Last month, Violet Sutcliffe (BA (Hons) Art History and Archaeology, 2014) won the Business Person of the Year award in the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce Chamber Bridlington & Yorkshire Coast Business Awards. This event is now in its ninth year and is one of the most recognised achievements in the Yorkshire region. We found out how a degree in History of Art and Archaeology led to such early success for Violet working at a leading building services engineering company.
I was a History of Art and Archaeology student at the University of Hull from 2011 to 2014. Although I initially struggled with particular elements of higher education (specifically the essay writing) my lecturers guided me through the correct process to develop these skills to a much higher standard.
I developed many other skills such as working within a team, public speaking and researching which I have carried over to my current role as a Business Development Manager.
I have much to thank my lecturers and tutors for as they invested a lot into improving these skills and specifically focussed on each students weaknesses.
Since leaving the University, I quickly began work in travel and use my research skills to source information for each of my clients who wanted to book Historical/Cultural holidays. I kept in touch with my lecturers and informed them of my work placement. However, after 8 months I could see I would not progress any further, and I suppose I picked up my ambition from my time at University. I just wanted to continue my professional development and I therefore looked for work elsewhere. This led me to Sutcliffe Consulting Engineers Ltd.
Sutcliffe Consulting Engineers Ltd is a Building Services Engineering Consultancy which prides itself on being the leading in the Hull and Humber region. I could see many things that needed to be improved with the overall image at Sutcliffe’s. Firstly, many people couldn’t figure out what we did from our website (most people assumed we had a workshop and did a lot of welding), the online presence was minimal, there was no involvement with local institutions (such as the University of Hull) and unfortunately the Engineers were all too busy with projects to consider their marketing strategy. I could see what I could do to improve this and I began to formulate a plan.
I was very fortunate as the organisation I now work for gave me full support in all of these ventures and allowed me to completely modernise the image portrayed to the public. I began by improving the businesses connection with local networking events, this meant meeting up with many different types of businesses and understanding how we could help one another improve our business. This taught me a lot about different strategies and particularly what other people’s perception was of our business. I had gained a lot of confidence from the many presentations I had to do throughout my time at University and found these events easy to participate in.
Following on from networking, I decided to develop our website and online presence. I decided to do this all in house and design the website myself to allow us to make changes when we wanted to. I spoke to many businesses about this who had all outsourced the work and they couldn’t comprehend doing it in house. I remember at University trying to pick up a programme for Archaeology called GIS and completely feeling out of my comfort zone and trying to build a website was just like this. I researched and attended seminars on SEO and eventually things started to fall into place. The social media side of things was much easier. I’d been a History of Art Rep for the History Society at University and helped a lot with social media for this role.
I quickly began to build a following on Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest. I decided the final element the company needed to keep a modern presence online would be a blog, and began to write up recent work on our projects and even networking events we were attending or had attended. This got us quite a bit of attention on Twitter.
Lastly, I wanted to ‘get us on the map’ by reconnecting with the University, but this time through the business. I remembered that the Careers Service at University held a lot of events with local employers and that students from the University of Hull were given opportunities that other institutions couldn’t have access to. I contacted the correct department and was introduced to both Bianca Moone (Employability and Internship Officer) and Kristian Rumble (Assistant Director). Both explained how many opportunities there were for Sutcliffe Consulting Engineers Ltd to work with the University and help students learn and understand about Building Services Engineering. Since these meetings we have attended a Careers Fair and even taken on our own Mechanical Intern. The support we’ve had from the University of Hull as a local employer has been phenomenal and I would recommend them to any company seeking to invest in local talent.
As a member of the Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce (one of the many networking groups I attend) I had a received a mailshot about the Chamber Bridlington & Yorkshire Coast Business Awards and was put forward for Business Person of the Year. The event is now in its ninth Year and is one of the most recognised achievements in the Yorkshire region. I was completely shocked and surprised to have been shortlisted. I had to answer a series of questions on how I had significantly improved the Business (including raising its profile, giving exceptional commitment and having an impact on the performance of the Business). My answers reflected the aspects of my work I’ve discussed in this piece. I was very honoured to have won the award for 2015. I have had a really supportive team here at Sutcliffe Consulting Engineers Ltd, who like my tutors at University expressed the importance of developing and improving my skills every day.
Looking back at my time at the University of Hull, I’d improved many of the traditional skills such as writing and exam preparation, but also my social skills, abilities to work alone and within a team. I’d been taught how to resource information myself and conclude my own opinions on subjects. This has carried into my role now as I often find myself working away on projects alone, but always having the support of my team members around me should I need it. My skills in writing significantly improved as I remember my first essay I didn’t really know what to do and now I write all of the press releases for the company (a big responsibility!) I’d like to thank the University for helping me with this, and the University Careers Service for reminding me that although you may be in a particular department (as I was in History) you might not follow this path. My special thanks also go to Alison Price-Moir, John Bernasconi and Helen Fenwick for dealing with me as a student and always taking the time to help me when I was struggling with particular elements.
The award means a lot to me and I am extremely proud to have achieved it after such a short time since graduating. It is a huge achievement that I can now carry throughout the rest of my career.
©Violet Sutcliffe, (BA (Hons) Art History and Archaeology, 2014)