Each episode is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. As the world emerges from pandemic paralysis, are our Class of 2021 feeling inspired or inhibited, glad or gloomy, chaotic or calm? In this episode we meet Maddy who has just completed her MSc in Digital Society.
Welcome to Season 2, a little bit of the same but quite a lot different. Each month we meet five more graduates from the Class of 2021. Subscribe now and find out what everyone is up to and how they feel about life, the last 12 months and future plans.
All opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Edinburgh.
Multi Story Edinburgh has been created and produced by the Alumni Relations team at the University of Edinburgh. If you are interested in telling your story, please get in touch and let's talk.
Music: Since When by Mise Darling from freemusicarchive.org
Artwork: Vector created by redgreystock from www.freepik.com
Sonia 0:09 This is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. This is season two, Class of 2021. A little bit of the same, but quite a lot different.
Maddy 0:24 My name is Maddy Weingast, I'm from the United States, in DC. And this past year I did the one year postgrad taught Masters in Digital Sociology, which is like a relatively new programme within the last five years or so I would say. It's in the School of Social and Political Science. It kind of sounds like a buzzword, so I always feel the need to say more than just the actual degree name. But it basically is like the study of social media platforms and internet technologies, which is super relevant nowadays. So, exciting and pretty fast paced. So my background was in federal consulting. After I graduated, I went to undergrad back in the States and after I graduated, I went straight into federal consulting. And a lot of my clients ended up kind of being in that technology space. But my background was way more in Policy and Communications, which I'm still really fascinated by and like, confident in that skill set. But I became really interested in this tech space, specifically cybersecurity, and that's what I was working a lot in for the federal government. I loved it, it was great, I got to meet a lot of amazing people. And I worked a lot in stakeholder engagement, so a lot of that was partnerships with people in industry and people from like, county election officials that are running the voting booth to like, people like at Google or whatnot. And it kind of sparked the idea of, I really like this, I'm really interested in this, but instead of being in the position of the government of like, I need to put out these fires with the press release for this latest ransomware attack. I started thinking like, well, why did these things happen in the first place. And like, I want to have more of the research and actual, like, quantitative skills to understand how to study a social media platform. And it's not just ransomware or spyware that we should be concerned about, but there's a lot of things with like digital access, and human rights, like it just opened my mind to a lot more issues that were prominent in that space that I didn't see in the federal government. At first, I had a very defined like, oh, great, I'm going to do a one year master's and it's gonna be a career pivot. And this will help me get into the industry side of tech, because right now I'm on the government side. And I think I had all these very defined reasons for doing it. And now that after I finished it, I'm way more open to different possibilities. But I chose the programme because it was that specific. And I felt like I'd rather get a master's in like a topic that I find interesting and can grow within rather than something more vague that like, I wouldn't really know what I'd do with.
Full disclosure, I had like, studied abroad in London, when I was an undergrad and loved it. And I'd always said since then, like, I need to find a way to get back to the UK for my masters. I was looking at things very black and white, of like, there's good guys on the internet and there's bad. And it totally changed my perspective and it uncovered a lot of like, just digital inequality issues that I was so unaware of. And we learned a lot about like digital labour and a lot of like the gig economy and everything going on there and why people choose to enter the gig economy, and how they're being exploited by platform infrastructures, just like was something I did not anticipate learning. And I'm definitely very intrigued by now. And a lot of the topics I find myself really interested in, I think, I'm excited, because I come from a policy background, it feels like I could have the ability to change some of the policies on the inside of these platforms. So I think that was my-- part of my intent coming into the programme, which has still remained is that, like, I always thought, people are always so pessimistic about how you can change tech and how you can change things. And part of me wants to change it from the inside out and actually join like these big bad monsters that people think they are and like work with the people there. Part of what I did for my dissertation, actually, I researched misinformation policy on Facebook. I interviewed a lot of people that worked at Facebook and worked in their policy just to get a better idea of like, how it works, what their day to day looks like, like what kind of tools and processes they're working with. Just putting a human in this situation makes you so much more sympathetic. Like you read these articles, like Facebook's so messed up and all this like, yeah, there's a lot of issues, but like, there's smart people that work there, they're not unaware of the issues. Like, weirdly enough, it was a big combination of going to discover and being like, my eyes are open to all of this injustice and these horrible problems we need to fix, but also I'm, at the same time sympathetic toward the people working there and understand that like the problems we've created with technology don't have easy solutions. This was just quote unquote career pivot, like that's what I kept telling people because I felt like I needed a reason to pick up my life and quit my job and move somewhere like across the ocean, but I realised maybe I don't need-- the master's programme was great and it was incredible, but I don't need to hold on too tightly to the things I said I was going to do before and give myself permission to change my mind.
