Career Stories

Michael Tougher  Michael Tougher, Hamilton - Toy Designer


1. Tell me about your graduate job.

I have started my own design and invention company. I create and design new ideas and present them to interested companies. My main focus is toys.

2. How did you get into it? 

I always loved creating and making new things but I also enjoyed maths and physics at school. I was interested in engineering courses but also art and design. I found the perfect balance and studied Product Design Engineering at the Glasgow School of Art and The University of Glasgow. I wanted to go and learn how to design new things and it gave me the training and skills I needed.

Part of the course involves taking part in competitions. I ended up winning a few which gave me the funds and confidence to start my own business and pursue my own designs. At the universities there is great support and encouragement to start your own business. There are lots of organisations including the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) that helped me out a lot.

3. Why did you decide to pursue this graduate career?

I get very excited when I make something new. I wanted to make my own designs and it is something I really enjoy. 

Enterprise is very exciting as you do not need to choose a specific career - you can do whatever you want and whatever you are interested in. The help and funding that is available to new businesses helped my decision as it eased the transition into business.

4. What do you enjoy most about your graduate job? 

Every day is different. It is a lot of hard work but I get to work on what I want and bring my ideas to life. I get to meet a lot of amazing people, I get to travel and I get to be my own boss.

5. Do you have any advice for school pupils on making choices or planning a graduate career?

Find something that you are interested and passionate about. There are so many opportunities now. Do not be afraid to go and talk to people in an area that excites you, knock on their doors, phone or send an email. If you are enthusiastic and polite then you will be surprised how much time people will give you.

Gaining the grades you need and making the right subject choices are very important but there are other things that can be equally beneficial such as starting a blog, gaining work experience or building up a portfolio. It is useful to start thinking, not just about the qualifications you have, but about the skills you have or would like to develop.

University was essential for me to build my skills and my confidence for the job I have now.

6. What are your plans for the future?

I plan to grow my business and to design more innovative products. The future could be anything which is very exciting.


Jo.jpg Jo Irvine - Knowledge Management Expert


1. Tell me about your graduate job.

I work in Brussels, Belgium for the ‘Joint Migration and Development Initiative’ which is led by the United Nations Development Programme. This Programme works with local authorities in eight countries worldwide in Latin America, Asia and Africa, helping them to manage their migration flows to ensure they benefit local development. As a ‘Knowledge Management Expert’, my job is to manage the way we collect and build on the good practices and lessons learnt from the projects in each of the countries we work in. I also take care of outreach and communication, organise events, support project monitoring and draft a lot of policy documents, training materials and other publications.

2. How did you get into it?

After leaving school in North Lanarkshire, I decided to do a degree in Hispanic Studies and French (with Italian and Catalan) at the University of Glasgow as I was very interested in languages and knew I wanted to travel - I just wasn’t sure what kind of job I wanted! Towards the end of my five years there, I realised that I wanted to get into international relations and development and so went on to study a Masters in International Development Cooperation and EU Policies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, as well as a second online masters in Migration, Co-development and Public Participation. While I was completing these, I volunteered and worked in various NGOs in Spain including the Catalan Commission for Refugee Aid and the Catalan Institute for Human Rights, as well as the International Relations department for the Barcelona Provincial Government.

The experience and qualifications I’d managed to gain meant I was able to get an internship with the United Nations in Brussels in the same office where I now work. I did a bit more moving around before I found myself back here though! After the internship, I got a job as a project officer at the International Organization for Migration, first in Tunisia, then later in Cairo in Egypt. Last year, I applied for this job, was successful and have now been a Knowledge Management Expert for 14 months. As I am a bit of an eternal student, I am now carrying out a Diploma in Forced Migration and Human Rights with the United Nations University of Peace!

3. Why did you decide to pursue this graduate career?

I wanted to have a career in something that allowed me to travel, learn more languages and make a difference in the lives of others, as well as allowing me to grow professionally and personally. International development cooperation and migration allowed me to do just that.

4. What do you enjoy most about your graduate job?

I really enjoy being part of an organization or movement that promotes human rights and social and economic development. I also really enjoy getting to travel and learning about other cultures and socio-economic contexts…as well as getting to use all my languages.

5. Do you have any advice for school pupils on making choices or planning a graduate career?

I believe that you need to study something you enjoy as it’s very difficult to know exactly what job you want in the future - if you are anything like me, that’s likely to change very often! Of course, it’s good to check out what kind of jobs the subjects you are studying can lead to. If I could go back, I would definitely have tried to speak to people who have already gone through the process – so take advantage of all the people out there willing to share their experience!

6. What are your plans for the future?

I have no idea – all I know is that I want to stay in this field and continue to learn and travel, whatever the position I may end up with.


David Munn David Munn, Glasgow - Musician and Teacher


1. Tell me about your graduate job.

My main job is as a music teacher, teaching cello and double bass for Sistema Scotland in Raploch in Stirling. I’ve been working there since August 2014.

When I’m not teaching there, I work for East Glasgow Music School and South Lanarkshire Orchestral Society, as well as teaching several private students. Outside of teaching, I work as a freelance musician, frequently playing in chamber groups (trios, quartets) and in a ceilidh band.

2. Why did you decide to pursue this graduate career?

First off, I don’t believe a career is something you have whilst you’re doing it. In my mind, you only have a career when you look back on it. Sometimes we panic so much about having a ‘good career’ that we forget what is really important. A career should be whatever you do during your working life, not necessarily one thing for your whole working life.

I don’t feel like I ‘pursued’ a career in music – I sort of fell into it! Music was always something I had enjoyed doing as a hobby when I was growing up, and so the opportunity to study it further at university and then music college was very exciting.  During my studies, I was playing in bands, getting paid occasionally and teaching on a regular basis. When I left music college, I was keen to have a regular income and so applied for teaching jobs that interested me. 

3. How did you get into it?

I studied Music at Glasgow University and at the University of Illinois in America on an International Exchange program. After that, I accepted a place to do a two year Masters in Cello Performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. During my time at the RCS, I participated in a number of apprenticeship schemes with professional orchestras and was given performing opportunities that improved my skills and experience. 

4. What do you enjoy most about your graduate job?

In teaching, I love getting to know the young people I work with. Seeing them progress as musicians and as individuals is an amazing privilege for me.

As a performer, communication is everything. I really enjoy making music of any genre, so long as there is communication between me and the other performers. 

5. What are your plans for the future?

I believe in lifelong learning, and that is especially true in music – I should always be striving to become a better musician. I look forward to wherever music takes me in the future.