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Poonam Venkatesh

Poonam VenkateshFounder, Square 1 Consultants

MA Human Resource Management, 2013

What made you choose Middlesex University?

I am from India and initially the UK seemed like a very attractive place to come and study. It had always been my dream to come to London and experience London life and because Middlesex is one of the best universities in the UK for Human Resources it was simply the best option for me.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

I wanted to do a Masters degree in management after I completed my BA in Economics so after making the decision to choose one of the management fields I chose HR because it is so diverse. With HR you can work in any area and will always have the possibility to develop you career further and because I'm very talkative and always enjoy chatting to people it seemed like the right thing for me.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

I liked the way things were very practical. The course had a very realistic approach to education that builds in to it the confidence you need to go out in the market and put your best foot forward. In the beginning, I just went with the mindset that I would like the course but by the end of the course I was finding every element of it enjoyable.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

I have a lot of great memories from my time at Middlesex and I made some amazing friends. International students often try to stick to their own groups, but with me it was always about getting out of my comfort zone and taking a big step to experience life, education and new friends. Being the Course Representative was one of my fondest memories, but I will always remember things like my friends and classmates, the research we did, spending time in the library and the halls of residence I lived in.

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

I would recommend they get in touch with a former student before choosing a course because it is always useful to have lots of perspectives on a degree programme before you choose. I can only speak for the HRM course, so I would advise them to get in touch with alumni and get advice. Go through all of the modules before selecting a course and see how relevant it is to you, the job market in your country and yourself.

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

The degree long with the internships I did both helped me get where I am today. As an international student I did not have a work visas so I just did internships and got work experience while I was studying. I used to wonder 'why am I doing this internship for free?' and then one day I just had a moment of enlightenment when I realised why I was doing it.

I realised that there was no one providing support to this group of international students so I became a graduate entrepreneur to proactively help students like me find jobs back in their home countries. I don't just provide a job search; I give them training, CV advice, interview training - it is a complete career support service.

At the moment I work with employers in India and international students and careers services from Universities in the UK but I plan to expand into other markets around the world in the future.

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

I wanted to help students who are in the same situation that I had been in and instead of being a follower I wanted other people to follow me. Individual choices determine who you are and my choice was to be someone other than a follower.

The industry that I work in is very volatile and unpredictable. I have to keep up with the challenges and the changes and being on one side of the world, trying to set up a business that goes hand-in hand with careers services in another part of the world can be a challenge, but I'm confident enough to do it.

What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

The defining highlight was when universities finally began to understand the need for careers support for international students. When I received a positive response from three UK Universities it reinforced the fact that what I'm doing is important.

What does the future hold for you?

The future is ever changing and if you don't change with time then no one can help you. The future has a lot of opportunities waiting for me to explore so I will explore a lot in terms of helping students from different nationalities. I will explore different avenues and areas within the same business and within six months I intend to have Square 1 in China for Chinese students.

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

1) Be proactive as much as you can. Go out there, look for jobs. Do things for the sake of doing them and think of everything that you do as an opportunity to learn and develop.

2) Don't give up hope.

3) Make friends that really matter to you. When you have good company your time flies and you cherish those moment.

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

Not to have any stereotypes or prejudices and be proud of who you are. Be yourself and follow your dreams.

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