From Aberdeen to Empowering Change - Vivi BrookeVivi Brooke

MA (Hons) Film & Visual Culture - History of Art, 2013
From Aberdeen to Empowering Change

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
When deciding on a university, I wanted to study abroad and in English. I am half Finnish and half Canadian. At the time I had resided in Helsinki for 10 years. My Dad's hometown in Canada is Nova Scotia, New Scotland - so, when I lived there under the age of 10, I was always surrounded by remnants of Scottish culture. I chose Aberdeen partly because the education was free as an EU national in Scotland, and I was intrigued to learn more about Scotland. Specifically, Aberdeen's appeal was in the international vibe of the university, the cute campus town and I had a friend who was studying in Aberdeen and recommended it to me.

Why did you choose your particular course?
For me university was a time I could study the things I wanted to study, after a rigorous few years of the heavily academic International Baccalaureate program. I had always loved languages, literature, history, art and film. So when doing my research on courses and universities I also looked into the concrete modules the courses offered. I was pleasantly surprised that Aberdeen had a more hands-on practical approach to studying History of Art, as well as Film, offering many international Field trips and exhibition courses, as well as practical filming and editing courses.

If while at Aberdeen you took part in a foreign exchange, e.g. Erasmus or Study Abroad, where did you go and what did you do?
I partly also chose Aberdeen based on the exchange program options. I had always wanted to live and study in Italy, so when I was looking into universities, this was one criteria I always checked out. Thankfully, my course had the option of going on Erasmus exchange to Università di Bologna, so I applied in my first year and was in Bologna my whole 2nd year of studies. Bologna was the perfect place to go on exchange! It's the oldest university in the world dating back to 1088 and highly respected. It also has one of the best Arts programs called DAMS, discipline delle Arte, Musica e dello Spettacolo. As a University town it was beautiful and historic, the people are wonderful, the food is phenomenal and you can get to Milan, Venice, Florence in just 1-2 hours on the train. I pretty much travelled most of Italy that year and on top of that I learned Italian - I lived with five Italians, so I didn't have much choice! I also joined the University Choir and danced salsa, which was awesome! As a lifelong learner, I am super proud to be an alumni of the university that coined the term "Alma Mater" and whose motto is "Alma Mater Studiorum" - the nourishing mother of studies.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
My favourite student experiences were living in Hillhead in my first year, which was a great place for international and Scottish students alike to get to know each other. Back then, the Watering Hole was the place to be on many given nights of the week, but I also remember fondly having dinner parties at the different buildings. Our North Court building was a great, and we still keep in touch 10 years later! Another great memory for me was the Aberdeen University Dance Society (AUDS)! When I came back from Erasmus in Italy, it was so great to just jump right in to a group that was so welcoming to all new comers or returners. I spent most of my social and free time in AUDS at their 30+ classes a week and became heavily involved in the Committee and organising our dance shows. AUDS was more than just dance classes, it was a family away from home and we really made friendships that have last over the years and we still meet up for reunions in different countries. Also, based on that experience, I even went on to work at an internationally renowned modern dance company, while doing extra studies in Arts Management.

If you were involved in any clubs and societies as a student, what did you enjoy most about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
As mentioned above, I was very involved. I also was a part of the Aberdeen Swimming and Water Polo Society, the International Society, the Nordic Society, the Erasmus Exchange Society and many more that you could just pop by or go to just an evening event on occasion. I think the societies and clubs really make your university experience, especially if you are coming from abroad. Many people are in the same situation, away from family, so you relate really easily and it's a good way to get to know people outside your course.

Did you hold any student leadership roles, e.g. Class Rep, Club Treasurer, Social Convenor?
I was on the Aberdeen University Dance Society Committee as the annual Co-Show Coordinator, which consisted of organising a dance event for an audience of 1000 people and coordinating over 200 dancers. It also including all operational, budgeting, communications and marketing activities related to the event, which was hosted at the historic Aberdeen Beach Ballroom.

