[Career Advice #7] Karla Reyes on working in various locations and skills development
If you have always been curious to know what it is like to work around the world, meet Karla Reyes! She is a well-rounded product manager at Visa Europe, who participated in the ‘New Graduate Development Program’, which is a leadership development program comprised of four six-month cross-functional rotations. Don’t you want to hear more?
1. Can you tell us about your undergraduate background and the experiences you’ve had throughout your degree?
I graduated from St. Andrews in 2015 with major in French and Management. Although I was doing a business degree, there were some programming classes from different organizations and I took advantage of that. I was interested in technology, so I did my first internship at Thomson Reuters.
2. Can you share how you found your internships and your career related experience in general?
I got my first internship through my High School alumni network. After my first internship at Thomson Reuters, I got invited to return the next summer. I did those 2 internships in New York and one internship in London at a smaller company, because I wanted to try working at a different environment. It might have been more interesting to try other industries, but I was happy to stay because there were new things to learn. And in my final year, I started applying for jobs in fall, I was specifically looking for rotational programs at larger companies and Visa had one. I secured that job around November 2014.
Every 6 months, I rotated through different functions within the company. I already knew that Product is where I wanted to explore, so I ended up doing my first rotation in Product Management. Then I went into different types of roles (Sales, Product Solution, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships). I ultimately landed my job in London as a product manager.
However, I am leaving Visa to continue full-time education for a short amount of time. I will be doing software engineering boot camp for 3–4 months, to see if I want to do a technical product management role or potentially become a senior programming developer.
3. What are the main factors that helped you decide your career path?
I am very grateful to have started at a big company, especially being at the headquarters because I had a lot of visibility into what was going on and exposure to senior executives. I often think of a company’s headquarters as its nucleus, and the energy in that environment is inspiring and motivating. After that, I decided to work at a smaller company and realized that it wasn’t really for me. I appreciated the growth opportunities at a larger company and thought that was a more suitable fit for me to begin my career.
On the other hand, I was always interested in startups. When I was at university, I would come down to London to attend events to explore their ecosystem. One of the reasons why I didn’t apply to startup as my graduate job is because I was an international student and I had to get enough salary to cover my loans and get my visa.
4. As a recent grad, what are some challenges that you faced entering the professional world that you wish you knew about?
One important thing a student looking for a job should understand is the hiring process. My first internship was in HR, and that’s why I ended up knowing what recruiters were looking for in candidates. Another thing is to think about if you like the people you would be working with. I tried talking to people from the company to know more about the culture, to understand where I would fit or if I am a good fit at all. You might not get as much free time as you used to as a student, but you need to be ready for that.
5. What do you think about skills development and career changes?
I personally wanted to take time to navigate my options. So I have been taking some part time programming courses over the last few years, I figured that I would immerse myself full-time in it. I am taking the next 4 months to participate in a software engineering boot camp, by the end, they train you to be a full-stack web developer. One advice I could give is to take advantage of whatever courses or educational material available at your work or school. However, if you want to learn something alongside, make sure to prioritize, because in my case, I tried to do too much at the expense of my personal life.
General tips with bullet points :
· You definitely should try to talk to ‘insiders’ of the company or industry you are interested in.
· Make sure to leverage your network and personal contacts. This can be asking people, especially if you know any HR recruiters, to have a look at your CV.
· Prioritize your application: see what fascinates you and work hard on the cover letter.
· Research the company: mention specific projects or talks you had with one of the employees, follow them on social media.
· Apply to more jobs than you want to.
As cliché as it may sound, you need to keep trying. Be ready before your interviews, and you will be fine!!
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