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Taking my £35k degree and doing something... else?

I attended four(!) different universities in getting my BA in Politics and Development Studies, and I loved (almost) every second of it. There are plenty of highlights, most which I outlined after sitting my last ever exam in this Instagram post. I think one of the main reasons why I had such a phenomenal time at uni is that I worked almost throughout, incidentally in startup PR. It meant I was seldom skint, I got to be in an office environment (which I thought was really exciting) and I also developed skills you don't necessarily do at uni.

Baby me at my first ever PR internship in 2013

A question that often comes up from colleagues, friends and family members alike is why I decided to go into PR after spending all that time (four years at uni, one year working in Uganda) and money (currently have £35k~ in student debt and on a 25 year payment plan that requires me to pay £120/month) wrapping my head around different development theories and discourses to go into... startup PR?

Initially I think it was more a case of startup PR choosing me than the other way around. And you know the notion "don't choose a job, choose a boss" ? I had an ally in my first ever PR manager, and she in me - it allowed me to learn loads and develop a skill set much more practical than the one I acquired at uni. Uni taught me how to think and my first manager taught me how to work. Doing a degree in PR and comms seems like a slight waste of time IMHO, as you'll learn so much on the job anyway. Doing a degree in politics, on the other hand, unwraps theories about how the world works in a way you can't get in the workplace. My degree has helped me see structures and understand power balances in a way I probably otherwise wouldn't, and that has been of great help when pursuing a career in PR.

At Web Summit in 2015 with my first manager (who then also became my second manager in a different job)

So why PR and why startups? Doing PR in the corporate world sounds pretty dull to me, but working with companies and people that are actually attempting to change the current world order is beyond fun, and pretty important too - particularly in how it's communicated, both internally as a vision but also (obviously) externally in changing public opinion and consumer behaviour. There's a lot of BS in the industry, as is the case with the international aid industry, but thankfully you'll learn to see through it pretty quickly.

I haven't signed off the third sector or the international aid industry for good. In fact, I think many of the tools enabling positive change in the global south will come from the global startup community - in many ways, they already do. Whether it's WorldRemit for remittances or Ari.Farm making the Somali goat market global, tech startups are already playing a huge role in lifting large numbers of people out of poverty. And truth to be told... Everybody needs a good PR.

My humanitarian self at a field trip to Karamoja, northern Uganda in 2014