Alumni of the Month September 2009

Lizzy Bennett (2001 Geography & Biology)

1. How did you get to where you are now?
I have gotten to where I am now through a mixture of hard work, dedication and commitment. It’s definitely a tough world, tougher than I ever imaged! I have put in 120% into everything I have done to gain opportunities and experiences as well as prove to myself that I have the capability to do the job in hand. There is also an element of being in the right place at the right time.

2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievement comes in two parts; firstly working for Cadbury Plc and secondly, gaining the opportunity to work on the London 2012 Olympics as part of Lord Coe’s Olympic Organisation Committee. I started at Cadbury five years ago as a personal assistant and within a few months the Cadbury team realised I was capable of much more and slowly started handing me small projects to manage and complete. After being given a number of opportunities to move around the business gaining valuable business experience I landed a role in the project management team. This was perfect - using my organisational skills to manage projects that centred all round chocolate! What more could a girl ask for? After a lot of hard work and dedication over two years, I was promoted to be Project Manager on Cadbury’s biggest brand, Cadbury Dairy Milk. Then the second part of the achievement comes from when Cadbury announced their sponsorship to the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games in 2008. The corporate sponsorship provided me with a stepping stone into the Olympic Organising Committee because in April of this year I was offered a year’s secondment role as the Project Manager on the International Olympic Youth Camp. This has given me the opportunity to add my input into the delivery and lasting legacy of the London 2012 games by contributing to the development of a concept to engage young people through sport at the time of the games. The role has presented a once in a life time opportunity to be involved in a landmark event and I’m relishing being part the team.

3. And your biggest mistake?
This probably has to be letting someone else influence my decision to apply and accept a job that in reality was never going to be the job for me; a job in the construction industry. It soon became apparent donning steel tipped boots, a hard hat and high-visibility jacket was not for me! Having sailed through the initial interview process and made it to the final interview round; a full day of mental challenges, presentations and a full-on, nail biting interview I beat three men to the job [a success in itself in a male dominated industry] but from day one I knew it was a mistake. As part of the role I was sponsored to go back to university for one day a week for the next 5 years. This was a commitment I was prepared for but the remaining four days a week were spent counting cement foundation piles for buildings in the south east and managing the budget to implement them. Not really what I thought I’d end up doing for a career. I decided to give the role six months to confirm my initial thoughts but after that I knew that I had to make the move into something else, that’s when I was offered the position at Cadbury and the rest is history! I have taken my time in the construction industry as a learning experience during which I gained vital knowledge about how to conduct myself but most importantly I realised that although I may be offered good advice only I can make decisions about the direction of my career.

4. What are your ambitions now?
My ambitions will be to take the knowledge and skills gained from working on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and develop them when I return to Cadbury. I’ve had a flavour for working on a very high profile and complex project which will only aid my project management experience. Going forward I hope to progress into a more senior role coupled with responsibility to match.

5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
Be proactive. You can only achieve your goals and ambitions in your working life, if you manage and control it.

6. What made you choose Keele University?
I didn’t really know what career I wanted to embark on and thus I chose Keele because I they gave me the opportunity to study a dual honours degree, combining two subjects that I thoroughly enjoyed through GCSEs and A’ levels. I believed my dual honours degrees would keep my options open and with the skills I learnt and developed I would be able to apply to any profession I wished to pursue. I also liked the fact that everything was in one place and you really didn’t have to go far for anything.

7. How has Keele influenced your life?
I think Keele influenced my life by developing my organisational skills. There was no way I could have studied two subjects, completed two dissertations, passed all the exams and still enjoyed the ‘uni life’ without having a plan. To this day I have used these skills not only for my project management job but in my personal life, planning every step of what I want to achieve and when.

8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?
Managing to coordinate my weekly timetable so that I didn’t have lectures on a Monday morning or Fridays for all 3 years! It meant I had 3 very busy days but it was worth it if I could have a long weekend, every weekend! Definitely a good bit of planning! I thoroughly enjoyed the sunny summer days lazing out on the grass in front of the library before and after lectures with friends and also the geography field course to the South East of Spain. I knew there was a reason for choosing geography, another great piece of planning!

9. And your worst?
Having to walk up several flights of stairs in the halls of residence with all my luggage! Girls do not travel lightly and I lost count of number of trips I had to make to and from the car, which I have still not learnt from!!

10. Anything else you would like to add?
A school friend of mine recently passed away and if there is one thing he has taught me is to ‘live life to the full, take every opportunity you have, embrace it and enjoy it.’