about from analysing the economic and political situation in Egypt around end of 2011. The economic policy making set-up was tarnished by January 2011 revolution, and hence, the economic uncertainty regarding the policy and economic responses raised the questions about how would the policymakers respond from the one hand, and how would the economy, investors, consumers and other players respond from the other hand to such uncertainty.

Encouraged by the co-founders to be, we started the journey of developing a business plan and further analysing the idea and if it indeed, could be a revenue generating idea sufficient to found a business on it. The quest of further studying the idea started in December 2011, and the establishment of Dcode EFC took place in September 2012.

What were the most rewarding aspects of starting the business?

There are several rewarding experiences in this journey. The first and foremost, is seeing the company grow and the number of employees doubling from a year to another. The second, is witnessing the positive impact of Dcode EFC‘s advice on businesses that have been served and especially the small and medium enterprises. This positive impact is what Dcode EFC had targeted and even considered it its slogan; “Advice is judged by results, not intentions”. The third, is fostering the idea of Dcode EFC to grow, and the brand to grow within and beyond the borders of Egypt. The final rewarding experience, is the company growing despite exiting this venture, resigning from being the Chairman and CEO and seeing my successors continue building the processes of Dcode EFC to ensure its sustainable path.

What were the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge regarding the idea of Dcode EFC was to show potential clients with the value of services. Usually, start-ups always start with a semi-quantifiable market demand. At Dcode EFC, we initially created the demand, only to a point whereby the potential was unleashed when clients tested the services, and tested the rigours and accuracy of Dcode EFC‘s economic intelligence and policy advocacy services.

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

My first piece of advice is not to follow mine, or anyone else’s footsteps. It always has to come from within. However, I can provide some points to be taken into consideration for any person willing to embark on a new business or venture as follows:

  1. A good idea is not enough, the co-founders and team are crucial for the initial success for any start-up. The team’s solidarity should be tested not only in good times, but it is during conflicts and bad times that would reveal how well is the team positioned to create value, and work on turning the idea to reality.
  2. Creating start-ups is not an easy endeavour, it requires perseverance, ambiguity tolerance, and most importantly resourcefulness and teamwork.
  3. Be ok with losing before being happy with wins. This is the only way that would enable the entrepreneur to stand on his feet after defeats, that would happen, and often.
  4. Finally, always remember, it is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t be overconfident with early big wins, it is about the repetitive wins, even if small ones.

 

How passion can take you from serving tea to an executive producer

Alumni Stories.

JJames Hillames Hill (Psychology, 2011) started his educational career studying psychology as he was fascinated by people and their stories. Once he had graduated, after a year of travelling to expand his horizons, James used what he had learned during his time in University to pursue a career in television to release his creative potential. He had been interested in the world of filmmaking from a young age and the passion for it only grew as he continued through the university. James started off working on unpaid roles in the industry but through hard work and perseverance, he was eventually promoted to co-executive producer. James has directed and produced many of the shows that are enjoyed by audiences globally, The Masked Singer and America’s Got Talent to name a few. James has managed to reach extraordinary heights in his career and continues to work hard to deliver quality entertainment to people around the world.

Find out more about James below:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I loved my time at City. I hated school and wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to go to university, however, I was passionate about psychology and was excited at the prospect of studying in London. During my three years at City, I enjoyed education for the first time in my life, started reading extracurricular psychology books suggested by professors who made me excited about learning. I loved being in that area of London and stayed there for years after graduating, which I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do if I hadn’t had the friends and familiarity of the area City University gave me. When I first started getting work-experience I stayed on friends’ couches from City and to this day we remain close.

What happened after you graduated?

After I graduated, I worked and travelled for a few years before starting a number of unpaid jobs in the TV industry. I slowly worked my way up from getting cups of tea and running errands to doing work on productions and eventually was able to start filming which was one of the main reasons I wanted to work in TV. I filmed, produced and directed on many different shows in the UK, Canada and US (America’s got talent, The Masked Singer, Gold Rush and Homestead rescue to name a few) before moving to the US, where I am currently a co-executive producer.

How did your interest for the television industry develop?

While I was growing up I had always messed around with my families old camcorder, making video’s with my friends and editing little movies by playing the camcorder through the TV and quickly pressing record and stop on a VHS player. This carried on and developed through uni and I was amazed and elated to discovered I was able to tell stories, either ones I had come up with, or through questions and a lens. On the rare occasions when I get frustrated at the industry or a particular job, I think what other career path might I have taken. However, I honestly can’t think of another field with the creativity and flexibility I have now that would have worked for me.

What has been the most rewarding experience in your career?

The most rewarding experience has been getting to travel and experience so many different ways of life. I often find myself in the midst of a busy day and taken aback at the ridiculous scenery around me. Just a few months ago I was filming in a helicopter in the Ruby Mountains and had to take a moment to appreciate that this is my job.

