From 7 to 15 September, a group of 12 students travelled to Washington DC to take part in the Westminster Working Cultures programme to understand the professional environment and working life in the capital of the United States.
The Westminster Working Cultures programme, funded by The Quintin Hogg Trust, is designed to enhance students’ employability, giving them the opportunity to travel abroad and experience the professional environment and culture in cities across the globe. The programme involves meeting with professionals from different sectors, including digital technology and education and culture.
In their first trip students were given a tour of the new offices of Diligent Corporation, a company that provides world leading board-management software. Following the tour they attended a presentation followed by a discussion by Senior Vice President and Managing Director Liam Healy about modern governance technology and the importance of knowing how to sell yourself to a company.
Liam commented: “It was great to host such a bright, energetic and enthusiastic bunch of students to discuss business, transferable learning and life after university. What impressed me most, aside from their intellect, was their genuine curiosity and thirst for understanding how the skills they’ve acquired will be applicable to any business, such as Diligent, regardless of their subject of study. I enjoyed sharing Diligent’s growth and how I’ve been able to apply my previous experience in professional athletics to the business world and, in particular, leading a SaaS (Software as a Service) business.”
Students learned about the history of the United States with exclusive museum tours conducted by senior staff at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr Peter Jakab, the Chief Curator for the National Air and Space Museum, led an informative tour followed by an inspirational talk with Dr Ellen Stofan, Head of Air and Space and former NASA Chief Scientist. Dr Stofan shared some of her fascinating research missions focusing on the geology of Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan and Earth and inspired the students to think about what they can achieve.
The students also toured the Lemelson Centre for the Study of Invention and Innovation with Sharon Klotz, Head of Invention Education, discovering the ways in which they can bring out their inner inventor or entrepreneur.
Their final tour was of the National Museum of African American History and Culture with Timothy Anne Burnside and Paul Gardullo, followed by a group discussion with Dr Lonnie Bunch, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution about the cross-disciplinary teams required to ensure the success of a museum.
Students also met with alumnus and entrepreneur Paul Ashe who organised a visit to the Bells of Congress at the Old Post Office Tower, where students met a team of bell ringers and learnt about the importance of team work and coordination, whilst having the privilege of ringing the bells across Washington DC.
At a Westminster alumni event in central Washington, students met with some of the University’s senior leadership team and alumni to share their experience of the trip and develop their networking skills.
Alice Stella, who is entering her final year on the International Business BA Honours course, said about the trip: “One of the things that really impacted me during this trip was meeting so many amazing women with inspirational stories and careers. As a young female professional, it was extremely motivating to hear compelling stories from people like Dr Ellen Stofan, Dr Sharon Klotz and Timothy-Anne Burnside. I found that all of them shared the same passion and commitment to create more diversity and equality in the workplace, but also, I learnt how much resilience and perseverance are needed in order to succeed.”
Jordan Scammell, Development Team Manager and trip supervisor, said: “The range of subjects being studied by our 12 students, resulted in a dynamic and collaborative level of engagement with the programme and our speakers, which really helped to foster their collective thinking on how they can stand out in today’s global graduate market. I am grateful to each of our speakers for being so generous with their time and expertise and ensuring all students took something away to further their longer-term career goals.”
The next destination in the Westminster Working Cultures programme will take place in Mumbai in January 2020.