It is weird because as much as there were factors that were unfortunate and that I wish weren't the case. At the same time, I couldn't have imagined myself doing anything different. Like I think if I had been staying where I was in the States and doing my same job and not being as interested and open minded to like, not only like this education and the things I've learned here, but just the life experiences over here, too. I think I would have been way worse off. And so I think I'm-- I can recognise there's, I think there's a lot of power in holding two emotions at once. So I can recognise there's some grief over missed opportunities over locked down, over time spent, like, I didn't see my family for a year. But there's also a lot of gratitude for the people I've met while I'm here. And because we had restrictions, there was a lot of like intentionality in making those friendships. The thought did cross my mind like, hey, did I pick the wrong year, like, now, of course, like it was the one year where there was nothing and now these people coming in, are going to get more contact hours, they're going to get more of a fuller student experience. But then I think about the people I met, the experiences I've had, and we all chose to stay here. See, I think it's equal parts like, oh, geez, but then also appreciation for what it was. Like, I love telling people now when I go on job interviews, when I talk to people I'm like, I can confidently say resilience is one of my top skills, like moving to a different country where I didn't know a single person in the middle of a global pandemic [laughs].
Heck, yeah, I feel so proud of myself, like-- which I think would have been harder for me to say before going through this. Allowing myself a little bit more like grace and a little bit more just like self compassion and kindness, for when things are hard being like you're going through an extraordinarily hard time, but then also being like, look at everything you've done. Like, I had my birthday a year ago, and I had to isolate for two weeks, didn't know a single person here. So now I just celebrated my birthday this past weekend and like, with a bunch of groups of friends, and in a new flat and everything I'm like, and if you had told me this a year ago, I would have been like, my goodness, I think I feel very proud of myself. And in my ability to go through lock downs alone, go through Christmas alone go through like things that I didn't think I would have to and come out the other side. Like there's not much I don't feel like I couldn't tackle and it's helping a lot right now honestly, with like, there's a lot of uncertainty still, like when I moved to Edinburgh, I didn't know how long I'd be here for and I still don't. And that's okay, like, I feel like the planner in me before would have been stressed out by the amount of question marks that still exist, but knowing that I've gone through everything I have, and that I'm capable of getting through whatever comes next kind of makes those question marks more like, like opportunities and like possibilities, because that's what led me to Edinburgh if I hadn't been open to new experiences, I wouldn't be here. So I feel like I'm just in the next transition phase of new experiences.
Right now I'm back in Edinburgh. As soon as I came back from the States, I had two days to fly. So that was like an adventure. I'm exploring a new neighbourhood which I'm really excited about but I feel like I was very much in central student area, which was great before to like get to know the city. Now I'm getting to see it from a different perspective, which is awesome. Since I've gotten back, I've already submitted my dissertation. So it feels like very wrapped up in that regard. And I'm in the process now of applying for and interviewing for full time jobs. I'm not holding on too tightly to what I think I should be doing and trying to be more open to what could be or what sparks my interest. Like, you know, I mean, instead of counting myself out before someone else can, it's been a long process of applying to jobs. And I think I've struggled with honestly, trying to figure out where I want to be because I've like-- I love Edinburgh, I feel like I've built something here. And so I've been applying for a lot of jobs in Edinburgh. But then there's a lot of when I talk about being interested by the big tech companies and working on the platform, like a lot of that's out in California. So not trying to attach too much meaning to things until I have to get to the point where I need to and applying for what interests me in like interviewing for what interests me. I don't know I feel more settled after this past year. I feel like it's been a lot of like, personal growth. And I feel like I would have been stressed by like, oh my gosh, I technically don't have a job right now. I technically like don't know what my next job is going to be but like also recognising this is exciting, like yes it's anxious, uncertainty is like so uncomfortable. But I've learned to live with discomfort and that it won't kill me. I'm kind of like excited and grateful that I had this amazing year in Edinburgh and even though I don't know what comes next, I didn't know what comes-- what came next right before Edinburgh and it was this, so like I'm excited that it could be something just as great again.
Sonia 9:39 We also ask our graduates to share a place, somewhere special, somewhere we can get together when all this is finished.
Maddy 9:48 No, I love this question. It makes me like-- I can literally feel my reaction to it physically. Like I feel like I get warm when I think about, like-- and the answer instantly like the place where I would have everyone gather after this crazy year is the kitchen table. I-- most people have one and doesn't matter where it is. But I just feel like I'm always so drawn to it. And I think a big part of that is growing up. My mom really taught us like, there's a sacredness about the kitchen table. And it's where we all go together after a long day, no matter where we've been if it's work, or school, or errands or the doctor's office or any like-- that is where we all just come to meet at the end of a long day. And I think 2020 is truly nothing if not one long, very hard day. I think there's something magical about-- in a kitchen table. People from your past, people from your present, people who might be a part of your future can kind of all gather around and just be. Like-- and I have such vivid images growing up. And even now like when I was home recently, when you're around the kitchen table and the candle lights burning down and the dirty dishes are everywhere, but nobody stands up to get them right away and you have to laugh through your wine in your glass and you can just exist all together and there's nowhere to be, there's no one to be, there's nowhere to go. But I just feel like there's such a space of authenticity and love and comfort. And I think after this year, I would love to gather around the kitchen table.
Sonia 11:19 Thank you for listening. Join us next time for another graduate and another story.
Kirsten 11:31 Feeling inspired by what you've just heard? Take the first step to getting the career you want by contacting the Careers Service. As a recent graduate, you can continue to access all of our services, including access to vacancies on MyCareerHub, practice interviews, our full calendar of online employer events and online appointments with one of our careers consultants. Find out more at ed.ac.uk/careers.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai