Business and Management graduate Ruby Hamilton, from Dover, overcame learning difficulties to secure a place at university, graduating this year with a First and securing a sought-after job at Microsoft. Here she explains how sheer grit and determination proved her critics wrong and led her on a path to success…
“I wouldn’t usually have had time for the gym, but there I was panting on the step machine in a vain attempt to distract myself from my university degree results. It was 2021 results day and I couldn’t take the waiting game. With every futile glance at my phone, voices from the past were flooding my brain.
‘Don’t get your hopes up, Ruby’ they whispered. ‘Someone like you can’t get to the top.’
“Just as I started to build up a rhythm and get my heartrate going, an email pinged loudly. Pressing the red stop button on the machine, I caught my breath and slumped to the floor. This is it, I thought, opening the email quickly. The moment that defines my future.
“I couldn’t miss the bold font. A First Class Hons Degree. I am not usually an emotional person, but nothing could stop the tears now. I broke down in the middle of the busy fitness centre. There it was loud and clear – validation.
“I am not here to tell you a sob story, but life growing up wasn’t easy. We lived on low income, in a council estate and as a kid I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia. After several stressful life-altering events, I also developed several medical conditions. Everything about education was a struggle for me, from missing months to hospital stints to struggling to write clear sentences or read and being bullied for that or my appearance. In my GCSE mocks I got Fs across the board.
“But my dad, who didn’t live with us, was always a bit of a ‘Del Boy-style’ businessman and I too began to develop some money making schemes. I even started a tuck shop at school and made enough money to buy myself a few nice things.
” ‘I am going to go to university,’ I recall saying to a family member.
“’Ruby, you shouldn’t get your hopes up,’ he replied. ‘You are not academic, you need to lower your expectations.’
Despite the negativity, I developed an unrivalled desire to prove everybody wrong. I knew I had a skills in public speaking, in dealing with people and having creative ideas. Surely that mattered as much as reading and writing? Through sheer grit and determination, I got a good set of GCSE results and knuckled down for my A Levels. Business Studies being my favourite.
“’Ruby is a great businesswoman,’ my tutor said on parents evening. ‘She should study it at university.’
“The rest they say, is history. I immersed myself in life at the University of Kent studying Business and Management which I started in 2017, while living at home and supporting both myself and my family with three jobs. I had an unquenchable thirst to learn and with the support of the university who provided me with a study skills assistant to check my work for spelling and grammar, I started to fly through my modules. My favourites were those involving new ideas and product design and I adored the Entrepreneurship module.
“Not satisfied with learning alone, I also began working for various charities including St John’s Ambulance and began a role within the Outreach department working with school students to coach them for writing their personal statements or making their choices and giving presentations on careers and next steps. I realised the value of my practical and creative skills.
“My confidence skyrocketed when I secured a coveted placement for my Year in Industry at Microsoft in 2019. I went down for the nerve-wracking interview with the view to just be myself. It seemed to work as I was offered a placement as digital advisor, the youngest on the team! I was used for my ability to think big creatively. Working with Nationwide, Lloyds and Refinitiv on their consumer journey whilst organising employee discount events for the UK and multiple charity events. It was surreal to be entrusted and encouraged in this way, but it really was pivotal in building the resilient person I am today. I won several in-company awards, including a ‘Leading to Win’ award for my efforts.
“I was offered a grad job at Microsoft shortly after, which was just incredible. Covid-19 of course was a hurdle to get over, but being interested in tech meant working virtually didn’t bother me. Throughout, I continued to do charity work, within prisons where I mentored inmates on being digitally ready and to develop the right accolades to improve their life once they got out.
“Results day and (virtual) graduation day were really just the icing on the cake of an incredible four-year journey. I don’t underestimate any of my achievements and I now want to use my story to show others that no matter what hand you’ve been dealt, it doesn’t define you.
“If you have dyslexia or come from humble beginnings or don’t fit the ‘normal’ mould don’t underestimate your own unique skills and perspectives. It is all about hard work and determination and having self belief.”
If you are studying with The University of Kent and have a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD), or feel that you experience difficulties, register with Student Support and Wellbeing. Please view this visual guide on How to get Specific Learning Difficulty Support.