Batool Raza (Biology with Management 2015) is a Research Activities Manager at World Cancer Research Fund International and founder of Outside the Lab, a career coaching service that aims to support and empower STEM graduates to successfully explore careers outside academia. During her time at Imperial, Batool was a committee member of the College's Pakistan Society and Honorary Secretary of the Fashion & Design Society. She helped to organise the 'Smoky not Smudgy' fashion and beauty event at the annual Imperial Charity Week, and was a finalist in the RCSU Science Challenge, the Union's annual science communication competition.

We spoke to Batool about her experiences at Imperial and the path her career has taken since completing her studies.

What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?
I discovered the diversity of topics you can learn even within just one degree, because of the types of modules I could explore as a Biology student. I studied modules as varied as Neuroscience to Conservation, and my dissertation was on the link between conservation and business strategy. I also started to learn about the diversity of careers that are open to you as a STEM graduate, from attending all the career talks and fairs hosted by the Careers Service.

Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?
There were a lot of female role models in the Life Sciences department, which I found inspiring because I saw examples of other women following STEM careers. Their passion for their subject really came through whilst they were teaching.

What advice would you give to girls who are thinking about studying STEM, particularly at Imperial?
STEM subjects give you an array of skills, whether you want to pursue a research career or not. If you enjoy the subject at A-Level, think about how exciting it could be to delve deeper into it during a degree. Imperial is the perfect place to do that because it’s a hub of scientists who are excited about what they do.

How did you find life at Imperial as a woman?
I loved my time at Imperial, and although I found the proportion of students male-heavy in general, this wasn’t the case in Biology or the Business School.

What is your fondest memory of your time here?
All the friends I made, which is the best part of the university experience!

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
Going to Imperial gave me both the scientific grounding in Biology and exposure to networks that got me to where I am in my career today. My science degree gives me confidence and credibility working in science industries, even though I don’t work directly in research. The exposure to employers from different industries at careers fairs also meant I was able to explore alternative paths, which has meant I’ve been able to use a blend of science and business skills in my various jobs.

Please tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
I currently work as a Research Activities Manager at World Cancer Research Fund International. I’m responsible for monitoring the charity’s funded research across Europe, as well as organising our attendance at scientific conferences and running our academy for junior researchers.

I also run a career coaching service called Outside the Lab for STEM graduates who want jobs outside academia. I’m currently running a webinar for this called 'How science graduates can get a high paying job outside the lab even if you have little to no work experience' - more information here.

What have been your career highlights and lowlights?
Getting on to the GSK HR graduate scheme straight after university was definitely a highlight! Making a career change later on to Research Funding & Management had its challenges but paid off.

What are your plans for the future?
To continue working with scientists by doing roles in research funding and management, as well as helping science graduates develop careers they love through Outside the Lab.

What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make?
Probably leaving my job at GSK to make a career change.

What are you most proud of in your life?
The way that I’ve built my life back up after facing challenges both personally and professionally and carved my own path against the status quo.

Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
"Everything is figure-outable!" - Marie Forleo

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just that I loved my time at Imperial – it’s not only where I gained so much knowledge but also where I met my husband and made friends for life!