Stacy Westhead

Many people express surprise that Stacy Westhead has made such a successful people-based career in marketing, given that her degree is in mathematics.

As a recent winner of Media Week's Rising Star award for entrepreneurs under 30, Westhead does not see anything particularly special about inhabiting more than one world at once. Lancaster University helped to prepare her to do so.

She says: "I have a nice balance of logic and being comfortable with numbers, but also the social element of life and marketing. Lancaster University was all about broadening and making me realise that there was more to my world than my small background."

Now as Director of atom42, her day is spent ensuring that clients and her work teams are happy, mentoring and overseeing the company's strategic direction - a total people job - but she would never have predicted this career direction.

The decision of her 18-year-old self to study at Lancaster was made on the basis that she was good at maths, she was keen on a campus university, and the open day presented an idyllic scene to her of students sitting outside the George Fox building in the sunshine, with rabbits jumping around them.

She arrived as a confident fresher from a small local comprehensive in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire and rapidly realised how narrow her horizons were and how sheltered she had been from different cultures and nationalities. She was excited and eager to find out about life.

One aspect of that was addressed in her first week, when she met a second year sociology student, Gareth Westhead in the Grizedale bar at a freshers event. They dated throughout university providing her with stability during her studies. They married in 2012 on the 10th anniversary of their meeting at Lancaster.

"I loved it at Lancaster," she says. "I always felt safe in the college community. My one regret is perhaps that I did not get involved in more student organisations."

Grizedale became the centre of her social life and friendships have continued beyond university, to the extent that a quarter of their wedding guests were from their old college. Her confidence grew to the point that she felt able to go alone to the USA for three months with CCUSA to work on a summer camp after her second year - a choice which would later come to change her career path completely.

Academically she found Lancaster tough. Having breezed through the first year, the second year came as a challenge with many compulsory modules of pure maths. Westhead reckons she would have foundered without the support of Gareth and other friends who were also struggling with the shock of the second year.

Light dawned in the third year, when she took modules in teaching maths with St Martin's College and another in marketing, both of which were demonstrations of maths in action, with words often doing the work of the Greek alphabet. She realised how much she had missed dealing in language, rather than formulae.

The day after she was accepted to train as a Maths Teacher at St Martin's College, an email circular from CCUSA dropped into her inbox, which changed her life. It required former scheme participants to go round UK universities to recruit - a marketing job, but with no experience required. She took it and decided she could always come back to teaching if it did not work out.

When she went down to London to join Gareth nine months later, she now had marketing experience as well as a mathematics degree. She soon gained a job at PHD Media in search marketing, where she gained experience working at a large media agency. The person who appointed her there, Andy Atalla, moved on after a year to set up on his own as atom42. She decided to join him in setting up the company.

Seven years later atom42 is thriving with clients like AOL, National Accident Helpline and Drinkaware. She finds that maths makes total sense in a people business, providing the skills to forecast, plan and report accurately in order to implement creative ideas and concepts for her team and clients.