On a professional level, attending university has given me opportunities

Keith Huckle
Keith Huckle
Development Manager at the University of Liverpool
BA Modern Languages & Cultures
Keith discusses his career progression since graduating.

What is your current role and your main responsibilities?

I am currently a Development Manager at the University of Liverpool. My role is to connect with alumni and non-alumni, managing the university’s relationship with them and securing their support for the university. For some people this means making a financial contribution and for others it means volunteering their time and expertise. A colleague once described the role as “having interesting conversations with interesting people”. I am also involved in improving the visibility of the university in India.

Please summarise your overall career since graduation, but in particular, what was your first relevant role to the area in which you work now and how did you secure that position?

After graduating, I moved to Almaty (Kazakhstan) where I taught English for a year. I then worked in the UK for two years before completing a master’s in security studies with a focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia at the University of St Andrews. After that, I worked in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) for three years as a Fundraising Manager for a local NGO and my experience there helped me secure my current role.

How has your qualification helped you in your career?

Having worked in two Russian-speaking countries, knowing Russian has been incredibly helpful! This was especially true in Kyrgyzstan, where I was the only foreigner at the organisation and conducted most of my day in Russian. Knowing Russian allowed me to speak with the people who were the focus of our projects, meaning that I was able to better understand their needs and write more effective proposals. While I didn’t enjoy it at the time, writing essays with word counts at university taught me how convey my message succinctly, something that is vital for project proposals.

What is an average day like for you in your current role?

One of the best things about being a Development Manager is the freedom I have to structure my day. I have a list of alumni and non-alumni that I am responsible for, so some days are spent meeting with them and managing our relationship with them. Some days are spent focusing on specific projects I’m involved it (discussing ideas with colleagues and partners, writing proposals) and other days I catch up on all the admin I’ve been putting off.

What do you think is the most exciting thing you've done as part of your current role?

I’m currently leading a proposal to the British High Commission in New Delhi (India) for them to partner with the University of Liverpool in putting on a series of events promoting British-Indian research. I also get to meet an incredible range of people thanks to my job.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

I’m most proud of my time at IDEA Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan. As Fundraising Manager, I brought in $1.7 million in funding and developed projects with various UN agencies and the US government. By the time I left, the organisation had become Kyrgyzstan’s leading youth-focused NGO.

What advice would you give to current students who are interested in pursuing a career in your field?

As with so many jobs, written and spoken communication is key in fundraising and development. You have to be able to explain clearly what you want, why you want it, and the effect it will have. Involving others in your work (getting feedback on ideas, working with other organisations and departments) is also important and tends to lead to a greater chance of success. Finally, the essay you’re writing or presentation you’re preparing is only ready when the audience can no longer ask you “so what?”.

What were your previous academic qualifications?

I left school with A Levels in Economics, French, and History.

What were your career aspirations when you were younger?

I wanted a job that would allow me to live abroad, so I spent most of my childhood wanting to be a diplomat. That didn’t work out, but I’ve been able to fulfil most of my travel ambitions.

What impact has attending University had on you?

Going to university gave me the space to define who I want to be, which gave me the confidence that comes from knowing who you are. On a professional level, attending university has given me opportunities. Without knowing Russian, I wouldn’t have gone to Central Asia. Without the experience I gained there, I wouldn’t be doing the job I am now.

What advice would you give to young people considering University?

Look at the modules on offer, not just the course. As the first person in my family to go to university, I didn’t have much guidance and didn’t realise that a subject at one university could be so different from another depending on the interests of the academic staff and the modules on offer. For those interested in studying Russian, I would add that Russia is more than just Moscow and St Petersburg, and the Russian-speaking world is more than just Russia.

Why did you choose Sheffield? / What sets Sheffield apart from other Universities?

I like how the university is part of the city, unlike some universities which feel as if they exist alongside the city they’re in.

What other elements of University life/extra-curricular activities helped you to achieve success?

One of my regrets from my time at university is not being more involved in clubs and societies.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Sheffield?

I think every language student says that the year abroad was the best part of university! I split my year between Yaroslavl and Volgograd (both in Russia) and enjoyed every second. I was lucky enough to be able to travel across southern Russia, going to places rarely seen by foreigners, and found it both infuriating and fun trying to use the Russian I learnt in the classroom in real life. I also enjoyed the freedom that some modules gave me to explore topics that interested me and having access to books on those topics at the libraries.

Why would you recommend the University of Sheffield as a good place to study?

I found all the academic staff to be incredibly passionate about their work and always ready to help. Without their enthusiasm, I don’t think anyone would be able to make it past the first year of learning Russian.

In one sentence, how would you describe the impact Sheffield had on your career and life after University?

Sheffield has given me knowledge, opportunities, and friendships that have lasted beyond graduation.

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