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Simon Malek-Jahanian (BA Accountancy and Economics 1997)


Having started out in practice, like a lot of the graduates from Reading, I soon realised that I enjoyed working in commerce more than in practice. I took a role in British Airways as a finance person, giving me the opportunity to travel frequently. From there I moved into the technology sector with long tenures in Microsoft, Dell, and Hitachi Data Systems where I made Finance Director.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

I had spent my school years away from home at boarding school, and decided that I wanted to be closer to home, but attend a university which was synonymous with a strong degree course in Finance.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

The proximity to the town centre, for things like restaurants and bars, yet the seclusion of the campus which contained everything you needed.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Make sure you choose your degree for the right reasons, a number of my friends took degrees that ended up being irrelevant to where they took their career afterwards.

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

Working as Finance and Commercial Director for Hitachi Data Systems, having been headhunted for the last three companies I worked for, I have become a specialist in Sales and Customer facing finance roles. What has been critical for my success is not only 'what you do' but 'how you do it'. 

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

Be flexible, the Technology sector moves at an incredible pace, and if you can't adapt to the changing environment you will struggle to keep up. Sales facing finance people use the finance skills but also have to be commercially astute. 

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

My degree made me realise that finance was right for me. Reading gave me a good grounding and springboard for my further qualification as a CIMA Accountant.

What are your top tips for student graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Aside from the working hard to make sure they get the best degree they can, I think using Social Media like Linkedin, can improve your own brand in the marketplace. I also gave up my holidays to do unpaid work experience in larger companies that I would aspire to working in, that wasn't easy to secure a place, as probably only 10% were interested in taking on someone in an unpaid holiday role, however it sets you apart from other candidates. 

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

The University to me was about playing hard and working hard. The community spirit that the campus provided ensured that you didn't only interact with the friends on your course, but also with those you lived with. I was fortunate to be part of the JCR committee and therefore lived in Whiteknights Hall all three years, giving me the opportunity to help a number of the new intake adapt to university life. 

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