Anouska Wilson (Physics 1984) fondly remembers her years studying in London at Imperial. After a successful 25-year career at IBM in roles spanning systems engineering, sales, business management and HR, Anouska left corporate life to pursue her passions, launching her own business encouraging people to explore French and music.

We caught up with Anouska to find out where Physics has taken her, and to ask about her advice for prospective and current students.

Why did you choose to study Physics at Imperial?

I chose to study Physics at Imperial because I enjoyed problem solving, and I liked the mathematical side of the subject. Imperial was my choice due to its fantastic reputation and central location in the great city of London!

What was the best part of your course and what was the most challenging?

The variety of the course and the tutorials were great. I liked that the tutorials gave us the opportunity to discuss and debate different approaches to solving problems.

The low number of female peers felt quite challenging – I’d say my course was only ten per cent women at the time, but I soon learnt that doesn't stop you enjoying the course or university life. 

Do you have any fond memories of your time here?

Yes, absolutely. I was involved in sailing and orchestra outside of study. I was also a frequent visitor to London’s many theatres, restaurants, and parks. I loved living in London and meeting such a mix of people – scientists, artists, and musicians to name a few.

As for campus, I really enjoyed its proximity to the Albert Memorial, The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park, and Knightsbridge – Imperial’s neighbourhood is so beautiful and vibrant.

Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?

Dr Bob Speer, an engaging and enthusiastic lecturer. 

Dr Speer allowed me to work for him one summer, researching material for his third-year course. In undertaking this project, Dr Speer offered me the freedom to choose where to go and who to speak to, and as a result I found myself interviewing the Managing Director of an optics company.

I’d say that summer sparked my interest in bridging the gap between technology and physics, and the use of both fields in business. From that point onwards, I decided that I wanted to work in areas that communicated between science and technology, and explore their application in the world.

Tell us about your career journey since graduating from Imperial.

After graduating I went straight into an IT company (IBM), where I trained to be a systems engineer (pre and post-sales support). I soon progressed into management, sales and business management, taking a variety of roles. Later, I moved to the IBM Business School where I was writing and delivering sales and coaching training.

My final roles at IBM were in HR, and running their UK Flexible Working programme. I also job-shared running their Gender Diversity programme before deciding that a change in career was due.  

Next - after 25 years in corporate life, I left to pursue my passions in French language and music. I have been running my own business encouraging people to explore both French and music for fun ever since!

What does a typical day look like for you now?

During the COVID-19 pandemic I moved all of my private music teaching online, so typically I now ‘stroll’ to my music studio and enjoy teaching my lessons - from guitar to piano, to voice and wind instruments.

Sometimes I teach at local nursery schools – either music or French. Other days I’m teaching all French conversation.

In between all of this I find balance in walking my dogs, studying Italian with my husband, continuing to develop my music and French skills, and catching up with my three daughters.

What have been your career highlights and lowlights so far?

One highlight would be having managed twelve technical sales and specialists when I was only 23 years old. The role taught me a lot about teamwork and people skills.

Another highlight was serving as a Client Executive – I was passionate about the sales profession (both in terms of owning the customer relationship as well as teaching sales skills to others). Also, running the IBM Flexible Working programme for the UK and extending these opportunities for work-life balance to everyone, regardless of job role or gender, was rewarding to me. Going on to win an industry award for delivering the programme was the icing on the cake!

A lowlight would be not trusting my instinct in a couple of the roles I have had. I’d say that if a role doesn’t feel right for you, or if it challenges your values, then make the leap and do something else.

Along my career journey, I have learned that you can switch careers and do something that is meaningful to you at any stage in your life.

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?

Imperial has definitely influenced how I solve problems! I think physicists are frequently assumed to be logical by definition (and logic is indeed what we are good at!), however experimental physics showed me the additional importance of being creative, resilient, and adaptable. All of these skills prepared me for both life and the workplace.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue adapting, and to enjoy each day as it comes.

What would be your advice for current students?

If you don’t know what you want to do, embrace the uncertainty. Every step you take is a voyage of self-discovery, and everything you pick up along the way will shape your next step. Do everything you can to be well-equipped – your course can give you the skills that will help you on your journey, whatever the route or destination.

Also make time to benefit from everything that London has to offer.

What would be your advice to students considering studying Physics at Imperial?

If you like solving challenging problems and are curious, go for it!

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?

Having studied at a world class institution renowned for its expertise in physics! These days, reading all about the projects and achievements happening at Imperial through the regular alumni e-newsletters is inspiring and humbling.

Do you have a favourite quote or saying?

‘Be curious’ - if an opportunity comes your way, and someone suggests you’d be good at it, give it a go! They can see something in you - so listen, and you can learn lots about both the opportunity and yourself.

Where can we find you?

Let’s connect on LinkedIn