Graduates of Global Distinction Part 10
Bintu Foday Kemokai – Office Manager, Siemens, Oregon, USA.
Our tenth instalment of our Graduates of Global Distinction series features Bintu Foday Kemokai who is now making her mark on the global stage. Bintu is a fantastic ambassador for Norwich Business School (NBS) and UEA – from her five years at UEA to her business career in global giant and Fortune 500 Company, Siemens. Bintu completed her BSc in Accounting and Management at NBS in 2013. She enjoyed the student experience so much that she remained at UEA to take on senior roles within the UEA Students’ Union which led to an elected national role responsible for all UK students. Throughout her time at UEA Bintu always made herself available to give inspirational talks to our prospective students at our Open Days and Applicant Days. Having graduated with a Master’s degree at UEA, she left her Alma Mater to carve out a career for herself in one of the most successful electrical and electronic companies in the world, Siemens, ranked at number 66 in the Fortune 500. Bintu is currently the Office Manager in Siemens’ Oregon branch in the United States of America and she marked the end of her first year by winning the Employee of the Year award. We caught up with Bintu to see how her time at UEA has impacted her career:
Hi Bintu, can you explain to us how your career has developed since graduating?
I spent five years at UEA. Three years of undergraduate study, a year as a sabbatical officer for UEASU and the fifth year completing my Master’s degree in Business, Globalisation and Sustainable Development.
My first graduate job was as a sabbatical officer and director for UEA Students’ Union. I was the Community and Students Rights Officer defending and extending the lives of all UEA students. I was also elected nationally to be part of the welfare zone committee, working towards the rights and welfare of all students across the country.
After completing my Master’s; I went on to work for Newcastle University Students Union (NUSU) in their new London campus. As the only London based SU staff member, I managed all aspect of student life, wellness and events.
Earlier this year, I started working for Siemens US in the building technologies division.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your role or your greatest career achievement so far?
My greatest achievement so far has been project managing a $700k office remodel project. Many Siemens offices across the country are adopting the new way of working (NWOW), the same concept as open plan offices in the UK. I worked with our general contractor and their crew alongside various furniture vendors. The hardest part of the project was that we were remodelling the space our employees worked in. Alongside working with external vendors, I was responsible for coordinating temporary spaces for our employees, managing their needs and helping them adapt to, and cope with, the change management process. This project has been my greatest achievement because it was completed successfully at the end of November with only minor problems and I was recognised by the branch manager and senior executives within the company. I am proud that the amount of overtime I put into this project paid off, and the work turned out as planned.
I started working for Siemens in Oregon, USA in June 2017. Siemens Building Technologies provides automation technologies and services for commercial, industrial and public buildings and infrastructures. Five and the half months later, I won the employee of the year award in recognition of my hard work and commitment to the company. I honestly did not expect that. I have always worked hard – my lecturers at UEA can attest to that and every person I have worked with knows this too. I play hard but I definitely work harder.
I am the Office Manager for Siemens BT Oregon, responsible for two branches, with over 150 employees. My main role is to support colleagues on various projects and manage the day to day activities of the office. Amongst other roles, I am responsible for an internal data input management system for Oregon, Washington state and Alaska. I love what I do and I take pride in my work.
How did you go about seeking employment abroad?
Moving to a new country and looking for work can be stressful, therefore organisation is key. I used LinkedIn and lots of other job pages. I also visited company websites and did lots of networking on LinkedIn. I signed myself up to several job alerts – this is a good way to hear about lots of jobs all at once.
I got my job within three weeks of moving to the US and I started working six weeks after moving.
Have you noticed any key skills you learnt as part of your course, or found that there were modules you took that were particularly useful?
I learnt a lot of skills from both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. As a business school student, I did a range of modules that taught me a lot about the world of work. NBS’s generic first year really helped me gain a broad knowledge of business topics and concepts. Also, as part of some of the modules I studied, I did a range of presentations which helped me develop my confidence, communication and presentation skills.
Throughout my time at UEA, I was involved in various extra-curricular activities. I headed and was part of various clubs and societies which helped me socialise with other students from various backgrounds and walks of life. Furthermore, getting involved with the Students’ Union helped me become a more rounded individual, especially after winning the sabbatical elections and working as the community and students’ rights officer.
I believe that all my experiences at UEA helped me become who I am today. I owe my lecturers special thanks for their time and efforts and for preparing me for the world of work.
What was it that made you choose to study at UEA rather than another institution?
I chose UEA because of its reputation and, more especially, because of the level of teaching at the business school. Before applying to UEA, I attended an open day and met students and lecturers. I was impressed with the level of support students receive. There are so many opportunities available at NBS and I urge current students to take advantage of every opportunity the school and university has to offer. In the long run, those connections and networks will really pay off.
Do you have any tips or advice for current students or recent graduates, and in their future job search?
You should definitely work towards getting at least a 2:1. You have amazing lecturers and support system to help you achieve that. I took advantage of the support provided by the student support services: they have a range of study skills and workshops.
Furthermore, you should network, join clubs and societies, and get involved in your Students’ Union; it will help you meet people on other courses. Those are networks you might need someday. Don’t just make friends with people who are on your course.
To recent grads, start your job search as early as possible. Have a plan of companies you want to apply to. Visit company websites, and don’t forget the small ones. Attend networking events and update your LinkedIn profile: always have a professional image on Facebook and LinkedIn. And stay in touch with your lecturers – they might know someone somewhere who has a position that you may be just right to apply for.
Finally, never give up. Hold on to your dreams. Try and be positive and enthusiastic. Just because something did not work the first time does not mean it will not work the second or third time. Be persistent, be patient and, lastly, always put your ducks in a row!
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us Bintu, and congratulations on your award, It’s a fantastic achievement!