What has been the most challenging experience?

The biggest challenge is the combination of how competitive an industry TV is and the freelance nature of it. Right from the beginning, unless you know someone who can get started at an entry-level position, you have to work for free for months, sometimes longer, just to break in (which was my experience). Most jobs don’t last more than a couple weeks so there is no job security and no reason for anyone to promote you or invest time in you unless it directly benefits them in the short time you are with them. This means you are constantly toeing the line of being eager and expressing a willingness to learn, but also careful of not stepping above your station and not doing the job you were hired for.

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

Make sure you are passionate about a life making TV and movies. If you’re not sure, ask yourself are you willing to work for free at times? Are you willing to work 15hr+ days? To spend weeks, sometimes months, in a hotel or camped in the middle of nowhere? If all of this sounds like a small price to pay for a career out of an office, one that can take you all over the world, where you’re able to be creative from the moment you wake up to when you call it a wrap each day and to see that creativity collected and packaged into a show or film, then the answer is yes.

If that’s the case then my advice is to never stop being hungry, never stop looking for work. TV is a relationship-based industry. If you are good at your job, it is likely the next job will be due to a referral from your employer who recommended you to a friend. If you get lucky you can bounce around the same shows, or even the same show, season after season. However, if you are the type of person excited about a career in TV, then you are also the type of person where this can get boring quickly. It can be detrimental to your career. Start out hungry for work; contacting as many companies as you can and expressing how eager you are to work, then keep this hunger no matter how many years in you are, or what title you have in the credits.

Thank you to James for sharing his story!

You can follow James’s activities and find out more from his website.

 

Striving for world peace – a story of a powerful young global reformer

Alumni Stories.

Gwendoly Myers GraduationGwendolyn Myers (International Politics and Human Rights, 2019) has been in the pursuit of global peace for over a decade. Her non-profit organisation Messengers of Peace Liberia has enabled her to spread her message of unity globally. Gwendolyn has spoken in front of the UN, advocating young people in peace and the importance of international co-work to establish universal peace.

Gwendolyn came to City in pursuit of understanding the political implications of peacebuilding – she found the course immensely useful, starting to implement the things she learned in her organisation well before graduating. In 2019 Gwendolyn was recognised as the TIME Magazine Top Eight Young Reformers Across the Globe Shaping the World, this amazing recognition has given her name as well as her organisation a boost to be noticed more on the global peace business landscape. City, University of London is proud to be able to further educate and play a role in the activities of young leaders and reformers from around the world who come to learn more about how they can make a difference in their local communities.

Read more about Gwendolyn and her inspiring journey to becoming one of the top global reformers of peace.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your educational background and what led you to studying at City. 

I come from a country in West-Africa, Liberia. My undergraduate degree was in biology and chemistry, the decision to transition from Medicine to Social Sciences I think was made to inspire to lead and to serve.

As a young person you, of course, follow the advice and guidance of your elders and your parents, but it is also very important to listen to the passion and calling inside you. I have said this before and think it is necessary to repeat that young people should respectfully decline, important emphasis on respect, recommendation and expectations you receive – you need to be able to say ‘hey, this is about my journey’. I take into consideration cultures and traditions where it’s common to expect things from young people. You can’t talk about peace and leave out the culture of peace.

I got an undergraduate degree in Liberia from The Mother Patern College of Health Sciences, Stella Maris University – BSc in Biology and Chemistry. After I received my undergraduate degree, I received a scholarship through the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, which enabled me to go to the US. In the states I learned about Peacebuilding and Leadership in the Eastern Mennonites University from 2011 – 2014, the course was very intensive but it taught me a lot about the path where I was leading my career. After I had finished my studies there, I went to the Institute of Global Engagement in Washington DC to do another two years Postgraduate Fellowship with The Center for Women, Faith and Leadership Programme (CWFL) in Religion and Peace Building followed by a Capstone Project on “Youth Against Violent Extremism-Involving Young People in Peacebuilding, Violence Reduction and Conflict Resolution Programmes in Liberia: Implementation lessons for establishing an Institute of Peace Dialogue (IPD)”.

After studying in Washington I did a six-month intensive Dialogue and Mediation training to be certified as a young mediator with The Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), Swedish Agency for Peace, Security and Development – for this, I went to Sweden, Cambodia and Nepal so that I could get experience and see hands-on community mediation.

Finishing the mediation training I was able to apply for a Chevening Scholarship, a program that identifies potential leaders that are trained in the UK to develop their leadership skills which they can then utilise in their home countries. I was selected to join the programme and was able to come over to the UK. I chose joining City as the University because I believed I would be able to push and develop my abilities far beyond what they were before.

My focus has always been on youth involvement, peace and security. It is one thing to advocate all of that but another to actually understand the politics behind it, which is what City helped me a lot with.

