Mitesh, like many of our alumni, was the first in his family to go to university. He attended a Summer School at the University of Nottingham in 2006, and has gone on to have a successful career in finance. Here about his experiences with the Sutton Trust below.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

“My parents were immigrants to the UK in 1960s/70s – from India and Africa. Dad was a production manager, Mum worked in care home. Education is very important in Hindu culture and my parents always had the mindset of wanting to better yourself – they wanted us to take full advantage of the opportunities that we had in the UK that they didn’t have. Because so few in the family had been to university, knowledge of university was very slim. I didn’t always know the right questions to ask or how to go about making the right choices, so I had to take lots of advice from friends and their parents.
I had a good experience of school – I worked hard, got good grades, and tried to excel in everything I did. The careers advisers at my secondary school were great at helping you think about what you wanted to do, and what you’re good at, and then working out how to link that together; but they also really encouraged me to keep options open.”

What led you to apply for your Sutton Trust programme and what was your experience like?

“I heard about it through my A-level tutors and the Head of Sixth Form. One of my friends’ older sisters had taken part in the scheme a few years earlier and she was so passionate about it, which encouraged me to go for it. I really liked that it encompassed every part of university for someone who didn’t have the knowledge of it – university halls, tutorials and lectures, the social aspect… The whole experience was brilliant, and it was a really action-packed week. The student helpers were great – it was helpful to be able to ask them about their own experience, such as “what’s your best advice for your first week at uni?”
I’d always known that university was something that would be beneficial to me and that I wanted to do, but until then I’d just considered it as getting a degree. The Sutton Trust programme gave me the all-encompassing experience of education, which I’d never really considered before: meeting people, being part of societies, broadening your horizons. I don’t think I would have had as enjoyable a university experience without the Sutton Trust programme – you feel much more comfortable once you’ve done something once, and the Summer School taught me some of the skills I would need and how to cope, like talking to new people and managing your time day-to-day. It was 100% down to the experience I gained on the Sutton Trust programme that meant I wasn’t shy to go up to someone on the first day at university and talk to them – someone I’m still friends with now!”

How has your career developed after the programme?

“I took a lot from the programme in terms of what I was looking for in a university and what to expect. I went to Salford University and studied Business Management with a finance specialism, as this is something I really enjoyed. I did a summer placement on a graduate scheme which helped me gain some valuable work experience, and I volunteered with London Olympics in 2012. My experience on the Sutton Trust programme helped push me to do these sorts of things.
After university I was part of the graduate scheme at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. I spent 18 months there and was the quickest promotion from graduate to assistant manager at the time! It gave me a really good grounding in terms of running a business, and it helped me realise that what I wanted to do long-term was a financial-based role.
I heard about a Finance Manager role at my current company through a family friend and I applied not really thinking I would get it, but I did and started off part-time. I really enjoyed my role and worked my way up – I’m now part of the senior management team here. Our head office is in Sweden, so I communicate a lot with them, and I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Europe a few times. I’ve really pushed my boundaries in terms of the ‘big business’ side of things and I’m part of the leadership team covering the whole business now.

Do you have any advice for future Sutton Trust students?

To those thinking about participating in a Sutton Trust programme I would say only one thing: “Just do it”. You won’t regret it and you learn so much from it. There are lots of things I hadn’t considered about university, and the programme gives you the opportunity to talk to someone about it or do some more research. You learn a lot about yourself too – things like, “is the experience right for me?” and “what parts of it are good for me?”

Do things that are outside of your comfort zone. I had never played hockey before, but I gave it a go at the Summer School and met new people to talk to.

I gained a lot of people skills too and even now in my professional life the basics still apply: for example, being able to go up to someone new and speak to them. Those situations are still relevant and still arise – and for me these skills started with the Sutton Trust programme.

In terms of professional advice, I’d say it’s very important to have work experience, and being rounded now is more important than ever, so take part in all elements of university life and demonstrate that in CVs and interviews. Take the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and learn about different cultures – this is how you gain life experience.

I came from a family with no experience of university education, yet with the help of the Sutton Trust programme I am now potentially in line for a senior management/director position. You really can do it. The programme has propelled me from a normal working-class background of non-graduates, to now going on to a second or third level of higher education. Experience like the Sutton Trust programme can really give you the skills to push on in life.

If, like Mitesh, you’d like to share your story with us – just get in touch with the alumni team via [email protected].