Student Stories

Emily Mason - Heriot Watt University

Emily doesn’t want just any job when she graduates from university, she wants one that she loves. “It’s too difficult to decide on a single career path at the moment but I’m attracted to socially responsible companies and I’m very interested in sustainable development. Most importantly, I’m looking for somewhere that will help me reach my full potential and be the best I can be.”

It’s this ambition that led Emily to apply for and land a place on Baillie Gifford’s summer intern programme. While knowing little about the finance industry, a straight-talking representative at a careers fair convinced Emily that Baillie Gifford was a responsible company and she should apply for one of their summer internships. She did, was accepted, and then coronavirus hit.

“Like so many of my colleagues, I was expecting to be posting on LinkedIn that my placement was cancelled. But that didn’t happen. In fact, Baillie Gifford pulled out all the stops to make the internship better. Their focus throughout: To make us more employable. The experience became a virtual one but they kept the opportunity alive for us. That was a massive gesture and one I will forever appreciate. I think it’s in this type of situation that people show their true colours - Baillie Gifford’s have come out way on top.” As a result, Emily won’t yet rule out working within financial services and is having exploratory conversations with Baillie Gifford about a role that may be on offer next year.

As part of her internship, Emily attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school – a four module coaching programme designed to help all Baillie Gifford’s summer interns secure their professional edge.

“I was pretty excited,” says Emily on finding out about Susan and her programme. “I had a feeling that coaching was quite a big deal and it didn’t take me long to figure out that Susan was excellent. Her programme didn’t disappoint - I actually believe it can change your life. I identified with at least a few things in every module. The most captivating, and the one that got me hooked, was on the inner critic. Your inner critic is like the elephant in the room – nobody talks about it. Susan’s insights unravelled lots of things for me but the most influential was her module on speech.”

As a young woman studying a STEM subject (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and one day aspiring to hold a position of leadership within industry, Emily is dismayed that she often finds herself in a minority - as the lone female voice – with project groups consistently comprising herself and five guys.

“The beauty of diversity is that we each bring different perspectives. But there’s never another woman’s voice to back up mine, to echo what I’m saying, so you have to be strong. What I learned from Susan is that simple techniques like how you choose your words, can have an enormous impact on whether others listen to you.”

This under-representation is something that will likely prevail during Emily’s entire career as it’s mirrored in STEM-related university courses and industries throughout the world.

“Some of the other young women I’m at university with are fantastic engineers but not many have the confidence or have been shown how to present themselves,” says Emily. These are women with a really good brain, they have valuable contributions to make, they should be heard and taken seriously. This type of learning could be revolutionary for women in STEM – this type of learning should be standard for women in STEM.” 

And that’s something Emily now hopes to be able to positively influence for other young women, both on her ‘Women in STEM Group’ at Heriot Watt University and as an Ambassador for the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school programme.

“At the end of our internship with Baillie Gifford we gave a presentation. Beforehand, I was humming to myself to warm up my voice. That’s one of the simple tips I’ve learned from Susan that I’ve already implemented and it’s immediately helped me be more successful. The learning Susan shares is equally beneficial for men (indeed ours was a mixed group of interns, which worked brilliantly), but this experience has made me focus on the importance of female confidence. It has helped me realise that success is about more than academic performance. By being aware of how you think, how you look, what you say and how you say it, you perform better. Make Your Mark with Susan Room® is learning that will stay with you forever.”

Emily Mason is going into her fifth year at Heriot Watt University to achieve a Masters in Engineering and is due to graduate in June 2021. She attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school programme, as part of her internship with global responsible-investment firm, Baillie Gifford, and is now a programme ambassador.

Emily is working with Susan and her other ambassadors on ways of making coaching available to other students. Watch this space. 


"By being aware of how you think, how you look, what you say and how you say it, you perform better. Make Your Mark with Susan Room® is learning that will stay with you forever."

— Emily Mason, Heriot Watt University