Student Stories

Lewis Traill - Edinburgh University

“Having great interpersonal skills is critical to your career success because you’re much better positioned when you know how to interact with colleagues and clients. But it isn’t just in a professional capacity that interpersonal skills help, they’re good for your personal life too – it just makes being confident in a social environment so much easier.” That’s Mechanical Engineering student, Lewis Traill, sharing why he’s been honing his interpersonal skills alongside his academic studies.

Into his third year of a five-year Master’s, Lewis has been on a few ‘soft’ skills courses, to ensure he has the breadth of skills he knows employers will be looking for when he graduates. None though, have compared to the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® student school he attended during the Christmas break.


What he admired most about the programme was Susan’s ability to convey her message and make this type of learning fun.


“Susan did it in a way that wasn’t forced on us. I’ve been on some courses where they tell you something, then immediately expect you to get up and do it in front of people. That way of learning’s not for everyone. So, to have Susan as your coach, someone who delivers this content in a way that makes all participants feel comfortable partaking - everyone is almost guaranteed to benefit.”


Lewis admits to feeling nervous ahead of attending the school – particularly upon joining the first class. “When I joined that first time and saw there were maybe 30 people involved, I felt a bit nervous about having to talk in front of that many others,” but his fear was short lived.


“As the programme progressed and I became more familiar with Susan, her coaching style, and how comfortable everyone felt, I found it much easier to open up,” Lewis explains.


And once he was able to relax a little and ease his guard, Lewis says he found he had the confidence to try out some of the tools and techniques Susan was sharing.


“Susan is very approachable, so you just don’t feel like you can do wrong on this programme.” That’s important believes Lewis for getting those in the group to share their inner thoughts and experiences. And it’s Susan’s ability to quickly create a safe space for young people to do so that makes this programme and learning so powerful.


“Our very first class was all about the negative voice in your head. It speaks to everyone differently and what it says is deeply personal and often extremely hurtful. These are the types of things you wouldn’t ordinarily share in front of others. But we did share, and the experience was powerful… helpful.


“This pandemic has impacted student mental health adversely. It’s harder to shake off that negative voice.  In lockdown its amplification is much easier and that’s harmful. What Susan helped us understand is that when you hear that constant negative voice in your head, you can and must manage it because if you don’t, you’re not taking into consideration the consequences that it’s having on you.


“If you are constantly hearing that negative voice say, ‘you’re not good enough for this’ it’s really impacting everything. Basically, what you’re thinking ends up impacting how you look, how you speak and how you act – Susan’s programme helped us explore all these different elements.”


The tools and techniques Lewis took from that first module for managing his inner voice have had a profound and positive impact on him. Before the pandemic last year, Lewis took an accidental caffeine overdose – something that sounds harmless enough, but the experience left him with crippling anxiety.


Lewis explains: “I’d had a late night of study so the next day, before heading to the gym, I took some caffeine – unfortunately, I took too much. I started feeling dizzy and my dizziness got worse, then my heart was racing. The paramedics arrived and told me I’d had a caffeine overdose, but I’d also had a panic attack. For six months afterwards, I had at least a panic attack a week. I just couldn’t shake this constant nagging thought that something bad would happen because of something I did.”


Fortunately, as part of the programme’s ‘how you think’ module, Susan offers techniques that Lewis subsequently put into practice and that have helped him “manage those types of negative thoughts brilliantly”.


“I’m in the engineering society at Edinburgh University and the President of that society, Khalis Ariff, attended a previous Make Your Mark with Susan Room® school and went onto become an Ambassador. He knew what I’d been experiencing and talked me through the types of learning the programme offered and how it had helped him. I’m so grateful to Khalis for nominating me for a place on this programme because this learning has helped me get better control of anxiety that was basically taking over my life.”


That’s why Lewis has also recently become a Make Your Mark Ambassador himself. He now wants to share his story with other young people, so they too understand the benefits of professional coaching and get the opportunity to experience the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® student programme.


Lewis concludes: “The interpersonal and other ‘soft’ skills you learn on this programme will absolutely help you in your professional life but, in my personal experience, these skills are absolutely essential to benefiting you in everyday life too.”


Lewis Traill is in his third year of a five-year Master’s, studying Mechanical Engineering at The University of Edinburgh, where he’s also Project Director for their Engineering Society. It’s still early days in his studies, but he’s currently exploring career options that span joining an engineering consultancy to becoming a patent attorney. It’s his desire to share his personal story and champion coaching’s power that has led Lewis to become a Make Your Mark Ambassador.

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"The most challenging part is easing your boundaries, letting them down, so you can just relax and try some of this stuff. That’s made so much easier because Susan is very approachable – you just don’t feel like you can do wrong on this programme."

— Lewis Traill, Edinburgh University