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Queen Mary Alumni

Alumni profile - Emma Hedington

(Medieval History BA, 2010)

I hadn’t necessarily considered the publishing industry as a career path whilst at university, and I wasn’t particularly aware of academic publishing, but I’ve been in this industry ever since... I’ve worked my way up at various companies... I’m pretty sure all my friends are bored of me talking about working with NASA now!

Headshot of alumna Emma Hedington

What did you study at Queen Mary and what sparked your interest in this particular degree? I studied Medieval History at Queen Mary. When looking at university courses, I knew that I really enjoyed my history A-Level class. Once I visited Queen Mary, and heard more about this course, I was really interested in the social and religious aspects, as well as the opportunity to take a Latin course!

What modules did you like learning about and was there anything that surprised you in your studies? One of my favourite courses that I took was ‘Outsiders in the Middle Ages’. It was a fascinating insight into those living on the edge of society, who are sometimes forgotten in history. This meant that I learnt about marginalized people and groups, attitudes towards different faiths, those living with illnesses, and how society interacted with these people throughout Europe. One of the most interesting parts of this course was learning about witchcraft, and how society viewed and treated those most likely to be suspected of this.

I also enjoyed my module that focussed on women in society. Most history focuses on men, so it was great to learn about how women influenced a lot of what happened at the time. I focused on women in society in both Christian Europe and Medieval Islam, and it was good to see that there were women in positions of power at the time, albeit rare and often unreported.

Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary in particular? I knew that I wanted to study in London, and after looking round a few universities, I really liked that Queen Mary had a campus – which made moving away from home for the first time less of a shock to the system! I came from living in quite a small town, and so moving to Mile End was a world away from home – I’d definitely recommend any students living in the area to make the most of exploring it, there’s so much to do in East London! And if you’re a history geek like me, Tower Hamlets residents can get into the Tower of London for £1, which I definitely made the most of when I was at uni! 

Can you describe your career path up to date and touch on your current role? In my second and third years at university I became interested in pursuing a career in PR or Marketing. I was lucky enough to have a few internships whilst I was at university – ranging from sending out underwear to celebrities at a fashion and beauty PR agency, to working for Comic Relief. 

Once I graduated from university, I got my first job as a Marketing Assistant for a scientific publisher – quite a different field from medieval history! But I found that I really enjoyed it, even though the science-side felt quite intimidating at the time. I hadn’t necessarily considered the publishing industry as a career path whilst at university, and I wasn’t particularly aware of academic publishing, but I’ve been in this industry ever since.

I’ve worked my way up at various companies since my first role, including Nature, where I worked on the marketing of journals co-owned by scientific societies and organizations. I’m pretty sure all my friends are bored of me talking about working with NASA now! My career has meant that I’ve been lucky enough to meet people from all walks of life and a perk of the job is definitely the travel involved. I’ve attended various scientific conferences and meetings over the years, and I always appreciate these opportunities that have been given to me.

I am now a Senior Marketing Manager at the American Chemical Society, working remotely from London and their Oxford office. I’m responsible for the marketing and promotion of a portfolio of journals and the research published in them. I’m in close contact with Editors who are active researchers, and I find my job really fascinating. 

Can you describe what a typical working day looks like for you? As clichéd as it sounds, no two days are the same! I work for an American company, so I spend my mornings working on campaign plans, writing copy, building campaigns, reviewing design work, or catching up on emails. Things get busy in the afternoon once our DC office is online, so I usually spend my time in meetings with our internal and external editors. Working remotely feels particularly timely at the moment, and I’d definitely recommend making the most of video calls - this means that I still speak to people face-to-face, and it much easier having a conversation or brainstorming, than trying to do this over email!

I also manage a team, so I tend to put aside time for team catch ups, answering questions, and catching up on admin and budget work! I really enjoy this side of my job and I find it rewarding.

How did your time and study at Queen Mary help your career and development? Although moving from history to science was quite a jump, my degree really helped me in terms of being able to write well and present. These are two things that have helped my career in marketing and are skills that I use on an almost daily basis.

The Careers Office was a great help at university in terms of the advice they gave to me for CV writing, and the seminars they held – a talk on Marketing/PR that I attended on campus was what initially sparked my interest.

Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options? Keep an open mind on options! I wouldn’t have believed you when I was a student if you told me that I would be working in science! Most of your skills are transferable, so don’t limit yourself when looking for entry level roles.

For those who want to work in marketing, I’d recommend trying to get some experience whilst you’re still at university. When I’m hiring for entry level jobs, I don’t look for a lot of experience on a CV, but it shows that you have an interest in the industry. Make sure that you’re prepared to explain why you’re interested in working in marketing - for example, think about a marketing campaign that you’ve seen that you liked, or you thought was creative. Most people use social media these days, so think about how you would use it in a business environment to show that you are adaptable. 

Why is it exciting to do what you do? I enjoy working with researchers – whilst I don’t always understand all the science, I always love to hear about what they’re working on, and the new exciting discoveries that they’ve made. I find my job fascinating – one of my current campaigns is focussed on making coronavirus research freely available for all to read, and I find it rewarding that I am playing a very small part in helping to advance research in this area. Other campaigns I’ve worked on previously include promoting an article that discussed the challenge of female astronauts dealing with their period in space, and attending a lecture by Susannah Cahalan, who discussed her book ‘Brain of Fire’. My job opens my eyes to research and experiences that I might not otherwise be aware of, and I’m grateful for that. 

What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments? Again, this is clichéd, but for me it was the friends that I made – I now have lifelong friends in various countries because of Queen Mary. In terms of memorable moments, one field trip for one of my courses involved visiting a convent in Marble Arch and being made a cup of tea by a Nun!

Do you have any role models that you look up to, both inside and outside of your field? I’m lucky enough to have worked with some inspirational women throughout my career, who have made it to the top - I’ve worked with Annette Thomas, who is now Chief Executive of the Guardian Media Group at a couple of companies, and I learnt a lot. 



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