Graduates report – Holder

Tom Holder

Tom Holder

Tom Holder

BA Politics, Philosophy and Economics, University of Oxford, 2007
Campaigns Manager, Understanding Animal Research, since September 2012

What has been your path from graduation to your current post?

Much of my employment history has been built on my involvement in “Pro-Test” (which support animal research for medicine) during university. Upon graduating in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, I spent several months working to organise a Pro-Test event in Oxford. During this time I accepted the Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach, supported by Americans for Medical Progress (AMP), and moved to Washington DC in March 2008. While working with AMP I founded the organisation Speaking of Research, Pro-Test’s international sister organisation. During the seven months I spent in the US, I travelled around research institutions giving presentations and making connections.

After returning to the UK I joined Teach First and began teaching Maths, Economics, Business Studies and Philosophy at a secondary school in London. During this time I continued to work to expand Speaking of Research, supporting the rise of Pro-Test for Science in Los Angeles. This paid off, and in 2012 I joined Understanding Animal Research as Campaigns Manager.

What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

I look after the social media for Understanding Animal Research. Beyond this I come up with new project ideas to help explain animal research to the public. Recently I began organising a set of debates which will take place in university debating societies across the country. I have also set up the Science Action Network, which helps researchers to respond to misinformation about animal research on the internet. My experience as a teacher enables me to get involved with our education team, while my previous work in pro-research organisations allows me to support both the communications and online content teams.

What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects?

I enjoy the variety of activities I get involved in, from schools talks and strategy meetings, to Twitter and Reddit. This diversity of duties also creates challenges – trying to set up new campaigns for which I have little or no previous experience. This requires research and reflection at every stage – assessing how ideas can be taken forward, executed more effectively, and capitalised on afterwards.

How has your social science degree helped you at work?

Creating solid arguments was a foundation of my degree. Being able to research, write and deliver compelling arguments on the role of animals in research has been essential to my current role.

The lack of a scientific background has, somewhat counter-intuitively, helped my ability explain science by preventing me from becoming over-technical in my explanations. Essentially, if I can understand the science, so can others.

What do you think social science graduates can offer to employers that other graduates might not?

I think every graduate is different, but broadly social science graduates tend to offer some shared skills. Their smaller proportion of contact hours can make them effective at managing their own time. They are used to reviewing large amounts of information quickly, aiming to get the key facts without drowning in the details. And they often have a better appreciation of the larger political and economic environment within which many decisions are made.

Any advice to social science undergraduates or sixth form students considering their next steps?

Find something you enjoy doing and pursue it. Social Science graduates are very flexible between many careers and shouldn’t feel their selection of subjects, at school or university, should shoe horn them into any specific field. Their transferable skills in writing, researching and critical thinking can be of huge benefit to employers in a wide range of careers.

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