City Alumni Network

Category Archives: Alumni Stories

A Road to Extinction

Alumni Stories.

Researched and written by the first Director of the Royal African Society, Dr Jonathan Lawley (Administrative Sciences MBA, 1994 and Chemistry, 1996) chronicles the fascinating 100,000-year history of the Andamanese aboriginals and showcases how modern society threatens to wipe out our earliest human ancestors.

We recently caught up with Jonathan who told us all about his recently published book, A Road to Extinction: Can Palaeolithic Africans survive in the Andaman Islands?, and his experiences at City.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

In August 1982, I was taken on by the Rio Tinto company to set up and run a pioneering programme; to train the first Indigenous technical managers for the mining industry in southern Africa. The methodology involved bringing the trainees, all graduates, to Europe for two academic years away from their home environment where for historical reasons, leadership and management were associated in everybody’s minds with white men. The aim was to help gain both skills and confidence through interspersed work attachments at mines and smelters and academic studies involving amongst other things, accounts, economics and management theory leading to a MSc in Industrial and Administrative Sciences.

Arrangements were made by Rio Tinto with City for the academic modules to be under the umbrella of Prof John Donaldson assisted by Dr Sue Grimes and in collaboration with the Business School. I was Trust Director with responsibility for the trainees, arranging work attachments and contributing to the academic programme and briefing the trustees.

As the programme got off to a shaky start, we adopted a tough new approach with work choices made by the company and by the time of the second annual intake of trainees, instead of being a burden to the them, the companies were even more keen to accept trainees because of their hard work and commitment. We sent trainees on three work attachment to 32 companies in the UK, Ireland and Portugal and incorporated trainees from Brazil and Portugal. Besides the success of work attachments, the academic part of the programme was a huge success. Back home, virtually all trainees made rapid progress. We had broken new ground and being much stimulated, I applied and was accepted to do a PhD in 1988.

What happened after you graduated?

On retirement, after winding up the programme in 1994, the World Bank wanted to take me on a secondment from Rio Tinto to apply our methodology to the Russian Mining Industry but that did not work out. Instead, I was seconded to the British Executive Service Overseas as Africa Director. In 2000 I was appointed the first Director of the Royal African Society. Then from 2004 to 2016 I was Senior Adviser to the Business Council for Africa

Tell us how the idea for your new book A Road to Extinction came about?

My experience and PhD researches led to the conclusion that civilization and human progress, including overcoming our deficiencies, depends on what we learn and the perspectives we gain from contact with other cultures. My contact with the Andaman Islands, arising from five generations of family involvement, turns that theory on its head, as other cultures potentially threaten their way of life.

I wanted to help readers recognise the significance of tribes with lifestyles in total harmony and compatibility with their environment, which for centuries, they have fought to preserve against the threat posed by so called civilization. It is the life of our earliest human ancestors from whom we have much to learn. Now exploitative and demeaning tourism is reducing them to humiliating dependency and threatens to destroy a human success story many thousands of years old.

I was fascinated to discover, mainly from two books he had written, of my grandfather’s experiences when he was an administrator in the Andamans more than a hundred years ago. More recently, somethings have combined to make the story even more interesting. First was the murder of an American would be missionary on an outer island whose community is the only one in the planet with no links to the outside world. Then in March 2020 came DNA evidence linking the aboriginals, specifically to Botswana, which I know well and now comes a new threat of Covid-19 to the continuing existence of the tribes.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Seeing former trainees gain real self-confidence, having genuinely understood and embraced the management challenge and gone on to succeed. It was particularly rewarding to see, in an African context, the impression made in the UK of our single female trainee and to witness her subsequent career successes.

What has been the biggest challenges with writing your book?

Overcoming racist cynicism and gaining the genuine understanding of trainees of what management is really about.

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

Understand that there is as much potential technical management talent in Africa as anywhere else in the world.

A Road to Extinction: Can Paeolithic Africans survive in the Andaman Islands? is available now at: For further details about this book, download this Advanced Information sheet.

Virtual Science

Alumni Stories.

Second place prize winner Zaibaa Patel (Biomedical Engineering (MEng + PhD), 2019), tells us all about her experience of the prestigious Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, including the first-ever 48-hour Online Sciathon. 

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I was at City for 8 years, completing my MEng and PhD. I absolutely loved my time at City; especially the great staff within the department. I can’t thank my PhD supervisor, Professor Panicos Kyriacou enough for giving me the opportunity to embark on a PhD and for training me to be a researcher.

I was awarded a Doctoral Scholarship by SMCSE, where my research focused on optical monitoring and electronic instrumentation. I engaged in a research project that involved the development of an intra-luminal sensor monitoring intestinal viability in colorectal cancer surgery, where I also received a prestigious postgraduate award by the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers.

