Graduate profile: Michelle Pullen (Lothers), MA Intercultural Relations 2010

What are you doing now?

I work in national accounts (also known as key accounts) for an investment management company focusing on retirement plans. I am based in San Antonio, Texas. My job allows me to travel all over the United States representing my company and working with clients to strengthen and support our relationships.

What attracted you to your course, and to Kent?

During my undergraduate course at the University of Oregon I studied Political Science with emphasis in French and European Culture. When I searched for masters programs that would allow me to keep studying both of my interests, of course the University of Kent was a top hit! I was immediately attracted to Kent’s ties to other European universities. Also, the proximity to France and continental Europe excited me as well because I could travel while studying.

Which aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most, and why?

While studying for my degree I was able to complete course work at the University of Kent and spend several months at the University of Lille in France. This was such a unique opportunity! The academic relationships that Kent has with European universities allows American students like me to have European exposure and access to an exceptional curriculum.

What impressed you most about our academic staff?

Being an American, the global experience of the staff was important to me. Many staff members were American or studied in America, so I felt instantly comfortable with them. They also let me write my papers in American English and didn’t hold it against me!

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now in your career?

A myriad of skills can be gained from completing a masters degree, especially when studying abroad. The tenacity I learned from completing a dissertation in one language, and then presenting it in a non-native tongue is something I have used throughout my working career. Also, my current job is a balancing act between the needs of my company and the wants of my clients. My studies at Kent have taught me the soft skills required to do this role well, such as effective communication, problem solving, and being a team player.

Are you still in touch with any of your fellow students?

Yes! I met my husband while studying at Kent and we return to Canterbury often to visit his family. During every visit I reconnect with as many fellow students as I can. I sometimes spend a day in London just to catch whoever moved there so we can rehash old memories. In a recent encounter another American student I was very close with travelled San Antonio for a work trip. When I heard about her visit, I quickly drove downtown to meet with her and have dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in 10 years!

Did you undertake any work experience whilst at Kent? What did you do? Did you find it was helpful in your studies and has it benefited your career to date?

As an international student you can be very limited in what hours you can spend working or volunteering outside of your studies, however I suggest getting a job on campus or in town if you can’t find anything in your field. I had jobs on campus and worked part-time at the local Sainsbury’s while studying intercultural relations and communications. This was a great opportunity to network. One of my mangers even ended up being my reference for my current job when I moved back to America.

Could you describe a typical day in your current role?

A day in the life of a national accounts representative can very depending on whether I am in the office or on the road. If I am at my desk, I am usually assisting clients through emails and calls, or I am working on communication plans to our distribution teams. When on the road I am attending conferences, educating clients face-to-face, or helping with business reviews at client home offices.

What are your future plans/aspirations?

I hope to eventually become a national accounts manager or to cover my own sales territory. This would allow me to have my own clients and manage the relationships myself. Everyday I would be leveraging the interpersonal skills I have learned from work and student life at Kent.

What is your favourite memory of Kent?

When reflecting on my time at Kent two favorite memories come to mind. The first is starting the University of Kent Women’s Pool Team. My experience in recruitment, and a lot of urging and encouragement from fellow University of Kent Snooker and Pool Club members, led to the formation of the team. For several years we played in the national tournament against teams such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Manchester University. My second favourite memory is hearing years later that the team is still active, and they eventually went on to win the national title!

What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?

I went to the University of Oregon, so I feel the need to steal the words of one of our most famous alum, Phil Knight (Nike): JUST DO IT! Especially if you are an international student. I had never visited the UK before coming to study at Kent. The University made me feel welcome from the first day – picking me up from Heathrow Airport – to my last day, striding through Canterbury Cathedral to collect my diploma. Want more practical advice? Do a campus tour and visit Canterbury before enrolling, you will fall in love with the atmosphere and culture.

How would you describe your time at Kent in three words?

Eye-opening, Challenging, Fun!

Michelle Pullen

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