Vicky Metcalf

In a career that has ranged from helping Heathrow's Terminal 5 to materialise as an international airport hub from a hole in the ground, to her current role coordinating the fundraising activities of 47 wildlife organisations, Vicky Metcalf has needed a strong sense of self-identity.

"Lancaster University made me who I am," says Vicky. "There has been polishing and refinement, but university made me into a person who knew what they wanted and with an idea of how to get it."

Her enthusiasm for her years studying German at Lancaster are almost tangible, perhaps because she was not afraid of becoming involved in life there, in particular as student representative on her course, which gave her unprecedented access to tutors, insights into the running of the department, ad opportunities to express her views. She maintains many of her departmental contacts to this day.

The other powerful influence on her personal development was the year she spent abroad as a foreign language assistant in Leverkusen near Cologne. Having adjusted to the realities of speaking a foreign language full time, she thrived on the opportunities to travel around Europe. The hardest aspect was her return to Lancaster, having tested her independence, to do her finals.

Although Lancaster was her second choice on her university application form, she was so bowled over on the open day by the quality of the tour she was given by a student that she would happily have stayed then. All the apprehensions of a Grimsby schoolgirl disappeared instantly. She describes the experience as having been 'captivated'.

She fitted in immediately and enjoyed her involvement in the European Language Department activities almost as much as the quality teaching she received.

Away from her studies, she was an associate member of the film society, who sold tickets and refreshments for the University screenings. She loved campus life and made the most of the proximity of the Lakes in her final year, as one of her group of friends had a car, which made trips there possible.

At the end of her studies, she claims the television documentary series Airport, was entirely responsible for her determination to work in one. Having sent her CV to every airport and airline in the country, she was offered a six-month contract with BAA at Heathrow on the Terminal 2 information desk, where she could use her languages.

After two promotions and five years with BAA, she took a job at Terminal 5 in operational solutions. When she started, T5 was all but a hole in the ground, but by the time she left four years later, it was a slick operation providing smooth journeys for 29 million British Airways passengers per year.

"T5 was great experience - both the most amazing and the most terrifying," she says.But at the end of it, she felt the need to do something more meaningful.

Her current job, she feels has taken her 'back to my roots'. Following redundancy from T5, she took a Masters degree at Sheffield University in Management and Sustainability, before taking a job as chief executive Wildscapes, the trading subsidiary of Sheffield Wildlife Trust. Now, working for the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, she can use all the organisational and people skills she built up in projects like T5, but in something she feels matters.

Her role is to act within an umbrella organisation for 47 wildlife organisations, helping them build their resources and capacity for fundraising and to maximise the strength of the network.

Says Vicky: "The beauty of it is that we have 47 brilliant minds, but who all work in different ways, and have different needs and priorities. This is very challenging, but helping organisations to meet their potential is what I thrive on - no matter how complex!"

Vicky recognises what Lancaster University has done for her and has remained involved both as a career mentor for the University careers service and for the language department.