During my PhD, I was nominated and identified by the university and the Royal Society as a young scientist candidate to apply to participate in the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2019, dedicated to Physics. Here I was selected and invited to attend and now considered as a Lindau young scientist alumni.

What happened after you graduated?

I was offered a position at King’s College London as a Research Associate in the Randall Centre for Cell and Molecular Biophysics (Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine). Still staying close to the PhD research area of optical monitoring, I am contributing to research within muscle biophysics. Specifically, I am in a group investigating the molecular mechanism of cardiac contraction through optical techniques. The understanding of how the heart contracts on a molecular basis would aid in potential therapeutics for heart disease.

Tell us about the 69th Lindau Meeting

Due to the pandemic, the annual Lindau meeting could not take place, therefore an online Science Day was held (28 June – 1 July). The online event gathered representatives from all the scientific disciplines of the Nobel prize, and the range of topics and discussions were extremely interdisciplinary this year. Nobel Laureates, Lindau alumni and young scientists from physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine as well as economic sciences came together.

The Lindau meeting also held the first-ever Sciathon. Following the format of a hackathon, Lindau alumni, young scientists and young economists were invited to work on an interdisciplinary project during an intense, 48-hour Sciathon. The topics of the Sciathon were about: (1) Lindau Guidelines, (2) Communicating Climate change and (3) Capitalism after Corona. During the 48 hours, they worked on current problems from the three topic areas mentioned before. In the competition, 87 different nationalities were represented as well as alumni from 24 different Lindau meetings of the last 40 years, and also someone from 1982!

I participated in a project under the topic ‘Lindau Guidelines’. The Lindau guidelines was first suggested by Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, where the guidelines aim to develop and support a new approach for global, sustainable and cooperative open science in the 21st century.

The group project was called ‘authentiSci: Enabling scientists to provide guidance in a post-factual era of media’. This was a proposal of a web extension that would allow scientists to work together to communicate reliable sources of scientific information to the public. Every day science is communicated to the public through media regardless of its accuracy or reliability, but there is no way for scientists to guide the public as they choose what to believe.

In just 48-hours, a group of 8 members, including myself, created a web extension prototype that allows verified scientists to score sources of scientific information and non-scientists to use as evidence of credibility. We were selected as the top 3 finalists and presented our results ‘live on stage’ during the Online Science Days to all Nobel Laureates and young scientists. With amazing projects to compete with, we were awarded 2nd place.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Our group of 8 individuals came from all over the world. Coming together, immediately identifying our strengths and starting to work was amazing. We immediately bonded and brainstormed ideas online and found ways to always communicate to enable us to have such a practical project up and running within 48-hours.

Yes! In 48-hours, we managed to get a web extension developed, write a report and create a short video to entice the jury! It was remarkable and I was impressed with the hard work we put in.

Now that the Sciathon is over, our project is continuing to advance and it has been a great way to increase my network of researchers. We are still bouncing around ideas and keen to have this extension used frequently. We are seeking for funding bodies, university sponsorship or verification of our web extension and most importantly, researchers who would like to contribute in “verifying” media articles.

What has been the biggest challenge in creating your prototype?

A challenge was to figure out a way to verify scientists who are reviewing media articles and scoring them. We decided the best method to verify scientists was by authorising them access to review articles by signing into their ORCID account. ‘ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier (an ORCID iD) that you own and control, and that distinguishes you from every other researcher’. (

The logistics of the team was a little challenging, since all of us were from different countries; the time zones and working hour had to be managed well. We were literally working around the clock!

Right now, we need to increase authentiSci’s visibility to scientists, the public and bodies who would be interested in helping us. It would be great if people who are interested could follow us on Twitter or contact us through our website.

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

Take every opportunity – don’t miss out.

It’s easy to feel nervous before applying or to feel that ‘It’s highly unlikely that I’ll be chosen’ – you definitely won’t be chosen if you don’t take the opportunity!

Work your utmost best! Once completing the Sciathon, we were extremely happy with the work we produced. Knowing that you put 100% into something, you’ll never be left feeling disappointed or saying ‘I wish I did more or tried harder’.


If you are interested in learning more about Zaibaa’s prototype authentiSci or would like to see the Lindau meeting presentation, please explore the links below:

  1. Zaibaa’s City profile
  2. Lindau guidelines
  3. authentiSci 2 minute video
  4. authentiSci Chrome extension
  5. Live on stage presentation

Income insurance for millennials

Alumni Stories.


Affordable, Digital and Instant Income Insurance


After finding the process of buying or claiming on insurance incredibly frustrating, Reza Hekmat (Actuarial Science, 2014) felt it was time to bring the system into the digital-age, so it no longer took weeks to complete! With Spring now fully set up, the team have been able to reduce prices, make income insurance affordable, digital and instant, where customers can buy income insurance straight from their phones and in just minutes.

