Graduation at LSE

Alum of the Month - August 2018

Alex Williams

'My programme has really equipped me to think about complex policy issues from a range of angles'.
Alex Williams

 

  • Programme studied: MSc International Management (IMEX)
  • Year of Graduation: 2010

Alum of the Month for August is Alex. Since graduating from the Department of Management, he's been working as Deputy Director of Policy in the NHS.

What’s your current job?

I work as a Deputy Director of Policy in the NHS and I’m responsible for developing and implementing the guidelines by which the NHS in England uses medicines. The NHS in England spends over £17bn on medicines each year, so my role is essentially to help local commissioners and clinicians make the most of that money. I work closely with colleagues across government and I regularly get to brief Ministers and the media on our plans. It’s pretty exciting work and I enjoy it immensely; particularly when my team gets letters from patients telling us how we’ve made a positive difference to their lives and their health.   

Where have you worked previously?

I started my career as a Commercial Graduate Trainee in Rolls-Royce over 13 years ago. This was my first permanent job (excluding short term summer holiday stints selling trainers in sports stores) and it was a steep learning curve. I got to see how large companies made decisions, interacted with major customers and as my job was to negotiate overhaul agreements with major airlines, I was immersed in contract law; knowledge which stands me in good stead to this day.

After this and prior to attending LSE, I worked for the Australian Trade Commission in London. My role was to help Australian companies to set up and trade in the UK and I became skilled at assessing a company, its product lines and identifying routes to market. I loved this job and I was fortunate to travel to Australia on three occasions to meet with clients. I even got talked into doing a live TV interview focused on opportunities to supply for the London 2012 Olympics.

How has the programme you studied helped your career since graduation?

Oh without doubt, having a Master’s degree from LSE’s Department of Management has helped me to get interviews that I perhaps may not have had otherwise. The University’s reputation travels far and if I had a pound for every time I’d heard “oh, so you’re from LSE?”…

I think my programme has really equipped me to think about complex policy issues from a range of angles and to then re-assess my own decision-making process. I was lucky enough to spend four months at the University of Chicago as part of the International Management Exchange (IMEX) programme, and one course there – New Venture Strategy – was terrific in that every week. I had to speak up in class with my point of view, debate it and then defend it in front of all the other (US) MBA’s on the course. Whilst initially nerve-wracking, it really taught me how to think deeply about problems in their entirety and be sure of your argument; a fantastic skill that I still use to this day.

What lead you to work in your chosen field?

I was probably a slight oddity amongst my Department of Management peers in that I didn’t want to go into consulting, industry or banking after LSE; I wanted to work in government. Public service has always been important to me as I enjoy seeing my work benefit ordinary people who rely on the health service to look after them and their families; indeed one of the great things about the UK is that its health system is always free at the point of need for all. When I joined the NHS in 2012, it was going through a period of major legislative change and I simply couldn’t think of a better strategy project to work on – there aren’t many employers where your strategy work can be discussed in Parliament, agreed by Ministers and then reported by the BBC!  

What are some of your best memories from studying in the Department of Management?

There are so many. I had a great year at LSE and my group (IMEX’ers) were known to throw the best parties within the Department of Management, if not the university (exaggeration intended). I think 2009/10 was also the snowiest year in decades, so it was great fun to be able to have snow-fights before lectures. Above all though, my best memories are of the friendships I formed at LSE and the range of people I met from all corners of the globe - it is truly an international university and I still keep in touch with many of them today.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Never shy from challenging your superior’s way of thinking, but be sure of your arguments before you do!