MARCH 1, 2017 | BY EKIM BUYUK AND MARIELLE RODGERS
Alison graduated Duke in 2011 as an English major and Executive Vice President of BOW. She worked at Deutsche Bank in London where she focused on Corporate Social Responsibility efforts and then moved to New York to work at Nomura in Leadership Development and Diversity & Inclusion. She is currently pursuing an MBA at Imperial College Business School in London, and she plans to return to financial services in London after graduating.
Thinking back, what led you to join BOW?
Since I was little I wanted to go into business – I just knew that I wanted to be in that environment. I thought that BOW would be a great way to learn about different roles in business. It was great to build a network of women at Duke who shared the same interests, and I learned a lot from the speakers that came to visit us from different industries.
How did you end up in London?
When I was a senior, I was looking at different jobs in marketing, and I came across a 1 year internship program in London. I remember visiting London during my study abroad semester and loving the city, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get international experience at a global company. I went through phone interviews that summer and I was placed at Deutsche Bank for the year.
What was your experience like working there?
It was a great experience - I liked the environment, the energy and the pace at Deutsche Bank, and the people I worked with were very nice, smart and ambitious. I was also in a role that was a good fit for my personality – it involved events coordination, marketing and communications and allowed me to flex my interpersonal skills. I was leading committees to plan charity events across the UK and Ireland, managing relationships internally and externally.
What was the hardest part about moving abroad?
It was challenging to move away from my friends and family and start a new life abroad. You need to be resilient and build up your career and social life from the ground up. I was placed into a technical Operations role to start, and I had to negotiate with my manager to get involved in a project that had more of a marketing/communications focus. Throughout the year, I made an effort to balance all of my responsibilities to get the most out of my internship and maintain strong relationships at work.
What's something interesting that you've learned along the way?
At both Deutsche Bank and Nomura, I learned a lot about working effectively with global teams. In both roles, I was constantly working with teams across the world, from New York to London, Hong Kong, India and Japan. Being able to collaborate and communicate effectively with a diverse group of people is essential to getting global projects done effectively. It’s difficult, because you have to learn how to be yourself and let your personality shine through, and also be aware of cultural norms, working styles and behaviours.
What's your advice for those looking to work abroad?
My biggest advice is to get into a global company that values global mobility. Start working for a global company in the US, network internally and find a way to transfer to another office abroad. You can also pursue an MBA abroad and try to get hired by a company in the region where you’re studying. Having an MBA increases your chances of getting a visa sponsorship from prospective employers.
What led you to pursue an MBA?
I decided to get an MBA because I really wanted to come back to London and land full-time work here. Once I got to New York I realized that London was a better fit for me as a city. I wasn’t able to transfer to the London office with Nomura, so I thought I’d take a risk, leave my job and pursue an MBA in London. The MBA has been a huge personal growth experience – it has allowed me to think carefully about my career path, strengthen my network and round out my academic background.
What was your favorite accomplishment while at Duke?
While at Duke, I found it very valuable to get involved in student groups on campus. I enjoyed being connected to campus culture, and I held leadership positions in 4 student groups by the time I was a senior. In addition to being Executive Vice President of BOW, I chaired Duke University Union’s Annual Events Committee. I led a committee of 8 to plan large scale events on campus – it was a great learning experience, as I learned how to motivate people by delegating, staying organised and having fun along the way. I’ve used these skills in every job I’ve had since then.