After graduating with a degree in Business Administration in 2005, Debbie Brown landed a role as a buyer for Procter & Gamble in Geneva. There, she learned the ins and outs of procurement, buying ingredients globally for five years before moving to SABMiller while the brewing business was expanding globally. Now, Debbie is the founder of Aurora Alpha in Switzerland – using skills she learned at Bath and her experience working with multinationals to help start-ups and small businesses navigate corporate procurement and establish sustainable supply chains.
Tell us a bit about your time at Bath
It seems so long ago and at the same time, not that long ago at all! My cohort was over 150 people – the largest yet at Bath for BBA. I think the mix of local and overseas students, with the course content and group projects, laid a solid foundation not only for technical skills but also for the softer skills such as teamworking, communicating and stakeholder management.
I didn’t have my mind set on a certain job or career, so I took a range of modules which interested me and placed me more as a generalist than a specialist. I was fortunate enough to do an ERASMUS exchange in my final year at Charles University in Prague.
What attracted you to study at Bath?
I wanted to do a business degree and did a lot of research on the various courses offered across the UK. Two things tipped it for me. First, I was drawn to the two smaller placements of six months each, as it would allow me the opportunity for diverse industry experiences. Second, the campus set-up suited me better. I was happy I could stay in halls for my first year and have all my lectures within an easy walk – it made moving away much more straightforward.
What inspired you to support current students through the Ubuntu Gold Scholarship?
I was born and grew up in South Africa during apartheid. Although I was too young to understand what was going on around me, I saw inequality and poverty every day. Living in the UK, Czech Republic and Switzerland made me realise all countries have these afflictions in varying degrees. I believe that if you have been fortunate in life, you should build a longer table not a higher wall. If we all did this, the world would be a much better place for everyone.
I chose ‘Ubuntu’ as it carries meaning within South Africa about community. The closest translation is “I am because we are” or “humanity towards others” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” I like to think that sharing will encourage others to also share.
Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in supporting the Gold Scholarship Programme?
If you are looking to really make a change to someone’s life and see the impact directly, I can definitely recommend the Gold Scholarship Programme. I have really enjoyed meeting each of my scholars and have been so impressed with their grit and determination.
You recently volunteered at our Get Connected online careers events. What was that experience like?
I really enjoyed it! The format of a moderator fielding questions with several alumni sharing their insights and experiences had a good energy and cadence. From the questions received, it was clear that students were engaged and open to non-linear careers. I would have loved to join these sorts of events when I was a student. I think there isn’t a traditional career path anymore and these sessions show there are many more opportunities for graduates.
Finally, what does Bath mean to you?
To me, Bath stands for academic and sporting excellence that leaves graduates with practical knowledge and skills. My time at Bath left me with many happy memories and lifelong friends.