Learning in London

Spring break trip “United Kingdom: International Careers” connects DePaul alumni in London to students exploring career choices

By Abigail Pickus

Growing up in a small town in northwestern Ohio, Bob Burke (LAS ’95) was initially drawn to DePaul for being in the “big city.”

For the past four years, Burke has made an even bigger city his home: London. He was one of a handful of DePaul alumni based in London who spoke to a group of 22 DePaul undergraduates across the university who participated in the spring break trip “United Kingdom: International Careers” aimed at helping students explore work and study abroad options after graduation.

Launched in 2018, the London trip was the brainchild of Leslie Chamberlain, former associate director of Alumni Career Services in the Career Center, and Karyn McCoy, assistant vice president of the Career Center.

“This trip came about because we had students approaching us about an interest in working or studying abroad after DePaul, and we have about 220 DePaul alumni living in London,” says McCoy. London’s population is over 8 million, of which 36.7% are foreign-born, according to the 2011 census.

Having alumni share their stories, particularly their career trajectories, is a powerful way to showcase the many paths available to students. The London trip “helps students explore a career path while making connections with people who have been in their shoes and who are living their desired path. It enables them to gather information that helps them answer the question, ‘Is this right for me?’ and gives them a network to tap into as they continue to explore,” says McCoy.

The eight-day trip also included visits to local colleges and universities to explore postgraduate programs and some fun cultural activities.

DePaul intentionally sandwiched this trip between other courses offering valuable career skill building, including one about the ins and outs of informational interviews. In fact, students were required to schedule informational interviews in London, according to McCoy.

For Burke, who met with students on both trips, a key goal is showing the connection between his degree and his career path. “Probably the interesting thing is to figure out how I got from an English degree to a technology business role,” he says.

He initially chose English as his major because he had confidence that a well-rounded, liberal arts education would serve him well whatever he ended up doing. That choice turns out to have been a very good bet. After initially working as a teacher, Burke landed a job at a start-up during the dot-com boom of the ’90s. Since it was a small company, he had the chance to take on a variety of tasks, including running the company’s IT operation.

“It was very much hands-on learning on the ground,” he says, adding that in retrospect, he believes what got him the job was his flexibility and strong academic foundation. “I basically sold myself as a well-rounded, well-educated person who could come in and do a little bit of everything for this 10-person company,” he says.

Soon Burke focused solely on IT. In 2015, he started working for Okta, a software cloud company that asked him to relocate to London to help build their European operations.

The main message Burke hopes to impart to students is that what has set him up for success is a combination of being reactive to opportunities sent his way and proactive in seeking out exciting new ventures.

Daniel Andonovski (LAS ’98) is another alumnus based in London. He grew up in Macedonia and moved to Chicago as a teen. He began his undergraduate education at a community college and then transferred to DePaul. “It was an amazing experience,” he recalls.

London is so amazing because you have people from all over the world doing business, politics and everything else.—Daniel Andonovski

Majoring in political science was natural for Andonovski. “Politics and geopolitics have been passions of mine since before I can remember,” he says. In recognition of his achievements in political science, he was recently inducted into Pi Sigma Alpha honor society as a distinguished alumnus.

Andonovski originally intended to go into the Foreign Service after graduation, but instead focused on technology and banking. After working for Andersen Consulting while a student, he took a job with the Chicago Board Options Exchange and later with Bank of America, once he completed his BA. He then pursued an MBA through an international program that married all of his interests: business, international relations and politics.

A brief stay in London in 2009 has turned into a decade of life in England, and connections to Europe are key to his current endeavors, including a hedge fund he recently launched out of Switzerland. Like Burke, Andonovski intends on staying in London. “It’s a big, global, international city,” he says. And he credits his DePaul LAS degree with setting the foundation for success.

“Most of your life you spend communicating with people, and this is where LAS comes in,” he says.

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