Millie loves the variety and challenges of her job in cyber security – but she originally wanted to be a doctor. In this interview, Millie talks about how all her experiences have led her to where she is now, from a call centre job in her gap year to getting involved in clubs and societies at university.
Name: Millie Perkins
Industry: Cyber security
What is your job? Consultant and volunteer STEM ambassador
How long have you worked here? Since October 2015
University: University of York
Degree subject: Chemistry
1. What was your very first job?
My first job was as a customer service advisor in a call centre for a bank during my gap year after university. I got this position despite the job advert asking for experience I didn’t have – so you just don’t know until you apply! It was hard as I sometimes had to deal with difficult customers and the role involved sales which I found difficult. However the job helped me build my interpersonal and customer service skills which are now invaluable to me.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
I always wanted to be a doctor when I was at school however by the time I was applying for university I didn’t have the necessary work experience to help distinguish me from the other candidates. I didn’t get into university the first time round so I decided to take a gap year and try again. I could only apply for four places in medicine so my fifth choice was chemistry at the University of York. I didn’t get into medicine the second time either however I’m very glad now that I didn’t as I ended up really enjoying studying chemistry.
3. How did you find out about the industry?
I have always been interested in technology but I didn’t realise that cyber security was such a large industry to work in. The demand for cyber security professionals is increasing all the time however I don’t think it’s a well known field amongst people who don’t study computer science. My friend recommended that I apply for my current job as she had seen the advert and thought it would suit me, and here I am!
4. How did you get there?
Whilst I was at university, I took advantage of the various societies and got involved by taking up committee positions. This helped me develop valuable transferable skills such as leadership, time management and organisational skills. This experience helped me to land a place on an industrial placement scheme at Unilever as part of my degree. Following this one year placement, I got a permanent job there as a formulation chemist.
This experience then helped me in the application process for my current job which is a graduate scheme. The application process had five stages however it was not as daunting as it sounds, and was quite manageable when taken step by step.
5. What is a typical day like?
A typical day could involve helping a colleague to write a report on a recent piece of work, writing a proposal to bid for work at a company and travelling to a client’s site to talk to people there.
My work is very varied and can be as technical as I want it to be, I have no formal technical training but have an interest in it so I try to get involved in the technical side where I can.
I can also be travelling quite a bit as I’m a consultant and I need to go to where the client is. I have been to London quite a bit for training courses and I’m also going to be going to Helsinki a lot this year as I’m on a project there – which is exciting!
6. What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is the variety of the work and the challenge. I’m a person who likes to learn new things and I find myself constantly doing that in this job. This may be because I’m new to an industry however no two projects are exactly the same and so there is always something to learn.
7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Whilst I enjoy it, learning a lot of information quickly can be difficult. If I’m on a project that I’ve not done before it can be tricky to try and absorb all the information at once whilst trying to also do my job.
8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
I would recommend trying to either get a job or do some voluntary work to give you some experience and skills that will set you apart from the crowd when it comes to applying for jobs or university. Try and volunteer yourself for activities you’ve not done before as it helps to give you good experience! Also, make sure to get involved and take advantage of the range of societies at university as you won’t have a chance like it again.
9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
I wish I’d known that being able to say "no" to people is a skill in itself, as I perhaps made myself too eager to help others early on in my career which made my personal development suffer. I wish I had been able to find the balance of helping others whilst prioritising my personal development sooner.
10. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I’d like to still be working at KPMG in a more senior role – perhaps as a manager whilst having gained professional qualifications in information security.
Cyber security is just one of the many exciting places you can go by studying subjects like maths, science and technology. Did you also know you could design video games or develop software, cure diseases, or even carry out space research?