My UEA Story: Kimberley Wheeler
Kimberley, BSc Mathematics and PGCE Primary Years graduate, on her unexpected career path
"I really enjoy working in the gaming industry – it’s fun and exciting, and there are so many interesting developments all the time"
How has your career developed since you graduated?
After graduating from maths, I did a PGCE at UEA. Following some time working as a Nursery teacher I am now working on the content and admin team at a small independent game studio in Ely. I help source and create content for our games, do various organisational tasks in the office (including organising socials and looking after our office pet bearded dragon, Gerard), provide customer support, attend events to promote our games, manage social media and also get to test new games now and then!
What is the most rewarding aspect of your current role, or your greatest career achievement so far?
Qualifying as a teacher was one of my proudest achievements – it is very hard work, and it was great to have a chance to reflect on my progress and see how much I had learnt over the year.
"It's great working in a small and quite forward thinking company, which really values the personal and social aspect of work"
In my current role, I’m very much enjoying communicating with players from around the world; it’s very satisfying when you can solve a problem for someone! I also really enjoy working in the gaming industry – it’s a fun and exciting industry to work in, with so many interesting developments all the time; plus, I love games! It’s also great working in a small and quite forward thinking company, which really values the personal and social aspect of work, as well as appreciating individuals’ inputs to the company and showing their appreciation.
What steps did you take in finding employment (in particular did you use the UEA careers centre, job websites, networking events)?
For teaching jobs, I used the Norfolk Schools Jobs website to look for jobs, as well as the advice and support of the EDU department at uni and speaking to other students on my PGCE.
In general and for other roles, I spent a lot of time looking on as many different job websites as possible (my current job was spotted by my partner on Indeed!).
I was very glad to have got my CV in good order with the help of the UEA careers service before graduating, as well as getting advice on the applications themselves.
What are the key skills you learnt at UEA?
Time management, maths skills, teaching skills (behaviour management, teaching, assessment), essay writing, evaluating sources of information and managing professional relationships.
"My maths course has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the foundations of maths, which comes up all over the place"
How have these skills or your course made a difference in your career?
I needed QTS to be a teacher, and the theory-based approach to the practice of teaching helped me hugely in being a much better teacher. My maths course has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the foundations of maths, which comes up all over the place – from being able to focus on true understanding of the basics of maths when teaching nursery, to understanding more about how the games I now support work – maths really does pop up when you least expect it!
More generally, I think that studying at UEA really helped me be more open-minded about the ideas and views of others, which has helped me both in my career and my personal life greatly.
Why did you choose to study at UEA rather than another institution?
UEA was a good distance from my family (close for visits, but far enough to be a new experience), and provided courses which covered my interests and matched my ethos. UEA has very supportive tutors and a wonderful campus and union; most of what you need is right there. Norwich is definitely ‘a fine city’ with great culture (including bands at the Nick Rayns LCR) and UEA has great value accommodation.
But most of all it was simply the atmosphere – I visited lots of universities before making my choice and before results day I had already decided that UEA was my one and only. I would make it there however long it may take! It feels so wonderful to walk through campus, and to relax in the square. Almost everyone there is so friendly and helpful; the motto 'Do Different' really sums it up. UEA has something special that I felt nowhere else had.
Do you have any tips or advice for current students or recent graduates?
Use the careers service – it can be very helpful.
Speak to your tutors or the Student Support Service whenever you feel you need help – tutors like to see you making the effort, and won’t be bothered by you asking for help, and the Student Support team are brilliant and very helpful – even if you’re not sure what support you might need yet!
"When I graduated I thought I knew my career for life, but I have landed somewhere quite different and am extremely happy with my work now"
For recent graduates – don’t feel that you have to know exactly what you want to do immediately, or that you have to be brilliant at it straight away! When I graduated I thought I knew my career for life, but I have landed somewhere quite different and am extremely happy with my work now. Many of the friends who I graduated with have been down many different avenues and gained some great experiences from it. Careers often twist and turn, and that is not a bad thing! You will also make mistakes at work; this happens and it doesn’t mean that you’re bad or not cut out for the job, or that your manager will forever hold it against you!
Job hunting can be a gruelling process at times but keep pushing through and you will come out of the other side, I promise! Don’t exclude temping as a possibility while looking for jobs – there are some good agencies in Norwich which can help find various types of work with lots of flexibility.
Also, a piece of advice that I feel quite strongly about – if you can afford it, join a union, and definitely do so if you are in a job such as teaching. You may never need their support, but if you do then having someone by your side to support you is invaluable; UEA has a great support system, so it’s good to make sure someone else has your back once you get out into the big wide world.
Kimberley studied BSc Mathematics and then PGCE Primary Years at UEA, graduating in 2013.