"The content and breadth of my degree gave me a real foundation to draw on, which I am still drawing on today, being able to apply that and to grow is great."
Jobs don’t come more rewarding than the charity sector, which is where BU graduate Karl Hoods has made his home, working for Save the Children as Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Working with computers has always been second nature to Karl, bringing him to BU in the early 90s to study Information and Systems Management at BU, graduating in 1996.
Looking back on his time at BU, it's clear that Karl has a sense of fondness for the place, with some of the subjects still paying dividends in his current role:
“I remember a great sense of fun, a real balance between the life and the course, the subjects we were on, and many of those subjects still stick in your head today," he said.
"It was a good balance between academia and doing some real hands-on work and gave a real foundation that you can use and draw on, which I am still drawing on today. Being able to apply that and being able to grow is great.
“Things like databases and having conversations on things like the techniques that you got to use there. That kind of real foundation is an exciteful part of the degree. It’s quite good to go back and have a visit to see how much it’s changed - I've still got friends who I still speak to today and see on a monthly basis.”
Bournemouth and BU played a major role in Karl's life - even bringing him together with his wife! “The thing I remember the most about the environment there was living in a hotel, I don’t think there was much in the way of student accommodation at the time. The night life was great, the Hot House, Dylan’s and then the Old Fire Station in our final year. Bournemouth was and still is a great place to be.”
Karl has been back to visit since leaving and, while a lot has changed, the feeling of being back at University still brings back memories, “It has changed quite a lot, the campus has almost changed beyond recognition. But the new facilities are amazing, so anyone going there now is going to have a different experience.
“I definitely miss the beach. The things that I am most proud of are my wife and I and my group of friends and the type of experience that we had there, we really made friends for life.”
While at BU, Karl did a year-long placement with Siemens, a company still offering placements to BU students. The placement year was formative in helping Karl get a foot into the industry, and left such an impression that Karl went on to take a BU placement student of his own!
“Spending a year out and trying to applying what you had you learnt and actually learning what businesses do on a day-to-day basis and working for a big organisation like Siemens gave you lots of experience."
On leaving BU, Karl started at a small start-up in London, working as a developer, moving around smaller companies cutting his teeth. “Working for start-ups gives you that exposure to use all those elements of the degree,” said Karl.
From there, Karl moved through project management and consultancy roles and worked with central government at the Department for Education before landing in the not-for-profit sector.
Karl’s current role might not be the most straightforward, but the IT issues are the same at Save the Children as any other business. Karl explains: “We don’t have a product to sell, so it’s all about creating an emotional attachment; when we speak to colleagues in the banking sector, they have the same problems that they are trying to deal with, it’s just that we don’t have the money to throw at it like they do, which gives us some interesting challenges.”
It provides other challenges too, from charity shops to running projects in countries around the world that don’t have particularly high levels of infrastructure, something Karl relishes.
“We’ve got 12,000 volunteers in the UK alone, so there is a wide spread of challenges and there are lots and lots of things we do, with applications, services, systems which we do the majority of in-house.”
So if you are looking to follow in Karl’s career progression, where do you start?
“The best advice is don’t be afraid to try different things, and don’t be afraid to fail," Karl said.
"I think that’s part of the learning experience, to take risks. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. One thing I’ve learnt in my career is to ask loads of questions. Don’t be afraid to challenge in any way.”