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30th Anniversary: Meet the high-flying businesswoman by day, novelist by night

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Published on 29 September 2022

Carolyn Brenchley
Carolyn Brenchley

Carolyn Brenchley has a successful career in London and was one of the first STEM females in IT in the 90s - and she is a graduate of the University of Sunderland.

As a Director of Prime Services Product development in Scotiabank in London, Carolyn today helps analyse, design and implement products and systems that create business opportunities such as increased revenue, cost savings, and operational efficiency.

She explained: “Product Development sits between the business and IT and connects the two to enable these goals. I’ve been in Prime Services for over 20 years. I went from analyst programmer to business analyst to product development.”

After graduating from the University of Sunderland Carolyn, originally from Morpeth, moved to London and joined Logica as an analyst programmer. Carolyn recalls her first graduate job as one of her biggest challenges.

She said: “I moved to London where I knew no one. It was really tough in so many ways, but also a really fun time to be in London. I really grew in confidence by being so far out of my comfort zone.”

Asked about what attracted her to the University of Sunderland, she replied: “The Computer Based Information Systems course seemed to offer a really clear career path and gave me a chance to learn transferrable IT and data analysis skills, which as you know are probably even more sought after these days than they were in the ‘90s.

“I had already done a year’s placement in Germany and found I really enjoyed working with computer systems so, in spite of my background in languages, I decided it would be a really interesting transition. I loved the course – it was one year full time with a placement over the summer.

"I met great people. Everyone in my course was really relaxed and came from diverse backgrounds: some people had just graduated; many people already had established careers and some came from overseas. It was an interesting mix.

“In terms of the University itself, the location was also great. I didn’t have the funds to rent somewhere so I lived at home with my parents in Morpeth and commuted to the university each day.

“Career wise, it was the best thing I ever did.”

Carolyn added: “I loved learning about analysis the most and this offered really transferable skills for the workplace. When I started working, I quickly realised that I wasn’t necessarily a natural programmer but having done analysis modules helped give me the confidence to move into business analysis (and then product development) roles.”

Carolyn encourages recent graduates entering the job market to believe in themselves. She advised: “Challenge your prejudices and fears and get as much relevant work experience as you can. I do quite a bit of graduate recruitment now and I am always as interested in work experience as I am in academic achievements as this helps people stand out.

“I know it’s been hard to find placements due to Covid but hopefully things are opening up again now. Consolidate your CV to one page and get as much interview practice as you can. Research the firm you are applying for and go into interviews knowing who their competitors are and what challenges they are facing.”

Carolyn is also a firm believer in pursuing your dreams and she has recently self-published her first novel, The Coal Boat, under the pseudonym of Sam Kirk.

“I always dreamed of writing a novel and self-published my first one in 2018 whilst working full time. I often got up at 4am to write then went to work. I look back now and I’m not sure how I did it.,” she said.

Talking about her future plans, Carolyn said: “I’m still really enjoying my working life for the moment. I love the problem-solving, lateral thinking aspect of my job and the culture in the City is probably not what you’d think.

“After that I’d love to write another novel or screenplay and perhaps take a year to travel through Europe, fitting in a bit of running tourism along the way.”