When the choices option sheet came around we were all somewhat spoilt for choice!
For many Sixth Form pupils, starting a business is a possibility and a talk called exactly that was perfectly targeted, and proved to be very insightful. Mr Dibben recounted how he started in business and his first failure re-selling Elton John tickets before discussing his later success. He recently built his own factory using money the government gave out in the furlough scheme during lockdown that has thrived. What we took away from this talk was to start early, be motivated and determined. To hear from someone with first-hand experience really opened our eyes to the reality of starting a company. Being able to pick the brains of someone who has had their fair share of successes and failures was an opportunity not to be missed.
Attending the seminar on working at the bar was a chance to understand the risks, demands and rewards of being a barrister. Philip Cayford specialises in family law but offered us insights into the process of becoming a lawyer and the possible motivations for doing so. Among his reasoning was the interest and nature of the job; chambers offer a collegiate feel to much of the work of a barrister and each case offers an opportunity to engage with new concepts. What stood out from his seminar was the degree of independence barristers have in their work, compared to other lawyers. Of course, much of this independence is risky with limited job security, but the rewards can be plentiful when you can direct your own workload and succeed by personal determination.
Sue Saville interviewed Nelson Mandela! A great way to start the career talk and an interesting hook to catch our attention for journalism. She is a TV journalist with a specialisation in medical matters and provided a particularly engaging seminar with stories about visiting Antarctica and Rwanda after the civil war, as well as interviewing Mandela. What particularly stood out about a career in journalism was the places that her job had taken her and the extraordinary people she had met. We had a discussion about women in the industry (this was felt appropriate considering that it was International Women’s Day) and talked about the expectations that women in journalism are pressured to live up to, particularly in TV broadcasting as a visual medium.
The seminar on managing wealth, given by James Hender, focused largely on the conceptual elements and job descriptions of working in the financial services sector. This was certainly very helpful. As pupils with little real-world experience of tax returns or investing in bonds, commodities or property, James offered us a comprehensive explanation of what investing for high profile clients would entail. We came away with a much-improved knowledge of the financial services sector and the basic processes that these jobs involve. He also emphasised the importance of dealing with clients, and the manners appropriate for doing so. It was stressed that working in finance involves dealing with people and simplifying complex issues clearly to just the same extent as understanding the process of successful investment. He made clear the huge responsibility of managing the wealth of successful people (such as athletes, businessmen or celebrities) including levels of confidentiality, and the numerous options for investing their money.
The talk on entrepreneurship homed in on a different side of the journey to being successful as Mr Doherty spoke of his inspiring journey – how even though at times it was tough he stuck with it, adapted his dream and became a very successful businessman. He explained how he kept his business afloat during the 2008 financial recession and the constant adaptations needed to do so.
Mr Orange spoke of his time as an engineer and opened up a window into the career for many STEM pupils. With his insight into the world of professional sports equipment, he talked about the constantly changing nature of the profession to meet consumer needs. Furthermore, he advised that an Engineering degree will always open doors to business management and other sectors, whilst also emphasising the importance of selecting the Engineering course most tailored to the individual.
The talk on charity as a career path was an interesting and enlightening one. Having never really considered working in charity as a full-time career, but rather as something to be done on the side, we learnt about the opportunities to travel to other countries, experience other cultures and lifestyles, and meet a huge range of interesting people.
Although none of us was able to attend more than three seminars, on behalf of the entire Lower Sixth we would like to express great thanks to the following speakers for their expert and generous insights.
Philip Cayford, QC barrister (PR 1965–70)
Piers Dibben, Chairman at Healthmatic (B2 1981-85)
Mike Doherty, entrepreneur
James Hender, Partner at Saffery Champness LLP (SU 1985-90)
Victoria Hornby, Chief Executive of Mental Health Innovations (B3 1984–86)
Michael Hue-Williams, specialist in the art world
Dr Ali Joy (Hue-Williams), GP
Victoria Laakkonnen, psychiatrist
Jane Nicholson, HR Director at Berkshire Healthcare
Alex Northcott, Founder and CEO at Roxhill Media (B1 1982-87)
Mike Orange, director and specialist composite engineer (PR 1986–91)
Sue Saville, broadcast journalist
James Sellar, CEO at Sellar
Review by Lower Sixth pupils Sam B, Joe F, Bella M & Max W.