Who: Suzy Niamut (1980)
What: Marketing and study-programme-information adviser for the Master’s programmes at the Faculty of Humanities
Studied: Business Economics, specialising in Marketing, Strategy and Organisation
First job: Fast food employee at McDonald's
Favourite place at the UvA: I like to work from one of the benches near the canteen at the Bushuis
Essential: Lists. I couldn’t keep track of the 80 different Master's programmes without them.
Suzy Niamut (1980) is a Marketing and Study Programme Information adviser for the Master's programmes at the Faculty of Humanities. She is Surinamese and was raised with an emphasis on studying hard and finding a good job. Suzy chose Economics and graduated with a specialisation in marketing, strategy and organisation. After spending some time in the marketing department of the UvA Communications Office, she job-hopped in the commercial sector for a while. Today, she is back at the UvA and working as a Marketing and Study Programme Information adviser for the Master's programmes. It is a challenging position in which she has finally found the opportunity for real growth.
How do you feel about this job, as compared to your previous positions?
‘I'm currently working as a Programme Information adviser for the Master's programmes, and it is an enjoyable and flexible job. When I was still working in the commercial sector, it was a totally different way of working – there was a lot of structural unpaid overtime, for instance, and we had a very strong focus on making a profit. We're busy here too, and I still frequently work extra hours, but the UvA offers much more flexibility in scheduling your working hours and there is a good balance between work and home life. Our faculty offers 65 different Master's programmes. This volume poses a major challenge. We want to take our marketing and communication strategy to the next level – but at the same time, we also spend a lot of time on the standard work for all these Master's programmes, such as updating the informational texts on the website. I also have nearly 100 contacts to manage. My job is versatile and includes both operational and strategic/tactical tasks, as well as a great deal of contact with my colleagues. That's what makes my job so incredibly enjoyable!’
I discovered Master's programmes I didn't even know existed.
What do you like best about the Faculty of Humanities?
‘Before I came to work at this faculty, I didn't know a thing about the humanities. I knew what history was, of course, because I took it in school, but I had no idea what other disciplines belong to the humanities. This field of study wasn't something we talked about when I was growing up – not as a conscious choice, but because my parents didn't know anything about it either. Today, if I tell my dad that I'm working at the university, he's proud of me, but the phrase “Faculty of Humanities” doesn't mean much to him. When I first started at the faculty, I really took the time to read up on all the different courses and a lot of things seemed interesting to me. I discovered Master's programmes I didn't even know existed, such as Heritage Studies or Religious Studies, for instance. While I found a great deal of information online, I also scheduled many meetings with the programme directors of different programmes. I asked them about the content of the various Master's, the students in their respective target groups and the type of student they were looking to attract. Now I know all the ins and outs of all 65 Master's programmes by heart, and my enthusiasm for the humanities has only grown.’
During your studies, you learn skills that will serve you well later in life.
A Humanities degree offers more possibilities than you might think, right?
‘Absolutely. It can take you in so many different directions. What any academic degree programme teaches you, whether it’s in economics or the humanities, is skills. In the History programme, for example, you learn to apply critical thinking and analyse texts. This offers enormous possibilities, as those skills can be put to use in a wide variety of jobs. In order to attract students, it's important to emphasise that there are plenty of jobs out there for Humanities programme graduates. To that end, we work with the Student Careers Centre to organise frequent alumni events for our students, at which alumni come and speak about where their professional journeys have taken them – often down very interesting and unpredictable career paths. There are also open days and other events that give alumni a chance to talk about how they found a job, where they've ended up and which of the skills learned during their studies they are now using in their daily work. And this is not only for programmes with a work placement component. Even if you don't do a work placement, you will learn skills during your programme that will serve you well later in life.’
When choosing a degree programme, you should follow your heart. Full stop.
Where else are you putting your enthusiasm to work?
‘Well, I enjoy sharing information about the humanities with young people with a migration background or others for whom these disciplines may not be an obvious choice. I take extra pleasure in these promotional efforts because I missed out on information about the humanities when I was younger. What I am now is really a kind of ambassador for the humanities. We're trying to reach the group of students for whom the humanities might be unfamiliar territory. And we strive to show diversity in our image and the alumni we choose to invite. I often think it's such a shame, because if you can communicate in the right way, even to people who don't know much about the subjects, it's possible to generate so much more interest in and appreciation for these programmes. We have many different types of students and we want to showcase them. It is possible for young people to be well informed about the humanities and still decide not to pursue a degree in that area, but in any case at least they'll have been able to take an informed decision. I have a message I want to convey to students: when choosing your programme, you should follow your heart. Don't worry about disappointing your parents and don't allow external factors to influence your decision. Choose the degree programme that you want to do, and that you enjoy. And that job? It will absolutely be out there when you're ready!’