55Nadia Erlam

Nadia Erlam

Gender Institute Intern, London School of Economics

MSc Gender, Policy & Inequalities, 2015

Why did you choose LSE, and why did you choose your programme of study?

I chose LSE because it has one of the best Gender departments in the world. At the time, studying oppression was less popular than it is today and was less recognised as a critical form of analysis in the mainstream. Although I knew intrinsically how important it was, doing it at the LSE helped to enable me to study this subject due to its excellent reputation. Thankfully, these trends are rapidly changing, and the world is seeing how essential this lens and form of awareness is. Doing it at LSE also helped to ensure a high calibre of teaching, content and that my cohort was from across the globe, an international environment that I was used to thanks to growing up in Brussels. It also helped to ensure much interest from employers’ post-MSc, which is very appealing considering the competitive jobs market. The reason I chose Gender, Policy and Inequality was because I was very interested in this field and I wanted to work in it. At the same time, the MSc felt quite broad which allowed flexibility in terms of its application in the job market as well. Lastly, I already had a BA Hons in Politics and Social Policy, so it fit well with my academic background as well.

Overall, how do you look back on your LSE experience?

It was mind-expanding, extremely challenging and profoundly insightful.

Please describe your career path to date:

At the time, it was clear to me that whatever I was going to do with my career trajectory, being a part of projects that addressed damaging power dynamics was going to be an important element of it. Therefore, I initially worked as an intern in various diversity-related organisations such as Women in Prison (WIP), Mind, Fearless Futures (the UK’s first group to train people to teach girls about gender inequality in school), and the Women’s Equality Party (WEP). I have also worked for the High Pay Centre who are a ThinkTank that conducts research on national unequal pay issues and at LSE Gender as a Collaborative Resources Developer. Constant workshops and presentations during my Master’s course and professionally has meant my presentation, communication and facilitation skills and ability to support learners are at a high standard. It gave me the confidence to mentor a young adult with Creative Opportunities and support them in their next stage of completing college and applying to University. They were successful in their application and will be attending their chosen University, Sussex, this year.

The skills that I learnt at LSE have since been used extensively in my career. For example, at Goldsmiths, I have used my analytical skills to review data from marketing trends to develop new advertising strategies to market our employer events, many of which I lead in organising. At the WEP, I reviewed comparative measures on London childcare costs which was published in party leaflets which were distributed to all households in London. At WIP, I supported front-line staff who have vulnerable clients often with extremely complex needs, volunteering at The Hub at HMP Holloway which was a space women could go when they would be released from custody so they could re-adjust before going back into wider society.

Additionally, during our MSc, we are taught to recognise how meaningful silent discourses can be, a skill that can be really useful in various projects in the workplace. Whilst working at WIP, I noticed that in the mainstream, there was a lack of discussion and publications exploring why a huge proportion of women in prison come from the care system despite a large amount of quantitative data indicating this. What allowed me to approach quantitative data confidently were classes at LSE were we practiced statistical analysis, something I would have shied away from pre-MSc. After seeing this inconsistency in the discourse, I conducted research and published the article ‘From Care to Custody’ for WIP. Without my background, I may have never have noticed this. So, above, you can see how studying Gender, Policy and Inequality coupled with working in these institutions and environments absolutely gave me the necessary skills, analytical ability, qualifications, confidence and knowledge to really thrive in the workplace.

Before I went to LSE, I had never shown anyone my spoken word pieces. Whilst I was a student here, I decided to submit my poetry to a Literary Competition run by the Student Union which reached the finals and was the first time I performed my poetry in front of an audience. This encouraged me to perform my poetry ever since and actively cultivate a bigger audience for my work – adding to my outreach and marketing skills. Now I have been invited to submit my poetry for an upcoming album and I am currently collating my poems to approach publishers. My thesis from LSE also developed many of my skills which are useful now in my career. It won a Breaking Convention Social Research Award in 2017, and I presented it at two conferences increasing my presentation skills and confidence. A condensed version is currently being edited to be published in two books. The success of my MSc dissertation has provoked me into really recognising the value of my own work. I continue to write articles regularly for projects such as the Antenna Collective and Prowl magazine, most recently editing my own zine ‘Queer States’ with 10 other contributors. Thanks to this work, I have been invited to appear on a number of podcasts and I am now working as a producer and presenter on a diversity-related podcast as well.

