Bright Network chatted with Lucinda Fraser, Operations Director at Oxbridge Applications. Here she shares her insights and experiences and offers advice to those who wish to follow in similar footsteps.
Tell us about your role as Operations Director
I oversee the day-to-day running of an education consultancy that provides support for students applying to Oxford and Cambridge universities. We have a really hands on approach, and work with schools and students all around the world, delivering workshops, mock interview days as well as one-on-one support. At the moment I am planning of all our programmes across the year – from developing online and print resources to arranging events all over the UK and as far afield as Dubai and Hong Kong.
How did your career begin?
I was part of the team to produce the first Oxford Fashion Week, which was the most fun I’d ever had ‘working’, and so I had a woolly idea I’d go into event management. I loved the cyclical nature of the event world and the satisfying feeling of planning logistics and then executing really spectacular and interesting events. When the job as Events Executive at Oxbridge Applications came up (through Bright Network!), being qualified for not much at all after a Classics and German degree, I thought it would be a great way to get hands on events experience.
What did you do next?
I loved travelling all around the country working with other Oxbridge grads to inspire students in schools on their home turf – from an event at a small state school in Newcastle to events with over 250 applicants and a complicated programme of workshops and seminars – a logistical puzzle. After almost three years working for the company, I now get to plan all our varied support programmes as well as manage the daily running of our small team and the business.
What has been the most interesting project you’ve worked on to date?
Last year I flew out to The Middle East and to Hong Kong and Singapore with a team of tutors on a whirlwind trip to put on workshops for international students applying for Oxbridge. High numbers of international students want to study in the UK, and approach us for support, so we thought we would go out and visit them. It was incredible to meet such highly intelligent and motivated young students so far away from home and see the work that we do translate so successfully.
Best thing about your current job?
Definitely the small entrepreneurial environment - the fact that the people I work with celebrate new and dynamic ideas and shun bureaucracy. While my friends are learning the ropes in big corporations, I get to shape a business and see the very tangible end result too. It is very rewarding to work in education, and to completely believe in the work you are doing. Also, travelling the world for your job is amazing – last year I ran events in five countries in nine days.
In brief…describe your average working day (if it exists!)
If I’ve an event to deliver in the coming days, I will always kick off by ensuring my tutors are on board, checking all educational resources and finalising logistics with consultants and schools. After checking in with my colleagues on any student queries, I might plan a support programme for a school in the UK or abroad, meet with a consultant, negotiate a contract with a venue and then dip into something academic and creative by planning the upcoming newsletter or blog. Last week I was working with our designer on the company brochure, which meant developing colour palettes and choosing photos and layouts, which was great fun. I’ll often go out to a school late afternoon to give a talk to students and parents. My day is always very varied, which I think I need – I don’t like to sit at my computer all day.
What skills are essential for your role?
Flexibility with your working day and the ability to multi-task is a must – being able to move forward with lots of projects at once, yet being able to see the bigger picture and prioritise according to the company strategy. This involves changing your approach quickly – you need to be able to switch from creative mode to html coding mode to support mode when a school or student calls – the day goes very quickly when you have to wear lots of hats.
What advice would you give someone who’s looking to go into Operations?
Get varied experience in different roles to demonstrate you can handle anything and see a problem from different perspectives – to prove that no logistical challenge is too big! That and a propensity to just want to get things done is good - you need to be able to show you’ve got the pragmatic clout to deliver.
One thing you wish you’d known when starting out…
That it is ok not to have a five or ten-year plan. To have patience and understand that lots of hard work and commitment really does pay off as long as you really love what you do.