Find out more about Reza here:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I studied at City for four years from 2010 to 2014 and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I usually talk about my first year at university as one of the best years of my life. I was at the old Finsbury Halls student accommodations in my first year, which I believe were completely renovated immediately afterward. So, we were the last set of students living in those iconic accommodations. Huge floors with, if I recall correctly, about 20 rooms on each floor. Old and worn out at the time, but I met some of my best friends there and had the best year of my life.

I studied Actuarial Science at the Business School, which gave me a brilliant foundation and opportunities for the rest of my career.

In the academic year 2012-13, I took a placement year and worked at an insurance company called Friends Life (now Aviva) in Bristol. This also gave a huge boost to my experience and career, which I should thank City’s Career Services team for helping set up. I still recommend to everyone to try and get a placement year during their university studies.

What happened after you graduated?

I was fortunate enough to get an actuarial job straight out of university. After finishing my exams, I started working at Vitality, as an actuarial analyst. I worked in the product and pricing team which allowed me to work on some great products alongside brilliant people from across the insurance industry. An experience that is proving to be very valuable now.

I worked at Vitality for five years, qualifying as an Actuary in 2017. I left Vitality in 2019 to work on Spring. Spring is a new provider of insurance, offering affordable, digital, and instant income insurance to millennials.

How did the idea of Spring come about?

We have seen and experienced first-hand, the frustrations that customers go through when buying or claiming for insurance. It was almost impossible to buy income insurance online. It usually involved lengthy phone conversations or filling long forms. In the era of one-click purchases, this really frustrated us.

That’s when we decided to set up Spring. At Spring we have created a simple and fully digital journey, where customers can buy and claim for insurance online and in minutes. Also, by cutting out the “middle-man”, manual forms and phone calls, we have managed to reduce the prices and make income insurance affordable.

What have been the biggest challenges?

Starting the company from scratch meant that our biggest challenge was always going to be capital and finding investment. It took us many months, countless coffees, and numerous meetings to find the right investors for our business.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Learning new skills. Soon after we started Spring, I realised how much more there is for me to learn. I spent the majority of my first few months learning about different aspects of running a business and learning new skills. From programming and compliance, to marketing and even video editing.

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

I’m still at the beginning of my journey and so may not be best placed to advise anyone. But what I have come to learn is that knowledge and contacts are the two most important assets that anyone can have. I suggest to anyone who wants to start a business or make progress in their career, to learn as many new skills as they can, even if it seems irrelevant to their job at the time, and to make as many connections as possible with the right people.

And to finish off, do you have any other words of wisdom?

Recent events have had an impact on all of our lives and the way we live it. It has made us more aware of our responsibilities towards our hygiene, the environment, and our finances.

And now is the time for us all to take a hard look at the way we conduct ourselves in relation to these and take more responsibility to manage them.

Now that life seems to be returning back to normal, or a new normal, I hope everyone stays safe and look towards the future with enthusiasm and realise that we all have the power to make a difference

Thank you Reza for sharing your success with us! Follow the team on their website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

‘Books for Children That Adults Like Reading’

Alumni Stories.

We Love the NHS book cover

At the height of the pandemic, Thursday evenings became an opportunity for the nation to express its gratitude for the NHS. But when it became apparent that her own children were not entirely sure what they were clapping for, Ellie Levenson (Journalism, 2001) decided a book was needed. Here she talks about life at City, how she became a children’s author and her new book for under 8s; “We Love the NHS”.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I loved living in London – I shared a flat in Tottenham with a friend from my first degree at Manchester University – and we really made the most of it, going out most nights either with friends or to cultural events. The journalism department had loads of talks from big name journalists and I went to every single one, and at the time the postgraduate courses were small enough that you knew everyone and all socialised together after the talks. Also one of my good friends worked round the corner at Amnesty International which seemed hugely glamorous and we would meet for lunch on Exmouth Market or for after work drinks. Shorthand wasn’t compulsory for those of us on the periodicals course but I chose to do it anyway which meant getting to College for 9am every day so in many respects it was like having a job rather than being a student, and the City name opened doors so there was a steady stream of internships, or work experience placements as we called them then, all unpaid, so many of us worked bar jobs as well. We must have been exhausted but I don’t remember it as such.

What happened after you graduated?

I got a job immediately on a Business to Business publication called The Lawyer. I hated it and also had just split up with my boyfriend who I had met at City, so I applied for a competition in The Guardian called Netjetters. I won the competition and got to travel around the world business class for four months with a weekly column for The Guardian online. This was just at the beginning of interactive journalism, and readers sent in suggestions for what to do in each place and I was expected to engage with this and report back – this was pretty novel then as it was pre-social media.

