Daniel Robson (Film Studies BA, 2012)
My experience at Queen Mary gave me the first-hand experience that I draw upon every day in my job. I have lived so many of the experiences that our students are and can advise them from a genuine place. It gave me connections which have been a source of support ever since.
What influenced your decision to study Film Studies at Queen Mary? Did you have a particular career path in mind?
I was actually looking to go back to university at the age of 23 when I applied. I initially went to Leeds University to study Psychology when I was 19 but I wasn’t ready for the experience at that time, nor did the discipline feel right for me. I had sworn that university wasn’t for me and pursued a career in hospitality management but after a few years I felt like I would never be able to get out of hospitality without more experience in a different field.
I was interested in entertainment journalism, so I applied to the degree course that I felt was closest to that and that my A-level grades met the requirements of. I picked Queen Mary as it was in London, close to the entertainment action!
What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable and was there anything that surprised you in your studies?
What surprised me was just how much I loved research and writing essays about film. You either love the practical aspects of film or the more academic analysis of film, and for me it was the latter. I loved how you could learn about the world through film and how interdisciplinary the degree can be. One week you are learning about colonialism, the next you are learning about the civil rights movement, the next you are learning about post-modernism…all through the medium of film.
I changed so much as a person because of my degree discipline and anyone who thinks Film Studies is a pointless degree without academic rigour is mistaken.
I loved my dissertation which was on the patterns of the US box office in the 90s and my supervisor was an inspiration, but more so, I loved how in my final year I felt like, through my module choices and research, I designed my own curriculum. It was quite liberating and very enlightening. I changed so much as a person because of my degree discipline and anyone who thinks Film Studies is a pointless degree without academic rigour is mistaken.
Following your time at Queen Mary, you did your MPhil at Cambridge University. Can you talk about that experience and what it was like to explore Film Studies further?
It was challenging, at times quite isolating, but nonetheless rewarding. I was completely committed to continuing my studies, as during my undergraduate degree, I fell in love with the discipline and the practice more and more. Life at Cambridge is very different to a London based university and if I could do it again, I would probably choose to stay at Queen Mary and study there. I wrestled with the idea of doing a PhD for a while but ultimately the MPhil experience taught me that it wasn’t the right path for me.
What were your early experiences like after graduating from your Masters? Did you find interesting work straight away or was it more of a journey?
No, it was definitely more of a journey. I learned quite quickly that employers are not looking for people who like writing essays only. I did not take part in enough extra-curricular activities whilst at Queen Mary and that is definitely something I would do differently if I could do it again. It’s certainly something I impress upon the students I work with now. Students should approach their time at university like a 9-5 job. In times when you are not in the classroom, be that on campus or online, get involved in as many things as possible to further your learning and enhance your employability. Develop your skills portfolio and personal brand and learn how to articulate what you are learning and how you are learning it. Work hard, play hard!
Can you describe your career path and touch on your current role at Kings College London?
After graduation I pursued careers in the film industry but didn’t have enough practical experience – another reason why all prospective and current students should invest time in learning opportunities outside the classroom. I was able to secure a graduate administrator role at King’s which didn’t really match my degree discipline, but I could draw on my experience as a a student and the great time I had. I saw opportunities to progress into the student experience field which is all about adding value to the student life cycle and combines a lot of my knowledge, passion and skill set for customer service which I developed through my years in hospitality. That was almost eight years ago, and I am still there today!
Currently, I am performing two roles. One is a Strategic Project Manager for an undergraduate initiative which seeks to provide a transformational learning experience for all our first-year undergraduates. The second is Student Experience Manager for our Business School which seeks to ensure students get the type of experience they expect and to help make their time feel memorable and worthwhile. A typical day involves a lot of online calls, project management, consultation, negotiation and influencing. I try and balance that with personal upskilling through online classes and courses etc. Never stop learning!
What is the most exciting thing about what you do?
Creating experiences that have a lasting impression on someone. In everything I and my colleagues do, we can make a difference to someone. That might be as small as making the difference to their day by being friendly and helpful, or something much larger like creating a graduation celebration event that really wows students and their guests. If we can make or help make memories that last, that is pretty exciting to me.
Looking back, how did your time and study at Queen Mary help with your career and development?
My experience at Queen Mary gave me the first-hand experience that I draw upon every day in my job. I have lived so many of the experiences that our students are and can advise them from a genuine place. It gave me connections which have been a source of support ever since. But most importantly, it made clear to me the transformational potential a university experience has. You enter as one person who is quite naïve to many things, but can leave as a more mature, well-rounded individual with a greater respect for the people and world around you. It’s there for the taking, you just have to take it. This is why I still strongly advocate for a university experience in these challenging times. If you make the most of every day, you will succeed.
What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments or favourite places on campus?
Being published in an academic journal was a major highlight. I received exceptional support and mentorship from my module leader, Guy Westwell. The fact that it was for an essay on the 2002 Spider-Man film which I loved as a kid, made it all the more cool.
A non-academic memory is the friends I made working at the student union bar, Drapers. I needed to work part-time throughout my degree so worked at Drapers for 3 years. It felt like home by the time we left.
2020 has been one of the most historically challenging years for students. As a Student Experience Manager, what would your advice be to students who will be starting their degrees at Queen Mary in September? How can they make the most of their time at Queen Mary in these unusual circumstances?
It’s in line with the advice I have offered in previous answers but make the most of every opportunity. Getting a First-Class Honours degree is great, but it alone will not get you the job you want or think you want. Think of your degree studies as 50% of your university experience, the rest is a sandpit in which you can play. Learn what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at and what you aren’t good at, and why. All these experiences will help you develop as a person, as a professional, and get you closer to where you want to be, or at least push you in the right direction. Invest in yourself by engaging with as many of the things the university has to offer and don’t be afraid to fail…it’s how we truly learn.
Online teaching may not be the preferred method of choice or what you are used to but approach it with an open mind and invest time in learning what techniques make studying online easier. It is also an excellent preparation for the world of work so don’t think you won’t be needing it or using it in your future.
This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Daniel or engage him in your work, please contact Nathalie at email@example.com.