As part of Employability Month our hope is to inspire you to dream about your future career. What better way than for one of our Alumni to share their experiences with you? We came up with ‘Alumni Thursdays’ – each Thursday over the past month we have introduced you to one of our successful alumni, who not so long ago, walked in your shoes, but have now gone on to make a mark in the world.
Last week we had Ella Dickinson share about her experience documenting the famine in Chad. Previously we have heard from Joanna Orland, top 100 woman in the gaming industry, describe how her passion is at the heart of everything she does; as well as hearing from Jeremy Cobbold, head of International Logistics Retail at Marks and Spencers share his top tips for a career in logistics operations.
This week is our finale and we are very excited to have Sian Williams, best known for her role as a journalist and reporter for the BBC. Sian has recently completed her MSc in Psychology at the University of Westminster, focusing on Post Traumatic Stress. Last year Sian was invited to speak at Westminster Talks and we had the privilege of hearing her thoughts on the exhilarating, and sometimes traumatic, world of live broadcasting.
Sian, tell us about your early inspirations!
‘Don’t be a journalist and don’t work for the BBC.’ These were the immortal words that Sian heard from her father when she was a young child growing up in Eastbourne. ‘And what did I do? Both! My dad knew it would involve unpredictable work, long hours and sometimes distressing stories, but the excitement intrigued me.’
Can you tell us about your first job?
‘My first job was in Liverpool working as a reporter. Mum and I bought a new suit for me to wear. I got told my first job would be a shooting in Everton, but I accidentally left the recording equipment back at base because I was carrying my bag with a notebook and the first generation of mobile phones which came in a suitcase. It was a frantic day which involved running back and forth in my high heels.
‘So my advice for any budding reporters is: always wear sensible shoes you can run in and never forget your recording equipment!’
Tell us a memorable time when you were put on the spot.
‘Eight minutes before I was due on air, I heard Margaret Thatcher died. It is a challenge to sustain broadcasting when you receive breaking news like that at the last minute, but I have learnt that if news is big, there is no shame in reporting the basic facts until more information comes through.’
In your job, you must have to make some difficult decisions?
‘I remember when I was presenting the One O’Clock News and we were due to report on a Spanish train crash in which dozens of people died. There was debate in the news room about whether we should show the CCTV footage of the train ploughing into a wall at the very moment of death. On one hand, other networks were running the footage and we didn’t want to “sanitise” the news. But some of us, including me, felt that it wasn’t necessary to show it. In the end we compromised: we wouldn’t use it as a headline, but would show it as part of the main report, with a warning about what viewers should expect. Lots of debates like this happen in the news room.’
Often as viewers, we don’t think of the trauma that journalists face in the field. What is it like?
‘I’ve covered lots of trauma stories in my career, such as the Pakistan earthquake, the Asian tsunami and the Hillsborough disaster. I spoke to people who were experiencing unimaginable horror, while I returned to a comfortable house and got back to the day job. I felt enormously guilty, but also self-indulgent for ever admitting so. It is very hard for journalists to reconcile these feelings.’
Finally Sian, why did you decide to do a Masters at Westminster?
‘I trained as a trauma assessor primarily to help other journalists returning from traumatic assessments. This lead to my decision to undertake an MSc in Psychology at the University of Westminster. I wanted to understand how we may protect the mental health of journalists in the field, beyond the bullet proof vests and correct vaccinations.’
Sian’s story highlights that at different times in our career we may decide to go back to education to further develop our skills or understanding in an area we are interested in. Perhaps you already have a clear vision about your next steps career-wise, why not come along one of our Networking Events and hone your networking skills? Of if you are feeling unsure about your own career path, why not book a Quick Query session with one of the Career Consultants by calling 02079115184, and start thinking about your future now.
Have you enjoyed Alumni Thursdays? Let us know by leaving a comment!