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The University of Bath alumni blog

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Getting Connected in Hong Kong

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📥  Get Connected, International, Uncategorized

Alumni panel - Get Connected Hong Kong

Alumni panel - Get Connected Hong Kong

This was a week of firsts, from my first landing at Hong Kong Airport in a Level 8 typhoon to my first Thai iced tea (somewhere between an iced coffee and pumpkin juice).

The purpose of this trip was to bring a new offering to our graduates living and working here. My mission? To deliver Hong Kong’s first ever Get Connected event. From Bath to London to New York, we have had great success with these alumni networking evenings, but now it was time to look even further.

With some 1500 Bath alumni living and working in the city, we have a wonderfully strong and enthusiastic community here in Hong Kong with a great breadth of experience and sector knowledge. Despite being some 6,000 miles from Bath, there is a real sense of family amongst out graduates here and this is what it’s all about. The Get Connected events are about making the network ‘work’; utilising the alumni ‘family’ to learn and get ahead and I was really excited to help them do this.

So on Tuesday, with the Typhoon disappearing north and the normal humidity returning to the air, I head over to Exchange Square, the illustrious home of the city’s Stock Exchange, where we are lucky enough to be using the auditorium for our panel discussion. As guests and alumni panel members start to arrive I’m told by many that being allowed inside this building is an experience in itself, adding a great buzz to the atmosphere! This alone goes to shows the power of the Bath community, having been offered this amazing venue by one of our Honorary Graduates in Hong Kong, Sir CK Chow.

The panel seated on the stage is made up of five graduates, all of whom are incredibly successful in their respective fields. Each was kind enough to give up their evening to share their professional experiences and insights and they didn’t disappoint. With 40 eager faces in the crowd we kicked off the discussion, hearing from each panellist in turn as they imparted the best and, indeed, worst points of their careers and their sound advice for starting out and progressing in the world of work.

The audience was a great mix of graduates from across the years (including a 1970’s engineer!) and I was really pleased to see a number of our third year placement students in the crowd as well. Questions from the floor were plentiful and judging by the unwillingness of people to go home, I think it’s fair to say that a huge amount was gained by all.

In true Hong Kong style, business cards were swapping hands left right and centre, then it was back out into the bustling metropolis to fight off the humidity on the journey home. I have a feeling that this Get Connected Hong Kong will be the first of many.

This event wouldn’t have been possible without the help and enthusiasm of Chapter President, Vivian Ching,

Get Connected Hong Kong

Get Connected Hong Kong

and our fantastic Chapter Committee and, of course, our panel members: Mickey Ko, Martin Cerullo, Andy Li and Susan Khua.  I’d like to thank them all again for their support.


From Claverton Down to Silicon Valley

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📥  Uncategorized

Alumnus Amit Kothari is the CEO of a business process automation software startup called Tallyfy. This is a story of how he got there, starting with his wonderful years at University of Bath.

Life as a student

My start at the University of Bath – in the year 2000, was ridiculously mad and exciting.

I missed the entire dot-com-boom-and-bust. Social networks were huge at the time, and I hadn’t even heard of business process automation. I had wonderful housemates – we lived in Eastwood 44 on campus – which must have changed a lot now.

Freshers week was a blur, and all I remember is destroying a perfectly good bowtie and tuxedo in that first week, and 'Game On' nights on campus. It was truly awash with glittering eyes that (like me) - realised “I’m at university now!”

One of my housemates set up the kickboxing club as a university society, and despite my frame, I joined. I set up the creative writing society. Let’s say the two didn’t really mix. That’s when I got my first taste of “setting my own thing up.”

People don’t realise, but it only takes a bit of personal pride in something you created which other people also want to be part of, to smell the coffee and go on adventures that can lead anywhere. A university society is one of those things.

The societies that were more fun to talk about went on big benders in the beginning. The picture below is from an “initiation” in 2001 for the kickboxing club.

Personal photo shared by Amit Kothari, taken in 2001. Amit is the one with a white and yellow jacket on, he is on the far left with his back to the camera

Personal photo shared by Amit Kothari, taken in 2001

I really feel for the non-university residents of Bath - they had to put up with our madness and energy. It often ended up at The Huntsman, which if I remember - was open late. Or some club - wandering around and crashing into mirrors. Then clambering into whatever vehicle looked orange and large - back up that hill and into bed. Daytime was no better. I hope nobody is still putting washing-up liquid into the fountain at Laura Place?!

All this aside (which is more a rite-of-passage I guess!) - I had an absolutely tremendous time at Bath. I took a year off in my degree - and eventually made it to the Abbey for graduation, a proud moment. I’ll be honest and tell you that I felt very uncertain at graduation. The “structure” of the past was being left behind - with the Big Wild West ahead.

Life after Bath: Workflows and Process Automation

What ensued over the next 15 years was a life worth living (at work) - and it kept me glued to a mission of growing and scaling my own business in the area of workflow management and process automation.

I spent my first two years after graduation at a large consultancy firm. I realised quickly that what people called a “career” in some firms is really just a lock-in to maximise revenue from selling young people at a large daily rate and then slowly increasing their salaries to make them feel like they’re making progress.

I guess I was trying to fit into a hole that wasn’t for me - but I wasn’t cynical. I have progressed from being a rebel-without-a-cause to a balding 35 year old who knows when to feel, when to think and when to act. In my focus area - business process automation - experience is mandatory.

I didn’t enjoy shuttling around various hotels and cities doing anonymous things I didn’t really care about. I left that first role, and then joined a very small firm in London that was thinking about the future of collaboration software in large companies. Facebook was just taking off in general in the consumer world, so this was fairly cutting edge.

I was there for six years, and it was awesome. I learned a lot, and met some of the edgiest minds in collaboration and workflow automation. I launched my first startup, which failed. I learned one specific thing - don’t change a formula that’s already working just because “it might scale.” Get in touch if you’d like details.

My second startup also failed, but I really put myself on the line on that one. I learned about product/market fit and moved up the learning curve.

Startup Success with Business Process Automation

In 2014, my wife and I pitched an idea to Startup Chile - which funds any scalable idea with equity-free grants. The catch? You have to move to beautiful Santiago, Chile for at least six months. My wife and I left London, but there was still no company. Tallyfy had not yet been born.

After some experimentation, we realised that some large forces were at play that we could easily ride for natural momentum in Tallyfy:

  • Businesses can only scale through repeatable workflows. Such repeatable workflows are not the same as a project, or a to-do - which are one-off (not repeatable).
  • A repeatable workflow is mostly locked into a document or flowchart - you can’t track it, it’s hard to improve and nobody follows it. You especially can’t look at a flowchart on a phone - the screen’s too small.
  • You can’t improve a process unless you’re tracking it - because you have no data on who does what, how, when and how long it takes. You also can’t automate a process unless you track it.
  • The existing BPM/Business Process Management market is worth billions, but only sells to IT people - because ordinary business folk can’t make any sense of it.
  • If we could automate workflows and make business processes easy enough for anyone to create and track on the cloud, we could not only conquer new markets - but we could disrupt existing ones.
  • About five years ago, you had to be a coder to write integrations between apps. Nowadays, services let you create point-and-click integrations with no tech know-how. This means we don’t need to spend money building integrations.
  • People are just googling what they want and using apps. Nobody is asking IT anymore.
  • Customer-facing workflows are a massive opportunity to improve customer and client relationships - and yet nothing easy exists to help professional services firms with that.

After all the above - we pitched and won a $50k grant through Arch Grants in St. Louis, Missouri. We stayed within our mission - making business process automation easy. However, it took 6 months to get a US E2 work visa with their help. It was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me, hands-down. I’ve grown to love St. Louis and the US too.

In the last 15 months, I’ve gone through 500 Startups and Alchemist Accelerator - two of the top accelerators in the world - and I’ve probably pitched 150 angel investors and VC’s in Silicon Valley. We’ve raised around $1m in total funding, and we aim to stay in St. Louis.

Amit Kothari pitching at 500 Startups Demo day at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley

Amit Kothari pitching at 500 Startups Demo day at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is interesting. It’s expensive, everyone has a poker face - but mostly - there’s some really awesome people. I tried to oppose the opinion that everyone feels like you have to move there if you want to be successful, smart and clever. You don’t.

I’ve learned that you really shouldn’t try to raise money in Silicon Valley (as an outsider) until you’ve got your business well off the ground and can show solid traction with a repeatable sales or growth model. I hope that advice helps a Bath alumni!

