Charlotte Green (née Cook, Robinson 2008) tells us her alumni story:
"Your time at Cambridge opens up so many doors, and sometimes the least obvious doors can lead down the most exciting of paths."
My earliest memory of my time at Cambridge stems back to my interview and examination day at Robinson College. I was so nervous that I almost couldn’t bear the thought of walking up the ramp and through the gates of the College into the red-brick world within. Thankfully, I also remember the feeling I had, that combination of excitement and trepidation, when the offer popped through the letter box at home.
In the first term, I felt horribly out of my depth at times. I know now that it’s a common feeling that students at Cambridge coming in from state schools have. It’s a sort of ingrained inferiority complex that in reality has far more to do with false perceptions and irrational fears than any real problem or bias at Cambridge. During my first year, I gradually stopped worrying about how my contributions in supervisions compared to those of my peers.
As my third and final year got underway, my thoughts turned to what I wanted to do after graduation. I knew I wanted to do something that focused on elements of content and the written word, but I was cautious about pursuing a career in print journalism. Instead, I started working as a freelance copywriter to get some experience for my CV, creating content on such exciting topics as electricity and petrol prices!
From Cambridge to Leeds, via Madagascar
I decided to go abroad for the summer after graduation, choosing to volunteer as an English teacher in Madagascar. It was a real eye-opener of an experience, and one which made me seriously value life back in England. After getting back home to Surrey, I decided to move temporarily up to Leeds, where my then-boyfriend, now-husband was finishing his four-year politics degree. My plan was to carry on copywriting and editing on a freelance basis, whilst later in the year applying for full-time jobs and graduate schemes.
A few months after moving to Leeds, my plans changed out of the blue. I received a phone call from a content company based in the city called ICS (Independent Content Services). They were looking to build the digital marketing arm of their operation after increased demand from clients and wanted to meet me for a chat. I popped into their offices the next day and, after a really interesting conversation, I acted quickly, cancelling a holiday I had planned for that same month and spending my evenings reading up on the digital marketing industry. I knew that if I was going to get started in this fast-paced industry, I wanted to jump in with both feet and do it properly.
Exploring new routes in the digital world
I knew straightaway that I had a real interest in this industry; I liked how it combined the written word with 'real life' application to the digital world. By comparison, the print journalism route I’d previously considered seemed like it was lost to a bygone era. I also enjoyed helping to carve a route for the company through new services and new technologies evolving all the time in the digital sphere.
When the time came in summer 2009 to consider moving back down south, I couldn’t move away from the opportunity that seemed to be in front of me. The digital arm of ICS became its own company, ICS-digital, in late 2009. We grew from having a single client in our first year of business, with modest revenues and no full-time staff, to having 10 clients and more than 10 times the revenue three years later. Since that point, we’ve continued to grow, pulling in more and more clients, ranging from household names to local businesses, to brands operating in and taking services from us in over 16 languages.
The path less trodden
My initial decision to pursue this opportunity was a little daunting, especially since I’m not the world’s most natural risk-taker! Almost all of the people I knew from my time at Cambridge had moved to London, either to pursue subsequent degrees, start on graduate schemes or join multi-national companies with headquarters in the capital. Before I started at ICS-digital, I assumed I would follow a similar path after my stint in Leeds. I trusted my instincts though and I’ve never once looked back. I know that I would much rather be part of something I’m personally invested in and can feel proud of every day I step through the office door.
I may not have moved into a traditional role overtly linked to my degree, but the transferable skills I developed during my time studying have proved invaluable to me on a daily basis, from multi-tasking to working as a team. I would urge all current undergraduates to consider the path less trodden when thinking about future career options. When the likes of Deloitte and Barclays come to career days at Cambridge, it can seem like those options are the most obvious to pursue and these choices can, of course, prove to be hugely lucrative opportunities. Remember though, that your time at Cambridge opens up so many doors and sometimes the least obvious doors can lead down the most exciting of paths.
Charlotte has a BA (Hons) in English Literature and attended Robinson College. She is one of the directors of ICS-digital, a digital marketing agency based in Leeds and specialising in international services.