Even before graduation, Emily Lewis’s CV suggested someone who grabbed every opportunity that came her way and made the most of it – from customer services at a travel firm and waitress in a Cheltenham pub to a placement with MP Alex Chalk, building a school in Ecuador and working in Cambodia.
She became co-chair of University of Birmingham's 600-strong dance society in her last year of study, and although she remained open to any challenge when she graduated (with a first in philosophy with religion and ethics) a career in insurance was not something she had ever considered – until she heard the pitch from Pro Global.
Two years later, aged just 24, she is a consultant in the London offices of Pro Global, which has a major Gloucestershire base and is considered one of the sector's most innovative and creative firms.
If we can start with your passion for dancing. Where did that come from?
I started dancing when I was two years old. I apparently badgered by mum to do ballet. She used to take one her best friend’s daughters to ballet and I decided I just had to do it too. I have always loved it.
I played sport as well, but dancing has always been my thing.
It was a toss-up between dancing and the University of Birmingham. In the end I chose university, but that also allowed me to continue to dance and our university competed in national competitions in ballet, tap and jazz.
Dancing was never going to be an aside while you studied for your degree, then. How did juggling both commitments work out?
I enjoyed both - and became co-chair of University of Birmingham's dance society in my final year. It is 600 strong and we were also running 25 classes in all sorts of different genres of dance. Birmingham had a strong reputation.
We also raised funds for our chosen charity, Birmingham Children's Hospital.
It did make my last year a bit full on, but I realised I really enjoyed the responsibility. One of the things it taught me was how to manage my time better as well as giving me a taste for project management.
What was the career path you had in mind for your future?
When I was head girl, I did a speech and Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk was listening. We got talking and I said I was interested in politics. He said if I wanted to go down that route, I should apply for an internship with him, and I did.
I did a placement with him as well as Preet Kaur Gill (MP, Edgbaston, Birmingham).
I was keen to get more experience in politics, post degree and planned to do that after graduating, but Covid changed my path.
We understand it was actually the Alex Chalk connection that led you to Pro Global’s door?
He was doing a talk at a jobs fair and I went along. While I was there, I saw an advert for Pro Global and went over to find out more. When I realised it was insurance, I actually went to leave – I thought insurance was just about figures and data – but they called me back.
They explained they were not just looking for people who were good with numbers, they actually needed a wide range of people for what they did. I listened and was so convinced I actually signed up there and then and was lucky enough to get an interview.
What role did you start in and what are you doing now?
I started in a data administration role, but they quickly help you identify areas which might interest you and have what they call 'verticals' – the pathways which allow you to build on your skills and pursue the areas you thrive in. It is a really good way of building your career and everyone is so helpful.
The bottom line is, they want to get the right people into the business, then train them really well and they want them to be happy too.
At the moment, I am working as a consultant as part of a team and am based in London.
How has working for Pro Global changed your mind about what a good career path is?
Like many, I had bought into the idea that as a graduate you would simply get your A-levels, get your degree and that would open the door to your perfect career. But really, you are just starting.
My advice now would be to look for a company that will nurture you and help you develop the skills to have that perfect career.
Global is no ordinary insurance firm. It runs and
improves complex operations for some of the world's biggest firms. How has your impression of working in the sector changed?
The main thing I like is there is room to make a career here. I was so naive as to how broad the scope of the work would be. I thought it was just about numbers, but it is a business that needs all sorts of different skill sets, has all sorts of different opportunities and fascinating people. And this is a company that is always keen to help you develop your skills and find a role for you.
Pro Global has been really supportive and encouraging. It is not afraid to invest in and train people, even if some of them might move on. They know if they train good people, it will only create the right impression; word will continue to spread about the company and how good it is.
Since I have been here, I have gained a qualification in business analysis and I have started a project management course.
What would you say to others who might now be open to progressing or starting their careers with Pro Global?
I would recommend it. You do not have to be a graduate either. They are so willing to train people.
For people who love the county but have an ambition to experience work outside of the county as well, it is good to know there is a big hub in Gloucestershire which you can operate from and there are also offices in London and abroad too.
One of the other graduates who started at the same time as me has been to Malta with business clients, and I have been to the Swiss Re offices in Bratislava, and that is all within two years of working at Pro Global.
We have people with all sorts of skills sets, from business analysis to project management and consultancy. My own experience is it can be fast paced. As a team, it is about being the very best we can, so we remain the first port of call for our customers.