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A. Kirsty de Timog-Viegas

A. Kirsty de Timog-ViegasProbation Service Officer, National Probation Service

MSc Criminology with Forensic Psychology, 2014

What made you choose Middlesex University?

I decided to attend Middlesex University because it had the course that I desperately wanted to study. It was also incredibly well-equipped and had brilliant facilities. I was also comforted by the fact that Middlesex provided their students with a remarkable amount of support and guidance both during and after schooling.

When I had familiarised myself with the Campus and the details of the course I was most interested in,

I concluded that Middlesex would be the most sensible choice for me and would be the most academically fulfilling route.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

I have completed both a MSc in Criminology with Forensic Psychology, and a BA in Criminology with Sociology and I thoroughly enjoyed studying them both.

At the time, I was hell-bent on becoming a Police Officer and I was strongly compelled to apply for a place on the BA Criminology with Sociology course because I felt that it was the one that corresponded best with my ambitions. Additionally, as it was a combined course, I would have not only been studying criminological elements, but sociological elements, as well. I thrive on learning and as I am deeply intrigued by both crime and society, I felt that I would not only excel in this course, but enjoy it, too.

After completing my Undergrad, I was fortunate enough to have received a scholarship from the Dean of the School for Law, which enabled me to further my education. I was immediately interested in the MSc Criminology with Forensic Psychology course as I did not have a psychology degree but had studied it extensively during my time at sixth form. This course presented me with the opportunity to further my criminological skills by immersing myself into the diverse nature of 'crime', by understanding the processes which underpin the criminal justice system and by developing practical skills regarding criminal behaviour, legal psychology and the dynamics of the courtroom.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

I found the opportunity to grow and learn from both the course itself and the people I encountered remarkably mentally stimulating, and that made the course a very positive and exciting experience for me.

I am thirsty for knowledge and academia is something that is deeply important to me, so first and foremost, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have studied at Middlesex University. The opportunity to learn something new, under the guidance of such reputable tutors, is something that I not only appreciate, but have thoroughly enjoyed.

I am grateful for the chance to have been in an environment that not only promotes growth, but broadens perspective, nurtures the desire to learn and of course, allows students, like myself, to meet and learn from different people - people whom I am proud to call lifelong friends.

To provide one other definite example, I thoroughly enjoyed carrying out fieldwork. During my Master's Degree, students were often required to attend locations, retrieve data ourselves and construct comprehensive reports on our findings. This was a thoroughly gratifying activity

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

I am particularly fond of the days I spent cultivating strong relationships with my tutors and fellow students through laughter, through the unanimous struggle and stress of deadlines and by interacting with such a diverse pool of people.

There is not one particular day that I am able to single out and label as 'my fondest memory' as each happy thought involves significant persons in my life - each memory with them is special to me.

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

I didn't have it easy and neither will you.

The process will be long and daunting and there will be times where you will want to quit. Don't. Keep pushing and do not ever give up.

What does your current job involve?

I am currently working as a Probation Service Officer and I oversee and work with offenders who have either been released from prison, are on licence or are serving community sentences. I aspire to reduce reoffending and protect the public.

I also assess the risk an offender may pose to the community, how that risk may be limited, and I supervise sentences in the community. I may also be required to prepare court reports to inform sentencing decisions. My job also requires me to work in other settings such as prisons, 'approved premises', with victims, community payback/unpaid work, accredited programmes or victim liaison.

I tend to work with offenders who are at a higher risk of harm and reoffending - which is both challenging and stimulating.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you to get where you are professionally today?

From my time as a postgraduate, I have developed the skills needed to manage and evaluate crime and intelligence data to ascertain intelligence value and disseminate, as appropriate, in accordance with the correct handing guidance. I have developed superb report writing skills to provide key information in relation to the assessment decisions that are both clear and auditable, to both specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Middlesex has granted me the opportunity to work alongside leading professionals in the field who have not only enriched my knowledge, but have moulded me, encouraged me and have inspired me to do more, be more and know more. I have been privileged to study under such individuals who have stimulated my mind and supported me, encouraging my growth and maturity.

What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?

Both of my parents come from a military background, had I not joined the police force at 18, I probably would have joined the Special Reconnaissance Regiment instead. Nevertheless, I have always been attracted to roles which require individuals to protect others. Although my interests changed slightly and I became involved with the Probation Service, so far, I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Despite that, there are 'cons' to this line of work. For example, when I was a Constable in the Met, I found that the public rarely viewed me as an individual and often did not see me past my uniform. Be prepared to have the world judge you but do not take it personally and do not allow the actions of others to influence your conduct. With Probation, it is important for people to recognise that we cannot help everyone. Some individuals are not ready to receive help; some do not even think they need help in the first place. There may even be offenders who do not accept any responsibility for their actions and bear no remorse whatsoever. This work is challenging and it can be dangerous, but it can also be very rewarding and life changing.

Working in Probation also presents you with the opportunity to attend exclusive workshops surrounding various issues like FGM, Child Sexual Exploitation or even Forced Marriages. In addition to the opportunity for growth and erudition, duties are diverse and rarely boring - one may go on to specialise in specific areas like Terrorism or Gangs. To summarise, the opportunity to provide help and support for individuals, who may have experienced traumatic lives or events, is rewarding, fulfilling and gratifying.

How did you get your foot on the career ladder post university?

In conjunction with studying for my university degrees, I had been working closely with the Metropolitan Police Service. Here I learnt to develop excellent interpersonal skills, professionalism and meticulousness. As a result, I was able to get hands-on experience and was often required to assume leadership roles and manage complex tasks. Years of experience in dealing with complex assignments have enabled me to develop not only specific investigative skills, but also a valuable and transferable skill set in any fast-paced sector. This helped me to develop confidence in managing complex tasks and to ultimately enjoy the challenge and responsibility.

My time with the Metropolitan Police has helped me to mature, develop exceptional leadership abilities and of course apply practical skills to the real world. Additionally, having worked in one of the busiest and most multicultural areas of London, the job has also helped me to strengthen my respect and appreciation for other cultures and has given me a practical and comprehensive understanding of policing and crime. The job has also taught me to see issues from other people's viewpoints and to respect the needs of everyone involved when sorting out disagreements- all valuable and transferable skills which undoubtedly helped to make my applications more 'appealing' to employers.

What does the future hold for you?

I believe that many exciting and daunting challenges await and I am eager to overcome and succeed, no matter what.

What are the top three career tips you would give to current students and recent graduates?

  1. Be open to 'change'
  2. Believe in your abilities
  3. Don't do anything that makes you unhappy

What one piece of advice would you give to the 17/18 year old you?

Don't rip yourself into pieces to keep others whole- think for yourself or someone else will.

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