"Geography bridges the gap between the humanities and the sciences"

BA Geography graduate Elena Leggett
Elena Leggett
Data Analyst for FareShare
Geography BA
Elena talks about her work as a Data Analyst for surplus food redistribution organisation FareShare.

Why did you decide to study geography, and why did you choose Sheffield?

Geography was always the subject I enjoyed the most, because I felt it bridged the gap between the humanities and the sciences. I also wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do as a career after university, and felt that a geography degree wasn’t restricting in any way and could lead to a large range of careers. I went to lots of open days but Sheffield seemed to stand out; something about the feeling of the city and the vibe around the university buildings and halls that we visited.

What has your career path been since graduation?

After graduation I then spent some time living in Malaysia working as a volunteer teacher for refugees from Myanmar, and travelling around the region. When I returned to the UK I started my current role as a Data Analyst for surplus food redistribution organisation FareShare.

FareShare work to intercept food that would have been wasted across the supply chain - from ‘farm to fork’ - and redistribute that food to organisations such as homeless shelters, school breakfast clubs and domestic violence refuges. We work with around 3,000 retail outlets and have 23 redistribution centres across the UK, and my role involves processing and analysing any of the data implicated in this movement of food.

To give an example of a project I’ve worked on recently: FareShare partnered with the Trussell Trust food bank network with the aim of increasing the amount of fresh, healthy food in food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust, which typically feature long life food high in fat, salt and sugar. I was tasked with figuring out the order in which FareShare should bring Trussell Trust food banks into our distribution network, based on a number of restrictions implicated by the funders of this project, and did so using Python (a programming language) and a Monte Carlo simulation.

How did studying geography help you get to where you are now?

The strong research focus on food geographies whilst I was at Sheffield ignited my interest in this area of study. As a student, qualitative research was my preference but the department encouraged us to study both qualitative and quantitative modules, so I always felt I had a solid understanding of research methods in both areas. This was certainly beneficial in applying for my current role and now most analysis projects I work on are quantitative.

What made your time in Sheffield special?

I found Sheffield to be exactly what I needed as a student: loads of nightlife, easy to get out to the Peak District, close to other great cities where my friends were studying to go and visit. And the Geography department were always supportive and offered many great opportunities: I was able to attend global development conferences in Mexico City and Brussels, and enjoyed a field trip to Morocco. Overall, Sheffield is a great city and Geography an excellent starting point for an exciting career!

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