Graduate success: Emma Payne, Digital Communications at Lazard

Emma Payne

‘Being in a company that has a smaller team has given me such a huge opportunity to get so much exposure. From day 1 I was involved in my projects from start to finish and have always had direct dealings with such a wide range of people, from a range of seniorities including the CEOs from multiple offices’

Emma Payne, Digital Communications at Lazard, studied BA (Hons) Digital Arts with a Year in Industry and graduated in 2021. In this interview, we talked to Emma about how her Year in Industry lead to a full-time graduate role, her advice for student, and her favourite memories of her time at Kent.

How do you feel your time at Kent prepared you for working in the industry?
My time at Kent gave me the space to explore things I was interested in and develop an understanding of what areas of the industry interest me. The careers advice I gained when starting the application process for my industry year placement was extremely valuable as someone who had no previous work experience, as I was going into that daunting process pretty much blind. In my final year I also took part in the Work-Study scheme as a videographer, which allowed me to continue to use the skills from my placement year and gave me the opportunity to work with different clients and content before returning back to Lazard once I had graduated. My industry year also prepared me extremely well for what ended up being a mostly virtual final year. I was well used to working full time remotely due to the pandemic which made completing my final year from home less stressful and an easier transition as I could keep to my previous working routine to manage my university workload. It gave me that drive to strive for the highest marks I could and encouraged me to challenge myself try new media to expand my knowledge and skill set. For my final year project I chose to use a media I had a base level experience in, which was an exciting challenge and gave me an opportunity to develop a new skill that I have since brought back to my role at Lazard.

What did you learn in your degree that has been beneficial to you in your role?
My degree exposed me to such a wide range of areas within the industry which gave me a varied skill set and the ability to be versatile when starting in my career. The coursework assignments I completed were longer term and large projects that allowed me to refine my time management and organisation skills by working on multiple tasks with varying deadlines, which closely resembles my role now and is also something I have been relied upon during my career. My university assignments were a mixture of independent and group projects which gave me the opportunity to develop both ways of working. For me personally the general exposure to the industry standard software was the biggest benefit. Having access to such a wide range of programmes meant that even though I still had areas of these programmes to learn, I had gained the familiarity of using the software and an understanding of how they work and how I could use them effectively to develop my skills.

What are your main responsibilities and tasks?
At Lazard I work as part of the Global Communications team, which is spread across London, New York and Paris. A large proportion of my day-to-day role involves creating content for the London office. Some of this is internal only, such as training videos, meeting livestreams and corporate headshots. Alongside this I also create content that is shared externally on the Lazard social media channels such as video projects based around a variety of topics and events as well as event photographs and graphics sharing company information. The communications team in London is small, which gives me a wide exposure to the entire project pipeline, including a variety of tasks, topics and clients. I have now been back at Lazard for 6 months (totalling 20 months after extending my original placement to 14 months) and as I continue to learn more about the banking industry, I am able to continue to expand my skills by working directly with clients globally and creating ideas for new social media campaigns.

Are you working on any exciting projects that you can share?
There are a few projects that are currently in the pipeline, and hopefully some of these will be shared externally shortly on Lazard’s LinkedIn and Youtube channel. I recently worked on a video for Lunar New Year where employees from across the globe submitted footage talking about what the Lunar New Year means to them . We also have some internal and external conferences coming up in the next couple of months, which I am really excited to be a part of and am currently in the process of preparing the communications plans on how these will be shared on our Lazard social channels.

What are your plans for the future?
Currently I am extremely happy in my role at Lazard, and I am looking forward to the next few months as the world slowly transitions back to more in person events. I have started the process of gaining more responsibilities in Public Relations and intend to continue developing as many skills as possible by working on new projects and creating and working on fresh ideas. Being at Lazard has ignited my passion for content creation and I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing my work externally, so it is possible that in the future I will look for a role that focuses more on creating external campaigns.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same career path?
When I was looking for a placement my focus was to get a placement regardless of what area of the industry it was, providing it was relevant to my degree. I felt that the year would be extremely valuable regardless of the area I went into as I would either find something I was passionate about or I would be able to narrow down the industry by finding an area that isn’t for me. On the surface, completing a Digital Arts degree and going on to work in a Mayfair investment bank seems extremely farfetched. It’s so easy in the digital industry to focus on the big well known digital companies that take on huge student cohorts but looking back I feel extremely lucky to have found a career at Lazard. Creating video content was not something I particularly enjoyed in the first year of my degree, in fact the relevant module was the lowest mark I achieved in my whole degree, but when I went to interview for my role at Lazard I left knowing that I wanted that role more than any other I had applied for.

Being in a company that has a smaller team has given me such a huge opportunity to get so much exposure. From day 1 I was involved in my projects from start to finish and have always had direct dealings with such a wide range of people, from a range of seniorities including the CEOs from multiple offices. It was daunting to go into a role within an industry I knew absolutely nothing about but being at Lazard has given me that exposure to investment banking that has allowed me to be more independent in creating and managing projects. I could have never imagined back when I was applying for my placement that I would stumble on such an amazing opportunity and to be in a career that I feel extremely lucky to have.

It is so easy to focus on job listings that have company names that are immediately recognisable but digging a little bit deeper and not restricting my application process too far really worked out in my favour. I am extremely glad I didn’t end up at one of the large billboard companies I had also applied for, as I don’t think my placement year would not have been nearly as valuable.

What was your favourite memory from your time at Kent?
Unexpectedly I really enjoyed the entirety of my final year despite it being mainly virtual due to the pandemic. The year started with a presentation about my placement year in which I received extremely memorable feedback about how much my confidence had noticeably developed which as someone who doesn’t like presenting it meant a lot. I was extremely lucky that I was offered my role back at Lazard relatively early into the academic year, which took some of the pressure off my studies and allowed me to really make the most of challenging myself and enjoying the progress of my assignments. Without sounding cliché or that I was wishing my time at university away, my favourite memory was receiving my final degree classification. It was in that moment that all the hard work I had put into the last 4 years had been worth it to come out with the result I was aiming for and therefore was extremely happy with.

What is your final advice for students?
With your studies you really get out what you put in. I worked hard throughout my studies to get the result I was happy with and while at the time it felt long, hard and stressful at times, it was worth it in the end and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I worked extremely hard in my placement year, possibly more than what would have been expected, however this was always much appreciated and was worthwhile as this hard work has kickstarted my career. When I returned to Lazard I had a manager change, which meant I was working alongside someone completely new. Meeting them for the first time and hearing that I had such a positive reputation in the firm, and how others were looking forward to my return really proved to me that the extra effort I put in really made me stand out and didn’t go unnoticed.

Start things early, the earlier you start an assignment the more time you have to get it to the standard you are happy with. You might not have all the information or knowledge to complete it but building your assignment up as you learn the skills and content worked really well for me. I would start my assignments as early as I could and work on them regularly, this meant I never had to deal with the last-minute rush to get things done. Most of my assignments were submitted multiple days early and all were submitted at least 24 hours in advance. This gave me a margin if anything were to go wrong and also avoided fighting against the clock to get the submission through right on the deadline. If the submission is one that allows you to submit multiple times, I always submitted a version as soon as I had a complete copy, and then would update the submission when I made any changes. This took the away the stress of missing a deadline and also kept my to-do list more manageable.