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Alumni

Stephen Henning

Career Path: Customer Operations at Nike
Location:

What appealed to you about Northumbria University / studying in Newcastle?

Ever since coming to Newcastle for a Northumbria University open day, I realised how badly I wanted to come to Northumbria – the buzz about the city, the friendliness of people and the generally impressive facilities and surroundings of the City Campus sold Newcastle to me! I had actually strongly considered Leeds Met for a similar course and it had been my ‘insurance course’ – but after visiting Newcastle, I made the decision to take a gap year if I was unsuccessful in getting into Northumbria and re-apply for the following year, rather than settle for second-best!

What was it about the course / subject area that particularly appealed?

Having always had a huge interest in both sport and business, something which would at a later stage allow me into the industry of the business of sport always appealed to me. Whilst studying Physical Education at A Level, I began to think about what I could possibly do at University and once I saw the Northumbria undergraduate catalogue, I decided to go along to the Open Day and once I saw the place, I knew I wanted to study/live there!

What did you like most about the course?

The ability to take as much from the course as you chose to. You weren’t bottle-fed and opportunities weren’t made for you, so you had to take the initiative and go about getting these yourself. I think this made the course different to what other Universities offered, and it was something I thrived on.

Can you give an example of a piece of work you were involved with?

In my final year, myself and a group of students worked on a ‘Sport Event Management’ module, where we were given the responsibility of planning, managing and implementing a fairly large-scale sport event of our own choice. We chose to work together closely with the University and the Business Development Manager there to plan a sporting conference-style event, in which we invited key policy makers and senior representatives of NGB’s and professional sporting bodies within the UK. The opportunity to do something so hands-on like this, wasn’t something I was entirely aware that I would want to do at the start of my course, but I absolutely loved the chance to get involved, and it added some genuine field experience to my CV which I think has undoubtedly helped me get to where I currently am.

Did you have the opportunity for any work placements during your course?

In my second year, all students on my course had to undertake a six-week placement within a relevant sporting organisation or National Governing Body. I actually left my applications for placement quite late, but was lucky enough to be interviewed and accepted into Northumberland Cricket Board for 6 weeks. Whilst there, I spent the majority of my time planning for a massive cricket community event for a community club in Northumberland, whilst also working on several other projects with complete responsibility. This gave me an invaluable insight into the sporting industry, also allowing me to make fantastic contacts within sport in the region. My 6 week placement led to me being offered part-time work while I studied at the University, something I would never have thought would have happened prior to me getting my placement opportunity.

How did you get on with your tutors?

Brilliantly. My first year wasn’t as interactive with the academic staff as my second and final years, however I would say that the staff in the Department I was studying in were fantastic, always willing to support and give advice, always up for a chat and just generally good people who gave a good representation of Northumbria University as a whole.

What did you do after you graduated?

I went job-hunting straight away, in an effort to begin paying off some of the debt accrued over my student years! The weeks following my graduation involved a huge number of job applications being sent out, and meeting with staff from the University Career’s office, who gave me some invaluable support with professionalising my CV and how best to approach potential employers.

What are you doing now?

I am working for Nike in their UK Headquarters in Sunderland, working in Customer Operations – which essentially means looking after orders and contracts with all sporting goods retailers in the UK and Ireland.

How did you get your degree relevant job?

As mentioned above, it was a case when I graduated of applying for anything which suited me or my qualifications. I came across a job opportunity at Nike and sent my CV off to their HR department, and soon after was invited to an assessment and an interview the following day.

What did this process entail?

The assessment involved me and 4 others taking on a group task without taking the form of a leader. We were being assessed on our group dynamics, although we obviously had to focus on the task in hand as a team, as opposed to focusing purely on ourselves. We were graded on certain factors and those with high marks were invited back for an interview. The interview itself involved questions on my previous relevant experience and information about me as a person.

How did your degree at Northumbria benefit your career?

The opportunities to work first-hand on projects was a huge benefit, as it allowed me to experience the industry in a way most students only read about in textbooks. Being on a work placement in my second year showed me what it was like to work in a 9-5 office environment on sporting tasks. My general studies and what I learnt in my three years at Northumbria, both academically and socially, have developed me as a person and put me in a fantastic position going forward with my career.

Is there anything else you would like to add about Northumbria University?

Just that it is a fantastic learning institution in an amazing city and the place where I’ve experienced the best years of my life to date.

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