Sophie Pieters, Operations Officer, Institute of Global Health Innovation

“A degree is something I have always wanted, and I am so proud of myself for finally going for it in my thirties.” 

When I left high school, aged 18, it seemed that everyone around me had a clear vision of their careers and passions. I found myself with a lot of different interests but simply no real calling. I worked at a call centre, as a cleaner, a receptionist and a management assistant – all in the space of a few years. My wanderings were not confined to employment, and I decided to move from my home country of Belgium to London. Imperial was the first place I worked, and I was here for a few years in the role of executive assistant.

During the pandemic, I struggled with my mental health and felt like I was failing in life. When scrolling through LinkedIn and other social media, it seemed like everyone was doing incredible things or changing the world. I wished I had a special talent or a skill that could make a difference. Friends or colleagues would tell me I am organised and caring but I thought these talents to be boring and nothing special. When colleagues would ask me about my career journey, I always felt defensive and started with: “I only have a high school degree but here I am, working in London!”

I decided I no longer wanted this to be my answer and in 2021 I started studying part-time for a BA degree in French and History. A degree is something I have always wanted, and I am so proud of myself for finally going for it in my thirties. I am set to graduate next year. During this time, I also returned to Imperial to work as Operations Officer at the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) where one of my roles is to oversee the Julia Anderson Training Programme (JAT), offering paid work experience to those with no previous work experience.

When I started my career, I suffered from imposter syndrome and had major doubts about my English skills. Now at IGHI, I have an incredible line manager who gives me confidence and the opportunity to develop the JAT programme which has been running for a year now and has been more successful than we could have hoped.

It has been the most rewarding work I have ever done, and I feel like I’m making a difference to our trainees’ lives. I listen to their stories, push them out of their comfort zone and I’m there for them when needed. My advice to them is that it’s ok if you’re not sure what you want to do yet. I know from my own experience that the different jobs I’ve had along the way have shaped who I am today.

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