When I got back, I got a job at the Fabian Society, a Labour Party affiliated think tank, working on their magazine and publications. I loved it – again, a bit like City, we worked hard and played hard, and spent every evening at political events networking and soaking up the atmosphere of the Westminster Bubble. But we were paid a pittance and after two years I left to become a press officer for a charity. This wasn’t me at all and after six months I left with the intention of going freelance, working in a bar if I had to, but I got lucky and applied for a part-time job teaching journalism at Goldsmiths College. I have been there for 15 years now, freelancing part-time for national newspapers and consumer magazines and teaching part-time. Since having children, I have reduced my teaching hours and also changed the focus of my freelancing. I no longer have time to write same day opinion pieces and fast turnaround features, so I have longer term deadlines instead and write books, for adults as Ellie Levenson and for children as Eleanor Levenson. I specialise in making political issues accessible for all audiences, including children, and my most successful children’s books have done just this, first with The Election in 2015, which explained voting and democracy to under 8s, and now with We Love the NHS which explains our health service to the same age group.

How did you become a children’s author?

I started writing children’s books when I had my own children and read some amazing ones and some less good ones, which made me think ‘I can do better than this’. As with journalism, success came with dogged persistence and following leads. I sent many pitches to many publishers and the moment one showed a bit of interest, I pursued them until it became a firm commission. I then set up my own publishers when no existing publisher wanted to publish The Election, which was a great decision as it went on to become a bestseller. My company, Fisherton Press, also publishes work by other authors – our tag line is ‘Books for children that adults like reading’.

We Love the NHS, my most recent book, specifically came about when after a few weeks of enthusiastically clapping for the NHS with my children, now aged 4, 7 and 9, I thought to ask them how much they knew about what it was we were clapping for and it quickly became apparent that a book was needed! It has the same amazing illustrator as The Election, Marek Jagucki, and is also aimed at under 8s.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

I love it when schools invite me in to speak to children about my books and being a writer and it is as if you see the lightbulbs go on above the kids’ heads when they realise a writer can be a normal person speaking to them in a normal way and that it is something they could also do.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to setting up your own publishers?

Whether to publish each project through Fisherton Press, my company, or seek a bigger publisher with a bigger budget is always a quandary, although I am a control freak so often prefer the opportunity to be in charge that I get from Fisherton Press. Being so small also means no clunky meetings spread out over weeks and months which meant we could get We Love the NHS from conception to completion in ten weeks.

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

When I was at City, my flatmate gave me great advice when I was talking about the kind of career I wanted – which was writing half the time and working in education half the time. ‘Just because no one else does it, doesn’t mean you can’t,’ she said. In fact, other people do also do it, but I hadn’t met any at the time, and it is exactly what I have ended up doing. So I guess that translates to not being afraid to forge your own path. Also, my parents always gave me the age-old advice of be polite, meet deadlines and fulfil the brief and I think that is what nearly all successful people actually have in common.


We Love the NHS is available to purchase via and

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.


Executive Editor of Business Insider Spriha Srivastava (International Journalism, 2009) gives City students the ‘Inside’ scoop.

Alumni Stories.

Spriha Srivastava (International Journalism, 2009), current Executive Editor of Business Insider, recounts her time at City, her role in the University newsroom, working towards deadlines and the lessons she learned that have stayed with her to this day. She inspired our journalism students with her journey and experiences; going from a City student to the Executive Editor of Business Insider,

Speaking to the students about my journey since I graduated from City University took me back to the Northampton Square campus. I remember how we used to look forward to these guest lectures in order to get an insight into the real world of journalism. And so I tried my best to use real-life examples during my lecture in order to help the students understand the challenges and the fun of being a journalist.”    

In these challenging times, learning about Spriha’s career is an invaluable experience for our graduating students; to help them understand the job market they will be facing.

James Rodgers, Reader in International Journalism, (who chaired Spriha’s discussion with students) said,    

“We were delighted to welcome Spriha back to City—even if it was on Zoom this time. The student feedback was really positive. Spriha’s willingness to talk to students even when it is such a busy time for senior editors like her really shows the value of our alumni network.”

As the world has changed drastically in a very short time, Spriha discussed the challenges the current pandemic imposes on journalists,

We live in unprecedented times and the coronavirus pandemic has placed special responsibility on the journalists. We are the carrier of news but before we publish something, we have to be able to understand it ourselves so we don’t mislead our readers.”  

Spriha’s secret behind her successful career is something that is easy to adapt to yourself – hard work and determination:

Being a journalist is a constant work-in-progress. I constantly find myself learning new things. I studied politics and international relations but ended up being a financial journalist. It wasn’t easy but I spent a lot of time reading financial market books, WSJ, FT and others that helped me understand basic concepts that drive the market.”


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!

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!





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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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