William Torrie graduated from QMU in 2016 with a BSc (Hons) Psychology.
He is currently VP of Legal Engagement at Barclays, following an accelerated career path, which he attributes to the skills and confidence he developed at QMU, alongside a proactive and go-getting attitude.
At Barclays, William’s role oversees three strands: relationship management, risk and commercial strategies. Alongside his main job function, William advocates passionately for gender parity and holds various leadership, advocacy and governance roles for a range of charitable and community groups.
He shares his experience with us, as well as advice for prospective students on how to get the most out of university life and grow in your chosen career.
Why did you choose QMU?
I was shopping for a university after spending a year working and figuring out what I wanted to do; following a failed first attempt at uni after High School. I liked the city and wanted to stay in Edinburgh. QMU stood out because it was vocationally driven – focused on building people’s academic and life skills - and had a broader outlook. Psychology wasn’t necessarily something I saw myself doing in the future, but the course offered many interesting areas of study, that would impart a variety of skillsets that could be applied elsewhere.
I also liked the campus vibe of QMU, it was small and felt very supportive.
What were the highlights and challenges of your course and your overall university experience?
My first year at QMU was very challenging personally but the University was really accommodating, giving me a second and even third chance when I was struggling to juggle life and my studies.
Importantly, they treated me like an individual. The support team saw I was capable, and worked with me to help me to succeed; and their approach encouraged me to keep pushing my life in the right direction.
Overall, my time at QMU wasn’t just academically enriching, but really formative as well. My time there helped shape my behaviour, and both the institution and its people helped me throughout, for which I am forever grateful.
How did you get into your first job – what was the pathway into your current career via the Barclays graduate scheme?
After getting my degree from QMU, I worked for a year to save money before reading my MSc at Glasgow University; during which I secured a place on Barclays’ Graduate Programme.
The ‘typical’ entry route for grad programmes is very different from my own experience. Typically, students apply for a ‘Spring Week’ in their second year – a taster session where you spend one week in a particular area of the business, and is essentially a week-long interview. At the end of it, you could receive an offer of a three-month internship in the summer after your third year. If you are a successful intern, you could be offered a permanent role with the organisation, once you complete your undergraduate studies. Graduate analysts usually rotate across different teams over a two-year period, and apply for a promotion at the end of their tenure. You can of course, do what I did and apply at different stages along the pathway, but there tends to be less spots up for grabs as positions are filled through the “Early Careers” talent pipeline that I just described.
I wasn’t aware of all this at the time but, although my route was unusual - coming in during my postgrad, my application was strong and demonstrated my potential.
Throughout my studies, I volunteered for charities, became politically engaged and worked part-time to support myself. So, I came to the table with an established track record of hard work and could demonstrate my resourcefulness.
In addition, I had a degree that was non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), from a different university, and an understanding of two foreign languages under my belt. I tried to link all of my experience back to the companies values and the skills I thought they were looking for.
All extra-curricular activity will strengthen your CV and make you stand out: from organising events, volunteering, taking part in student societies, to taking a part-time job, tutoring, etc. All of which build workplace skills, from negotiating to event planning, team-leading, project management, etc.
What advice would you give to someone applying to QMU today?
Take every opportunity given to you. When you first start at uni, the future can feel far off.
If you’re just starting out and you think your background is going to hold you back, don’t. You can make it work, you can have big ambition and QMU will nurture and support that ambition.
Also, don’t be afraid to fail, failing is how you learn and grow, and it is better to fail early. Take the feedback given to you and let it help you grow.
Be inquisitive, see what the uni offers, whether that’s study abroad, or a partnership, placement, or exchanges. Fly the flag.
The skills you’ll acquire at QMU, because of the emphasis on practical work and the focus on making students career-ready, meeting employer expectations, mean you have an edge in the market when applying for roles.
QMU creates graduates who can hit the ground running.
Are there any learning from your QMU days that you still apply in your daily work life?
I think the emphasis on practical skills and applications at QMU was formative in how I approach working life. The support I got at QMU gave me the confidence to be a go-getter, to grab any and all opportunities. It also helped me to see life differently and gave me an appreciation for other perspectives.
I like to work hard and fast; filling my time with the day job and extra-curricular activities. I see both as opportunities to grow and progress in my career, as well as making a difference to the things I care about along the way. It’s how you make your mark, build genuine connections and open doors for yourself and others.
For example, in my graduate days, I volunteered to take minutes at the Brexit committee (no one likes taking minutes!). I wasn’t technically supposed to attend these, but I knew this was a huge project for the bank and I wanted to make myself useful.
My minutes were well structured and organised – a skill I developed at QMU. This proactivity and skill got people’s attention and made sure I was noticed when there were job opportunities available.
Nowadays, I have a challenging but rewarding day job, as well a fulfilling roster of outside responsibilities, all of which make me a better employee and has given me the stretch opportunities needed to develop new skills at pace - ultimately accelerating my career.
"The skills you’ll acquire at QMU, because of the emphasis on practical work and the focus on making students career-ready, meeting employer expectations, mean you have an edge in the market when applying for roles. QMU creates graduates who can hit the ground running."