NAME: RIMA CHOUDHURY / AGE: 26
JOB: JUNIOR TECHNOLOGIST AT BRITISH HOME STORES (BHS)
DEGREE: BSC BIOMEDICAL MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, QUEEN MARY AND WESTFIELD COLLEGE
Q. Why did you choose science at university?
I really enjoyed physics and art at A–level, and ideally wanted to incorporate the two as a degree for university, and engineering was the best option I could find. My specialised area was medical prosthetics, and the benefit was that the research was new and exciting, but I was also aware that it’s a very niche market. At the same time, I didn’t want to get into the large scale of fields in the medical line, as I didn’t think I would enjoy the vastness of it.
Q. Why did you decide to enter the job market?
I basically needed money and was eager to find out how I could apply my degree in a practical way. When it comes to science, practical work teaches you a lot, but it is what is often missing from education – to actually apply science to real life is something that you don’t fully understand until you do it.
Q. What did you find employers asking for in the jobs you applied to?
I applied for biomedical jobs but realised that it is a very niche market and the number of people specialising in the field has increased significantly, so competition is fierce and employers are ruthless in choosing who to interview. In retail, the competition for technologist roles is not as extreme, so employers generally look for a confident individual who pays close attention to detail and can follow their own initiative in solving problems.
Q. What does your current job involve?
I do technical reports on products that are sold in Bhs, and have to make sure that everything meets British Standards. It’s an interesting role and the reason I went into it was to go into the technical side of textiles. I’ve also realised that there are better opportunities for career development in a retail company compared to a science company. The problem with the science industry is that unless you have a masters degree or a PhD, you may not get very far, especially in terms of wages.
Q. What do you find most enjoyable?
The best part of this job is that I get to travel and see places and see how materials are made and where they originate. It’s so nice to see how science fits into the real world. People may not necessarily realise when they buy a product that there is a process of science involved, but it is there.
Q. What do you find most challenging?
The most challenging aspect I’ve found is trying to talk in tradesman talk, using layman terms so that people understand. In a scientific job, you often work with people who have the same type of knowledge as you, but in retail, you’re often dealing with people who don’t know much about science.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
I wouldn’t mind moving on to a managerial position for a technical division, which would be an excellent way to learn some business as well. I also wouldn’t mind moving onto textiles, as I love fashion and would like to be more involved with the creative process.
Q. What advice do you have for students thinking of entering your field?
One of the most important things is that it’s essential to get placements and work during vacations while studying. If you want to move into the retail sector, part–time jobs during your time at university that reflect your interests will show employers your enthusiasm. What employers look for in the technical aspect of retail is that you have basic scientific knowledge, and that you are a confident individual who can work under pressure.