Posted on 7 Jun '24

Life at FAU: My First Month in the Team

Jack Surtees recently joined FindAUniversity and the wider Keystone Education Group as Junior Insights Executive, delving into the trends we’re seeing across the postgraduate sector and transforming them into reports, presentations and blogs that can help inform our strategy!

In this blog, he reflects on his first month in the role.

18 months ago, I was ready for a career change. I’d been teaching English as a foreign language for three years and while I thoroughly enjoyed being in education, it was time for something new.

Data analysis was the field I turned to. Quite a leap from teaching, I know, but having some data experience from a previous position and the ability to train myself online gave me the impetus I needed to move in this direction. After fortuitously being able to gain some practical experience freelancing across various industries, I decided it was time to look for something more permanent.

The position with FindAUniversity and Keystone sounded right up my street and it was an opportunity to work in education once again. The face-to-face interview gave me a strong impression of an easy-going, friendly office atmosphere, and I walked away from it desperately hoping to be offered the role.

Onboarding and first steps

Success! I was offered the role a week or so later and practically snapped their collective hands off to accept it!

The first day, however, did not go to plan. The train was delayed (typical), so I arrived late to the office. If I was feeling a little nervous beforehand, then this certainly didn’t help. Although, in hindsight, there was no need to worry. My new colleagues were very understanding and accommodating. I was introduced to my new team upon arrival, treated to a tour of the office (including introductions to everyone we came across), then given a presentation outlining everything you could possibly need to know about the company by HR (and encouraged to ask if ever I was uncertain about anything - it was a lot to take in after all).

That afternoon, I sat down with my new manager to discuss the role in detail and get a better sense of what we would actually be doing. I just so happened to have started at a particularly interesting time in UK Postgraduate education and there was A LOT of context that I needed to wrap my head around (recent government policy, historical trends, the innerworkings of UK HE etc.) but it was explained very clearly and I was given plenty of time in order to bring myself up to speed, including being told “no question is a bad question” multiple times. Which was good, since I certainly asked a lot of questions.

The rest of that first week was spent doing basic tasks, familiarising myself with our tools and systems, and getting a better sense of who the company was. Fortunately, I’d been right in my initial impressions from the interview. The office was both easy-going and friendly, and I was made to feel a part of the team immediately. All in all, it was the smoothest onboarding that I’ve experienced.

Getting into it

Working in the data insights team involves producing reports, articles and presentations investigating the trends that we’re seeing across postgraduate education.

There’s a great deal a freedom to it, and once I’d proved that I had a basic understanding of our tools, I was encouraged to come up with my own ideas for new articles or improvements or different ways to visualise insights. Being given such creative freedom was liberating and for me, as a very hands on learner, it was an excellent way to build my understanding of the HE sector, our company and our data.

I would regularly meet with my manager to discuss these ideas and receive feedback on my work, which was really valuable in understanding how I was doing. Before long, I’d taken over some of our reporting responsibilities, started fulfilling bespoke data requests, and started up a new insights-based blog series. It was rewarding to feel like I was contributing to the team so quickly.

Going forwards

Since that first month, I’ve been granted more responsibility and more freedom, particularly with regards to what we might want to investigate, which is fantastic for me. I love research, and being able to really delve into the nitty-gritty of what we’re seeing and ponder why it might be happening is very rewarding for me.

I was recently invited to the Postgraduate Marketing Conference that FindAUniversity hosted in Sheffield, which gave me a great insight into what our clients value and a chance to speak to them face-to-face (and be treated to a Wagamama’s on the company, can’t complain there!). From what I hear, the company-wide socials are similarly great fun.

I can’t wait to see where we go from here. There are a lot of exciting ideas floating around our team and I’m very much looking forward to further developing my skills and helping FindAUniversity and the wider Keystone Education Group to achieve their goals!

FindAUniversity take pride in being experts in postgraduate education. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram for regular insight, comment and case studies.

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