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Sophie Jane Wilson

Career Path: Raytheon UK, Programme Manager and Head of STEM YANA Active, Co-founder and Director
Location: Newcastle/ London

Sophie Jane Wilson 

Following my graduation from NU and a two-year placement with Nissan in Sunderland, I secured a graduate scheme with Raytheon UK as a Programme Manager. Since then I've travelled across the UK, Europe and the US with them, have worked on some high value, high profile contracts and customers. I also lead their Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programme and look after over 250 STEM Ambassadors across eight locations. I joined the company as the defence sector. It was something I found intriguing and exciting, and it certainly has been so far!

What are you doing now?

My current role is working full-time for Raytheon UK as a Programme Manager and their Head of STEM. Alongside my role, I also founded a women's activewear brand called YANA Active with my sister Charlotte (also a NU grad). YANA™ Active is an independent, luxury women’s activewear brand focusing on designing and manufacturing unique activewear pieces in the UK. We aim to empower our tribe of Everyday Warriors and enhance the concept of multi-functional and fashionable activewear.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

The course was the main reason I wanted to study at NU. I'm a very hands on learner - I did terribly in my A Levels and knew that exams weren't my forte. The course appealed to me as it was all coursework based but more importantly had a two year placement. To graduate at the age of 21 with two years work experience under my belt was very appealing and as the course had a small intake (around 30 per year) I knew I'd be getting a really good learning opportunity.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

I had a good experience, the tutors were all really interesting and many had worked at huge corporations themselves which helped you understand the theoretical aspects of the course more easily. The uni was a great place to study in too, there's always a quiet corner to get your head down and complete an assignment - since I've graduated it's certainly only getting better!

How connected was your course with industry?

Very connected! I don't think you can get more connected than doing a two year placement whilst studying! I worked full-time at Nissan, Sunderland, for two years (2nd and 3rd year). Nissan had a good understanding of my studies so were able to let me work on projects that were most relevant to my learning at the time.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

I can't put into words how much it helped and would actively encourage anyone doing a degree to get a placement year in. Not only does it help you apply theoretical practice to a workplace, it helps you develop all of the other skills you need to move forward in your career: anything from presentation skills, meeting etiquette, reporting, writing, stakeholder management - the list truly goes on.

What was the best thing about your course?

The tight knit community and friendship group formed was great - definitely made friends for life on the course. It was also important to have people to talk to about your course, working full-time and studying full-time is really hard, so having others there that were going through the same process was great. The placement was also great - I learnt so much about business and my own strengths and weaknesses and it has certainly helped me to propel my career.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

The two-year placement helped me stand out against other candidates when applying for jobs.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Stakeholder management and business leadership are two skills the course helped me develop and ones I used every single day.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

It was a really great place to be, the campus was vibrant and I loved how close to the city centre we were. I enjoyed the most my placement years, despite it being hard work, it helped me become resilient and push myself to achieve my goals.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

It's a really great place to study, just make sure you're choosing it for the right reasons for you personally. The post-grad support is incredible too, so if you're thinking of launching your own business are your degree, certainly factor that into your decision as we wouldn't be where we are with YANA Active with out the support from NU Enterprise Hub!

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Interesting, happy & invaluable.

For more information about me visit:

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