Some of my best friends have come from LSE, and we still regularly see each other a number of years on. We have since organised cohort conferences to keep applying what we have learnt to our lives, as practically putting into place what we have learnt takes constant work, critical thinking and effort which produce very rewarding outcomes. Such as being self-aware and critically aware of our environments in a constructive manner which helps us to refine how we conduct ourselves and how we contribute to society. For example, recently, I attended a ‘White Allyship’ course (co-curated by an LSE Gender graduate and friend), which was all about training white people to be better allies to People From the Global Racial Majority by becoming more aware of racism (externally and internally). You can see how my MSc has profoundly benefitted me and has influenced me in multiple ways – developing me personally and professionally.

Why did you choose your current job?

Thanks to the above and working at LSE Gender, I realised that I really enjoyed and was good at working in a Higher Education Environment and on diversity areas, organising diversity-related events such as ‘Mainstreaming Disability: How can we make Change’ at LSE. Feedback from clients, including being nominated for the LSESU Teaching Excellence Award in Pastoral and Welfare Support in 2017, meant that I was confident that this field suited me well and that I was delivering a high standard to customers. Now I work at Goldsmiths, University of London as an Employer Engagement Coordinator where I regularly organise events as well as work with students and employers to ensure excellent opportunities are available for our students.

Tell us about your current job:

The role of an EE Coordinator entails that I approach different employers on behalf of our students, and work with them to improve the employability of our students to help them enter the job market. This can be through organising various events, skill-sharing workshops, and by assisting recruitment initiatives. I am also the Coordinator of the National Mentoring Consortium Scheme at Goldsmiths which pairs BAME students with mentors in various sectors. This fantastic project is a form of positive action which highlights the importance of diversity in Employer Engagement work. Wherever appropriate, I apply my MSc background to my work and approach diversity-related organisations on behalf of our students such those that work specifically with autistic adults and promoting BAME-related internships, or hosting and organising panels such as ‘Diversity in the Workplace’ or ‘Women in Tech’ at Goldsmiths.

What advice do you have for LSE students who are looking to enter a similar profession to you?

Definitely make the most of LSE Careers. They are career experts who can help you in a number of ways to enter the professional career that you want. Due to working in a Careers Service, I know how valuable these services are and how they can really help ensure students increase their employability and ease their entrance into the job market. In terms of entering the profession with the MSc, the things I learnt at LSE benefitted me profoundly in the workplace, whereby I feel very able and calm in environments that others may find more challenging, such as presenting in front of big audiences and to people from different levels within an organisation, analysing complex data, and taking on large, multi-layered and significant projects. Simultaneously, the working world has helped to refine my skills so much that it can really help students to have experience in the workplace before doing their MSc.

It can be quite tough being aware of power dynamics in the modern world day-to-day, and it can also be quite a contentious issue for many people. Therefore, it would be very beneficial to learn influencing and negotiation skills. Power dynamics cannot always be seen by others who haven’t had the privilege (and it is a privilege) to study them. These kinds of insights, as well as navigating different experiences, can really help to develop your awareness and resilience which is invaluable in the workplace. What you learn in your MSc is how to feel very comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Existing slightly beyond your comfort zone is the space where we evolve most as individuals. So it is important for you to remember that, to recognise your privileges, and train yourself accordingly in the skills that will help you navigate all circumstances that arise.

It is important to check in with yourself regularly, to take stock, make clear goals (short, medium and long term) to ensure you are on the right track My last piece of advice is to prioritise looking after yourself and putting your needs first, as that will help you to ensure you are always performing at your optimum level and help you to regularly work out your next step. If you are working on diversity issues, for many, this is an area that people understandably feel really passionate about, so make sure you take things at your own pace. This is long-term, life-long work, so make sure you take the time for yourself and you make the space and time for lots of fun too! Just allow yourself to do your best. Your time is very precious so it is important to have the right balance - a mixture of work, rest and fun. Best of luck!

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