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PGCE Secondary Education (Chemistry) alumnus success story

PGCE Secondary Education (Chemistry) alumnus success story

Published: 23 Mar 2023

Francis  Jones

Brunel University's teaching style is a lot more hands-on compared to other universities. The emphasis on placements and hands-on experience helps students develop the required professional skills to help them stand out in the work place.

Francis , Postgraduate, Alumni

CEO, STEM@Home Ltd

PGCE Secondary Education (Chemistry) - 2018

From UK

Tell us about your educational and/or career journey since you graduated from Brunel?

During my placement year at Nottingham Trent University, I realised I was not a fan of the claustrophobic nature of laboratory work so when the option on doing a science education module came up in my final year, I took it on a whim and discovered I really enjoyed being in the classroom. After graduation, I worked abroad as an English teacher for a few years before returning back to the UK to do my PGCE in secondary education (Chemistry). As soon as I completed my PGCE at Brunel University, I ended up working in an inner- London school as a science teacher before rising to management. When in management, I ended up obtaining a scholarship for a master’s degree in STEM education at King’s College London which I took to develop my pedagogy. At King’s, I undertook a micro- course about desiloing science and the arts which lead to me developing an art piece about the inequalities in science education in the UK. This art piece became an interactive art piece which became a piece of EdTech software, designed for policymakers in schools. This introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship where I experienced first-hand, the highs and lows of being a start-up. The baseline algorithm to my Edtech software, which was a tool that let school policymakers maximise academic attainment for each GBP spent on extracurricular activities was sold to a larger EdTech firm who could expand the algorithm further. This led to me developing my true passion, STEM@Home. Due to the time commitments of running a start-up company as well as my dissertation research in my master’s degree, I left my role in management at that inner- London school and worked full time on STEM@Home.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

As a start-up founder, every single day varies. I might be having meetings, writing up funding applications, preparing orders, designing advertising campaigns, organizing our invoices and maybe even designing new products. Early on in the entrepreneurial journey, you will be working ON your business but when you make traction, this is when you start working more IN your business and it’s at this point when you realize; “I need to hire people”.

What’s been the highlight of your career journey so far?

It is hard to decide what has been the biggest highlight of my entrepreneurial journey so far. I could say it was pitching at London City Hall or at the Oval stadium but nothing compares to the feeling when you secure your first B2B contract and the client pays off their invoice. Seeing all those numbers go up in your business account for the first time is a magical experience. But to me, my personal highlight was when we started collecting our case study data. STEM@Home was making a positive impact to students, outside of what we were expecting. We were initially only expecting to improve the academic attainment of students but finding out that not only were we making the lives of science teachers easier but being told that students who normally felt like they "didn't belong" to science, were now liking science and improving their outlook on school, was really nice to hear. Turns out that the best way to help a student feel accepted in school is to make a subject fully accessible to their needs.

How would you say your Brunel experience has helped you to get where you are today?

The Entrepreneur Hub at Brunel have been vital to my success as an entrepreneur. Every single person has supported and guided me every step of the way, from refining business plans to pitching. However, I would like to specifically mention three people who helped me a lot; Emmy Botterman- Simply an amazing and empathetic head of the EH. She's someone you can cry to when a business deal goes really badly and she helps you pick up the pieces and carry on. She's a perfect mix of cut-throat business expertise and empathy. Andrew Mossop- An amazing mentor who goes out of his way to help people. Truly, I could not have got this far without his constant support. Emily Arnold- The unsung hero of the EH. Really helps co- ordinate all my frequent requests for help in a very timely manner.

Why did you choose to study at Brunel and why would you recommend Brunel to others?

Brunel University's teaching style is a lot more hands-on compared to other universities. The emphasis on placements and hands-on experience helps students develop the required professional skills to help them stand out in the work place.

What is your best memory of studying here?

My best memories of Brunel actually come years after my studies. Despite graduating in 2018, I ended up opening up an alumni email in 2021 and saw about the Venture competition with Brunel's Entrepreneur Hub. I entered this start-up competition and came 2nd place which kick-started my entrepreneurial journey. After lots of support from Brunel's Entrepreneur Hub, my current EdTech start-up has achieved a 0.24% market share after 6 months on the market.

If you could give one piece of advice to current Brunel students, what would that be?

The support systems in place at universities, especially Brunel, are amazing. Don’t be afraid to try something new and maybe try making your own start-up. The support Brunel University provides is amazing and legit, university is one of the only times in life where you can fail and it won’t impact the rest of your life. Brunel University will always help you pick up the pieces and get you back on track. Make a start-up, try and learn new things and crash spectacularly. Learn from the failure and try again. Your undergraduate years are the only times in your life when you can do this.

What would be your top tip or key advice for new graduates as they begin their career journey after leaving Brunel?

Don't be afraid to try new things. Take that risk and just do it.