Anyway - Tallyfy is not going to end. It just began! If you run a business and are interested in automating your business processes - give it a try.

How a Computer Science degree at Bath equipped me for success in the process management industry

We learned hard principles in our degree around multi-agent systems, fundamental principles in algorithms and algebra enabled me to appreciate whatever came next. Part of the challenge with business process automation is fundamental problems in integration, data modelling and data cleansing/mapping between systems.

The hot topic at present is deep learning and recurrent neural networks. We want to use them to predict workflow delays and failures before they occur. We are exploring deep learning at Tallyfy - which would be impossible to really understand - without my degree from Bath.

Personal photo in Bath - Amit Kothari, 2012

Personal photo in Bath - Amit Kothari, 2012, graduated from Bath with a Computer Science (BSc) degree in 2004


University Council: update from your alumni rep

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Christine_GibbonsChristine Gibbons (BPharm Pharmacy 1978) is the Convocation Representative to University Council, elected by the alumni community to represent graduates. She’s kindly agreed to blog for us – here’s her first bulletin from the Council meeting in May 2017.

May's Council meeting covered a range of topics.

League Table success

I was delighted to hear how well our university is performing in the League Tables.

We have been ranked 5th in the Guardian University Guide (up from 10th last year). Subjects in the top 10 include Psychology, Architecture, Business & Management Studies, Social Policy, all engineering subjects, Sociology, Sports Science, Social Work and Economics.

We’re 11th out of 129 UK universities in the Complete University Guide 2018, and we remain the top ranked university in South West. Bath also performed well again in the subject tables, with 19 of its disciplines ranked in the top 10 in the UK.

According to the QS World University rankings, six of our subjects are in the world’s top 100 – Architecture and the Built Environment, Pharmacy & Pharmacology, Social Policy, Business & Management Studies, Development Studies and sports-related subjects.

It fills me with immense pride to see the great strides Bath continues to make, at home and overseas. I hope you share this feeling too!

New University buildings

Those of you who, like me, returned to Bath in May for the brilliant University Festival and 50th Reunion, will undoubtedly have spotted the many cranes and diggers dotted around campus.

Along with ongoing construction work for the Milner Centre for Evolution, foundations are being dug for the new Polden Residences (our purpose built postgraduate accommodation). The University is also upgrading other accommodation blocks to ensure students continue to enjoy a high standard of accommodation.

Architects have also been chosen to design the new School of Management building, at the East end of campus….exciting times ahead!

And beyond campus, for those of you who remember the police station in Manvers Street, it’s now reopened as the Virgil Building. Purchased by the University and refurbished to provide excellent study facilities for students, it’s very impressive and is already well used, as I saw when I visited.

The Higher Education and Research bill

This became an Act in April 2017, which will mean changes to regulation and funding.

There will be a new regulator and funding council for universities – the Office for Students (OfS). This will have statutory responsibility for quality and standards, approving new entrants to the sector and also awarding university title and degrees.

The OfS will make arrangements for assessing the quality of teaching through the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and, after 2020, tuition fees may be linked to results in TEF.

Universities will be required to publish information on the fairness of their admissions and also information that could be considered ‘helpful to international students’. OfS will also have powers in relation to monitoring the financial sustainability of providers.

The seven research councils, Innovate UK and the research functions of HEFCE will be brought under UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). A new body, Research England, will be responsible for quality-related research funding.

And finally…

The University has made a significant addition to its senior management team by appointing our Dean of the School of Management, Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, as Vice-President.

Professor Hope-Hailey will have responsibility for championing and enhancing the University’s engagement with large scale organisations and corporations, both private and public. She will focus on identifying and creating opportunities to deepen our existing relationships and develop new partnerships nationally and internationally.


BA2 - Bath Uncut - the full interviews

📥  BA2, Uncategorized

For our 50th birthday edition of BA2 magazine, we interviewed former student journalists from across the decades about their experiences writing for and editing our University newspapers. Here are their full interviews:

Tony Kerpel MBE (BSc Sociology 1968)

1. Why do you think student newspapers are important?
In the case of Bath the student newspaper was of particular importance because of a) the geographically split site nature of the college and b) the placement/sandwich nature of degrees which meant that at any one time a large proportion of the student body was not on campus but scattered around the UK. So the student newspaper provided a means of establishing a Bath student identity by transmitting information and also reflecting student opinion back to the authorities.

2. You came across as being a very single-minded editor! What motivated you to do the job?
I entered my degree with the sole intention of entering the BBC as a radio news and current affairs producer. So contributing to the student newspaper was a method of developing relevant journalistic skills.

3. How much work was involved in putting the newspaper together?
It was always a collaborative effort with friends. But when copy was in short supply I have to say that I would bash out up to 25% of the content myself on my portable Hermes typewriter. That is why the paper often contained more opinion than news!

4. What were you most proud of in your time as editor?
I don't do pride. But I am pleased that we championed free speech for all shades of opinion ( Enoch Powell came to speak in November 1968 ), and also helped create an atmosphere of constructive student engagement with the university authorities. We also developed good relations with The Bath Evening Chronicle and through that with the city. That was very important in the early days of town-gown relationships being developed.

5. Did what you publish ever change anything at the University?
You need to recall that Bath University was being created while I was there. There were no traditions, no proper student facilities, and so to a great extent we could work with the Vice Chancellor to create the basis for future generations. Through the newspaper we articulated student demands for both facilities to be built and representative structures/committees through which the student voice could be effective.

6. Is there anything you regret publishing?
Not that I can recall although I'm open to having my memory jogged.

7. Some of the stories published were quite close to the mark! Did you ever get in trouble? Were ever asked to pull a story?
Yes. In the interests of fearless expose journalism I visited a Soho stripclub and wrote an unexpurgated account of the delights on show. Our printers refused to publish this article on the grounds of obscenity. So we went ahead with our own version rolled out on a duplicating machine and inserted this loose leaf article into SUL. It caused both offence and amusement. How ironic that four years later I joined the British Board of Film Censors as its youngest film examiner!

8. How important was it at the time to push the boundaries?
This was the 1960s after all. So pushing boundaries was part of the zeitgeist.

9. What was the dominant issue of the day when you were writing for SUL?
This was the time of student revolt and many campuses were experiencing serious disruption over the issue of student representation in the running of universities. In the case of Bath the then Vice-Chancellor, George Moore, was surprisingly open minded about granting a limited degree of student representation on university committees thereby defusing the sort of resentment and protest one saw at other universities.

10. How much of a role did your political views play when you were editor?
None at all. I was completely non party political.

11. If you read one of your editorials today, would you recognise yourself in the writing?

12. What would your advice be to anyone thinking about getting involved in student publishing?
Do it, but always with the aim of making a public service contribution to the wellbeing of your fellow students.

Nick Savage (BSc Sociology 1971)

1. Why do you think student newspapers are important?
A student newspaper in the context of the 1967 to 1971 period ( a new campus location, new univ., no radio station, no TV station, pre-web) .... very important. The only other undergraduate channel for comms was the student noticeboard and screen-printed posters. In the context of 2016 - probably not important - how often do you see an 18-year old student with a paid-for print newspaper ?

2. How much freedom did you have? 
Editors had a lot of freedom. At the direct level, the Bath Students Union Finance Committee held the purse strings, but did not try and influence. However, we ran 'SUL' on a responsible journalism basis, according to what we imagined were Fleet Street principles, so aimed to be serious about news, verifying sources etc. University authorities expressed displeasure occasionally, but the academic commitment to freedom of speech was pretty strong then. We were pretty impervious to pressure anyway.

3. How much work was involved in putting the newspaper together?
The technology involved was so different then : the amount of work required was substantial with a fortnightly print deadline - probably 4 or 5 days cumulatively out of every 10 days. The joint editors carried a lot of the workload. A life-size layout had to be done, marked up the way the printers wanted it : copy was type-written and then had to be set in letterpress type fonts at the printers, pictures had to be sourced hard copy, and photographic printers blocks manufactured.

4. What were you most proud of in your time as editor?
I was proudest of the fact that the paper made it to the students' hands every fortnight on-time, and that students paid cover-price money for it : a source of wonder and astonishment at the time to me. Aside from that, the satirical pieces that Keith and I collaborated on for the spoof gossip column, 'Mortimer Honey', originated by a previous Editor, Tony Kerpel.

5. Did what you publish ever change anything at the University?
Did we try to change things ? Yes. Did we actually change anything ? No.

