Luke Thomas

Country of origin: United Kingdom

Technology Graduate Scheme, John Lewis Partnership

I am a firm believer that, with any university choice, you get an immediate sense during visit or experience days about whether you think the place is the right fit for you. For me, I got that feeling straightaway when I first visited LUMS. I believed it was a place that was progressive, that staff and students were like-minded and that it was somewhere I would fit in and enjoy myself. Those instincts turned out to be completely true, and I did not ever regret choosing LUMS. It is recognised around the world as being a first-rate institution, and from its’ strong research to its dedicated Careers Team it is not difficult to see why. Also, knowing there was the opportunity and support available to undertake a year’s industrial work experience during my degree greatly influenced my choice. LUMS has supported me greatly during my time, and helped me to progress and gain key skills that I will ultimately take into my future life and career.

The BSc Management and Information Technology (MIT) course is unique in a number of ways. It consists of combined majors across two very differing schools within LUMS and Computing, but has successfully blended both areas. Moreover, the degree sits within a UK-wide body known as ‘The Tech Partnership’, which is the skills arm of the government’s Information Economy Council. The Tech Partnership is partnered with over sixty employers who sponsor and tailor business technology degrees across the UK to make students, and therefore graduates, “industry ready”. The degree structure builds intuitively on this, and it offered me the opportunity to shape modules based on what I was better at and liked more. This is something that is not always done at other institutions, so this definitely became a factor for me when choosing both the MIT degree and LUMS. Furthermore, many of the Tech Partnership business technology degrees are run out of Computing Schools, but I preferred the fact that Lancaster’s version sat within LUMS. Useful modules I took included: Project Management, Negotiation, Decision & Support, Organisational Change, Marketing, Economics, Information Systems and IT Security & Risk. Whilst completing the degree was a great challenge, it was also enjoyable and rewarding to undertake a 15,000 word dissertation and to see the final product, once written and complete!

University requires, in my opinion, a ‘work-hard play-hard’ approach. Learning is always an interesting experience, but it forms only part of the total university package. At Lancaster, we are privileged to operate under a collegiate system (similar to Oxbridge). This means that there are many more ways to be involved at the University. Each college has its own on-campus bar, as well as college and bar level sports, and as a result there is never a shortage of opportunities to partake in. I chose to be part of a range of student societies, covering a spectrum from Marketing to Hiking. My involvement with societies grew as I did during my time at Lancaster, and during my final year I became an Executive member for three societies: Organisation, Work & Technology, MIT and Enactus. During my final year I also co-founded a football team which played in the LUSU league; that was a great way to socialise and meet new people from different years, and also allowed us to exercise whilst having a laugh. I was also fortunate to be appointed as a paid Student Ambassador for LUMS during my final year, which meant representing the faculty at many events, running tour guides, leading presentations, visiting schools etc. That was a great way to earn money and boost my CV; it also enabled me to make a difference within LUMS to the lives of current and prospective students, which I found to be very rewarding! Finally, the social life at Lancaster generally is fantastic, from the college bars (and everything that occurs on an inter-college level) to the annual Roses Tournament against our rival, York, and also the SU nightclub available in the city centre on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The opportunities to unwind and enjoy yourself are endless. The city is a friendly place, and there are lots of local bars, pubs and eateries that offer regular student discounts to Lancaster students!

My placement role was 15 months spent working as a Systems Integration Specialist for BlackBerry in the Carrier Technical Management team, where I spent the majority of my time running the Vodafone account together with my manager. We were the main knowledge base and technical point of contact for all Vodafone carrier countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, ranging from the UK and Ireland to Ghana and Turkey. I was Technical Lead for several Vodafone carriers across the EMEA region, liaising between them and internal development teams to launch NPI projects, drive software releases and manage and triage ‘AGILE’ carrier defects. My time at BlackBerry also saw me develop into a subject matter expert in tooling and technical process improvement for the team.

I feel that in the course of my placement with BlackBerry I matured and developed at an exponential rate, and I believe that everything I learned will stand me in great stead when moving forward in my career. The Placement has been completely worthwhile. All the skills I learned are easily transferable to all walks of life, and particularly the requirements and expectations associated with my desired career path.

I would summarise my time at Lancaster in three words: unforgettable, invaluable and amazing. I had some ups and downs, but I am proud to be a graduate of Lancaster. The University and the City will remain lifelong second homes for me, and are places I have many fond memories of, with friends I have made for life. I believe wholeheartedly that the University has shaped me into the well-rounded individual I am today, and I cannot imagine having spent four years of my life in a better place. The support, guidance and learning undertaken during my time at Lancaster have opened my eyes to a world of endless opportunities, and have opened many doors as a result. For that, I am truly grateful to the staff who worked tirelessly each year to make it possible.

The Careers Team in LUMS are the only dedicated departmental service within the University. I took advantage of their offerings during my first and second years, which allowed me to gain important exposure to graduate employers in a variety of ways. These included mock assessment centres, practise interviews and general networking, to raise awareness of who I was as much as my knowledge of the organisations. The team within Careers work extremely hard to help you get the most out of your CV and make you aware of the overabundance of events and other opportunities available each week. I believe they were instrumental in helping me gain my Industrial Placement with BlackBerry. I had a one-to-one CV clinic with a staff member who helped me improve the way I sold myself, and therefore my employability, on paper. Although the Careers team had no links to BlackBerry, and the placement was gained autonomously, I do not believe I would have secured it without their help and support along the way.

I have accepted an offer to join the Technology Graduate Scheme with the John Lewis Partnership in Central London. This role requires a technical background but with application to real life business situations, and this is ultimately what my degree programme and LUMS have equipped me for. As such, I feel very confident that I can hit the ground running within this Scheme, and add real value to the business and its projects largely because of the skills I obtained whilst becoming a Lancaster graduate.