Student Stories

Emily Mason - Heriot Watt University

Make Your Mark Ambassador

When Emily graduated from university, she didn’t want any job – she wanted to work somewhere that would help her reach her full potential and be the best she can be.

It was this ambition that led Emily to apply for and land a place on Baillie Gifford’s summer intern programme just before going into her fifth and final year at uni - in the summer of 2020.

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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 her colleagues, Emily expected to be posting on LinkedIn that her placement was cancelled. But that didn’t happen. In fact, Baillie Gifford pulled out all the stops to make her internship better.


“Their focus throughout was to make us more employable and that’s exactly what they achieved. The internship became a virtual one, but Baillie Gifford kept the opportunity alive for us. That was a massive gesture given the circumstances and one I will forever appreciate. I think it’s during a situation like a pandemic that people show their true colours and Baillie Gifford came out way on top.”


As part of her internship, Emily attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school – a four module coaching programme designed to help those at all levels 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 who studied a STEM subject (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Emily was dismayed to often find herself in a minority as a lone female voice.


“The beauty of diversity is that we each bring different perspectives. But my uni project groups were consistently me and five guys, there was never another woman’s voice to back up my own, to echo what I was 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 is a critical early learning since under-representation is something that will likely prevail during Emily’s entire career; it’s mirrored in STEM-related university courses and industries throughout the world.


“Some of the other young women I attended uni with are fantastic engineers but not many had the confidence or were shown how to present themselves,” says Emily. These women have 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 is keen to see. She made it a priority during her time as President for the ‘Women in STEM Group’ at Heriot Watt University and continues to do so as a Make Your Mark Ambassador, where she now helps Susan make the coaching programme available to other young people.


“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’s 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 the experience 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.”


As a result of her internship with Baillie Gifford, Emily refused to rule out working within financial services and recently secured a graduate role in the Change and Business Solutions team with NatWest Group. Emily says she was particularly attracted to the Group since it became the first major UK lender to appoint female CEO, Alison Rose, and is encouraged by their top 50 positioning within the Hampton Alexander report, which shows progress of the UK’s biggest companies towards women on boards. One of the things Emily loves most about her new employer though is that the business values coaching and has offered her access to her own Graduate Coach.


Emily Mason graduated Heriot Watt University in June 2021 achieving a Masters in Engineering. She attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school programme, as part of her internship with global responsible-investment firm, Baillie Gifford. Emily continues to work with Susan as a Make Your Mark ambassador to make coaching available to other young people. She commenced her role with NatWest in September 2021.


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"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