6. Is there anything you regret publishing?
Any regrets ? Yes, a particularly florid and grossly over-written Editorial I wrote early in the Editorship which I cannot now contemplate without a severe cringe of embarassment. See also Q.11.

7. Some of the stories published were quite close to the mark! Did you ever get in trouble? Were ever asked to pull a story?
I cannot recall ever being asked to pull a story, and I don't recall getting into trouble, though we were pretty thick-skinned then.

8. How important was it at the time to push the boundaries?
The journalistic principle is to reveal facts that other people want to conceal. We drove the paper on that basis. I can't say we thought about pushing any boundaries even if it appeared so in hindsight.

9. What was the dominant issue of the day when you were writing for SUL?
The dominant issue was the build-up of a New University on a new campus (i.e. opening a wondrous University Library building, which had a tiny number of books - the consequence of two separate & disconnected sources of funding - Construction Budget and Facilities Budget). Student politics and the wider controversies of student revolution in 1968 proved to have little connection with a wildly technocratic Univ of Technology.

10. How much of a role did your political views play when you were editor?
I was never conscious of my own political views (such as they were) having any influence on what I wrote.

11. If you read one of your editorials today, would you recognise yourself in the writing?
Most unfortunately, yes. See answer to Q6. In fairness, that was one of the first things I had ever written for print, and I did manage to improve my writing style as I went along.

12. What would your advice be to anyone thinking about getting involved in student publishing?
I'm sure that I would not be thinking about a printed-paper medium at Bath University today. My advice would be : while you are there, step back and look for the larger issues - is it quality and personal impact of the lecturing ? am I getting value for the fees I pay and the cost of my 3 or 4 years ? is there a connection between the way the University administration makes decisions and what the student population wants ? In other words, get stuck in and make sure at the same time that you learn how to communicate in a language that everyone can understand.

Nick was editor along with Keith Cameron (BSc Sociology 1971)

Sue Ryan (BSc Sociology 1972)

1. Why do you think student newspapers are important?
They are a necessary tool for providing information and provoking debate on campus. But they are also essential as the first step for a career in newspapers. Nearly every journalist started out on a student paper. I recruit graduates to become trainee journalists interviewing over 100 every year and if it's not on the CV I want to know why.

2. How much freedom did you have as editor?
Complete freedom - though I fear I failed to take advantage of that.

3. How much work was involved in putting the newspaper together?
It was a team effort and we all worked hard but university papers were not as strong then as now and while we all wrote pieces there was a not a lot of digging going on, so there was a not a lot of burning the midnight oil.

4. What were you most proud of in your time as editor/writer?
I seem to remember that getting it out on time, with enough advertising to pay the printers, was always the main achievement. I have written so many thousand words since then so I am afraid most of what I wrote or commissioned is lost in the mists of time.

5. Did your work ever change anything at the University?
I think we may have contributed to ending the University beauty queen contest. Yes really, universities had them.

6. Is there anything you regret publishing?
I do remember using the whole of the front page for a colour picture of Che Guevara. I have no idea why. It looked very striking but we didn’t even try to write copy to justify it. Its not what we published that I regret but what we didn’t publish. Students were centre stage on the public arena. Tariq Ali, Grosvenor Square riots, Enoch Powell were headline news and I don’t think we really engaged. What a golden period to be a student editor, and what a missed opportunity.

7. Some of the stories published in the late 1960s and early 1970s were quite risqué! Did you ever get in trouble? Were you ever asked to pull a story?
I never got into trouble – at least not to do with the newspaper – which given it was the peak time for investigative journalism– means I must have been a very tame editor.

8. How important was it at the time to push the boundaries?
It was the sixties, boundaries were being pushed all over the country and we just went with the flow. we didn't really feel we had boundaries.

9. What was the dominant issue of the day when you were writing for SUL?
The University was tiny - as indeed was the population of Bath, and the pace of growth was the source of most ‘home’ news. Nationally, the IRA were planting bombs all over the country, but not in Bath. The city did stage some student marches, the chant was Maggie Thatcher, milk snatcher – in reference to her policy of stopping free school milk in schools. Enoch Powell came to the University – or at least a hall close by – and some students staged a protest and rocked his car until it almost turned over.

10. How much of a role did your political views play when you were editor?

11. If you read one of your editorials today, would you recognise yourself in the writing?
Absolutely not. I wince at what I might have written.

12. What would your advice be to anyone thinking about getting involved in student publishing?
Do it to have fun, to have your voice heard, to work in a team, and to further you career . Try everything - polemic, interviews, features news stories, investigations, sub-editing , production. And aim to be the editor.

Martin Nesirky (BA MLES German 1982)

1. Why do you think student newspapers are important?
Student newspapers serve several purposes; informing and entertaining students in a style they understand, providing practical information and news that other outlets are unlikely to cover and offering a training ground for would-be journalists, graphic designers, editors and others. Of course the advent of social media, to give just one obvious and pervasive example, has allowed people to deliver and consume news and information in many other ways beyond a printed newspaper.

2. How much work was involved in putting the newspaper together?
It was a small but dedicated team and we worked many hours on the reporting, writing, photographs, typing up, layout and distribution. It was tremendous fun. Some of us were intent on becoming journalists but not all by any means. And one kind soul had to drive to Bristol to deliver the layouts to the printer and bring back the newspapers.

3. What were you most proud of in your time writing for and editing Spike?
As editor I think I was most proud of producing Spike in newspaper format and trying, with my friends and colleagues, to cover stories in a way that would appeal to our readers.

4. Did your work ever change anything at the University?
That's difficult to judge and probably for others to say. I hope it encouraged others to take up journalism and to think critically. And if not, I hope it made the fish and chips taste better.

5. Is there anything you regret publishing?
Of course, with hindsight, some of what we thought passed for satire or gossip probably missed the mark.

6. Some of the stories published were quite risqué! Did you ever get in trouble? Was your editor ever asked to pull a story?
One issue of the newspaper had to be withdrawn because a photograph was considered to be too risqué. Probably not our finest hour, but no lasting damage, I believe.

7. How important was it at the time to push the boundaries?
My main aim, and the aim of the team, was to produce Spike as a "proper" newspaper.

8. What was the dominant issue of the day when you were writing for Spike?
Student politics and the anti-apartheid movement were certainly major themes.

9. How much of a role did your political views play when you were editor?
I was not particularly politically active and I tried to separate my own views from editing and writing, not least because I knew this would be important in a future journalist career and more immediately to try to ensure Spike appealed to as wide a readership as possible.

10. If you read one of your pieces today, would you recognise yourself in the writing?
I certainly recognise myself in the writing and recognise also how much I still had to learn about journalism - and the world!

11. What impact did student journalism have on your career after graduating?
My student journalism and my studies at Bath had a direct impact on my career. I joined Reuters news agency (now Thomson Reuters) as a graduate trainee in September 1982 and remained with them until March 2006, having had postings in London, Moscow, The Hague, East Berlin and Seoul and reported from many other places. It also helped me when I subsequently joined the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and then the United Nations in public information and spokesman roles.

12. What would your advice be to anyone thinking about getting involved in student publishing?
Times have changed dramatically since we struggled with sticking bits of copy on to layout sheets and developing photographs in the darkroom. Websites and social media were of course unimaginable at the time. But the core skills of reporting, writing, editing and critical thinking as well as news photography and graphic design are useful not only if you wish to enter journalism. Student publishing helps to open a window on to university life and fosters teamwork as well as individual skills. And of course it's highly enjoyable. Embrace this and any other similar opportunity at Bath University while you can.

Deborah Hargreaves (BA MLES German 1983)

1. Why do you think student newspapers are important?
Student newspapers are a great way of getting started in journalism and honing some skills in an informal environment before being thrown into the competitive world of real journalism. It is much easier now to set up your own blog and contribute online to get some journalistic experience, but in the 1980s when I was writing for Spike, student papers were one of the only ways to prepare for a career in journalism.

2. How much work was involved in putting the newspaper together?
It was a fairly straightforward process of putting the paper together, although at times it could involve a last-minute rush and a few all-nighters.

3. What were you most proud of in your time writing for and editing Spike?
I enjoyed covering some of the political events of the time. I was writing for Spike in 1982-83 and there was a lot of political upheaval going on. We interviewed some of the politicians involved and went to political rallies.It made me feel part of the political process.

4. Did your work ever change anything at the University?
We campaigned against proposals by the then education secretary, Keith Joseph, to introduce student loans or fees. He dropped these plans in 1984, so collectively, student protest had maybe worked.

