Graduate Bio: Joan Wong

We interviewed Joan Wong, one of our MSc Occupational and Organisational Psychology graduates about her career. Joan is now a Senior HR director in the financial technology industry

Author: Joan Wong

Which course(s) did you do at Northumbria and what have you done since graduating?

I was inspired to study Psychology after reading several books about human minds at the age of 15. Having torn between the Counselling Psychology and Organisational Psychology, I finally decided to pursue a MSc degree in the latter with the aim of contributing something to all human beings who spend nearly half their lifetime in the workforce for a living.

I graduated in 2017, and I was lucky to be given the opportunity to be a recruiter one month after I came back to Malaysia. It was a start-up like environment as one of the prestigious firms (also my dream company) set up a shared services centre in my home country back in 2016. Lots of professional growth opportunities as I was able to get involved in campus recruitment, employer branding, and people advisory functions in my first job.

What is your current job title and what does your job involve?

I am currently working as Senior HR Executive in the financial technology industry; another wonderful company where growth opportunities abound. My day-to-day is challenging yet inspiring in different ways, i.e. writing HR policies/process, handling employee enquiries from different regional offices, and my favourite – to plan and execute talent development related projects.

What inspired you to follow your career path?

My dream of being able to help employees achieve a balance between productivity and happiness at the organisation has allowed me to soldier on for the past few years. I realised I could achieve this dream through talent development and talent management functions where my passion lies.

What advice would you give to current students wanting to follow a similar path?

I volunteered to have mock interviews with students from other departments (me acting as a recruiter), when I involved in a value-based recruitment consultancy project with an external NGO, and when I presented my thesis at a conference. They are all about challenging oneself to understand the meaning of limitless, and to understand that being limitless is indeed possible.

Other than the academic knowledge taught by my favourite lectures/professors (they are still the best in my heart to this day), one of the greatest takeaways from this MSc programme is not to be afraid of trying new things in an unfamiliar environment. Say yes to all the opportunities presented to you whilst you are still a student; say yes to all the opportunities to you whilst you start working; say yes to all the wonderful things during your lifetime because they are going to bring you to a place where you never imagine such place even exists on this planet.

Go volunteering and do not be afraid to take on additional projects/responsibilities at the workplace. They might seem daunting, and the journey is going to be arduous. But trust me, the outcome is going to be rewarding to the extent that you are not going to trade that with any other things.

What was your favourite thing about studying at Northumbria?

If I were given a change again, I will choose to re-live the same path. No regrets! Especially the library at Northumbria. It was there for me during so many sleepless nights (the jet lag) at the beginning, and its marvellous reservoir of books. It never failed me when I was looking for different books to read during weekends and semester holidays. Being able to borrow those books from other libraries was an experience that was so special that I could not even replicate this experience at any other places.

Graduate Bio: Shaun Carlton

We interviewed one of our alumni, Shaun Carlton, about his career to date. Shaun graduated from the BSc (Hons) Psychology in 2015 and went on to do an MSc in Organizational Psychology. He now works as an Associate Consultant at a Talent Strategy Consultancy firm.

Which course(s) did you do at Northumbria and what have you done since graduating?

I studied BSc Psychology at Northumbria between 2012-2015 and I’ve done all sorts since graduating, really.

My first role was with a small independent mental health hospital where I was responsible for supporting individuals with a range of mental health challenges, predominantly Schizophrenia and Personality Disorders. I’d always wanted to get into mental health care but after a year in role it didn’t feel like the career path that I wanted to pursue long-term.

I decided to go on to study MSc Organizational Psychology at the University of Leeds. While I was (and still am) fascinated by human behaviour, I decided that I was most interested in applying this to a ‘work’ context rather than a healthcare context… My BSc dissertation was actually on how an alcohol hangover can affect workplace performance, so my interest was always there!

I then moved to London to work in recruitment, before making the move into consulting, which I’ve been doing for the past 3 years.

This month I’ll actually be starting a new role as Talent Development Partner at a local government authority back in North Yorkshire. I’m really looking forward to move into the public sector, and to bring my consulting and psychology expertise to support the North Yorkshire community.

What is your current job title and what does your job involve?

I’m currently an Associate Consultant at a Talent Strategy consultancy focused on helping clients realise the full potential of their people. This typically involves me working with senior executives to support them with assessment, development, workforce insight, talent mobility and succession planning amongst other things.

A large part of my role involves using tools including psychometric assessments (measuring intellect/ aptitude, personality and motivations) and behavioural based assessments to understand and predict the type of person who is likely to thrive in a particular organisation. The approach is theoretically grounded in the idea that looking at experience alone is one of the worst predictors of future performance (Schmidt & Hunter, 1988), so we help organisations to increase the accuracy by which they make people decisions in order to unlock performance.

What inspired you to follow your career path?

How many times have you heard someone complain about a rough day at work or how much they hate their jobs? This fundamentally should not happen, ever.

I absolutely believe that if we can change how organisations support, recruit, develop and manage their people then we can increase employee engagement and job satisfaction; both of which have been found to improve the individual’s wellbeing, and organisational performance… everyone wins (see Roberton & Cooper, 2010).

I also think that we can increase fairness and equality in a world riddled with bias. From a hiring perspective I often hear clients talk about, or see in job descriptions the desire for a degree from a certain university, in a certain subject, at a certain grade… My question is, “why”? Do they know that someone who gets a 2:1 from Harvard would be better at the job than someone who gets a 2:1 from a different university? If not, then why measure it in the hiring process?

I’ve worked on projects where clients narrow their potential talent pool down to such an extreme level to look for qualifications that they think relate to performance, but actually have no impact whatsoever. So many people miss out on opportunities through no fault of their own, but through an unjust and biased system… This needs to change.

What advice would you give to current students wanting to follow a similar path?

Stay curious, follow your passions, and believe in yourself. When I studied at Northumbria, I was set on going into healthcare, but I quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times where I felt anxious about my next step – not knowing what I’d be doing, where I’d be working, or having a clear career plan mapped out. I’ve since realised that this is okay, just enjoy the journey and keep learning.

I’d also recommend setting up a LinkedIn profile and joining groups of like-minded individuals, following companies you’re interested in, and reaching out to others who work in a job/ organisation that sound interesting to you. Most people would be happy to help out and give you some advice, or maybe even introduce you to someone who could help.

I’m always happy to connect too. You can find me at: linkedin.com/in/shauncarlton/

What was your favourite thing about studying at Northumbria?

I don’t even know where to start… Living in Newcastle was great! I loved the nightlife, the culture and the people. I’ve also made some friends for life and only have great memories – I’d highly recommend it to anyone!

References and useful links

Robertson, I. T., & Cooper, C. L. (2010). Full engagement: the integration of employee engagement and psychological well‐being. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 31(4), 324-336.

Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological bulletin, 124(2), 262-274.

Want to hear more about careers in psychology? Head over to our Careers in Psychology blog

Interested in Occupational and Organisational Psychology? Read about our MSc in Occupational and Organisational Psychology and take a look at the British Psychology Society Careers Pages