Alumni profile - Zoe Stewart

Computer Science with a year in industry

I started in a support role at HP, then a technical role at Sun, and am now working as a Service Delivery Manager for Mars (as in chocolate). I run an outsourced team in India and am responsible for the running of various services in the factory and office.

The most useful skills I had were not technical ones. I found coursework to be far more like ‘real life’ than exams. Specifically I remember a course on Project Management where we had the opportunity to get the soft skills necessary to work in teams and to present – today everyone applying for the same jobs as you also has a degree so having the soft skills necessary for the job really shines through.

The most useful things I gained from Computer Science were those with a real-world application, like project management, group projects, coursework, and presentations. They’re all vital things for an employer which aren’t necessarily part of the course, so you have to look out for opportunities to learn the skills.

Take anything you can find which is in addition to your degree course. Employers look at your degree but what will set you apart from the others they are interviewing are your other skills: people skills, management skills, financial skills… there are so many opportunities at university to gain them but a lot of people miss out.

Don’t limit yourself to the university – York is a vibrant city with many opportunities to join clubs or volunteer. Personally I was involved with the tennis club and also did a placement for my third year, both of which were good opportunities to show enthusiasm.

Advice I would give:  If you’ve got an interview, the job is yours to lose. Don’t be afraid to change your mind if you decide what you’re doing is not for you. Your first job may not be what you thought it would be; you may change your passion; as you find out more about your chosen industry, you might find career paths that you’d never thought of. You may decide that you want to leave it all in and travel around the world. There’s no wrong answer, you just haven’t found the right one for you yet.

Be confident and realise that not knowing the answer to a question is perfectly acceptable. Knowing your limits is just as important as knowing your abilities, and employers will recognize that good candidates are the ones that are most self-aware.