5. Is there anything you regret publishing?
I can't remember anything we regretted publishing.

6. Some of the stories published were quite risqué! Did you ever get in trouble? Was your editor ever asked to pull a story?
I was writing for Spike for just one year 1982-83, and I don't remember any pressure to pull a story.

7. How important was it at the time to push the boundaries?
We were keen to be provocative and campaigning, but equally eager to be taken seriously. So while we did take risks and push the boundaries, we also wanted to be a voice that would be listened to, so couldn't go too far.

8. What was the dominant issue of the day when you were writing for Spike?
Interestingly, one of the dominant issues at the time echoes today's concerns in that we were campaigning strongly against any introduction of student fees or loans or even any top-up payment for tuition fees. We were lucky enough to benefit from government grants for our tuition and maintenance and we strongly felt these should remain.

9. How much of a role did your political views play when you were editor?
I was very interested in left-wing politics at the time. In another striking echo of today, there was a lot of disarray and upheaval in the Labour party. The Gang of Four politicians had left the Labour party in 1981 to set up the SDP which later merged to become the Lib-Dems. I interviewed Shirley Williams at a rally in Devizes for the 1983 election and I think I gave her a very sympathetic hearing. I met her recently in the House of Lords and reminded her, she predicted I would have a good career in journalism!

10. If you read one of your pieces today, would you recognise yourself in the writing?
I think my writing at the time was a bit naiive. I went on to become a business journalist so maybe I am now a lot more cynical.

11. What impact did student journalism have on your career after graduating?
Student journalism was instrumental in launching me into my career. It gave me some cuttings and experience to talk about at interviews. My first job was with a trade magazine and I then went to the Financial Times for 19 years, working in the US, London and Brussels. I then went to the Guardian as business editor for 4 years. In 2012 I set up my own think tank - the High Pay Centre to research top pay and inequality.

12. What would your advice be to anyone thinking about getting involved in student publishing?
As someone who has recruited young graduates into journalism and was involved with the FT graduate recruitment interviews for a couple of years, I would say that student journalism - or at least some experience of writing, blogging and commenting - is essential for anyone considering a career in newspapers. It is a very competitive environment and it helps to stand out in any way.

Ellie Barker (BSc Sociology 1996)

1. Why do you think student publications are important?
I think they are important for two main reasons. They give students their own voice, but it also gives those with an interest in journalism a chance to have a go and see if it is for them. When I was at Bath there was Spike, but also a radio station and television station.I saw people who never thought they would be any good at radio, turn into fabulous presenters, the same with writers for Spike. It was the main reason why I wanted to go to the University. The practical experience I gained helped me immensely with my next step into the world of journalism. It also showed the hard work involved.

2. How much freedom did you have as editor?
There was lots of freedom. I am sure if you did something that wasn't correct or reflected the University in a bad light, this would not be allowed, but other than that we were given pretty much complete freedom.

3. How much work was involved in putting the magazine together?
There was lots of work involved! I hope it is not rude to students to say our hours in lectures were much less than just a normal working week. I soon realised there was a huge amount of hours involved in getting to deadline - although this reflects the media world. If you want a 9-5 job, don't work in journalism.

4. What were you most proud of in your time as editor or writing for Spike?
I was extremely proud when we won the Guardian Media award and collected it from Peter Preston. Of course it was all thanks to everyone else and their hard work, but to be the Editor was a great honour.

5. Did your work ever change anything at the University?
I wouldn't say it dramatically changed anything but I do believe it helped the magazine continue to evolve.

6. Is there anything you regret publishing?
My favourite colour is pink - and one issue was pretty much entirely pink. I am not sure I would do that again today, much as I still love the colour.

7. Did you ever get in trouble? Were ever asked to pull a story?
No (not that I can remember!)

8. How important did you feel it was to push the boundaries?
I felt it was very important to give all contributors their voice as much as possible. We had incredible people working with us and this meant huge variety in the magazine.

9. What was the dominant issue of the day when you were writing?
It was mainly about students - coming to university - many of them leaving home for the first time. It was about them finding their way - whether it was a music review, a piece about their travels, a piece about their hopes. Top tips to get through campus life. We tried to make the content as relevant to as many students as possible.

10. How much of a role did your political views play when you were editor?
Although in the past Spike had been fairly political - it was less so under my editorship. I believed very much in letting everyone have their opinions, meaning their was something for everyone.

11. If you read one of your editorials today, would you recognise yourself in the writing?
I would - but I would almost definitely cringe. I would like to think I have become more confident now and have a greater self-belief. I have worked in journalism since the day after I finished my finals... which is a long time ago now!

12. How did your experiences affect your own career path, and do you have any advice for anyone thinking about getting involved in student publishing?
Honestly, I was asked more about my time as Editor at Spike than I ever was about my degree. Journalism is all about experience, about being able to connect with a whole range of people and being able to communicate in a simple, engaging way. I learnt the basics for all of this at university, but most of all I learnt what I always thought I knew.. that journalism was the correct career path for me and fingers crossed, I have not been proved wrong since.

Tom Vincent (MEng Automotive Engineering 2004)

1. Why do you think student publications are important?
The traditional line is that the student press provides an independent voice for students, and is uniquely placed to hold Universities and Students’ Unions to account. Depending on the publication and the restrictions placed upon it, I think most manage to do this to some extent.
However, that overlooks other reasons why student publications are important. Obviously, they inform and entertain the student community – surely the only reason they’re picked up and read. But most important, to my mind, is that they allow people to go and have a go at journalism. University is all about trying new things and gaining experiences, so I think it’s absolutely appropriate that any student with an interest has the opportunity contribute to a newspaper or magazine. I’m not sure where else you’d have the chance to do that.

2. How much freedom did you have as editor?
The level of influence the Union tried to apply varied during the three years I was on the editorial team. We enjoyed a good bunch of Sabbs during the time I was editor, and unlike in previous years I don’t think we ever had an article pulled. That said, every issue of the paper had to be approved by the Union prior to publication, and they paid the bills, so we weren’t truly independent.

3. How much work was involved in putting the magazine together?
A lot. The total of everyone’s contributions must have run to hundreds of hours per issue, which came out fortnightly. We had around 60 or 70 contributors, and an editorial team of around 12 people. Each of the section editors would coordinate content for their pages, which was an ongoing task taking a few hours per week. On production week, they would lay up their pages themselves, which took several hours. The sub-editors, photo editor and I would do our bit to tidy the pages, add photos, proof read articles and generally get the paper together. Depending on how we were feeling, that either took place overnight on a Thursday, where we’d finish around 9am on Friday, or we’d stop at 2am on Friday and finish it off during the day. That was less tiring but more stressful, as we’d be running close to the printer’s deadline.

4. What were you most proud of in your time as editor or writing for impact?
I can’t really think of a single stand-out article or issue that I wrote or contributed towards. I am proud to have been a link in the chain that kept the paper going, however, and very pleased to see it still in print 13 years later.
I am proud also to have been part of something that provided such a great opportunity for people, whether they simply enjoyed contributing to the paper, or were helped in some way into a career in the media.

5. Did your work ever change anything at the University?
Nothing significant that I can think of! impact was a young publication when I was involved, and certainly not a campaigning newspaper. We did run a story where, depending on whose view you took, the University was trying to solve a shortage of teaching space by encouraging departments to cut teaching hours. That got quite a lot of attention, including from national media, but I’m not convinced it really changed anything. Another time we helped some students to get their deposits back from an unscrupulous letting agent, which I was pleased with.

6. Is there anything you regret publishing?
Only one article comes to mind, a crass and insensitive piece which certainly shouldn’t have been printed. It offended a good number of people, but we dedicated a page in the next issue to the feedback we received – I felt it was important to admit we’d got it wrong and to try to address that.

7. Did you ever get in trouble? Were ever asked to pull a story?
It never happened while I was editor, but in previous years when I was on the editorial team stories were certainly pulled. Never with just cause, it was always very frustrating, and gave us a real problem with what to fill the gap with at short notice.
We never got in trouble in the legal sense, fortunately. Certainly people were quite regularly angry for various reasons, but you can’t please all the people all the time.

