I think studying history does inherently give you a focus on the big picture, the long view

Photo of Ross Bailey
Ross Bailey
Head of Advocacy - Malaria No More UK
BA History
Ross Bailey let's us know why he chose the University Sheffield, tells us about his current role with Malaria No More UK. He also offers advice on making the most of your university experience and the importance of taking time to reflect on what you want to do following your degree.

A transcript of the video:

Hi, my name is Ross Bailey. I attended the University of Sheffield and studied history between 2000 and 2003. My current position is head of advocacy at the organisation Malaria No More UK.

I had a good look around other universities, did a fair good comparison of the courses. And was particularly interested in modern history, which the Department has always had a very good reputation for. That was primary amongst my choices, I have to say I love Sheffield from the moment I visited it, I thought was an incredibly friendly city. As somebody growing up in a very rural area, I found it a pretty great transition from moving from a small village into a city, but not the largest city in the UK. I loved my time at Sheffield University and at the Department of History. I think back on it very fondly.

Well, my journey into the job I do now is probably a bit of a roundabout one. I left university and I knew that I wanted to do something that was going to be quite engaging and something that would probably build on the skills I developed during my time studying at university. But if I'm being totally honest, I don't think I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And I was fortunate I worked hard and I got onto graduate scheme run by the Financial Times as part of the Pearson group who were then the owners of the FT. I think that we probably had slightly different understandings of career paths back nearly 20 years ago now. And there's a lot more information out there. But it took me a little while to work out that actually probably things that I was interested in and valued weren't necessarily what I was getting. from the career path I was on. So about seven or eight years in, I left a job that I was working in and I went and interned voluntarily for an MP at the Houses of Parliament. And then after that, I got my break into a small NGO and then went to work for a larger NGO in campaigning and advocacy.

At Malaria No More UK, My key responsibilities in my current role are overseeing a lot of our international engagement on the campaign to control and eliminate malaria. Malaria No More UK is a small organisation and what we do is primarily advocacy campaigns and communications, trying to build the case and to encourage and incentivize major actors. So donor governments, as well as endemic governments, as well as major philanthropists to invest in the campaign to help end malaria. Malaria is a preventable disease, but it still kills around 600,000 children every year. Whilst we've made great, great strides in tackling this disease, we've still got a long way to go. Good news though, is that it is possible to eliminate malaria. It's something that's feasible and within our control and could be done within the next-generation. I find that really inspiring to work in. Day-to-day, I do a lot of work in engaging with government stakeholders just recently working on a major summit that took place in Kigali in Rwanda, where we brought individuals such as President Kagame of Rwanda, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the president of Botswana, Melinda French Gates together to speak about what their commitments would be on getting the malaria fight back on track following the impact of COVID.

So when I studied history, it imbued me, I think with a lot of skills. A couple of key things have been really useful in my career - is the ability to synthesise large amounts of information, to read and get through large amounts of information quite quickly. Empowered me to really improve my writing skills. I feel very confident knocking out short documents, long documents. I think also studying history does inherently give you a focus on the big picture, the long view. And I think that's really important when you're thinking about issues such as strategy, which are vital to the types of roles that I have been within.

I really enjoy the social purpose of what I'm doing. It's very important to me. I think that we do different things at different parts of our career. It's been really great to be able to work in an organisation where I know that I am, I think I hope making some level of difference to the world around me. I get to work really interesting people. I'm not a molecular biologist, I'm not a mathematician. I'm not a I'm not an epidemiologist. I studied history, but historians, I think get to look at the long view. And I think it's been a really interesting opportunity to see all the wide ranges of what goes into fighting malaria in the work that I do.

What are some of the biggest challenges, I think we work in challenging times around ensuring that people understand the case for investing in international development assistance. I think it's one of the things that we really need to keep on making clear to people the value of why we should invest in helping people who are not within countries, perhaps within which we live. I think it's also probably quite challenging, but we live in a world of increasingly competing demands and concerns. Certainly an issue such as climate change is one that has dramatically risen up the agenda since I left the University of Sheffield. And that's absolutely right. The challenge is, is how we can focus on eliminating diseases like malaria whilst also making strides against climate change.

Well, so if you're a prospective student, I'd think as carefully as you can about what it is you want to get out of your degree. What do you like right now? What do you think that you might be interested in the future? I think it's very difficult to know the answers to these questions. When you're starting out. I'd talk to lots of people. If you've got brothers and sisters who are older than you or family members, you can talk to you. Talk to them about it. If you've got teachers or other individuals, ask them about their experience, what they liked about university, what they didn't like about university, what they liked about studying the subject that they studied.

If you have already started at the University of Sheffield or even if you've perhaps recently finished, I would look at a couple of different things. So I would first off, I would really enjoy your time at university. It's a special time, is probably one of the few moments in your life where you get a bit of space to really think deeply about subjects so make use of that. You probably won't get it again. I would, whilst I was there, I would try and get involved in extracurricular activities. I was the president of the history society, which meant that we put on some talks about what you could do with careers organised a lot of socials, brought people together, represented the students to a large extent to the faculty and beyond. Those skills were really important to me. I learned how to chair meetings. I learned how to speak in public spaces. I learned how organisational structures work and thinking about some of the politics that you need to use to be successful. So I really suggest that you do that.

I wouldn't rush. You're going to probably work if you're watching this video until you're 70, that's just a fact of life now. So that means if you were to graduate just hypothetically at 21, you're going to probably work for around 50 years. I wouldn't rush out to university and rush into the first job that will take you or that you see, I would give yourself a little bit of time if you've got the opportunity to do that, and I know that that isn't necessarily the case for everyone. Um, by doing so, you can learn a bit more about what you like and what's important to you. I think that in the end, it's not a sprint with a job. It's a marathon and starting off in something that you like and enjoy is really important.

I don't regret for one minute the work that I did outside of the work that I do now, at Malaria No More UK and advocacy. But I didn't necessarily think quite as deeply as I might have done about all the things that are available to me. The reality is that there may be some jobs out there ten years from now that you don't even know that exist yet. But the more you can be thinking about what it is you want to do as opposed to just what's immediately in front of you. I think the better you'll get on.

I wish you absolutely the best in your time at the University of Sheffield, and with the history department. As I said, I absolutely loved my time there. Didn't necessarily always enjoy the hills on a night home from the Union. But it was a really special time in my life and I wish that exactly the same is the same for you. Thank you.

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