Eva Eisenschimmel graduated from Aston with a Combined Honours degree in Business and French. Her varied career has included roles as Group Director of Culture and Managing Director of Customers, Brands, and Digital Telephone Banking for the Lloyds Banking Group; Chief Operating Officer at EDF Energy and General Manager for Relationship Marketing at British Airways. She has also held leadership positions at Häagen-Dazs, United Distillers and Allied Domecq.
I attended school at St Swithun's [Winchester]. Many girls from St Swithun's went directly to Oxford and Cambridge and that was the expectation for many, while others with a clarity of direction were helped towards the professions. I didn't have a clue what to do and I admired my friends that did - they had a sense of purpose and direction at that age that I simply lacked. The careers department at the school was limited and they did not help me to understand that there did not have to be a straight line between my subject choice and a job. I can't recall how I stumbled across Aston. I knew I wanted to do business (in the broadest sense), and Aston had a very strong reputation for business administration and management. Having the opportunity to study for a Combined Honours degree was a big asset. When I graduated from Aston, Barclays only hired from Oxford, Cambridge and Aston. They hired 45 graduates for the domestic area and 15 for their international programme, which I joined. Aston clearly stood for something and I felt proud to be selected.
What really stood out for me was the international experience of my placement year. I got the placement myself at a company called Eurest on the outskirts of Paris. I ended up in a very responsible position at the age of 20 and very nearly did not go back for my final year. Living in a foreign country, starting on the French minimum salary, living in a very small flat with a shared toilet, getting an insight into management, personal responsibility, leading people and becoming fluent in French - it was formative. It gave me confidence in myself and a clearer career direction. It was a wonderful experience.
A fond memory was the excitement and apprehension of arriving for Freshers’ week; arriving in halls (St Peters) which were warm and welcoming, and meeting the girls, one of whom is my best of friends today and is Godmother to my daughter. Aston was also a great introduction to the multicultural nature of Birmingham.
I also remember having to do a marketing project in my first year. A small group of us were put together and we decided that we would develop a marketing plan for dental floss. We were out on the streets of Birmingham with a questionnaire asking people about their dental hygiene! We contacted a dental floss company, got samples and they asked for a copy of our report. I think now that must be where my passion for customer insight and brand management all started for me.
The world now is completely different and I am not sure there is much I could advise. The only thing I would urge is for no-one to feel anxious if they do not know what they want to be. It must be much harder today, because there is far greater choice and so much information to trawl through. I'd recommend studying whatever you love, for what you enjoy you will do better and then wonderful opportunities will present themselves.
I continue to have the same professional ambitions that I've harboured for decades: to be where brands are - at the heart of the business - and where a customer/client focus really matters.
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