8. How important did you feel it was to push the boundaries?
We weren’t interested in pushing the boundaries just for the sake of it, but everyone involved in the paper believed it was important for it to be a truly independent publication, so we were always pushing back against interference from the Union.
On a wider level, we also felt that the Students’ Union should have been a more democratic organisation – the feeling was that the Sabbatical team and student members had little real control, and that the management team were making decisions with minimal oversight. We did manage to publish a story to that effect – with the approval of the Media and Communications Officer, to his credit – which was probably about as far as we pushed what we could get away with.

9. What was the dominant issue of the day when you were writing?
Tuition fees – the increase to £3000 per year (from around £1000) was being discussed by Government. The invasion of Iraq took place while I was editor, although that perhaps received less coverage in our pages than you might imagine. It often felt that items that were getting lots of column inches in the national press were less interesting in a student paper, unless they had a specific bearing on us.

10. How much of a role did your political views play when you were editor?
Very little, really. I didn’t have particularly strong political views at the time, and we weren’t a particularly political paper.

11. If you read one of your editorials today, would you recognise yourself in the writing?
I’d imagine so – I hope so. I don’t think I’ve changed that much!

12. How did your experiences affect your own career path, and do you have any advice for anyone thinking about getting involved in student publishing?
I wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in the media, so it didn’t help me get a foot in the door in that respect, but I think it must have helped in some ways. I was exposed to lots of situations that I wouldn’t have been otherwise: just to be heading up a team of 70 and having the responsibility to produce the paper every two weeks was terrific.
My advice for anyone wanting to get into student publishing would be to do it! It really takes very little effort or commitment to start contributing, and, unless things have changed, the publications are always looking for new contributors. You might find you get hooked, like I did, and end up spending more time in the newspaper office than in lectures. You might also make some great friends – the team were a diverse bunch from all years and subjects, and the social scene was always good.


Happy Birthday Bath!

📥  Uncategorized

Thanks to our alumni who sent their best wishes to the University for our birthday on Tuesday. Here are some of your messages. Don't forget you can also wish us Happy Birthday via twitter.


Thank you very much for reminding me of the Bath University 50th year Birthday.
Happy birthday to Bath Uni.! !
Just visiting the Bath Facebook, wishing you all the wonderful birthday.

With best wishes,

Kaori Hara
Tokyo, Japan


My warm greetings from Brisbane where I am for a visit. Since I left Bath many things have changed in my life I have a good career as humanitarian and soon I am having a family. I thank you for your continuous updates and for keeping me close to my cherished University. I am happy to hear the good news from Bath. For this special day I am proud to be part of the big family of University of Bath. I wish you a happy and fabulous anniversary to all of you and long life to our University. Let keep grow more and spread our wings across the world. Happy 50 anniversary to Bath.

Kenny Theophile Nkundwa


birthday card

A Pea Birthday!

A Pea Birthday!
Thank you for the messages. Sorry we cannot be there.
Have a great day and evening!
Malcolm + Donna Hecks


Thank you very much for sending this email to me. I am so glad today is our university's birthday. I want to say "Happy birthday to my dear BATH" sincerely. The study time in BATH is so wonderful. Thank you very much my dear BATH and have a good day.

Qiulu Ding
From Shanghai. China


May the university continue to achieve further progress in all its objectives to benefit the community, the society and the world.
God bless,



I have had the great pleasure of being associated with the University from its very earliest years, prior to the award of its Royal Charter and since. I wish to record my sincerest appreciation of the professional support and guidance given to me during my full-time secondment from Avon County Council in 1987, and later following early retirement, leading to the Degree of MPhil (Education).

During my Further Education lecturing career over 25 years, the University regularly hosted students from my Business Studies Department, and several went on to be appointed to posts within the University. This was one of the first Work Experience Schemes (1964) in the region for FE students, and I was always impressed by the great support the College received from the University staff. The College reciprocated by hosting students from the University for Teaching Practice.

As the nominee of the Bristol and West of England Branch of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators and the Secretary of State for Education, I served as a Professional Business Member on the City of Bath Further Education Corporation for 13 years from 1988, Vice Chair for the final 3 years. I am particularly pleased to record that throughout these years, and since, the College and the University have developed very close professional links.

I am very proud to have been associated with the University over all these years. BATH IS NOW ONE OF THE TOP BRITISH UNIVERSITIES!! WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT!! VERY WELL DONE TO ALL OF YOU!!!!

Stan Nicholls
MPhil (Education) ACIS


Many congratulations on 50 years of contribution to learning and development! Loved my years at Bath (1972-1976 Pharmacology) – will always hold such a special place in my heart. So sorry to miss this wonderful celebration and look forward to revisiting next year when we return to UK for a sojourn.
Would love to connect with other graduates from Pharmacology 1976 – Carol Waring, Ann Brown, Dave Parkinson, Mike Tomkins. Are you out there?

Dr Christine A Phillips
Gold Coast Australia


Happy birthday to dear BATH!

Crystal Feng


At my instigation and with local coordination by Tom Longridge (as I live in Fleet, Hampshire) there have been two sessions of bell ringing today to mark the University's anniversary.

First, 10 of us (some with a university connection) rang for 15 minutes after the celebratory event in the Abbey.

This evening, eight of us - all with University connections - rang a quarter peal. That was 1250 changes taking 45 minutes.

The full details are available through the following links to the ringing website, BellBoard.



You are welcome to share this with the University organisation more widely if you wish.

James White
Mathematics BSc. 1990


Happy Birthday!

Lester Ferguson
NSW, Australia


A great milestone for the University and the Bath Community. As an early student (and I well remember the wonderful ceremony in Bath Abbey) I wish all the present and past community of students, Alumni and wider community a truly memorable celebration and wish I could be with you. It is very pleasing to see how the university has prospered and grown in stature since its inception when we had only one building on the site and all lived in digs around the town sometimes to the consternation of the locals. Have a great time.

Best wishes,
Angela (Bailey) Delves
NSW, Australia


Congratulate you on the 50th anniversary! I am proud I have graduated from this University.

I wish you prosperity and success!

Evgenia Belova


Congratulations to everyone on our 50th Anniversary. As a student during the 10th Anniversary my memories are still very strong of wonderful times there and learning then that still helps me now.

Roy Kirkby


I remember well the day I was offered a place in 1967 and the following Sunday took my wife and children to visit the Campus

It consisted in those days of a singular square block that eventually became the Biology faculty.

Walking around it there was not much to see or say, but my wife commented on an attractive plant in one of the windows.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history!

Ken Riley
Sociology, Class of 71


Thank you for sharing this celebration.
As a graduate of the Bath University Masters Degree in Construction Management 1999 (Distance Learning + two Residential Schools) I am excited to share in the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the University. Especially so as we here in Barbados will celebrate our 50th Anniversary as an Independent Nation on November 30 this year. I join Adminstrators, Faculty, Students, Alumini, Donors and Friends of Bath University in celebrating the growth and excellence of this great University and am very happy that I was fortunate to be part of that experience. I look forward to continued participation in whatever small way in the life of this great institution of learning accessible to the whole world. The greetings in many languages across the world attest to the reach of your teaching and learning. I am very proud to be a part of it. Congratulations.

Erskine Thompson


With best wishes for a wonderful day.

Sorry I couldn’t make it as it’s also the 50th anniversary of my graduation.
Peter Jones


From small beginnings look at the Uni now! I'm so glad I went to Bath Uni! Those many years ago.

Brock Hoaran


My hearty best wishes to Bath and all on its 50th!!!

Have a great day and I trust the reception is lots of fun.

Peter W Marshall, Eco & Pol 1982


I feel deeply identified with this transcendental date of the anniversary of my University.

My best wishes for the professors, lecturers, researchers, administrative personnel, students and the whole community of Bath University, specially for the Masters course on International relations and Development Studies (then) .

Maria Gutierrez, Peru


Happy Birthday
I well remember 50 years ago as it was then that I was one of the very first batch of students to graduate from Bath University as it had just become. Of course, as the Engineering department was still in Ashley Down in Bristol the only time I visited the University Campus was for an end of course dinner. The graduation ceremony took place in the Assembly Rooms in Bath.
Happy Birthday again.
David G Rosser, BSc Bath 1966


Happy Birthday! 🙂

Hope it went well today (and goes well this evening) - I've been thinking of you all!

I think a great big celebratory cake is in order from the winner of the bake off sweepstake!



Thank you for the invitation and information. It would have been nice to attend the celebrations but it's a bit far for me to come.

The university seems to have changed enormously since the first generations of students (that includes me) were there. I remember the lake with lots of space around it (fortunately I was never enrolled for a dunking, that activity was the province of the more harum-scarum elements), and the refectory in which I worked for a while "polishing the silver" as the forewoman called it (most people would have said drying the cutlery).

