Year graduated from SOAS
MA in Social Anthropology of Development (South East Asia)
Job title and name of organisation
Research Manager (EMEA and APAC), Meiji Yasuda Life
I spent nearly a decade in South East and East Asia before heading to SOAS for postgraduate studies at the age of 30. While the early part of my time in Asia had been spent lecturing in English and French literature and language, the latter included lengthy spells as an entrepreneur, a government manager and a freelance writer and translator in Japan. Near the end of my time in Japan and after completing an MA in Japanese Literature, I decided to expand my career and academic opportunities. I considered a number of schools in Canada, Singapore, the USA and the UK, but SOAS intrigued me most: it combined a specialist focus on Asia with, more importantly, a laid back, though involved interest in what I wanted to pursue. Bluntly put, the School and its staff didn't try to push me towards the obvious - a research degree in Japanese studies - unlike others, Cambridge and Oxford included, zealously did. That was the clincher for me, the choice to choose what I wanted to learn (Social Anthropology and Development) with what I knew and was still interested in (South East Asia, particularly Burma) at a world-class institution.
Since my graduation in 2004, I have held several analytical and managerial positions in a number of fields, all based in the UK, but with extensive periods overseas. My work has taken me to Central and West Africa (DR Congo, CAR, Rwanda, Burundi and all West African countries); South and South East Asia (especially Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Thailand, Burma/Myanmar and Bangladesh); and East Asia (including North Korea). And while these industries in question have been markedly different - political and social risk analysis, telecommunications, corporate social anthropology and, most recently, investment management and research in life insurance - the main threads are areas that I nurtured and specialised in at SOAS: Asia and research.
Although my current position - Research Manager for a major Japanese life insurance company's European headquarters - has seen my focus shift again, this time towards Europe and the Middle East, the responsibilities and projects remain very much the same. I regret that although my current position has been a significant step back excitement-wise - largely London-based, I still have had long periods in Italy and Japan - this was a key decision to arrange my life around a major project: my son.