Gabby

JOB TITLE
Credit Risk Analyst (Civil Service Fast Stream Leadership Programme)

INDUSTRY
Government

EMPLOYER
UK Export Finance

It was my sixth form History teacher (shout out to Mr Cairns) who introduced me to International Relations (IR) because he thought I’d do well studying something that combined politics, law, economics, and state interaction. This was after confessing that I had fallen out of love with the idea of pursuing a degree in law. I enjoyed learning about the ideas and concepts that ‘made the world go around’ so I researched the course and fell for it! Having chosen French at A level, I knew I wanted to become fluent in another European language, so I chose to continue it at degree level. Kent allowed me to combine studying politics and IR, with an academic year abroad to embed my language skills perfectly! Low and behold, I completed my undergraduate degree in Politics and International Relations with French! I am sure Mr Cairns would be proud.

Since completing my undergraduate degree eight years ago, I have worked in various roles, from customer service roles in the health, banking and events sectors, to international project management within a non-profit organisation and an international accountancy firm. I’ll flesh that out a little.

After finishing university all I knew was that I wanted to work in international development and government. So I packed up and went to Ghana (the country of my heritage), seeking out opportunities in charities and non-profit organisations through family and friends. I volunteered for two organisations – one was a charity, working to create entrepreneurship opportunities for young people with successful businesses, NGOs and government departments. The other was a HR consultancy company where I supported the development of a work-based skills programme for new graduates. These were real tangible learning experiences, but unsustainable in the long term. So, after four months, I heeded to parental advice – to find a way to get paid for doing what I love (I needed to survive somehow) – and returned to the UK to think of alternative routes.

I’m a firm believer in the power of language. In addition to good old English, I speak Twi (a dialect from Ghana’s Akan language) and French (I was an exchange student at Sciences Politiques in Paris). I strongly believe that having these languages under my belt has helped my career thus far. Here’s an example of how.
When I returned from my stint in Ghana, thanks to a friend I had met during my exchange year abroad in Paris and grasp of French language, I was introduced to the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN), where I interned as an Events Assistant. They wanted someone who could speak the language to support their Paris Conference that year (thank God I spoke French). After four months as an Intern, I was given an opportunity to stay in the company and establish their European Commission-back programme, focused on environmental, social and governance considerations for investment professionals around the world. I did just that. I travelled to Africa, Asia, the Americas and around Europe, to facilitate programmes with financial organisations such as stock exchanges, asset and hedge fund management companies. This was how I landed my first graduate role after university.

After 3 years at the ICGN, I decided to refocus my goals. I took a year out from the world of work to complete a postgraduate degree in International Public Policy at UCL. My next exciting role was with Mazars, an international audit, accountancy and advisory firm. Here, I led colleagues across Africa and Asia to support the operational delivery a DFID programme for an international development client. Here, again, language and cultural understanding worked in my favour. I enjoyed the stakeholder management side of things and the great results we achieved but then an opportunity to work in government came along, so I took it.

I am now a Civil Servant, enrolled on the Civil Service’s Fast Stream Leadership Programme. In the first year, the programme allows you to rotate between different government departments every six months. In my first posting, I worked as a Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Justice, leading legislative changes. The role was diverse and fast paced where I would often write and brief Senior Civil Servants and Ministers on policy options and key decisions on family legal aid matters. I even managed to sit in the Ministers’ support box in the House of Lords during Oral Questions! In my current posting (2nd posting), I work as a Credit Risk Analyst for UK Export Finance, the government’s credit risk agency. We work with private credit insurers and lenders to help UK companies access export finance and enable international trade to take place as easily and securely as possible. I work within the risk assessment division, reviewing companies’ credit worthiness and ability to pay back debt. This a completely different type of role and quite unlike any other that I have been in before. So, in less than 12 months, I have gained first-hand experience of working in policy and financial risk management. I don’t know where I’ll be placed next but I wouldn’t mind working more closely on international development matters, trade negotiations and or even dabbling into the exciting world of No.10 Downing Street!

Throughout my time at Kent, I had multiple extra-curricular activities. I played for the University’s netball team, was an active member of New Life Church and I held down a range of jobs. I worked for the Student’s Ambassador Scheme in various specialist and lead roles. I also worked for Kent Union in the coffee outlets and bars. During the Easter holidays, I worked as an Activities Coordinator for a language school. In the summer, I was chosen to be as a School Ambassador, welcoming young people onto campus to experience university life and learning for a week. I also worked as a Clearing Hotline Advisor and Admissions Office Clerk too, helping with the administration of the new student intake for the year ahead. For the rest of my summer holidays (they were long after all), I worked in retail or spent time volunteering in Ghana as a Development Intern, dealing with stigmatization around HIV/AIDs in schools, hospitals and local communities.

As I look back today, I appreciate my decision to create and pursue so many opportunities. It’s safe to say, I was never bored. These days, I enjoy cycling, boxercise classes, and travelling whenever I get the chance. I am also an active volunteer within my church community in different capacities and enjoy mentoring young people.

When it comes to achieving your goals and aspirations, my advice to current students would be to make the most of what you have and start from somewhere. Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom either. Get some work experience under your belt. It’ll help build your confidence, make you a well-rounded person and get your foot through the door! Today, I would advise my younger self to be bold and learn how to network sooner. After all, you have nothing to loose but possibly a lot to gain! Whilst you’re at it, don’t forget to take time to reflect, acknowledge how far you have come, and most of all, enjoy the ride (because that old cliché is true)!