But it's still the same chug up that hill. I used to walk from my various digs in town (Audley Park amongst others) to the university and back, to save busfare. It was beautiful and I daresay it still is, but I wonder if anybody does that any more.

Are the terraces there still? I was in Conygre Terrace and thought it was great!

All the best for the next 50 years.

Shirley Boss


It has been 21 years since finishing my MSc in IEM at Bath. It gives me great pleasure being able to join remotely with all of you in celebrating the 50th Birthday of Bath University. I am happy that Bath University has been making steady progress as a world renowned higher learning institute. I wish Bath University a wonderful 50th Birthday.

M W Leelaratne, Nugegoda


My name is Tianxiang Zhang who graduated from University of Bath in 2015. I send this mail for sharing my wishes to my loved university.

"Happy Birthday, University of Bath. I wish more and more young students enjoy their lives and studies in the perfect environment you provides. And also, I wish University of Bath can get better achievements on academic researches."

Kind Regards,
Tianxiang Zhang

Fabulous celebration of the first 50 Years for University of Bath, in the Abbey, with super speeches, marvellous music, astonishing a Capella, diverting dance and fantastic films featuring students, alumni, staff, supporters and academics, all in a spectacular setting...

Barry Gilbertson


Thanks for keeping us informed. Let's have such birthdays celebrated also in our countries

Dr Desire M Sibanda


Happy Birthday Bath University!

The Rev.d Preb. Angela Berners-Wilson
Rector : Quantock Towers Benefice


Happy Anniversary !

Wish our university grow in prosperity rapidly, and all of U in Bath a wonderful night !

I am currently in China and work in PwC Shanghai Office. I'm wondering what would be like in the celebration at Bath Abbey ! 🙂

Best Regards,



Today on the 50th Birthday of University of Bath، a great university, and amongst "top 10" university within UK, I congratulate the faculty, students, staff and the leadership / management of the university, and wish all the best to this university for many successful years to come in education, research, including sports and other activities, and as one of the worlds top UK university.

I feel privileged to have been a Graduate student of this great university, and completed MSc in Electrical Power Systems in 2005.

With all the best wishes,

Noorali Amarsi


Happy birthday. I am so proud of being the student here.

Qu Nyi Zeng


Hiiiii My Bath Uni,

Happy birthday to you!!!!!!!!!
And really miss those precious time you gave me!!!!!!
Love u !
Please keep that lovely all the time and I'll be back one day!!!

With Best Regards
Chang Ding


Happy birthday to the best university in the world!

Happy birthday and thanks to all of you who work diligently to make the university of bath a better place for all!

Best wishes,


As one of the select band of students who were the first to go through in Bath I have many memories of my four years, including attending the service in the Abbey. I am still in touch with a number of those who were there with me and I still sometimes have work contacts with current staff at the University. It was an interesting experience with initially only about 200 students in Bath in the then preliminary building, but we had a fantastic vice-chancellor in George Moore, who was brilliant. My, how you have grown!

John Fawell, Applied Biology 1969


Happy 50th Birthday! It was my 56th yesterday #classof84

Paul Butler


Happy Birthday to the University of Bath: I suspect I am one of the few people remaining who was at the Bath University of Technology (as it was then) in the South Building of the Claverton Down site on that day 50 years ago!

Graham Stewart


This is great news! Happy Birthday, and congratulations for the 50 year anniversary! ^_^



Happy Birthday, and congratulations for the 50 year anniversary! ^_^

Po-Hsiang (2008/2009 Bath MBA) from Taiwan


Many congratulations and I am so sorry not to have been with you today

With warm regards
Sheila Hollins



Excellent!!! HBD to us all!!




Professional Doctorate in Health graduate talks to Viva Survivors

📥  Uncategorized

Dr Denise Proudfoot completed her Professional Doctorate in Health from the University of Bath in 2014 while working as a nurse lecturer in Dublin City University. She has a background in mental health, primary care and sexual health promotion in nursing. Denise’s thesis is entitled ‘a narrative exploration of the experiences of mothers living with HIV in Ireland.’

She spoke about her research and Professional Doctorate experience with Dr Nathan Ryder from Viva Survivors. You can listen to the full interview and Podcast here.

Dr Denise Proudfoot

Dr Denise Proudfoot

Can you describe your research, and how you came to do a Professional Doctorate?

My research was a study with HIV positive mothers in Ireland. I set out to provide an understanding of their lives.

I originally worked as a Nurse in London specifically with people who are HIV positive and most of my case load were women. At this time there were limited options for drugs to be given to mothers during pregnancy that would have prevented the baby having HIV. In the mid-1990s the development of combination therapy, a combination of antiretroviral drugs had a significant effect on the health of people with HIV, and equally had a significant impact on the chances of a pregnant HIV positive woman having a HIV positive baby. So that’s had a huge effect on the lives of HIV positive mothers.

When I decided to do a Professional Doctorate I was trying to think about research, I wanted to do something I was passionate about and interested in. My background is in mental health nursing and general nursing, but I still had a huge interest in HIV.

I really wanted to look at what it’s like for women now, and in the last 15 years, what it’s like to be a mother. Increasingly the chances of your baby being born with HIV is very low as HIV positive woman now take medication in the second trimester of the pregnancy and this reduces the chance of having a HIV positive baby to less than 1%.

There’s been huge advances and developments in the area of HIV in the biomedical discourse. I wanted to examine at the social meaning of the process, and used a feminist mothering research approach to explore what it’s like to be a HIV positive mother, and maybe give voice to these women.

How did you make the transition from working in the area of mental and general health nursing to finding a supervisor and starting your research?   

Since the early 2000s I have been working as a lecturer in nursing. A lot of my colleagues had started PhDs or Doctorates and I knew it was inevitable I would want to do one so I started looking at options. I came across the Professional Doctorate in Health at the University of Bath and started in 2007 as a part-time student, combining this with my lecturing at Dublin City University.

What was it like carrying out the research?

There has been little research in the last 10-12 years around women’s experiences, that’s something that came up in my literature review.

My study was a narrative study. I interviewed 11 mothers who were attending a HIV peer support centre in Dublin about their experiences. The research was enjoyable, the actual data collection which was interviews with mothers and women was really interesting and relatively straightforward.

What was the impact of your research?

One of the key findings I summarise in my thesis is being a mother impacts on the HIV experience. And vice versa, being HIV positive impacts on mothering. A lot of the women when they’re diagnosed their priority is their children, the first thing they want to know is ‘is my child HIV positive’ irrespective of the age of the child. Some woman were pregnant, some had young children, and others had older children. They are very child centred and this impacted on their responses to their HIV result.

Did you feel there were differences between a PhD and your experience on a Professional Doctorate?

Yes there are quite a few differences. The reason I chose a Professional Doctorate was because I like structure and the peer element of the programme was quite strong. In the first couple of years we did a lot of research training looking at both qualitative and quantitate methods which I think is important.

We had assignments which is different to a PhD where you have a narrower focus. I enjoyed the structure, and as I progressed through the programme there were milestones to achieve.

Another difference is you’re journeying with other people. The majority of people on the doctorate were mature students and senior professionals across health disciplines so you have an interesting group of people to work with. Some were clinicians, whereas I came from an academic background in a practice discipline.

The thesis is smaller in the end compared to a PhD, but it’s very much quality as opposed to quantity at 45,000 words. One of the skills you develop is you have to be quite succinct, but I got a good overall research training, I feel I have a good understanding  of other research methodologies that I might have got if I’ve done a PhD.

I was working full-time as an academic while I was a part-time student and it was quite challenging, but because I was in an academic environment it helped, I had access to alot of resources. Probably the last three years were the busiest for me.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting the Doctorate?

My advice is to choose a topic that you’re passionate about and interested in to sustain your interest over a long period of time. You learn an awful lot about yourself throughout the process. Keep going, take breaks if needed, there are times when it’s straight forward and times when challenging. It’s definitely worthwhile.

Dr Denise Proudfoot, Nurse Lecturer in Dublin City University
Professional Doctorate in Health 2014



Getting reconnected with Bath


📥  Get Connected, International, Uncategorized

Action for M.E. CEO and Bath alumna, Sonya Chowdhury, recently volunteered her time and expertise at one of our ‘Get Connected’ events. It was the first engagement she’d had with us since she graduated in 1998, but within 24 hours of the event she had booked plane tickets to attend the World Health Assembly summit as a guest of the CEO of the largest cancer fighting organisation in the world. Read her story below. 

