Kickstarting a career as a creative within STEM

By Young Women's Network Member, Caitlin McGarry, Key Accounts Marketing Executive, Virgin Media Business. 
If you had have asked 10-year-old me what I wanted to be when I was older, I would have said “a teacher”. At 14-years old, I wanted to work in journalism, and at 16, it was “something in a laboratory.” It changed constantly.
Fast-forward to University applications, and the best word I could choose to describe myself to my careers advisor was “creative”.
Truth be told, I did love all things creative. I was also curious. I constantly asked teachers, “but, why?”
‘Talkative’, ‘personable’ and ‘approachable’ were written in every school report. The world, everyone, and everything in it fascinated me - but didn’t point towards one career path.
As a young person, I fell into the trap of thinking that your best school grades led you to a degree, which pigeonholed you into a job, with no scope for flexibility, redirection, or iterative change. It couldn’t be more untrue.
When applying for jobs, I am glad that I challenged presumptions of being siloed into a career. Unknowingly, I was yet to discover what I was capable of. Being a Communication, Advertising and Marketing graduate, I’m thankful that Virgin Media Business (VMB) let me into an industry so unfamiliar to me.
Joining the Business in a Pandemic
Having finished university in summer 2020, I packed my bags and relocated from Northern Ireland to England. However, I am still occasionally meeting colleagues in-person for the first time after a series of national lockdowns.
As a relatively extraverted person, who thrives on communicating with and learning from others, I was concerned that onboarding virtually would feel distant and impersonal.
Without mid-morning coffees together, I wondered how this would impact my ability to make genuine connections with colleagues, become familiar with the new systems and processes, and learn the technological jargon. Thankfully, the VMB’s attention to remote working has created a positive experience overall, despite the peculiar circumstances.
In a bold push towards enhanced ways of working, interns and grads across our business were challenged to conceptualise a video to showcase what people wanted in the future world of work. An initiative driven by first-hand research, it’s no surprise that the unanimous sentiment was an overpowering desire for flexibility.
Putting this into practice, Virgin Media Business’ ‘Your New Everyday’ messaging empowers us to work wherever and whenever suits us and our teams. My time working here has proved that culture isn’t based on where you are located, but how a company interacts with its people. From virtual yoga and meditation classes, through to coffee mornings, training and lunch & learns, Virgin Media Business make us feel connected to each other, despite the intermittent lockdowns.
Being the Next Generation in Business
I still sometimes feel as if I need to have my career trajectory planned out. VMB continuously challenge this, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity through the graduate scheme’s rotational aspect to get a feel for different roles, test the waters, and see what I want to do, rather than fixating over what I should do.
The developmental opportunities here are endless, having unveiled strengths I didn’t know I had, and career paths I didn’t even think I was ‘qualified’ for. Thus far, I’ve worked as a Business Manager to our Director of Customer Excellence, and a Pricing Analyst conducting research and working on pricing proposals to inform our Commercial deals and Go to Market strategies. This is beyond the realm of what I thought “something creative” would look like.
Beyond that, my time at VMB has proven the unconventional ways that ‘being creative’ can manifest. A company’s success is the sum of its parts, therefore corporate culture promoting creativity will stay ahead of the curve by meeting customer demands in new and exciting ways. Creativity, ergo, is essential even in Telecoms, from Product & Commercial to Sales & Marketing.
It’s easy to get lost in corporate acronyms, commercial metrics, and internal business processes as we move (or click) from meeting to meeting. We can get caught up in our own bubble and be blind to the impact that we are having externally. My assumptions surrounding telecoms are continuously countered, and the importance of creativity bestows huge enthusiasm for where telecoms might take me.
Reflections on Women in STEM
When growing up, my school made a special effort to promote STEM to women. Still, I always held this skewed perception that you must be ‘brilliant’ to work in STEM, and recently I’ve thought about how misplaced that is. You’ve got to be interested, open-minded, and able to apply your knowledge - this certainly doesn’t mean you need to be that ‘one in a million’.
The growth in STEM careers has been exponential and it’s exciting to see that over one million British women now work in STEM, an increase of 350,000 over the last decade. Technology has revolutionised society, from media, music, education, fashion, health, transport. The pace of change is monumental, equally as exciting – but it wouldn’t happen without People. This vast growth isn’t going to stop – but what huge pace of change does require is People with passion, and that definition goes beyond the scope of those who chose STEM at school.
My experience in Virgin Media Business has certainly contradicted the stereotype of working with obsessive STEM aficionados. My colleagues have a vast array of backgrounds, from Arabic to English Literature. What everyone does have in common is a passion for people-focused outcomes. Keeping our customers at the heart of what we do, we’re all driven by the goal to supercharge businesses through digital transformation and leveraging the fluid digital landscape to build connections that really matter.
Connect with Caitlin on LinkedIn and keep up to date with the Virgin Media Business Team!