How did you come to study at Wolfson College?
Choosing a college at Cambridge requires a significant amount of research to ensure the right fit. As a mature student, I was not really sure how to evaluate the different colleges at the world’s greatest university, but given the area of study I wanted to follow, International Relations, it was important to me to choose a college that would be likely to have a high proportion of international students. I found out that Wolfson was likely to be ideal from that perspective, and I was not disappointed.
I do not have a first degree, nor O or A levels, yet Cambridge and Wolfson gave me a chance, and for that I will always be grateful.
What is your current occupation and how did you get into this role?
I am currently the Executive Director of The Mansion House and The Central Criminal Court (also known as the Old Bailey). Within this role, I have responsibilities including being the Senior Private Secretary to the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor, as well as being Chief of Staff for both buildings. I joined this role in September, having gained relevant international experience by serving as a diplomat employed by the UK government to lead on Trade and Investment for Saudi Arabia based in Riyadh. I had been working in the private sector in a number of different countries and decided I wanted to bring that experience into the government. I applied for a role in the Civil Service and was lucky enough to be successful in landing a job based in Cambridge. This role involved helping companies become international. It was at that time I started the MSt at Cambridge. The experience I gained while studying International Relations encouraged me to apply for the role of Her Majesty's Consul General in Milan, and again I was successful and served in that wonderful city for four years.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the fact that in my job, I make a difference. I can actually contribute to the goals of the City of London Corporation and support The Lord Mayor as he acts as the International Ambassador for the Financial and Professional services sector in the UK. He will visit around 27 countries this year, spending around 100 days overseas, supporting the City during a key time as the UK prepares for Brexit. The City of London is a national asset for the UK, accounting for billions of pounds in revenue and taxes and creating millions of jobs across the UK.
How have your studies at Wolfson helped you in your career?
Without a doubt, had I not studied International Relations and had the support of colleagues at Wolfson, I would not have been prepared for the roles I have been lucky enough to have undertaken.
Working alongside some of the most fantastic people I have had the pleasure to meet as we all pushed ourselves ever harder in pursuit of our International Relations studies was an experience that prepared me for the challenges involved in being a diplomat. The diversity of the college gave me such a rich environment of experiences from around the world that my eyes were opened wider every single day. No one can complete their studies at Wolfson without finding themselves enriched by what the college has to offer.
What is your fondest memory of your time at Wolfson?
I would return to the college on numerous days having exhausted every last ounce of energy trying to master the complexity presented by the MSt, worrying that I was just not up to what was required no matter how hard I pushed myself, only to find all of my friends and co-students feeling exactly the same. On one particular occasion we were all sat together trying to focus our attention on the debate in hand and somebody said what we were all thinking: “I am struggling to keep on top of all of this”. At that point the books got pushed to one side and studies were momentarily forgotten as we all realised we were in this together as a single team. I then started to believe that this was possible, because some of these wonderfully talented people were feeling just as vulnerable as I, and in fact some were looking to me for inspiration, while I was expecting it from them. We all realised we bought something else to the table.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
I was once told that it was really important to fail at things. At the time, I was told I was rather cynical and thought: "That’s not for me". The first essay I submitted for my MSt was a marginal fail. Without a doubt, the learning I gained from that was far more than from any subsequent essay, even those with far better scores. There is the idea that you can learn from success, but this is nowhere near as powerful as the lessons I have learned from some of my biggest failures. If I were to give the same advice, I would add a sentence: "It’s really important to fail at things, if you want to learn how to succeed".
Which person (living or historical) do you most admire and why?
This one is easy: Stephen Hawking. Despite the challenges he has faced in his life, he has gone on to achieve an unmeasurable impact on the human race. He has continued to use his gifts and inspire all those around him.
Which book has had the greatest impact on you?
Living high, letting die by Peter K Unger, ISBN 0 19 510859-0
After I read this book, I stopped hiding. I still do not do enough, but I think that nobody can.