Being asked to speak on a panel at the ‘Get Connected’ event in London about working in the charity, NGO and policy sectors not only gave me a chance to share my experience, but opened doors that I would never have expected to be there for me.

The Chair of the Panel, CEO of the Union for International Control of Cancer and alumnus [and recent honorary graduate], Cary Adams, spoke with me after the event and invited me to Geneva. Little did I know that 24 hours later I would have plane tickets booked and four days at the World Health Assembly summit at the United Nations in my diary.

Sonya Chowdhury

Sonya Chowdhury

This was an incredible opportunity for me to develop a greater understanding of how policy and decision-making happens at a global health level. From a personal perspective, the insight and learning was immense and I couldn’t possibly have got as much from just reading about the systems or structures in place. Alongside this I received a masterclass in CEO networking from Cary (who was phenomenal to watch in terms of ‘working the room’) and benefited from being introduced to a number of influential and inspiring individuals.

I don’t know how much you know about M.E., but it’s an illness that quite literally steals lives; a long-term neurological condition that affects many of the body’s systems and leaves children and adults with extreme, persistent exhaustion and a range of nasty symptoms including cognitive dysfunction, sleep difficulties and pain amongst many others. Many of the 250,000 people in the UK will M.E. describe being trapped; existing but not living.

Politically, M.E. has a very low profile in the UK (it’s different in the Netherlands and the US) so finding a way to mobilise people and significantly increase the profile of M.E. is critical. Having the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how we might do this through engagement at World Health Assembly level, and exploring how to build networks and create a bigger collective voice, will ultimately benefit people affected by this devastating illness. Supported by Cary, I am now developing a proposal for a five-year plan to achieve just that, and build on the collaboration work we are already undertaking such as establishing an International Alliance of leading charities across the globe.

The Panel was my first real engagement with Bath Alumni since I left in 1998. I am surprised and delighted by what it has offered me, personally and professionally, as well as the potential for people with M.E. and the charity that I run. Hopefully, there will be more to come!


Apps Crunch winners blog

📥  Uncategorized

Psychometrico - an app designed to help jobseekers prepare for psychometric and aptitude testing - has won the University of Bath’s student Apps Crunch Competition. Top prize was a trip to Silicon Valley to meet alumni working in leading global tech companies. The winners, Martin Obretenov, Ventsislav Dimov, and Prithu Shorewalu, share their amazing – and tiring - journey on our blog.

Thursday by Ventsislav

Visiting a new country always comes with a lot of uncertainty, expectations and different intentions. This time, however we set all of that aside, like a blank sheet of paper waiting for an author to write on.

With this in mind, we arrived at San Francisco International Airport and headed towards the city with the BART (interesting name for the tube, isn’t it?). We arrived at Powell Station 30 minutes later and headed towards our hotel (or was it?). A 10 minute walk under the Californian sun took us to the corner of Howard and Fifth, where we were welcomed by Karolis to StartupHouse, a co-working space.

As the name suggests this is a place where a lot of start-ups excel. However, this is somehow under appreciated. The reality was that many companies, whose services we have used are still operating from the co-working space.

After checking into the room, we hit the city. No jet lag was able to stop us from exploring what was about to become our favourite place in the world. The exploration of the area under the Bay Bridge and some of the piers exhausted us and we went to sleep with anticipation of what was about to come.

Friday by Ventsislav

Alarm, shower, authentic, however, quick American breakfast and off to business - there is no time to waste.

A short walk took us to the venue of our first meeting, the HQ of 500 Startups, one of the best start-up accelerators in the world.

We were greeted by one of the partners Marvin Liao, who somehow managed to squeeze in half an hour for us. He gave us an insight of what our potential for investment is and how we should handle this process. Furthermore, we were reminded what the most important thing in a business is - the product. With that in mind, we headed to our hotel for to debrief, which ended up in a short nap.

An hour later we were off for another adventure - an art festival in Oakland, called The First Friday. A large variety of artists and performers were exhibiting live on one of the main streets. Of course all of that was topped up with a lot of the locally produced beers and beverages.

Saturday by Ventsislav

The morning started in a similar manner as the day before, with the only difference that there was no breakfast. We had planned to eat later with family friends of Martin’s. They picked us up in their car, and we headed towards the city. Halfway through, however, the plan was changed. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to the town of Sausalito, which astonished us with its wonderful views of San Francisco and the bay. After a wonderful brunch at an Italian pizzeria, we headed back to town. Or maybe not?

We got off at the end of the Golden Gate Bridge and started walking back, which we later discovered was an exercise performed only by tourists. No sane person would walk in such a wind for more than 40 minutes.

After finally getting some rest, we headed back to the city for an appointment with my cousin. We explored the nightlife of San Francisco, which is another reason to fall in love with the city.

Martin and Ventsislav (left to right) in Sausalito, just across Golden Gate from San Francisco

Martin and Ventsislav (left to right) in Sausalito, just across Golden Gate from San Francisco.

Sunday Ventsislav

The last free day, before our busy week starts was another day of exploration. We headed towards the Caltrain station and grabbed tickets to Palo Alto to head to Stanford University.

There we met Prithu’s sister, who guided us around the campus. We got to the top of the famous Hoover Tower, which gave us a bird’s eye view on the whole campus. The place looked like a tropical beach resort, one that educates some of the most intelligent people in the world.

View from Hoover Tower on Stanford’s campus.

View from Hoover Tower on Stanford’s campus.

After our tour ended, we headed towards the campus’ restaurants, where Prithu arranged a meeting with a friend of his. He works for a start-up doing semantic analysis - one of the new trends in the software industry. After a comprehensive talk we headed back to the hotel - we needed to prepare for our first set of meetings.

Monday by Martin

On our first day of meetings set up from the University we were not very sure what to expect.

The very first meeting that we walked into left us speechless!

We were expecting to see the CFO of Littler Mendelson, the largest U.S.-based law firm exclusively devoted to representing management in employment, employee benefits and labour law. Not only did we had more than an hour of talking with Mat, the CFO and Bath alumnus, but he had invited to our meeting his own external legal adviser and the managing Shareholder of the San Francisco Office.

With the amazing view from the 28th floor meeting room we were taken through a presentation: ‘Top 10 Mistakes Startups Do That Can Get Them Sued’. The talk was exceptionally insightful. Additionally, the CFO’s personal legal adviser gave us advice on setting up a business in California and the US in general, and shared best practices within the domain. Ultimately, we connected with powerful, wise and friendly people at senior positions in the Valley, and got what we later realised to be free consultation that would otherwise have cost tens of thousands of dollars.

View from Littler Mendelson reception on the 28th floor - covering Alcatraz and some of the San Francisco piers.

View from Littler Mendelson reception on the 28th floor - covering Alcatraz and some of the San Francisco piers.

Our second meeting was with a company very few would not recognise - JPMorgan Chase & Co. We got the opportunity to pitch our idea and get input from experts at prestigious positions such as the VP of Digital Product Marketing and VP of Corporate Social Media. Their insight helped us think of our idea of www.psychometri.co from new angles and grow our understanding of how the idea could evolve.

Our third meeting swept us off our feet. We met with Anthony Lye, President and CEO of HotSchedules. Anthony’s business seems to be on track to revolutionise the restaurants market industry. Having been acquired by TPG in 2013 it works hard towards its goals and both management and employees share a unique culture of learning, developing and growing. Anthony and his colleagues talked us through what it means to be part of a company that has learned to crawl, walk and then run.

The inspiring meeting was complemented by a wine and cheese reception and a view over Bay Bridge as Anthony shared stories from the times he worked closely with people such as Larry Ellison, the former CEO of Oracle and the third-wealthiest man in America.

Tuesday by Martin

On Tuesday we had a single meeting scheduled, but what a meeting it was. University of Bath alumni Natalie and Simon founded Lanyrd - a social conference directory – in 2010. They built a product that people love, resulting in uncontrollable growth and ultimately landing them in a Y Combinator batch in 2011. Being backed by one of the most famous American seed accelerators, their company grew and was later acquired by Eventbrite. Now, being part of a company that grosses more than $2 billion in ticket sales (according to 2013 data), Natalie and Simon face new challenges head on.

