University of Brighton Alumni Association

Picture of Natasha Baker

Benefitting from applying learnings from degree and placement to real-world scenarios

Marketing (Branding & Communications) graduate Natasha Baker tells us how the things she learnt during her course and placement set her up for a career working with some of the biggest brand names including Christian Dior and Renault.

Despite having a disrupted learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some personal difficulties whilst at the university, Natasha showed great resilience and determination to finish her degree and land her dream job – a true ambassador of the Brighton Effect.

Now working for FarFetch, she tells us about some of the support she received during difficult times but also about how both practical, theoretical and critical thinking elements from her degree have directly applied the work she is doing now.

University life during a pandemic

“Even though I studied through the restrictions of the pandemic, the teaching standard at the University of Brighton was fantastic online. I also completed a placement year during my time at Brighton, doing marketing for Renault UK. I believe this, as well as the broadening of my knowledge and critical thinking skills, has prepared me well for my professional life.

“One of my favourite modules was interactive, using a real independent toy shop business in Brighton. Doing this team project was a great way to meet friends during the pandemic and we have stayed friends beyond the end of the course. I believe it was the nature of the project and the lecturer (Dr Rodrigo Lucena) that made it so enjoyable.”

Critical thinking and digital skills learnt at Brighton

“I think most corporate positions now require a certain level of technical and digital competence. Even if you haven’t used a specific program, building general technological understanding and adaptability is a really important skill that comes with exposure to different platforms and tools. Developing Microsoft Office skills (PowerPoint, Excel, etc) was really helpful during my course at Brighton, as I have to record, extrapolate and present data on a weekly basis in my current role. Using portals, referencing sites and even building CVs and personal profiles are all things I’ve carried forward into work.

“One of the things I found most valuable about my course at Brighton was the way I developed an understanding of the social, economic and political environment around me and how it applied that to the various topics we were learning about. I always used this critical thinking and analysis lens in my work.

“We also did a live task for the council housing department of British Gas, which was a presentation that we delivered back to the client. This of course raised various macro-social, political and economic issues that would need to be considered in a real life analysis. I’ve found it’s important to have both a macro and micro view when advising business strategy and take both into account when analysing performance.”

How the placement came about and benefits of careers advice

“The placement was offered to us during the welcome week and presented as an opportunity to add some solid experience to our CV’s at the end of the masters course. I also used the placement teams’ career service, which was helpful for any further tips on professional profiles and CVs. 

“I applied for about ten placements through Careers Connect, which has exclusive placements from some major companies.  Renault Group was the placement I chose, based on their enthusiasm having received an offer from them the same day as the final stage interview.”

Why are placements important for students?

“The placement allowed me to become comfortable with a corporate environment – emails, Microsoft Teams, building professional relationships and learning office etiquette. More specifically though, I learned many skills that have been relevant throughout my career so far, such as liaising with internal and external stakeholders, using technological programs, invoicing and budgeting, copywriting and everything CRM [Customer Relationship Management]! This placement set me up to work at some fantastic companies. 

“Until I got to masters level, I wanted to rush through my studies so I could get out into the world of work as quickly as possible. However, experience is just as important as qualifications in the current market, and it will set students apart from their peers. Building experience to put on your CV wherever you can is so beneficial and the work placement year is a solid asset that will highlight a candidate’s proactivity in developing their career.”

Self-resilience during difficult times and emotional support the university provided

“Unfortunately, during my placement year at Brighton, my mother passed away very suddenly. I feel proud that I found the motivation to finish my dissertation and get a first during such a difficult time and then to go on to land my first job at a company like Dior.

“The university was really supportive during the loss of my mum. Viriginia from the placement team was particularly kind and helped me feel I could continue with my studies and writing my final dissertation.

“I think having the stability of the placement also helped me through this difficult time, knowing that I had the option to stay on at the company or use the experience I’d gained to move on to a permanent role. I’m very grateful for my time at Brighton.”

Her marketing career so far

“Since graduating from Brighton university, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in some fantastic roles within the fashion industry. I completed a placement year during my masters degree at Renault UK (car company) in the marketing department and from that experience, I went on to work for Christian Dior and now work at Farfetch. 

“My most recent role is a Customer Relationship Management Assistant, which is a type of system/marketing focused on brand communications through print, email and push notifications to the company database.”

Defining success and advice for current students

“Success is measured by fulfilment, in my opinion. There are many factors that contribute to feeling fulfilled and they are unique to each person. Taking the time to reflect inwards and work out the driving force behind our motivations is important. My success is measured by feelings of stability, happiness and peace, as well as the goals I’ve set myself in the corporate world.

“My advice to current students would be to value every experience you have as it’s shaping you into the person you need to be to follow your path. Every thing you do is a teaching moment and being a well rounded, good person is just as important as climbing a corporate ladder.”

Alumnibrandingbrighton effectChristian DiorcommunicationsFarFetchgraduatemarketingRenaultUniversity of Brighton

Alex Petrovic • March 7, 2024

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