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Sussex student named employee of the year

* 8 July 2004 *

Sussex student named employee of the year

University of Sussex student Ali Bergstrom-Allen took a holiday job as a computer games tester for fun and some extra cash, but ended up winning the national title of Student Employee of the Year.

The award, from the National Association of Student Employment Services - a voluntary organisation that supports practitioners working in the Student Employment sector - recognises Ali's success in combining part-time work with her demanding studies. The award was presented at the Association's annual dinner last night (Wednesday July 7) at the Waterfront hotel in Chelmsford, Essex. Ali beat six other regional finalists to win the award, and was nominated by her employers, Babel Media, in Brighton.

Ali, 23, who has just completed the second year of a multimedia and digital systems degree, was looking for holiday work through the University's Career Development and Employment Centre (CDEC) during her first year when she spotted an advertisement for a computer games tester at Babel Media Ltd, who provide specialist services to the games and interactive industries.

Ali says: "I'd never played any computer games. I got my gaming friends to help me, but I got motion sickness watching the screen." She impressed at the interview, however, and found that there was far more to the job than clocking up a top score with a joystick. "They wanted people with English language and observational skills and I learned a lot about the industry," says Ali.

Ali was rapidly promoted to lead tester, then Quality Assurance Coordinator, responsible for the input of more than 20 people working in five languages. Now preparing for her final year, Ali provides cover for the busy company, whose staff can test up to 100 new interactive games a day. Algy Williams, Managing Director of Babel Media Ltd, says: "To achieve beyond average at Babel is hard enough, to do it on top of her degree course is nothing short of remarkable."

Ali took up her degree at the University's Department of Informatics without any previous experience in the field, having taken music and theatre studies and medieval studies at A-level. "It was a daunting prospect and it's been hard work but I'm really enjoying it. Working at Babel has helped me get more out of my course," says Ali. Once she has finished her first degree, Ali hopes to either take a DPhil in computer graphics or pursue a career with Babel.

CDEC works in close conjunction with employers to help current students and recent graduates find work. It offers a free recruitment service to organisations wishing to promote their opportunities and these may include work experience, vacation work, graduate schemes or part time employment, as Ali found.

CDEC Employer Liaison Manager Andrea Wall says: "We're all absolutely thrilled for Ali. She is a shining example of how a student can combine academic work with beneficial and worthwhile part-time employment."

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