The tour of the company gave us a great insight into how an organisation changes and evolves and what a great impact a good company culture has. Natalie and Simon spent more than an hour and a half with us over lunch and gave us practical tips on everything from setting up a business, to running it, negotiating and ultimately selling too. Luckily for us we picked up freebies, so if you see us around campus with an Eventbrite hat on you will know where it’s from.

Martin, Simon, Natalie, Stephanie, Siobain, Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) at the Eventbrite office.

Martin, Simon, Natalie, Stephanie, Siobain, Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) at the Eventbrite office.

Wednesday by Prithu and Ventsislav

Wednesday started with a beautiful drive down to the headquarters of Facebook. While listening to the hip tunes on the radio, we drove on the freeway along the bay, getting an exciting tour from our star fundraiser and guide, Stephanie. We parked and then headed towards the “thumbs-up” sign outside the office. After all, a visit at Facebook does not count if one does not have a picture taken at 1 Hacker way.

Prithu, Siobain, Martin, Stephanie and Ventsislav (left to right) posing at 1 Hacker Way.

Prithu, Siobain, Martin, Stephanie and Ventsislav (left to right) posing at 1 Hacker Way.

What was interesting about the sign is that on the back there was a logo of Sun Microsystems, the previous owner of the campus, which was intentionally left there as a symbol that nothing stays forever.

After taking care of the mandatories, we headed towards the reception, where we met Andy Warr. We walked across the main entrance, and ended up at the back of the building, which seemed something ike a small town. There was everything one might need. There was food and drinks places, including a store which served ice-cream, cookies, muffins and everything one could imagine. Employees benefit further by the gym, the dry cleaner and many other perks, which are offered in most cases for free.

We grabbed some of Facebook’s famous BBQ and sat under the California sun for a lunch. Our host shared with us his experience of working at some of the world’s biggest IT companies Microsoft, Google and now Instagram as part of Facebook. Of all the useful things he told us probably the most valuable quote from him for the day, was “never say you don’t know something” and that resonated with this entire experience.

After we finished our lunch, we headed on a tour of Facebook’s campus. We saw the biggest touchscreen we have seen so far, which was an interactive map of how people across the globe are connected with each other. Then we took a photo in the car that went for more than 5000 miles promoting Instagram across the US. After that we went to Instagram’s gravity office for another set of fantastic memories.

Prithu, Martin and Ventsislav (from left to right) opposing gravity at the Facebook HQ.

Prithu, Martin and Ventsislav (from left to right) opposing gravity at the Facebook HQ.

At that point of time, we thought that nothing could top this experience, but we were wrong. After a five minute bicycle ride, we arrived in front of Facebook’s new building which was opened only a week ago. No words can describe how enormous that open plan office is. The interior is intentionally designed in a way that seems unfinished in order to communicate that everything is under development. All of the areas and meeting rooms in this building were given names from famous TV shows and games, such as Game of Thrones, which brought a smile on our faces. A parallel between the building and the University of Bath was the vending machines situated all around, with the only difference that the ones at Facebook were ‘serving’ high-end headphones, batteries and other accessories. In the middle of the building we saw Mark Zuckerberg’s office, unfortunately for us, he was not there.
After we had walked the length of the entire building, we took the stairs to the roof. Of course, we have already heard that the roof is the world’s largest roof-top garden, but we were totally unaware of what was about to come. The size of that garden was so enormous, that after spending a minute walking around the alleys we totally forgot that we were on a roof.

Map of Facebook’s roof-top garden.

Map of Facebook’s roof-top garden.

After finishing our walk in the ‘park’, we took the shuttle to the main campus and headed back to San Francisco.

Thursday by Martin

Our last Thursday was by far the busiest and one of the most rewarding days.

We started off with a tour and meeting at the StumbleUpon office. David Marks, VP of Products there sat down with us over breakfast and shared insights from his career and the company. We got tips on everything from UI and UX design to user testing and how one should think about Product Management in the context of highly technological organisations. David was very cool and open and gave us lots of concrete pointers to help us take Psychometrico further.

Our second meeting was at Dialect with the company’s CEO, John Gower. As he entered the room you could feel the presence of a strong salesman and a leader. John’s experience from Bath, all the way to running his company at the heart of San Francisco, impressed us greatly and we picked his brains on things like how he set things up, what challenges he faced and what his vision for the future is. Surprisingly his very first questions about how we plan to sell and position Psychometrico had us think of new approaches in terms of partnerships - something that Dialect is, in a way, based on.

Our third meeting was different from our others as it was at TPG Capital, one of the largest private equity investment firms globally. There we met Alastair and Charles Bushby. Alastair is a Bath GIMML graduate and has had a fantastic career development. He shared with us all the work he and TPG Capital do and gave us a broader view on the start-up industry from a whole different perspective. In contrast to Alastair’s focused career development, his brother, Charles, shared with us his interesting and varied career path across industries, positions and locations. He has a background focused on marketing, digital and creative and at present he works in Ernst & Young in San Francisco.

The pinnacle of our trip was the event at Tesla’s headquarters. Apparently, when one buys a Tesla he or she is put on a two year waiting list for a tour of the manufacturing facilities. We had the privilege and pleasure of not only going through the tour led by a very passionate Tesla employee and the VP of Manufacturing, but also to meet and talk with 30+ successful, influential and, simply put, interesting Bath alumni. We also met with George Kalligeros, a current University of Bath Mechanical Engineering student, who was on an internship at Tesla in San Francisco. At the end of what was an amazing tour we had the opportunity to present our idea to all the guests and this was followed by a talk from the VP of Manufacturing, Gilbert Passin.

All the successful individuals we met at the event were very humble, down-to-earth and ready to share their experiences and provide help. They were also a lot of fun - one Bath alum took us on a ride in his own Tesla just before the event started!

Ventsislav, Prithu and Martin (left to right) looking slick just before the Tesla tour.

Ventsislav, Prithu and Martin (left to right) looking slick just before the Tesla tour.

Friday by Ventsislav

Our last ‘working’ day in San Francisco started of at the famous Runway incubator, which supported companies such as Oculus Rift. The place was a big open-space office accommodating start-ups aiming to attract further investments or acquisitions.

Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) taking a picture with one of the companies incubated at the Runway.

Ventsislav and Prithu (left to right) taking a picture with one of the companies incubated at the Runway.

Our first meeting was with Mark Hampton, who is a Principal at The Halo Agency – a start-up growth engine aimed at designing highly tailored marketing strategies for technology companies. He listened carefully to the plans we had for marketing our start-up, and provided us with an insight into how such a thing should be executed. The most valuable advice was definitely that we need a clear vision of what we want to achieve and then employ the necessary tools and not vice versa, something that we missed while preparing for the competitions we entered.

The next meeting was with Jazz Toor, who is a Chief Product Officer at Bill Forward, a company focused on helping its clients enter a service based economy. Apart from that he is also an experienced angel investor. Our team presented the idea behind Psychometrico and we received a lot of feedback, mainly on how to talk with investors. This meeting left us with a huge to-do list, focused on what we need to prepare for our business plan and what we need to strengthen from what we already have.

Our last meeting in San Francisco was with Dominic Brennan who began his career as a management consultant. Later on, the company he was working for split and he took part in the management buyout of the US division, which he is currently developing. The meeting took place in the friendly atmosphere of a burritos restaurant, which served as an inspiration of the UK’s Mission Burrito chain. Dominic impressed us with his openness, experience and unconventional future plans.

Overall summary

Team Psychometrico would like to thank Siobain Hone for her dedicated work on the Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Bath, as a result of which this trip took place. We would also like to thank Stephanie Lear who used her extensive network of Bath alumni to arrange all the meetings. We would also like to thank Alex Marshal and Aiste Senulyte for their ongoing support to the project. Furthermore, a big “thank you” to all Bath alumni who we met for their valuable advices.

The trip as a whole provided us with a solid understanding of how people with similar background as ours place themselves in one of the most competitive labour markets in the world. Furthermore, it gave us invaluable insight into what the life of an entrepreneur is and what challenges there are. Moreover, it expanded our view on how a University of Bath student might proceed with his or her future career development by showcasing a lot of success stories.

A key takeaway is the advice that we do not necessarily need to stick to our business career path. We could pursue a different career development, thus achieving a more diverse skillset giving us better career opportunities.
We believe the Apps Crunch competition with its current prize is an invaluable experience for students like us to expand their personal networks and foreign insight. Team Psychometrico is looking forward to developing the product and idea and to help other students. Perhaps one day, in the near future, we could be on the other side, helping students develop and learn.