I started lobbying on financial services, energy and defence issues at an independent consultancy in 2007, followed by roles as Senior Researcher for MPs Peter Bone & Sir Richard Shepherd. I also ran a small anti-human-trafficking organisation for a while, in my spare time, before heading up the public policy team at UKSIF from 2012.
MSc (Distinction) International Political Economy, LSE
BSc, Economics with Politics, University of Warwick
How did you get into Public Affairs?
While at LSE, I did a part-time research internship for David Willetts which ignited my interest in politics. I knew that I wanted to remain in this area while doing something with a more commercial ‘edge’, so public affairs was a natural fit.
What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?
It’s pretty varied – one of the joys of a career in public affairs! As an example, I spent a day recently putting the finishing touches to our ‘Ownership Day’ e-mail campaign and drafting some Parliamentary Questions to be sent out to supporters while the next day I’ll be drafting news articles and chairing an investor roundtable for our members. Soon after, I will have meetings in Westminster with policymakers, will be speaking to the media about our views on the Budget as well as finalizing UKSIF’s public policy strategy for the next year. One thing you can count on to remain constant though: having to wade through a lot of e-mails and make lots of phone calls!
Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have been involved in?
My work for the ACT London Forum (the anti-human trafficking organization). I came on board in the run-up to London 2012, when the levels of trafficking were predicted to increase significantly. ACT London’s community-level focus and the passion of its volunteers were inspiring and I think we really raised awareness in London communities of the issue through our advocacy, education & outreach, and research capabilities.
What do you enjoy about working in public affairs?
I’ve been lucky to have generally worked on issues and campaigns that I believe in throughout my lobbying career. At a ‘micro’-level, to hear the ‘click’ in a policymaker’s brain about the positives of the position you’re advocating is very rewarding. In the more ‘macro’ sense, as a public affairs professional you’re feeding into the policymaking process and it’s one of the best ways to have a real impact on the world around you.
What was the best piece of advice you were given when trying to break into Public Affairs?
Not to do it unless you were the kind of person who felt completely at ease walking into a roomful of strangers and striking up a conversation with whoever you found yourself next to. Also, that the personal touches – like remembering someone’s birthday – can count for a great deal, even in a professional capacity.
What are the most important things that you learnt whilst working in Parliament which you have applied to your current public affairs work?
To keep it brief and tailored to the individual MP. And that getting on with an MP’s staff can be very important – don’t be dismissive or patronizing or you’ll just end up irritating (quite understandably) the person who is often the ‘gatekeeper’ and who has the power to prioritise exactly what it is a (usually very busy) MP looks at.
As somebody who is active on the local political scene, how important do you think such involvement is to a career in public affairs?
It’s excellent for networking and good for keeping up to date on what’s happening with a particular party. However, unless you’re careful, it can mean that your party political information is a bit one-sided and, especially if you’re working in a small team, being able to understand the approach of all the major parties is vital.
How relevant is Degree subject for a public affairs career?
When I’m recruiting graduates, what I’m looking for in CVs is a) a good-quality degree in a subject that requires a significant degree of analytical capability and b) some evidence of an interest in politics/campaigns/current affairs. So it is relevant, but I think that by no means do you have to have done a politics degree to get ahead in public affairs.
If you could timetravel back to your final year at University, what career advice would you give yourself?
To think about getting internships/experience at both the UK (or local) and EU levels; EU legislation – particularly in financial services – is very important, even if you end up in a UK-based public affairs career. And also to start building up a ‘body’ of blogs or articles if you’re interested in lobbying in a particular field but haven’t necessarily been able to get any issue-specific work experience.
You pursued postgrad study straight after your undergrad degree: what would be your advice to current students considering the same approach?
If I could do my time again, I would have a break for a few years between Warwick and LSE. It was really noticeable how much more enthusiastic those who had done so were about their MSc studies, compared to those who were by then doing their 4th straight year of university education.