Interview: Tadas Cilcius discusses Alumni Chapters and his time after UoA
Updated: Mar 22
by Paul Friedrich
Tell us about yourself, your time in Aberdeen and afterward!
My name is Tadas, I am from a small town in the south of Lithuania. I went to Aberdeen when I was 19, immediately after high school. What I got in Aberdeen and what I expected was very different, but I think that’s just how it is in life and I did love the experience. I studied International Relations and Visual Culture, and wanted to work in communications. That’s why I joined the Gaudie, which was my dream since first year. I remember thinking then that my English was not at the level to write for the newspaper, but here you go, in fourth year I was the editor of Life and Style.
During my time at university, I worked for an oil company, where I saw witnessed how large and strong those industries really are. Even after the oil prices went down in 2014, which was hard for all graduates because we all lost our graduate schemes, I knew I wanted to do something business-related. I worked for British banks for 6 years, learnt a lot about financial services and even had a chance to train in India. When I returned to Lithuania not long ago I joined financial technology, which was certainly faster and a big change. It was very chaotic for me when I left Britain, and coming back to Lithuania after 10 years was very different. I loved my time in Britain, but I still knew I wanted to live in Vilnius then.
Is life after graduating as scary as it seems?
I think that you are pressured by society, as you strive to graduate, to be credible and to get a ‘good’ job. I believe that you are more or less pressed into this by the people surrounding you because a lot of investment has been put into you, right? Maybe you took out a loan or worked, maybe your parents supported you and I think a lot of graduates are scared that they are not going to fulfil the expectations, which is how I felt. I already had a job when I was in my fourth year, but it was cut when the oil price went down, and I knew it was not going to be easy to find another one. But it is less scary than you think. Once you get your first job or your first experience, it’s very easy to then move around and to progress to a higher position or more suitable conditions. The hardest thing is getting that first job.
Tell us about your first job.
When I started my first job, everyone else was as fresh as I was, even if you had a business or banking degree. These people might have had some advantages, but what you learn and what you do later are totally different. I was studying extra things that I needed, but the way my course as a general social science helped me was that there were never correct answers other than those where I could convince others of my case with reliable evidence. People with other degrees may learn a lot about specific topics, but those things are easily forgotten when you enter the industry. It’s more complicated than to say only the right degree will get you the job, you need to show that you can reason logically, be adaptable, solve problems and be ready for changes.
How did you acquire your first job?
I thought it would be hard, but it wasn’t really. I thought if I applied, and someone rejected me I would think, ‘oh God, someone rejected me’. I had experience writing and being an editor for the Gaudie which is the kind of experience that every bank, every institution loves. I was working a lot too, which I think looks good as you contribute to your living. I would definitely suggest getting some work experience, because no one is going to hire people who don’t have any. It was very easy to get interviews; it might not have been very easy to get the job, but I had everything that was needed. I had my degree, I had my extracurriculars, and my experience in business, so I was standing out.
Your current job title is head of operational risk in FinTech. How is it possible that you ended up in a role that is so different from what you studied at university? Studying political sciences you study economy as well and studying cultural sciences you learn history. This is still very relevant today to navigate the risks and understand context behind. For example, Covid19 has changed how we assess risks and this is now again an emerging field.
But when you are in your first job, you might realise what you also need going forward. Mostly which professional qualifications (not necessarily degree-level) or skills might take you to the next role. I did some further qualifications in banking, project management, another one in incident and information technology management. I do one new qualification every year to keep developing.
Tell us about your time at the Gaudie. How did that impact your life after?
To have the Life and Style section was like a dream come true. What you write is what you believe in. When you discuss in a team of around ten editors, what prints and what doesn’t, you learn teamwork, and to take responsibility for what you publish. This was a very adult job for a student.
You have had experiences with Aberdeen University Alumni Chapters. Perhaps you would like to start with an explanation of what those are?
Alumni chapters are created in different places in the world. We have them in Vilnius, Warsaw, New York, China, Paris, in different cities. They gather and connect people whose alma mater was Aberdeen, or who otherwise have some connection to the university, for instance if they were a lecturer there. They keep you in touch with people who you went to university with or who maybe have a similar mindset. They do different things, like support you, or if you just want to see your old university friends, that social aspect is there too. This is a great initiative by the university. If you are a graduate and you come to Vilnius, they can guide you and advise you.
You created the alumni chapter in Vilnius. How did that go?
I came back after ten years, and I wanted to find people for the chapter. This is my native country, but I had been gone for ten years, so things had changed. I wanted that connection and I wanted to give that connection to others. Obviously not all graduates here are in that chapter, but when you think that since, maybe, June, we attracted 93 members, for a small country, which is a great result. We connect people, but we also connect with the university itself. In summer we recorded a congratulation video for the class of 2021 from Vilnius. This experience was a fun thing to do and we socialised afterwards. The chapter leaders get to go to the chapter leader events, where you speak to chapters from other countries. These people are of very different ages and graduating classes, so it’s interesting to speak to them. If not for the chapter, I would never have come into contact with so many interesting stories.
Do you perhaps have any general advice for students who are about to enter the adult world?
There are a lot of options, but the world is so competitive these days. You just need to have that clarity on what you want to do but you can’t be afraid of changing what you want to do with your life. If you went to university doing one thing, but you see that there is a great opportunity elsewhere, don’t hesitate to try that. You have to adapt to changes and choose the best opportunity for you.