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Case Study: Lily Christensen

Personal details
Degree:MA Honours International Relations & Geography Profile picture
School(s): School of Geography and Geosciences, School of International Relations
Year of Graduation:Jun-2013
National of: New Zealand
Employment details
Organisation: what3words
Job title: Senior Partnerships Manager
Occupational Sector: Tourism/Leisure
What has been your route to getting your current position?
I left university and worked in Amsterdam for an NGO briefly then a Dutch startup mentorship program. After those weren't quite right I joined Usabilla where my career developed over 4 years. Starting as the ninth employee as Customer Success Intern, I left four years later as Head of International Development having opened offices in London and New York and having led teams of up to 14 people. I've closed deals with the likes of CNN, Air Canada, Capital One, and Singapore Airlines, among others. I then decided to go back to my Geography routes by getting a job at what3words, a revolutionary global addressing system using unique 3 word addresses for every 3x3 meter square on earth.
What does your job involve ?
I work on partnering with travel and tourism brands across the world to help them showcase their hidden gems via 3 word addresses as well as work with marketing to cobrand travel journeys and help travellers access the front doors of hotels or previously unaddressed sites off the beaten path.
What are the best bits of your job ?
I travel the world explaining a revolutionary concept and work in a smaller company so I get more say into how my role evolves and the direction my vertical takes. It pays to take a risk on an idea if you believe in it. I also get to talk about maps and geography every day in the context of addressing favelas in Brazil to ensuring people can access the coolest windmills in Holland just by saying 3 words to their vehicle (Mercedes for example).
Why were you successful?
I took on new opportunities and didn't follow the normal grad schemes. You have to show that you're willing to try new things and that you're confident in your input and work in order for people to trust you in positions of responsibility. I also find being a good communicator takes you a long long way.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
I think critical thinking is a key skill to have as it allows you to see many different opinions and paths from a seemingly concrete idea. It has also helped to have some understanding of SPSS or other tools like Microsoft Office or knowledge of coding is super useful. Interview methodology is also something to pay attention to as it comes in handy.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
I think always be honest about your values at work, people like transparency but don't forget to be professional. Socialising at work can be great and I definitely believe colleagues can be friends, but remember you ultimately are still in a work environment. Other than that I'd say finding good mentors or a good boss is key, it can make or break your job happiness. I've gotten to where I am today because I've always strived to be as authentic about my capabilities as well as my flaws, that way people know what they're getting. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be self-confident but rather that you should do your best to be reflexive and have some introspection, this will help you stay true to what you want from your job as well as help your employer understand how they can best manage you to be successful.