Eleanor James

Eleanor JamesSubject of study: MA Translation & Interpreting 
Year of graduation: 2012
Current position: Project Leader, Picnic

What are you doing now?

I work on international projects with Picnic, a Brand Innovation agency. We build brand identities, purposes, and cultures, and create meaningful actions to bring them to life.

I also volunteer as Director for the Open Horizons Foundation supporting young entrepreneurship, and as Secretary for the Inclusive Technologies Association (for e-health startups). I mentor startups at the European Institute for Entrepreneurship (where I was manager for the past 3 years), and I am involved in 3 startup projects in my free time.

What did you find most valuable about your course at Westminster? How did the skills you learnt during your degree help you to shape your career?

My skills have enabled me to seamlessly integrate into Spanish culture and the working world, providing me with a wealth of opportunities. I also picked up many subsidiary skills that have helped immensely in different contexts (note-taking, public speaking) for which I am very grateful.

What was the best thing about being a student in London?

London is a city that is diverse yet inclusive. International culture pulses through the city; it is a wonderful melting pot of people from all backgrounds to meet and interact with. It offers a wealth of opportunities and above all provides the perfect stage for a student to discover and explore both who they are and who they want to be, as well as different ways to get there.

(The expense can be tricky but it does in fact teach students different coping mechanisms!) 

What extra-curricular activities did you participate in that enhanced your time at the University?

During my MA at Westminster I was also working as a Duty Manager for the ULU sports centre, Energybase, (now Student Central) and setting up the London branch of an international peace organisation called CISV. I also played jazz occasionally with UCL (as I was formerly a student and actively involved in their musical activities).

What advice would you give to someone thinking for pursuing a similar career?

The important thing is always to make the most of any opportunities presented or available to you. Speaking to visiting translators, professors, tutors etc and attending special events or lectures from guest speakers working in the industry helped gain an idea of what might be appealing (or not) to do next.

Gaining some experience on the side is also very useful! Really reflect on what kind of work environment you like (freelancer from home, in an agency, at a firm) and in what areas (theoretical vs applied/practical knowledge, technical vs creative, etc) so you can find where you fit best and what best suits you, and go for it.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

My work with CISV really helped broaden my horizons in terms of cultural immersion and contact with people from other backgrounds and nationalities.

Those kind of experiences help you be open-minded which is a very important attribute to have.

Working with startups has also been a fantastic experience that I wasn't looking for but in fact suited me perfectly – I seized an opportunity that came along and although I never ended up working full-time in what I trained for, it has been a fantastic journey and I've learned a lot. Go with your gut instincts and don't be afraid to try something new – these days it's okay to move from job to job quite quickly, and every experience will teach you something (even if it's about what you don't like!).