What greater generosity can an ex-Hurtwooder show than to give up their Bank Holiday Monday in order to share their experiences with their heirs – our current student body? Six of our best recently gave up their time with style and aplomb to talk us through their career journeys thus far, fielding questions and offering invaluable advice from the very front line of career development. Jane and her redoubtable team had organized a carousel of interactions in Activities time so that students could listen to their narratives, ask questions and generally enlarge their understanding of an interesting range of career choices. The result was a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging afternoon – and well worth recording here some of their valuable advice.
Bella Soones left us only last year, in 2021, and came back to illuminate the option of apprenticeship rather than graduate study at university. Having secured a Higher Apprentice position with PWC - Price, Waterhouse, Cooper, one of the big 4 accounting firms - in her chosen field of management consulting, she freely admits that this had been challenging. Five rounds of assessments, including interviews and draft days within the company, earned her this opportunity, which is most definitely not a soft option post-Hurtwood. Part of an intake of 30 students overall, 20 of whom are based like her in London, she positively bubbles with enthusiasm for this exciting, if exacting, world in which she is fully immersed. What seems most striking is how much ‘fun’ she is having: not stuffy or dull, she is truly impressed by the possibilities of her new working world and having just returned from an Ibiza trip, the seeming work/life balance thus far. ‘It is all so interesting,’ she tells me. ‘There is so much to learn every day, so many different elements’. Vitally, she also feels really well supported: with an appointed Career Coach as well as a chosen mentor within her favoured area of Banking, she is an infectious proponent of this working route into a career. So what are the housekeeping basics here? Her A levels were in Media, Accounts and Business, and she will be involved in internal exams within the company in the coming year, so there is still plenty of traditional learning on offer. Her advice to getting ahead this way? She thinks her work experience over the last two years of study was invaluable: be confident she recommends, say yes to every work challenge you are offered and learn even as you make it up along the way! Network always, she continues, and follow up on every offer: never feel as though your opinion doesn’t count. Within PWC she has been positively overwhelmed by the interest and support that she has found across the whole company from top to bottom. Great praise indeed for PWC – but then I get the sense that Bella wears her talent and commitment on her sleeve. She comes across as someone who already has a head for heights– which I think she might need. Well done Bella – thanks so much for your enthusiasm and wisdom.
So leaving Bella energetically earning her spurs, it was equally delightful to hear about the journey of a student who left us a few years earlier, in 2019. Be prepared to be impressed: Amelia Hitchcock-Merritt, 20 year-old founder and chief Executive Officer of lockdown start-up Bijoux De Mimi, found time to share the secrets of her success with us, despite being on call pretty well 24/7. This is one very impressive young entrepreneur. Following a slightly frustrating year consolidating a Fashion diploma at Central St Martins, which in hindsight she thinks was ‘the wrong course’, and frankly frustrated in lockdown she followed the rather throwaway suggestion of her boyfriend to ‘start a business’. Having already discovered an impressive jewelry wholesaler in Paris, she had already bought and sold a few affordable pieces that were ‘colourful’ and seemingly unique. This seemed the obvious place to start. Investing £400 of her own savings she launched herself, specialising in ‘Huggie Hoops’ in a gorgeous range of hues, as well as ear cuffs and hoops, all of which were rapidly becoming the trending jewelry style of 2021. She acknowledges that her great strength on one level was to be working with what she and her peers liked. Supply soon became a challenge: returning to her Parisian supplier, she swiftly needed to manouvre her way backwards to confront the whole process of manufacturing in China. She approached the company directly, began designing her own products, hitting exactly the right note at the right time. Her understanding of her own generation is reflected in her deft use of social media. with over 26k followers on Instagram and over 23 million views on Tik Tok, this young lady clearly knows how to reach the right audience. Amelia is impressive on so very many fronts: without any business experience or training, she has negotiated her way through a highly competitive field, learning all the way, often the hard way, and with absolutely not outside investment. Now employing 4 full-time staff in her Headquarters in Notting Hill, and 8 more part-timers across the field, she has already opened a shop in New York and awaits the opening of one in St Christopher’s Place, off London’s Bond Street. What has been most challenging I ask? The vagaries of supply and demand for a start; managing the finances – which means finding the right people to implement this – finding the right staff. So young, so wise. I love the equal balance of her honesty and her youthful innocence. At some point she tells me, she might well sell this business and ‘have a go’ at her first love, children’s wear. But that is all in the future. She tells me that her aim is to ‘turn over her first million by the the brand’s first birthday in June. She is also delightfully excited about the fact that her company will soon be spearheading ‘hearing-aid friendly jewelry’. I resist the temptation to say pardon – because someone else does. Joking aside, this is one serious business success. Thanks for coming back to share Amelia – you are truly a rising star.
So moving back another year, our very own Dave’s son, Karl Fonseka left us in 2018 with A levels in Maths, Further Maths, Psychology and Economics and graduated in PPE in 2021 from Exeter University. His enthusiasm for both university and and degree course is genuine. Exeter was open, friendly, supportive, sporty and fun, and his studies were stimulating, broad and really enjoyable. He particularly recommends the degree as flexible, with lots of potential ways foreward. Good clear advice here! Moving on, he has secured a three year continuum with PWC in London, working as an Audit Associate at the same time as studying towards his Chartered Accountant training. Finishing his studies in the middle of a pandemic had been a challenge. Remaining flexible he made many applications across a range of possible fields within finance, and was really pleased to secure the position with PWC. He is enthusiastic about his role, which has variety, and plenty of challenges., working with a clientbase in the South of England. Working with a team is enjoyable, he tells me. The hours are long and can seem a slog at times; ‘I remind myself that I am working towards a goal,’ he observes, clearly aware that once he is fully qualified, then he can reap the rewards of a career within finance and banking. Any difficulties? ‘Finding that balance between work and life,’ is his swift response, keeping the important people in his life happy, which is not always easy with so much going on work-wise. No indeed: welcome to the complex world of earning a living. and congratulations on having such a wise old head on such enthusiastic young shoulders. Thanks for making time for Hurtwood, Karl: you do us and your family proud.
