‘Life Beyond Pembroke’ Careers Evening
On the evening of Monday 2nd March, the 1347 Committee in conjunction with PemWomen@30 welcomed back three distinguished female Pembroke alumni – one from each decade during which women have been students at the College – to talk about their careers and lives beyond Pembroke. Each speaker discussed their career highlights and the lessons they’ve learned along the way, generously providing useful advice for the students listening in the audience.
Joanna Prior (1984) read English at Pembroke, matriculating in the first year the college accepted female undergraduate students, and is now Managing Director of Penguin General Books. Joanna discovered the publishing industry by trial and error, and stressed how important it is to keep searching for a career which really fits you. She also noted that failure can be a positive thing – good advice for a room of notoriously overachieving Cambridge students!
Rebecca Dias (1992) received a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Pembroke, and following a further 4 years as a post-doc in Cardiff she entered the pharmaceutical industry, where she is now a Senior Director at Pfizer Neusentis. Rebecca also cited the importance of trial and error, and encouraged the audience to be proactive in planning and taking responsibility for their own careers.
Alice Newton (2007) graduated from Pembroke recently with a degree in Classics and subsequently spent a year at Harvard. She is now Head of Product for WorldRemit, a startup that aims to make it easier and cheaper for migrants to send money back to their families abroad. Alice entered the digital sector following a computer science class she took at Harvard, and in the most partisan advice of the night she emphasised the growing importance of the industry and its potential for future job-seekers: ‘every business is a digital business’.
Following this, all three speakers fielded questions from the audience, some of which were enquiries about specific aspects of their respective industries, while others addressed more general themes. On the topic of women in the workplace the speakers were generally positive about the changes of the last few decades. They even noted that being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry (such as technology) can be a positive thing, as it increases your opportunities for exposure. The continuing dominance of men at management level was commented on, but Rebecca was encouraging in her opinion that it is a lack of confidence and self-belief (in other words, remediable issues), rather than inherent structural barriers, which tend to prevent women from reaching senior positions.
The evening gave a fascinating insight into three very different industries, and left the audience with constructive advice for the progress of their own future careers. In the words of Rebecca: ‘believe in yourself, play to win, and enjoy your career journey!’
Eleanor Metcalf (English, 2012)