We interview Natalia Kitchen who joined Impact UK’s Programme Managers team last summer.
Tell us a bit more about your education and what brought you to Impact?
I graduated from Durham University with a first class Politics degree in 2015. I geared my study towards the Middle East, as well as International Ethics and Security. My dissertation focused on the issue of gender in definitions of international security, as used by international organisations, and pulled on active cases of female terrorism throughout history to the present as support. I also spent a year abroad at Uppsala University in Sweden, where I studied environmental politics, alongside Swedish language and anthropology. After I graduated, I moved back home and was looking for something local that would help put me on my feet until I figured out what I wanted to do. I wasn’t entirely sure what Impact did, but I was interested in the ethos of the company from what information I’d read on the website. I was attracted to the idea of responsible leadership and the affinity with the sustainable development goals at first glance – that was enough for me to want to know more and learn properly about a sector I knew nothing about.
What were your first few weeks in Impact like?
I did two weeks work experience at Impact before I was taken on full time, and I had a great time in the programme management team seeing how things work and getting to know everyone. I spent a lot of time down in the stationary cupboard, which at the time I didn’t appreciate the value of! Now I am working as a programme manager, I realise how valuable my first few weeks and months at Impact were.
Is your graduate experience in Impact different (better) from what you expected?
I wasn’t expecting there to be a ‘graduate experience’ here as such, because I had no knowledge of the business structure or even of people that worked here. It has been a personal and specifically aimed process of how to develop personally and professionally, and I feel supported to work through at my pace. I wouldn’t say I have had a strictly ‘graduate experience’ in the best possible way – the growth and opportunity is available to everyone. I think there is a tendency to treat graduates as if they have no ‘real world’ experience and need a softer version of work that shields from real development and understanding. I am grateful I have not been treated in that way and have had every opportunity to drive my personal graduate experience as I think is best for me.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in the past one year?
Never underestimate the effect of working with good people and friends.
What work/project are you most proud of?
I am proud of my whole time at Impact so far. I started 10 months ago doing bits and pieces of office work and support and now I am a programme manager working on my own full accounts.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a fellow graduate stepping into full-time employment?
Persevere. It’s so easy to lose heart when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere with finding a full time job, but if you keep going, eventually the right thing will come along. Also, you don’t have to be making a lifetime of career decisions while you’re trying to find your first job. Its just the beginning.