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Heather Alner

Heather graduated from our BSc Hons Geography degree and works as Resource Development Director for Habitat. Find out more about Heather's career.

About Heather

Current role: Resource Development Director for Habitat for Humanity International, Europe Middle East and Africa Area office

Current location: UK

Degree studied: BA (Hons) Geography

About Heather's career

Describe your current role

I'm Resource Development Director for Habitat’s Europe, Middle East and Africa office.

Habitat is a nonprofit organisation that helps families build and improve homes in over 70 countries. This can involve new homes and renovating existing homes.

We ensure families have clean water and sanitation, lighting, energy, and a thriving community. Families are encouraged to pay back an affordable loan and help build or renovate their home. By doing this they build an important credit history and construction skills. Most importantly, they have the dignity that comes from having achieved their new home themselves.

The resource development team I lead fundraises millions from corporations and wealthy individuals. 

Explain how you got this job after studying Geography at Newcastle

I graduated in 1993 and spent a year teaching English in Slovakia before heading back to Nigeria (where I did my undergraduate dissertation). Here I worked at a Leprosy Centre supporting educational work.

I then returned to Slovakia and worked as a fundraiser for Unicef and a democracy building non-profit. I took a career shift after that and worked as the Finance Director for DHL for 10 years before moving to Habitat.

The combination of my studies at Newcastle University, field work in Nigeria, fundraising experience and corporate roles, were key in enabling me to get a job at Habitat and work my way up to this senior role.

Studying at Newcastle

In what ways was studying Geography at Newcastle important for getting this job?

The bulk of the subjects I chose when studying geography at Newcastle university were focused on Africa and development. This is super connected to what Habitat does and as such my studies have been very useful.

My understanding of the programmes we develop and run is thanks to the geography department and the subjects I studied.

I also joined the expedition society. We did two expeditions to Nigeria each summer where I did my dissertation on pit latrines. This is something Habitat ensure families have as part of their home – so it could not be more tied to what I do now!

How do you employ skills learnt during your degree, in your current job?

Aside from what I learnt through the modules I chose and my experience in Nigeria, I use my essay writing skills when drafting large proposals. Who knew I would be able to take advantage of all those essays I did at university to raise millions of dollars almost 30 years later!

I also think geography is such a multi-disciplinary subject and enables you to be an all-rounder.

What was the best thing about studying Geography at Newcastle?

One of the best things has to be the feel of the geography department – it had such energy and passion for the topic and felt very welcoming and relaxed! It also has to be the friends I made who I am still best friends with now.

Newcastle is a fabulous city – I still love visiting it when I can. I found it had everything you needed but was cheaper than London and smaller – which made life a lot easier!