Nikita is a communications and events officer at Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI). She’s been in this role for almost four years. Nikita helps communicate some of the exciting healthcare research taking place at IGHI, one of the university’s six global challenge institutes. Before this, Nikita worked for a government scholarship programme supporting overseas students during their time studying in the UK.
Nikita is passionate about people’s stories which spurred her to complete an MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
This same passion inspired Nikita to write about music and culture. In her spare time, she has built up an extensive journalism portfolio which includes interviews with high-profile music artists, concert and album reviews and topical opinion pieces.
Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Proud Indian, north-east Londoner
How did you get into PR/communications?
It took me a while to discover that I wanted to work in communications. After I graduated with a 2:1 in Government and History from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, I was still discovering what I wanted to do. I had a series of jobs in administration which allowed me to try out different tasks. Here I was able to gain some skills in design, managing web content and social media.
But it was freelance writing that showed my passion for being creative. Outside of my full-time work, I wrote about music and culture. The assignments I took on ranged from reviewing Beyoncé’s concert in Wembley Stadium, to interviewing dancehall superstar Sean Paul, to writing about having curly hair in the South Asian community.
I learnt that being creative was where I thrived. This led me to apply for my current role at Imperial College London, so I could utilise my skills in writing, web design and social media in global health.
What do you love about your job?
I love that my job allows me to keep abreast of the latest cutting-edge research in healthcare. Working at Imperial during COVID-19 has meant that I’ve helped communicate some of the College’s important work in response to the pandemic.
IGHI’s researchers conduct studies in a range of areas including mental health, end-of-life care and patient safety. It’s a real privilege to help highlight this crucial work through my role.
What are you most proud of?
Buying my own place has been a proud moment for me. In my culture, women often don’t move out of their family home until they get married. It was important for me to prove to myself that this doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to the support of my family and my determination, I’ve hit a personal milestone.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
The hardest lesson I’ve learnt is that you have nothing if you don’t have your health. We often take our health for granted in our busy lives. We put our bodies and minds at risk so we can achieve our goals but forget that our health should be prioritised above everything.
Who are your favourite people in PR/comms and why?
One of my favourites has to be a great friend of mine, Rohini Simbodyal who works in communications for the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Having close friends who work in the same sector can be invaluable in comparing notes on processes, methods and swapping tips. She’s been a great source of support throughout my experiences in communications.
What skill do you think every PR/comms person has to nail?
I think it’s really important for communications to be inclusive of everyone. It’s all too common to see campaigns that focus on people in the most senior positions, white people or those who shout the loudest.
Those working in comms and PR need to be proactive, making sure that individuals who haven’t traditionally been seen, such as junior members of staff and BAME staff are given visibility too.
What is your favourite social network and why?
I’d have to say Twitter. It’s a multifaceted platform which gives everyone the opportunity to debate, discuss, rant and celebrate any topic. Twitter has transformed itself in the last few years. I think that’s always a good sign of an adaptable social media platform.
What’s your favourite podcast and why?
Small Doses with Amanda Seales. Everything from the production, to the jingle, to the format is really well thought through. Seales covers a variety of topics such as being a workaholic and cancel culture.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
I enjoy the work of many journalists. One of my favourites has to be Sharan Dhaliwal, editor of Burnt Roti magazine. She’s also written for a number of outlets such as The Guardian and Huffington Post.
Dhaliwal unapologetically covers many taboo subjects in the South Asian community. She writes honestly about identity, race and gender. For me, it’s crucial that marginalised voices are heard. It’s important that we have platforms for our communities as topics relevant to them are seldom tackled in the mainstream media.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve received is that you have to be your biggest cheerleader. You can’t depend on other people to champion you, if you don’t champion yourself.
How would you describe 2020 in one word?
Who is your coronavirus comms hero and why?
Working at Imperial, I’m going to have to take my hat off to many of my communications colleagues (too many heroes to name!) who have been at the forefront of documenting the university’s response to COVID-19 in testing and developing a vaccine. I think they’ve done a great job of ensuring that these important projects are being clearly communicated to the wider public.
Finally… Which brand impressed you with their response to Black Lives Matter and why?
A powerful statement was made when co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian stepped down from his position to be replaced by a black candidate.
While many companies have made donations to the movement, his response went one step further. He showed acceptance and understanding of how white privilege has helped him get into high positions. Stepping down from his role showed brands that you don’t always have to take up space when you have privilege.