Loughborough Alumni


30 Oct 2019

Five alumni make a difference at careers talk

On 29 October, alumni working at the UK House of Lords, the East Midlands Housing Group (emh group), Baca charity and Indigo Volunteers came together to make up a panel on careers that “make a difference” to peoples’ lives.

Opening the discussion was alumnus Chan Kataria OBE who is the Group Chief Executive of emh group, a housing association in the East Midlands. Chan, who graduated with a degree in Economics in 1984, gave an overview of the work of the organisation, and an insight into the range of roles available.

Chan was passionate about finding himself a role where he could help others, particularly within housing. During the question and answer session, Chan advised students to develop niche skills, build leadership experience through clubs at university and to seek mentorship.

Joining the panel from the House of Lords was 2015 Social Psychology graduate, Gemma Lomas, who is an Inclusion and Diversity Manager. As a former member of the LSU Executive, Gemma shared how the role of VP Welfare and Diversity helped her to develop her skills and a passion for work within the inclusivity and diversity area – which she is now turning into a career.

She encouraged students to recognise all opportunities, and that voluntary roles will provide you with skills that you can take into the workplace. She also discussed being adaptable and open to meeting lots of new people from different backgrounds, to widen your mindset and view on life and the workplace.

Alumnae from Indigo Volunteers shared a different perspective on how to make a difference in peoples’ lives – particularly through supporting refugees in the migrant crisis. Holly Penalver, Founder and CEO of the charity, and Sophie Rihm, Volunteer Coordinator, discussed their experiences and passion for helping people.

Holly, who left Loughborough with a degree in Psychology in 2008, founded the charity to help people access volunteering opportunities overseas with minimal costs. She has now found herself at the head of a charity running over 70 different projects worldwide – placing almost 900 volunteers already this year through the coordination service.

During the discussion, she was keen to encourage people to explore ways of getting into the humanitarian sector through gaining voluntary experiences. She encouraged students to do what makes them happy and to never shy away from a difficult situation.

Alumna Sophie, who graduated in 2018 with a degree in Psychology, is currently based in Samos, Greece. As a recent graduate she shared experiences of leaving university and looking for opportunities in a range of areas and being open to exploring different careers. She also talked about planning for self-care.

Finally, alumnus Jimmy Zacharia, Chief Executive Officer of Baca, discussed finding his passion for helping others through a befriending service when he was a student. He shared how this voluntary work helped him to see that there was a lot more to be done to help people, and so he sought employment with the charity – and has recently become the CEO. Having trained as an engineer, he was not expecting to be working in the third sector following his MSc in Mechatronics at Loughborough in 2007. Based on his experiences, he told students to take themselves seriously and take on responsibility.

The panel talked about routes into the sector, learning from experience and failure and encouraged students to know their own strengths.

Thank you to our alumni for volunteering their time at the first “Making a Difference” careers panel.

Find out more about volunteering.

Pictured left to right: Jimmy Zacharia, Holly Penalver, Sophie Rihm, Gemma Lomas and Chan Kataria OBE. 


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