Name: Kathryn Baker
Degree and University: BSc in Economics from Warwick University.
Title: Senior Business Analyst working for Capital One’s UK business.
What do you actually do? The Business Analyst role serves as our internal consultancy function, assessing ways that we can optimise our marketing, products and way we operate to maximise profitability. Examples of projects would include building statistical models to identify different types of consumers, and which products would appeal to them or how risky we believe they will be over a period of time; or pulling together a long term strategy on how and where we should spend our marketing budget to attract the volume and type of customers we need to build and sustain our successful portfolio.
Why did you decide to go into consultancy? After my degree, I was looking forward to working in a role that had genuine responsibility and where my ideas and work would lead to tangible outcomes and have impact from the start; I didn’t want to be held back by a lengthy graduate scheme working on endless low-profile projects. In this sector, you tend to be thrown in at the deep end, and gain exposure to a tremendous variety of business areas early on, which means you quickly find out what you enjoy and where you excel.
Would you undertake further study to progress in your career? The Financial and Business sectors tend to be quite flexible about training requirements, so how much or how little you do comes largely down to personal preference. Breadth of experience is certainly worth a great deal, and whilst further qualifications aren’t necessary for success, I think that in a few years I will consider supporting my experience with an MBA.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? I really enjoy working in an intellectually stimulating environment, with colleagues who are passionate about their work, which is definitely true of my current role. I love that I can define my own project agendas, and really take ownership from conception to implementation, which means I get to learn a huge amount about a variety of business functions and feel real satisfaction from seeing my ideas through to fruition.
Because you are in control of your own workload, it is easy to become completely immersed in a project, so it is important to make sure you don’t take your work home with you too much.
What are the most important skills you need to succeed at what you do? It really helps to have strong focus on what you are working on, and have the ability to structure your thinking so that you can break down some pretty substantial problems into solvable chunks. You will also be working with a wide range of people across different business functions, so communication and teamwork skills can have a huge impact on the success of your projects.
What advice would you give graduates coming into this sector? Visit company open days and talk to people actually in the role at careers fairs etc. as you shouldn’t underestimate how different roles can be across different companies. Think hard about whether you are ready to undergo specialist training straight out of university, or if you would rather gain a broad business education for a few years to find out what you really enjoy. Any work experience is obviously a bonus, and don’t worry if it isn’t an internship – you can gain a lot even from temping jobs with the right attitude.