 

Gwendolyn Myers on a Panel

With the Chevening Scholarship you could choose what to study. How come you chose Politics and Human Rights instead of Peace Studies and how has what you’ve learned affected your non-profit: Messengers of Peace Liberia Inc (MOP)?

Well, the scholarship gave me an opportunity to learn anything I wanted as they paid for all the expenses. Everyone around me thought I would do Peace Studies. This time around, however, I decided to do something a little different from “peace”. When discussing global peace, which I’m very passionate about, it has political implications – you can’t talk about sustainable peace from a global perspective and not understanding what political implications may be hindering it.

That’s the main reason I found my time in City very interesting. I started applying the things I learned before I even finished my studies. As part of strategic diplomacy and decision-making, I got the chance to meet the foreign minister in Liberia, giving me an opportunity to discuss foreign policy and global agenda to create peace.

The discussions on human rights issues, specifically regarding migration and open borders, is something that grew to become of great interest to me during my time in City. I really enjoyed how the seminars on this topic were built and I liked the model of teaching that was being used – I was able to engage a lot with my peers, as well as the academics.

I am definitely trying to advocate the mindset of thinking globally and acting locally which was also a big part of the seminars at City. Our actions must create tangible impact on a local level. It means nothing to talk about human rights if it doesn’t have an impact on an ordinary village boy or girl. I can see clearly from my non-profit that this mindset has an effect on the local communities. When I went back home from the UK, I immediately took what I had learned from the University and applied it to my region, the Mano River Union. I started from Sierra Leone – mobilising the young people there to start a conversation around social cohesion. That is something we feel we need to understand fully and implement entirely to then start growing onto a national and then global scale.

 

Can you tell us more about your non-profit organisation, what you’ve achieved so far and what you hope to go on to do?

We have been in operation for 11 years having created the organisation in 2008. We started off with only a handful of young people and now we have over 1,500.The young volunteers are called Young Volunteer Peace Messengers, together we do community engagement, we also train young people to do community mediation. Young people were seen during the presidential election in polling stations and institutions to do conflict resolutions. They were demonstrating and were part of vigilante groups to ensure that their communities are safe during the Ebola crisis.

I spend all of my time, when I am in Liberia, engaging with local communities or striving to make a difference. We teach our peace messengers how to mentor young people so that our message of peace gets carried on through them.

From 2008 to now we have been seen to play a very active role when it comes to peace and security. I grew up in post-war Liberian country. I know what it feels like to run from bullets and not feel safe. I’ve seen kids get given guns and be child soldiers to inflict destruction. While studying medicine I had a feeling that what is happening isn’t right, that I need to do something. That’s when I started my organisation. I knew, that if young people can be used for violence, they could also be used for peace.

Personally, I have been privileged enough to be recognised through a lot of different mediums. In 2019, I was recognised as the TIME Magazine Top Eight Young Reformers Across the Globe Shaping the World. In 2015, the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY)  asked me as a young person to deliver a speech on advocating for Security Council resolution: youth, peace and security – this was the first-ever official address to the United Nations Peace Building Commission in New York. After my speech was finished, I expected questions from member states but only got a “thank you”. They told me that my speech brought life to the UN.

My address to the UN was what began the ascent of my message onto the global scale.

One of the main massive accomplishments for my organisation, was that the first-ever National Peace Prize from the government of Liberia was awarded to our organisation Messengers of Peace in August of 2018. This happened just before I was about to come to the UK to study at City, University of London. Following the award from the President of Liberia, my thank you note to the people and president of Liberia, was that peace, has been rebranded with young people.

It’s easy to talk about these achievements now, but it’s not magic. I had times I cried. Being a young woman and an executive in a male-dominated society, is not an easy thing. People see the success outside and think it’s easy, but it’s not.

At some point in the future, I will transition over to Women, Peace and Security Agenda, as I won’t really be a young person anymore. In one of my lectures at City we discussed how difficult it is to let go of something you founded. Regardless, what I eventually want for my organisation is to mentor and develop young people to be leaders to then take over Messengers of Peace Liberia Inc. I have seen some of the kids I mentored already prove their leadership when I’ve been gone for longer periods of time. It gave me confidence that when I leave this foundation behind, my dream will be continued.

 

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your work?

Funding is a huge challenge. The work I do is not sexy. Violence is sexy peace is not. When you try to hype up something bad it’s more interesting to see but peace is not attractive, what we are trying to do is make peace look more interesting and attractive, make it sexy. I am investing my own money into it and don’t make any sort of salary from it – at times it can be quite tough.

My movement is led by a hashtag #byfaithsheleads – what is behind my strong resolve, is my faith. Whatever religion you come from you need to reconnect with yourself and understand your true calling. That is something I managed to achieve, Messengers of Peace is not something to just do, I’m here to serve and here to lead.