Back yet another year, and leaping into the more overtly creative industries, meet Evelyn Wanderworth, who left us in 2017, and likewise found graduating in the midst of a pandemic quite a challenge. A levels in Art, Photography and Media, with a little A1 Business thrown in for good measure, she had headed to Nottingham Trent to pursue a degree in Graphic Design. This had been her clear aim from quite an early age, so it was pretty disorientating, she tells me, when the course itself failed to excite her. ‘It really wasn’t working for me in Year 1,’ she recalls. She was really struggling, questioning why that which she had so desired, and the other students so enjoyed, was leaving her largely cold. A moment of epiphany awaited however. A chance encounter with the work of a visiting visual effects company proved to be a real light-bulb moment, all puns intended. Whatever was going on here, Evelyn wanted a piece of it. Her university teachers were incredibly supportive and allowed her to incorporate as much emphasis on this discipline into her final degree work as possible, and she pulled on the mantle of autodidact, teaching herself the intricacies of animation software. A Masters degree in Animation followed, with Evelyn unashamedly committed. She had found her tribe: now she had to find her career. This was not easy, but it was not long before she uncovered the world of medical animation, taking up her present role as Junior 3D Generalist with the relatively small company Random42 Scientific Communication. To say that she loves this job would seem to be an understatement. She has found herself working in imaging for all kinds of purpose, but clearly relishes the challenges as well as the sense that she is doing something worthwhile. ‘I love the fact that what I do is purposeful and makes a difference and helps people’, she declares with enthusiasm. And this really is the centre of things: she loves her work and it seems clear her work loves her. Earlier I had witnessed her offering wonderfully positive advice to a student wracked with doubts about further study and choice of career. Her advice reflects her experience: don’t be afraid to own up to yourself when your choices don’t go to plan. It is ok to change your mind, and chances are that if you stay open enough you will discover your world, your passion, your place. Thank you Evelyn for taking the time to come back to your alma mater and share that wisdom. The perfect job is the one that makes you feel like you’re being paid for something you really enjoy. Although I suspect all kinds of variations on this job await Evelyn in the future, it seems that she has already found her perfect job. Bravo!
Ok, now time to take on board the personal as well as the professional. Meet Alen Gusynov, partner to Evelyn and who also left in 2017 and who has also travelled down from London when he could be doing exactly Bank Holiday nothing, to share his career journey with us. Alen studied A levels in Psychology, Media and Business, and also studied at Nottingham Trent. His undergraduate studies took him through the disciplines of Property, Planning and Real Estate, followed by a Masters in Building Surveying. With some established knowledge in this area on his own behalf he found some of the work really engaging and rewarding, particularly working on the old railway station in Nottingham, that has found itself connected with JR Tolkein. After a spell using these talents, Alen changed direction, moving into banking, becoming a Finance Data Analyst with Revolut. Now based in Canary Wharf, he clearly enjoys the buzz of his working world, especially after Covid restrictions, and observes many connections between this and his previous area of expertise. He finds his increasing understanding of the world of finance is mutually beneficial in a broader understanding of property, and enjoys the variety of challenges, from investigative work on fraudulent accounts to visiting sites to the intricacies of crypto currencies. His overarching advice? Be prepared, be honest, and be prepared to change: lots of invaluable insight here, so thank you Alen for taking the time to share here.
So our last returnee left us 7 years ago, in 2015, and has plenty of wisdom to offer about navigating the world of pharmaceuticals. Annabel Reid pursued a degree in Biological Sciences, specialising in Immunology at Edinburgh University on the back of A levels in Theatre, Maths, Biology and Chemistry. She clearly loved her university choice, and has plenty of great advice on getting going in the pharma world. ‘Everything is a job,’ she declares early on in her chat with students, making clear that there are endless possibilities and opportunities to carve out a working niche in all kinds of areas of the industry. She has been gaining experience across the range, from Phase 1 oncology trials through to post-marketing real-world data collection studies. Her advice is to follow up every opportunity along the way, and actually finds herself working now for a company for whom she interned some time back. ‘Get involved,’ she enthuses, pursue research, trials, ‘do as much as you can,’ make connections and broaden your knowledge, and then ‘make use of them!’ She is clearly going great guns in this world, really making the most of the sheer variety of opportunities, observing that there are plenty of women in this world and lots of career opportunities including many openings for working abroad. Her last nugget of wisdom is to work hard in every field along the way and ‘never burn your bridges’ as there are so many convoluted connections here. So, thanks so much Annabel for your timely advice.
Thanks collectively to our old boys and girls: straight from the front-line of the job market, your tips, insights and suggestions, your enthusiasm and all-round wisdom are an invaluable gift to our present students. It was also a tonic for many of us to catch up with past pupils. Thanks again for generously making the time in your busy young careers, especially when you could have been making the full use of a proper Bank Holiday. Oh well, old habits die hard: you’ve been Hurtwood trained!