Izzie Ballantine Dykes

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: NGO
Job title: Volunteer Coordinator
Subject of study: Philosophy and Theology
Year of graduation: 2016
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

The Trussell Trust

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After studying at Exeter, I lived and worked in New Zealand for 18 months. For the first 9 months, I was awarded a scholarship to sing for Auckland Cathedral and also secured a paid internship with a local boutique media company alongside this. For the following 9 months, I travelled around both the North and South Islands and also worked at an adventure lodge as a horse trek guide at a grade 5 river rafting company. In 2018, I returned to the UK and had the opportunity to gain my first formal experience in the charity sector, working for a local non-profit organisation called CRESS. This experience was invaluable and confirmed my desire to pursue a career in the charity sector. In 2019, I secured a place at Bath University to study MSc Humanitarianism, Conflict & Development, which included a study trip to Amman, Jordan. Alongside this MSc course, I started working for the Trussell Trust as Warehouse Manager for their retail operation in Salisbury. in 2021, I completed the MSc with Merit and also began a secondment position with the Trussell Trust within the Network Services team, responsible for supporting our network of over 420 food banks in many capacities, from advising on governance, to supporting with the administration of vital systems. In January 2023, I started my current position within the Trussell Trust as a Volunteer Coordinator. This role involves supporting our food bank network with all aspects of volunteer management. Nationally, our food banks have over 36,000 volunteers, and my team supports our volunteer managers with training, resources, guidance and systems support. I am particularly responsible for the administration and ongoing support of the Volunteer Management System we offer to the Network, Assemble.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

When I graduated from Exeter, I knew that I wanted to be part of an organisation who work to advocate for those who don’t always have a voice. I am keenly aware of the struggles that so many face, and how the system is often stacked against them. I have always admired the work of the Trussell Trust. I grew up in Salisbury, the location of the first Trussell Trust food bank and felt the influence of their work around me, from school harvest collections, to volunteering for my Duke of Edinburgh award. With the covid-19 pandemic and the rise of the cost of living, as a nation we are facing a crisis. So many are unable to afford the essentials to survive and this just isn’t right. I continue to embrace the opportunity to work for an organisation that is actively working to address this inequity. Our food banks leaders and volunteers are inspiring, and it is a privilege to work with them every day.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was part of several musical societies including the University Singers, the Chapel Choir, A Cappella Society and Big Band. I also worked in the Guild Shop.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I enjoyed the range of modules on offer. Studying a combined honours course allowed me to really hone in on my areas of interest. The departments I studied with have award-winning lecturers and I felt lucky to be able to draw from their expertise and experience.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I enjoyed that Exeter is a campus university. There was always a sense of community and connection, as well as have the space and independence to pursue my own interests.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Exeter continues to have a positive reputation, especially for the course I wanted to study, so it was an easy decision. Also, I knew that I would feel at home in Exeter. It is a beautiful city with lots to do, but still connected to nature with Dartmoor and Exmoor nearby.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Taking every opportunity that comes my way, even if I haven’t immediately seen a direct path to my next goal. Working hard and showing that I am reliable, consistent and adaptable to unforeseen challenges. Accepting that there isn’t a ‘top-door’ way in. Most roles involve starting at the bottom and working your way up. I have preferred this way of working, because once you have proved yourself as valuable, you will be invested in.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

There often isn’t a clear and direct path to roles in the charity sector. I think you need to be proactive, and willing to volunteer your time to start making links. Attitude is so important. It is not always about developing specific skills, but being willing to use your initiative and think outside the box to get your foot in the door. You need to be genuinely interested and passionate about the cause you want to pursue. Don’t worry if your course does not feel very specific. When I graduated from Exeter, I had no idea how to apply my course to real world roles! But the skills and knowledge I gained through my course have been invaluable when starting out in the charity sector.


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