Benjamin Daniel Ashton
Current Employer/Organisation Name
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
I have been building a career in HR, starting on the Vodafone graduate scheme, then to American Express Global Business Travel and now Dialog Semiconductor. I’ve worked in a variety of HR generalist/specialist roles that have prepared me for my current role which is my largest step up/challenge. I am also studying for my CIPD Level 7 in parallel.
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
I chose HR as I have a fascination with human behaviour and why we do what we do, as well as a curiosity in business and organisations – add those two things together and you get HR pretty much. I enjoy what I do as I work with people and for people. My role has so many different elements to it and I have the ability to help individuals or have an impact on the organisation I work for almost every day. I also enjoy the fact that there are opportunities for me to use my studies & experience in Psychology in my work, such as most recently looking at how we can measure and consider people’s true ‘career drivers’ (what’s most important to them) in the workplace in order to maximise tailored employee engagement.
Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?
Swimming club, Psychology Society, Pool & Snooker club.
What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?
I enjoyed the final year of my programme the most as there was the most room for personal selection of modules, tailoring to my personal preferences & future career path. I picked my dissertation and one final year module specifically with my career in HR in mind, as well as other modules of particular interest. My biggest highlight was achieving my highest mark in all my studies in my final dissertation – ‘ending on a high’.
What did you enjoy most about studying here?
I enjoyed the campus, the city, the students’ guild where I worked and the standard of teaching, particularly in my final year (as some in the early years of my degree was of a varying standard shall we say).
Why did you choose to study at Exeter?
I chose Exeter for the city & location, the standards of the education and the focus on sport – both formally through competitive sport and also informally through intramural and more relaxed societies/clubs.
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
For me personally, the most valuable skills & experiences are the practical ones – being curious & asking questions really is the quickest way to benefit from the years of experience & knowledge other people have. Also, experience in a work environment, I was lucky enough to do an Easter and summer internship at a small organisation in my second year and that experience was priceless both for my development but also for my graduate applications. If you are unable to get such work experience, then I would really recommend speaking to people in the industry, coffees, skype calls, whatever it might be – linking back to my first point, be curious and (most) people are happy to share.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
Connected to what I said before on skills & experiences that are valuable for your career, work experience in a relevant area is priceless. It doesn’t have to be a paid summer internship for a large brand, it might be 1 day a week through a term with a local smaller organisation, or a short stint in the Easter holidays like I did. Being in HR now, from my own experience and seeing others, if you have any experience of the workplace and the industry you are going to work in, it pays off in so many more ways than just a tick box on an application/CV. Also, be curious, ask questions to find out more and don’t feel restricted by you job description or title. If you have an interest in another project/topic somewhere, express it and explain why – you might be pleasantly surprised by the things you end up getting involved in.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to continue my career in HR, having had a range of roles to start my career, I now want to strengthen as a HR generalist. I want to continue to make a difference and there are some things within HR that are where I want to drive change, so if becoming more senior allows me more influence over certain things then I’d like to progress to more senior roles, most likely within Technology organisations as that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most.