Welcome to the “Freshers’ Series,” an insight into how inspiring individuals got to where they are after university, and what it was like for them to be a “fresher” in their new work environments. Every month, Watch.Listen.Read Weekly will profile an individual whose career may interest you. If you have any suggestions or questions for a future “fresher”, feel free to reach out to us through our contact page.
In mid-October, I received a Facebook message from Sophia Karski, who currently works with Deutsche Bank as a campus ambassador. Sophia wanted to know if I knew any students interested in the firm’s opportunities, but as we began to chat, I was intrigued by her story. As such, our conversation resulted in this article.
Beyond acting as campus ambassador, Sophia plans to join Deutsche Bank as a Technology Analyst next year. With this in mind, one may assume Sophia has extensive experience within the realm of computer science. However, her journey starts elsewhere – namely, her Spanish and German degree at UCL.
“I grew up bilingual,” she notes. “I’m half-Japanese, but for my A-Levels I did French and Spanish. I only picked Spanish to carry on at university.” Beyond this, her father’s German ancestry piqued her interest in the language. “I’d never really spoken much German and I wanted to learn, so Spanish and German was really a perfect course combination for me.”
Upon arriving at UCL, Sophia lacked confidence. However, her second year changed this. She became involved with UCL’s accommodation ambassadors, where she welcomed first year students into halls and set up rooms with welcome packs.
“It was such a good job – we had a really good manager and we got really good pay, so through that I built a really nice network of students from different degree backgrounds and year groups.”
Moreover, Sophia reflects upon her year abroad as “a really good time to think about different career paths.” After spending half a year in Madrid, she travelled to Germany, where she came across Bloomberg’s summer insight week. “I realized most of their graduate roles require you speak a language beyond English. In knowing Japanese and Spanish, I was quite confident in applying for the opportunity.” To her surprise, Sophia managed to get an interview – and was ultimately successful in her application.
At Bloomberg, Sophia was tasked with partaking in a group presentation, whereby successful presenters would be streamlined into the firm’s internship program. Looking back, however, Sophia underscores her nervousness. “Even with all of my practice doing presentations as a languages student, I felt insecure. Also, because finance was not my background, I felt a bit out of place.”
“It turned out terrible. I have very bad stage fright, especially when it comes to topics I don’t truly understand. I started shaking and had to leave the room.”
“It turned out terrible. i have very bad stage fright, especially when it comes to topics i don’t truly understand.”
Eventually, Sophia got a phone call from Bloomberg’s HR department, whereby she was denied the chance to convert her summer insight week into a longer internship. “That was a big knock back,” she recalls. “I was so shocked that I was even invited to the insight scheme, especially considering my degree background.” In spite of her rejection, Sophia was grateful for the experience. “The insight week was definitely the starting point for how I got into the finance industry.”
Soon after, her luck changed. One of Sophia’s classmates wanted to try Code First Girls, a social enterprise which offers courses for girls and non-binary individuals interested in learning more about computer science. Sophia jumped on the opportunity, unwittingly instigating a new course in her career journey.
“I completed a course in web development by November, and I actually won an award for the website I designed. I realized I really liked tech. In my degree, I really liked the precision of my linguistics modules. These classes discussed languages in such a systematic way, and I realized that coding was very similar.”
With this experience, Sophia applied for a graduate position at Deutsche Bank. “I applied to different banks based on the languages I speak. In my Deutsche Bank cover letter, I mentioned that I did my year abroad in Germany, I speak German, and that’s why I’m interested in them specifically. Additionally, Deutsche Bank had recently announced massive investments into their tech sector, which was a big turning point for the company. My application combined these two features quite nicely.”
“I think it takes a lot of putting two and two together. keep your options open.”
“I think it takes a lot of putting two and two together. Keep your options open, maintain a presence in recruitment organizations, attend events and careers fairs. You never know when one opportunity can change your path.”