 

Gwendolyn Myers reading TIME magazine

Since you’ve finished studying and right up until this point of nearly graduating, what have you been up to and what is next for you?

I am currently in the planning stages of appearing in a documentary called “Frontline Women” to be filmed for a documentary revolved around ‘Top Seven Women Breaking Barriers for Peace Building in Africa’. In addition, I have recently been appointed as the youngest ever serving board member for Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI) based in the US. My tenure for this will be three years.

During the same period I lost my father, City, University of London announced my selection as the overall winner of the President’s Awards, to become this year’s addition to City’s gallery of Extraordinary Women achieving the extraordinary since 1894. My addition to City, University of London gallery of Extraordinary Women in commemoration of International Women’s Day 2020 is an acclamation of what is to come, and exactly what my father desired as an educator.

Furthermore, I am presently serving as Co-Chair for the Liberia National Youth Taskforce Against COVID-19, under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Republic of Liberia.  The task force, which is a consortium of youth-led organizations, is leading community-based actions against COVID-19. Raising awareness and distributing sanitary materials.

For me this is about the service though, all these titles don’t get into my head. I am still recovering from a few of them, but just need to get used to it. I don’t have time to be emotional about it. It’s all for the glorification of God’s Kingdom.

 

Do you have any advice for others looking to make a difference, particularly in the world of peace? 

Leave no one behind! We must be inclusive, love each other. I don’t think we can achieve peace without meaningfully involving both the youth and women. Not just to have them in the room to show that we include people but actually have their voices be heard and allow them to make a difference.

Also, we must reach out to relate to the people around us. We must connect with ordinary people. We must care, and show interest.

I am very hopeful that one day World peace is possible. Whether it is in our time or if it’s for people after us, we are building the foundation for it. We are inspiring and urging people to continue the mission for peace after us.

You can follow Gwendolyn’s activities further on her Instagram page!

 

 

 

 

Living through giving: Supporting the community and spreading the love

COVID-19 Heroes.

While the Indian government under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Modi has taken a “prevention is better than cure” approach in India to flatten the curve of Coronavirus, Priyanka Amit Shah (Marketing Strategy and Innovation, 2018) told us about the devastating impact the current crisis is having on daily-wage earners and her efforts to support them.

Priyanka said: “Most of the citizens that are employed in the informal sector such as the daily-wage earners do not enjoy the benefits of sick/paid leave and lack any kind of insurance. They also, unfortunately, do not have access to services like a pension, with very few possessing bank accounts. They earn in cash and are the sole breadwinners of their families, feeding four to five children on an average. Not to forget, the migrant workers and the floating population who are also suffering tremendously. They are stranded and have nothing to fall back upon. They fear that hunger will kill them before coronavirus does.”

Feeling grateful for having access to food, shelter, family and friends, Priyanka explains that she can’t rest until she gives back to her community: “My family and I are active members of the Rotary Club of Mumbai Queens Necklace and we have been contributing to sponsor daily meals for the families of A K Munshi School of Special Children in Mumbai. The Club has also been working in partnership with Annamrita Cares – an initiative against COVID-19 to help serve 6,647,073 meals across India. To date, the Club has helped sponsor 130,000 meals per day during the lockdown. We have also been providing protective gear and testing kits to the JJ Hospital in Mumbai.

With many of the population in India in the senior citizen’s category, Priyanka and her family have been volunteering to help elderly people with purchasing groceries and medicines or even running unavoidable errands to minimise their exposure to contamination and any risk on their lives. Some of their life-saving work has been highlighted in the Hindustan Times – India’s leading daily newspaper.

Being a Director at Letters of Love, a youth-led international non-profit organisation based in the United States of America, Priyanka has been working on launching a new campaign called #DearHeroes.

Priyanka explains: “The #DearHeroes global letter-writing campaign is our effort at extending a hand in gratitude to the thousands of medical staff who are at the frontline, risking their lives and waging this battle at the forefront. A letter of love is to let them know that we see them as human beings, we admire their resilience and that we are endlessly grateful. A letter is a humble attempt at spreading smiles to those who deserve it the most. It is a token of hope, personalised with a warm message which is written by hand by our team of volunteers in the native language of the receiver, doodled with colours and signed off in your name.

“After sending more than 50,000 letters to refugee children around the world, today, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are refocusing our attention to write letters to the Heroes of the Hour – Doctors and Nurses. To thank our heroes, one letter at a time!”

Priyanka concludes with this very inspirational statement: “Every day, I wake up with a thought that today is not just another day. Today, I’ll create something beautiful. Today, I’ll make a difference. Today, I’ll give back. I’ve always been a believer that we are not meant to bear what we find unpleasant, we are meant to change it.”

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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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