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Connect, connect, connect with people! You never know when those connections will come by your path again in the future!

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Media Production & International Sales Intern.

What did your first role involve?
Interning at an internationally renowned Finnish modern dance company, learning the ropes of how to operate a performance arts company. I mainly worked on their film projects, international sales and creating marketing materials, updating the website etc. Simultaneously, I also worked for a non-profit organising their yearly Youth Philosophy- two day event for over 500 people, as well as doing further studies in Arts Management at the University of the Arts Helsinki.

Who was your first employer?
Tero Saarinen Company.

What is your current job title?
Lead Employer Branding Designer.

Who is your current employer?
Finders Seekers.

What is your current role?
Employer Branding, Storytelling, Growth Marketing, Employee Experience Design. At Finders Seekers, I help customers to achieve sustainable (talent) growth by uncovering, co-designing and communicating their authentic, diverse and inclusive employer experience and employer brand to build winning teams. 

What is your current location?
Helsinki.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
My journey to where I am now was not straightforward. It has been bumpy along the way but very rewarding. When I was studying, there was no such thing as an Employer Branding specialist role - but with digitalisation new roles have emerged. It is increasingly important for employers to focus on their employee experience and create inclusive workplaces in order to attract and retain employees. 

I had a rough start with looking for jobs and going through many of the traditional struggles candidates and new graduates face while job hunting. I learned a lot and applied that learning into many of my jobs - customer or in this case candidate/employee-centric thinking. "Always put yourself in your customers shoes". At first I only worked short stints of 3-6 months in the creative industries. Then I found the world of tech in 2014 and startups (and I haven't strayed since!). 

My first role in tech was a startup and I was responsible for our low budget digital marketing and branding, attracting software developers and developing our candidate and employee experience. Later in 2015, I landed a job at one of Europe's fastest growing and most successful product and fashion eCommerce startups of the 2010s, Zalando. There, I had the opportunity to really learn and grow in the Employer Branding area (as well as other areas such as employee experience design, onboarding, marketing, corporate communications, diversity and inclusion initiatives, design thinking etc.) and how to do it on a global scale in a rapidly growing environment, as well as localise for locations in different countries. This all prepared me for my next role as Employer Branding Lead at Solita in Helsinki - a rapidly growing Northern European tech, data, design and strategy consultancy of over 1000+ people. 

With several inhouse roles behind me, in my current role I am doing business and management consulting for global tech organisations and startups; helping them design their employee experiences, build up diversity & inclusion mindsets, as well as shape and showcase their authentic employer brands for the increasingly competitive global tech talent market. Seven years since graduation and many things have come full circle, but one thing remains the same - I continue to learn and develop my skills each year. Currently, I am deepening my service design and design thinking skills to better support co-creating better and more inclusive places to work, as well as authentic employer brands with our customers. 

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
I think university prepares you in many ways for work life, but perhaps not in the way you would assume. For some courses, sure, there are concrete things you need to know to do the job, and that still applies. For me the main learnings have been applying skills to my everyday role. For example, my storytelling abilities, nurtured at university via studying film storytelling or through visual representations of art, come in handy every day. Another skill thoroughly nurtured at university would be the ability to critically assess and think about your and other people's work; critical analysis is essential when doing my job to improve it further and to help my colleagues, or customers with their work. On a more practical note, the organising an art exhibition for my Russian Art course taught me about the process of putting on such a function and taking into account the interactive experience you want to design for the exhibition goer and how to co-design with potential exhibition goers. The learnings I used when for example co-designing a new office space for my company with our employees. Another example is that I use the learnings from my Filming Documentaries course in how to storyboard, film, direct and edit, when creating and filming authentic people stories of our employees. The main thing I think you need to keep in mind is how you can you apply this knowledge you have learned at university into a different context? Then do that, try and modify!

One Top Tip

Don't stop trying, apply your learning and continue to learn new things!

Connect with Vivi on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivibrooke/.