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Modern Languages and Cultures

Steven Kelly

Steven Kelly is a content and communications professional currently working at the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

He graduated from Manchester with a BA (Hons) in German and Russian in 2009.

On having an international career

I'd always wanted to work internationally, so it was no surprise that after graduating I went on immediately to study a two-year master's degree at St Petersburg State University in Russia.

Following that, I moved to Brussels to work in a large international advertising agency on communicating the European Union (EU).

Steven in front of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
Steven in front of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland [credit: Steven Kelly]

I upped the international ante a couple of years later when I accepted a position at the United Nations (UN) agency responsible for intellectual property (World Intellectual Property Organization) in Geneva (Switzerland).

This took me out of the EU bubble and was my first taste of working at a truly global level in the fast-moving field of digital communications.

Working internationally certainly comes with its challenges, but if you've got foreign language skills and are open-minded and curious, an international career is an exciting and rewarding option.

Given that WIPO has staff members representing 100+ countries, we work in English most of the time, but having colleagues from all over the globe means that I get to use my languages as much as I like.

On working in communications

Communications is a term that is often misunderstood. It tends to be used by NGOs and international organisations to describe a public information/marketing/PR function. 

Steven in the WIPO's 'New Building'
Steven in the WIPO's 'New Building' [photo credit: Berrod]

Since I started working in this field, I've worked on everything from interactive web documentaries on relations between the EU and Russia or the EU and the US, to events, viral and traditional video, websites and design, publications, social media, and more.

Over the last few years, I've done a lot of work in digital communications on websites and global online campaigns in particular, all the while trying to make use of the latest technologies and trends.

Whatever the format though, my focus is typically on the content of a product and the strategy that defines how it will be used.

The field of communications also provides a broad canvas of topics on which to work. In my spare time, I work as a volunteer committee member for the responsible consumption association Zero Waste Switzerland on video production and communications strategy.

Interactive web documentary on the EU's relationship with Russia
Interactive web documentary on the EU's relationship with Russia

I also help to run the EcoWolf web and social media project on zero waste and responsible consumption for a Russian audience.

On choosing Manchester

For me, it was a simple choice to study in Manchester: I selected subjects I enjoyed at a well-regarded university in a vibrant city.

I remember reading through the course brochure and being genuinely excited at the prospect of a module on Russian film and the opportunity to delve head-first into German politics, or a dozen other pathways on offer.

The experience turned out to be all I expected: great facilities such as the audio-visual lab and library at which you could just drop in to watch TV, documentaries or movies from virtually any country in the world, as well as involved and engaging lecturers and a rich social life.

In my final year at Manchester, I was also able to co-found the University of Manchester Russian Society as a way to maintain the close ties I'd formed with friends on my course during my year abroad.

On advice for future students

My advice would be to study something in which you have a genuine interest and to remain open to diverse opportunities, both professional and non-professional.

Steven on a freeride ski route in Val d'Isère, three hours from Geneva.
Steven on a freeride ski route in Val d'Isère, three hours from Geneva [photo credit: Steven Kelly]

I've always tried (and continue to try) to improve myself in any and all ways that seemed useful and/or entertaining.

That's one of the principles that, for example, led me to become a ski teacher accredited under the Austrian system – thank you, hard-earned German language skills!

I couldn't have foreseen it years ago when I started down that path, but now, in winter, I combine my work at the UN in the week with volunteering as a ski teacher many weekends with the International Ski Club of Geneva.