Liam Kerr has built a richly varied CV while also pursuing musical and other interests. Recently elected to the Scottish Parliament, he says the skills he learned in his degree have stood him in good stead.
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
I transferred to Edinburgh after two years at the University of St Andrews studying Psychology and Philosophy; I decided sociology was more in line with my interests and re-sat my second year.
On the first day of the Edinburgh Freshers' Week, I met a guy from Craigleith, Chris, drinking with a guy I knew from school, Stuart. Over the course of the week they and I met some others and for the following three years we were very much a group.
In 2014 (almost 20 years after that first week) I was at Chris’s wedding, while another two attendees, including his best man, were also friends I’d met that same week.
My experience at Edinburgh was overwhelmingly positive, and what most sticks in my mind are the opportunities afforded by university life.
Socially, I am still in frequent contact with two people who were in my honours class (and coincidentally am going to see the Stone Roses later this year with them). I bought my first flat during that first year at Edinburgh, and tried many great things I wouldn’t otherwise have: I regularly played football, helped open, then worked in, Finnegan’s Wake on Victoria Street, the Rutland and the Cafe Royal, and played second flute in the University Wind Band. I also got elected onto the Students’ Representative Council, and was deputy chair of one of the sub-committees.
One key event in both my personal and university life was wandering into the Careers Service on a whim, seeing a poster to be a group leader at a children’s summer camp in Surrey that summer, and applying. The camp turned out to be a fantastic experience, both in terms of professional development and for just having a great time. I returned the following year. I also volunteered for an outreach project at Whitburn Academy where I was a classroom assistant, with a view to encouraging pupils to go to university.
The sociology course was really interesting and I use a great deal of the knowledge I gained then in my day job today.
Perhaps above all, there was just so much time to talk, smoke, drink coffee and generally develop my thinking on various things. I was political at University and spent many hours debating in Teviot Middle Bar with people of very different opinions (including one who I am still just about in touch with who is staunchly SNP and whose mother is, I believe, an SNP MP) as I still believe that that is the best way to develop one’s own thinking and be persuaded.
My experience at Edinburgh was overwhelmingly positive, and what sticks in my mind the most are the opportunities afforded by university life.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
Shortly after graduating from Edinburgh with a 2:1 in Sociology, I went to London to work as a sales and marketing manager with a small telecoms company.
I turned down a job playing cocktail lounge piano on a cruise ship for that sales role, which, if I had any regrets, might just be one of them.
For two years I sold telecoms promotions around the UK and Ireland, working particularly with consumer products and the supermarkets.
While stuck in yet another traffic jam on the M1 at 8pm, having eaten all my jelly babies, run out of cigarettes and listened to both sides of my Full Monty soundtrack cassette about three times, I decided it was time to try something new.
I therefore applied to, among others, teacher training college, the foreign office and law school. The College of Law (now the University of Law) in London was the first to reply, offering me a place on their one-year law degree and legal practice certificate courses. My reinvention as a lawyer had begun, although I also set up a painting and decorating business and worked as a session musician to fund it.
Following graduation, I moved to the Portsmouth/Southampton area where I completed my training contract and became an employment law specialist.
Keen to come back to Scotland, I moved to what was Ledingham Chalmers and studied to become dual-qualified in Scottish Law.
After two years my employment was transferred to McGrigors who in 2010 seconded me to KPMG at Canary Wharf as an in-house employment specialist. When that ended I joined CMS Cameron McKenna, back in Aberdeen. In 2015 I left to set up my own operation: Trinity Kerr Limited, contracted principally to Allen & Overy and Pinsent Masons, as well as having my own client base.
Then, by virtue of the list system in Scottish elections, in May 2016 I was elected to the Scottish Parliament as one of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist representatives for the North-East Region of Scotland.
I am now a full time Parliamentarian at Holyrood, a job I absolutely love. I think the knowledge and the wider skill-set gained during my sociology degree have very much come to the fore. The tools of analysis, questioning of assertion and seeking out evidence can all be traced back to my university education.
Aside from the foray into the political world, I have continued my education in different fields.
Since 2010, I passed the ABRSM Diploma in piano performance, passed grades 6, 7 and 8 theory of music (with distinction), followed Open University courses in French, History and Meteorology, and am half way through an MBA with the Open University.
Join everything. University is a unique opportunity to try out every possible activity.
After leaving University, one will earn the money to try things, but rarely do we have the opportunity or the time. At University, that is reversed. The mix of people and experiences at Edinburgh is something I have rarely experienced in the 20 years since leaving, and I advise a current student to try everything on offer no matter how unusual or daunting; you may never get the chance again and, as my career path shows, you never know where you might end up!