Student Stories


"I took so much from Mrs Susan’s sessions. For example the breathing, speaking and body posture techniques she shared – practical things you need, not only to give a great presentation, but generally for working life."

— Khalis Ariff, Edinburgh University

Khalis Ariff - Edinburgh University

Khalis Ariff, an international student from Malaysia, started studying chemical engineering at Edinburgh University two years ago. He was readying himself for his summer internship with the Edinburgh-headquartered, responsible investment management company, Baillie Gifford, when Coronavirus broke.

“I’d just finished my university lab work but what surprised me was everything just stopped so suddenly - we didn’t have time to prepare anything.”

As an international student, lockdown has been tough for Khalis.“I’ve found it a difficult and demoralising time. A lot of international students work over the summer but with climbing unemployment, competition is tough. It’s been hard to meet friends and family. I’ve spent time connecting on social media but I’m lacking the emotional support that I’m used to getting. Lots of international students went home but I had the internship offer from Baillie Gifford so I stayed in Edinburgh.”

And it seems his internship has been a real boost. “Even though the internship was made virtual, it has been so much better than I expected. Mrs Susan’s sessions, which focused on our personal and social development, were particularly insightful,” says Khalis.

‘Mrs Susan’ as Khalis most delightfully describes her is Susan Room, who Khalis met while attending the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school – a four module coaching programme designed to help Baillie Gifford’s interns secure their professional edge.

“What I love about Mrs Susan is she really engages her audience. All her content is great but what’s impressive is the way she presents it. She doesn’t just talk at you for three hours, she involves you and she really wants to listen to you. She’s just so genuine in her work.”

As part of their experience, the interns were subdivided into groups and given an opportunity to present back to Baillie Gifford’s senior managers at the end of their internship around the theme: ‘Internal beliefs and business improvement strategies’.

“We had lots of great sessions with Baillie Gifford’s senior managers, learning lots about the different aspects of their business and their culture. These were all helpful for developing our ideas for this final project, but I took so much from Mrs Susan’s sessions. For example the breathing, speaking and body posture techniques she shared – practical things you need, not only to give a great presentation, but generally for working life.”

Khalis had done very little of this type of learning before his internship but with ambitions to one day become a business leader himself, perhaps even within the finance industry, he fully appreciates its significance.

“I’ll need to know this stuff to be able to use my influence to create change or create an impact for my company. Mrs Susan’s sessions helped me to understand that to have a good team, you need good teammates and that you are a part of the team. You must enhance yourself to be a good teammate. Personal development is the most important thing and Make Your Mark gives practical ways to help you with that.”

Khalis isn’t exactly sure yet which industry he’ll go into upon graduating but believes his chosen subject, chemical engineering, is both credible and flexible enough not to restrict his choice. “I will likely head home but with two years’ studying left to complete, I’m a long way off needing to make those decisions.”

He does, however, complete his Baillie Gifford internship in a much better and happier place than when it began.

“It’s great to see Baillie Gifford investing in the future. They’ve really helped us develop the skills we are going to need when we finish our studies and enter the workplace. Their reputation as one of the top firms is well deserved.”

And his biggest takeaway? “Our personal and social development is ongoing but gradual progress. Don’t try and implement everything at once - that’s too much pressure. Self-improvement is about taking baby but steady steps.”

Khalis Ariff is going into his third year at Edinburgh University to achieve his chemical engineering degree. He is due to graduate in June 2022. He attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school programme, as part of his internship with global responsible investment management company, Baillie Gifford, and is now a programme ambassador.

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