BA History - Danie Hadley
Years at UEA
2008 - 2011
Senior PR Account Exec at Luminous PR
Danie Hadley, a BA History graduate, recently started working in PR after spending ten years in the heritage sector.
She spoke about the skills she’s used in each role and her particular interest in storytelling.
Tell us about your current role and how you got there
My current role, which I've only been in for six months, is account executive with a tech PR agency. I work with a wide range of clients in the tech sector.
We work with media and we work with journalists in order to help make our clients visible in the key areas they need to be visible in. I spend a lot of my time writing. I do a lot of pitching to journalists, reading lots of tech publications.
After leaving UEA, I went on to study a Master’s in London in History and German. After that, I started working at the Science Museum in London and went on to do a succession of roles, predominantly in museum education. I would develop and deliver workshops, tours, events, and all sorts of programs for every audience that we might have in the museum.
I then progressed into heritage project management. I did lots of short-term contracts, working with some art galleries and music companies to deliver heritage projects. I did these siloed projects that were really intense for a short period and then I would move on to the next thing.
My time in museums had reached its natural end and I was looking for something new to do that still utilised all the same skill sets but in a different industry. That's how I landed in PR. PR is about telling stories, so I spend the day talking about data and analytics and machine learning and I try and make very challenging concepts accessible to people. I was pretty much doing the same thing in museums, so there's a nice similarity between those two things.
What’s your favourite part of your current role?
I love writing. I didn't do huge amounts of it in my previous jobs, but now I write on a daily basis. That's a big thing.
The other thing I really enjoy about my job is learning. If I look back at working in all of those different roles in museums and heritage projects, I was always learning something new. I was like, “I've got to read up on the history of salt,” or “I've got to read up on World War One.” So, it's always learning something and I've taken that attitude into my current job in PR, where I've always got to learn this thing about technology or I've got to read up on sustainability and start-ups or whatever it is.
What drew you to History at UEA?
I pretty much always knew I wanted to study History. The decision was easy and I look back and I think it was great to study something that was a passion project.
I really enjoyed the subject and that saw me through those ups and downs of the three years of studying.
I grew up in Suffolk, so I knew of UEA already. It was always my number one choice and I love the campus. I love the setting. I love the proximity to the Norfolk coast and the beach. I remember going on an open day and feeling like, “That's home, that's exactly where I need to be.”
At the time, I was particularly interested in Modern European History and looking at the History BA course, there was lots in it that really for me that I wanted to explore.
What was your favourite thing about the course?
The best thing was my final year because the world opens up for you at that point. You start to select what topics you're going to begin to specialise in.
I focused on landscape history, because I'd never studied it until my second year and I fell in love with it. I also studied fascism in Europe up with a lecturer at the time called Maria Quine, and she's possibly my favourite thing about studying UEA History because she was a phenomenal teacher.
Studying those two topics really opened my eyes in a way that I don't think anything else could have and really shaped where I ended up working and which stories I like to tell, which tend to be the stories of marginalised or people who have struggled.
Did you learn any particular skills that you've used throughout your career?
Storytelling is a huge one because you do so much reading and you have to learn how to express yourself and how to tell a narrative.
I've used that all throughout my career and still use it now, working in PR.
Definitely writing because you do so much of it. Writing is one of the biggest parts of my job now, so that really stood me in good stead. Things like critical thinking because the core thing for history is that you consider sources and you consider who wrote something and why they wrote something.
That was a really big thing for me, in my final year, recognising that I had an Anglo-centric understanding of history and of the world. That final year turned everything on its head. Being able to look at sources and think, “What's the motivation? What is the purpose?” I think you build that skill set and it becomes integral to the way that you think going into adulthood.
Did you use any services at UEA to think about your career?
There may have been a trip to CareerCentral at least once. I did work with the UEA Student Union entertainment team.
I also worked in the box office and I worked in the cloakroom and I really do think that those experiences are just as valuable as what you're studying.
Having a job where I had to talk to strangers every day really helped me with my confidence and learning how to talk to the public.
It doesn't feel surprising that I went on to do a job where I stood in front of hundreds of people on a daily basis and spoke to them with a microphone on. A lot of that experience of working in the UEA services set me up to be able to feel confident enough to do that.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time at UEA?
I think the biggest one is that I met my people at UEA.
There are people that I lived with, people from my course and people that I met at the Cocktail Society that have been become friends for life and we're still in touch and we see each other regularly. I count them among some of my closest friends, and I think that we've stood the test of time and known each other more than a decade. That means that we're probably in it for the long haul.
That probably is the number one thing: I found my people and I found my place there, which is really important to me.
Did you have any particular career aspirations?
I didn't know that you could work in museums. I spent my childhood going to them, but I didn't know that you could have a job in one, so it was never really on my radar until I was doing my MA.
The main career aspiration I had at the time was to go into teaching, which is something that a lot of people might expect from someone with a history degree.
The main thing that I wanted to do was tell stories, inspire people, share my love for a thing and help people develop their own key skills around history. It was only later that I realized you can do all of that and not be a teacher. That was the thing that really sparked the museum side for me, which was working and teaching in an alternative way.
Any words of advice for prospective History students?
You can do anything with your History degree. Studying a BA and studying a MA doesn't have to set you on one specific path.
There's a wealth and a breadth of stuff that you can do.
So many skills are transferable. Knowing your transferable skills and not being limited by what may be expected because of what you study and to know that you don't have to have one career and do it forever.
You could have five or ten different careers in a lifetime. Don’t set limitations or allow others to limit you because you can do so much.