Alumni Career Stories
Alumni share their career stories below. If you would like to share your career story, please contact the Development Office on email@example.com.
Dip (2014) Entrepreneurship
It has been an incredible journey and such an adventure over the last few years. It has also been an honour to be part of the Hughes Hall community in the last 18 months; firstly as an associate student at Hughes, studying on the part-time Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship at the Cambridge Judge Business School, and now as the Events Manager for the Hughes Hall Enterprise Society.
I’ve always believed that it is our own responsibility to attain happiness and success and to take the opportunities that life has to offer. I started my first business at 19 and in the early 1990’s a second business. It was an amazing intellectual journey, learning through practical experience. Both businesses are still going strong today, even after the roller coaster decades of economic growth and recession.
It wasn’t possible for me to complete my education when I was young, due to my family not being able to support me financially at the time – indeed they needed me to work to bring money into the household. However by the middle of the 1990’s, both businesses were successful. I became financially secure and returned to education to complete a BA (Hons) degree and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
After I graduated from the PGCE, I sold both businesses and worked as a teacher in the state sector for several years, before moving to Cambridge to complete a Masters in Applied Linguistics. When studying for my MA, I absolutely loved learning about syllabus writing, the use of language and the cognitive psychology of what makes a good learner. The link between business, entrepreneurship and education was formed and I began to design syllabuses and run modules for students in Entrepreneurship and Advanced Business Communication.
Which brings me right back to the present day whereby, I am now in the lucky position of being able to coach and mentor other entrepreneurs and leaders through my own new start up, Inner Game Leadership, which launched on January 7th 2016. We are working with leaders, senior managers and directors of companies including Marshall’s Aerospace, Canonical, St. James’s Place Wealth Management and Microsoft to help them become the best leaders they can be. I also really enjoy working at The Future Business Centre with social entrepreneurs and run motivational workshops at the University of Cambridge. It is very rewarding helping others to grow and develop and it’s great to make a difference where I can.
As Events Manager of the Hughes Hall Enterprise Society we have invited previous Hughes Hall students, who have now become successful Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs such as: Tom Britton co-founder of the Syndicate Room, Steve Marsh Founder and CEO of Geospok, and Ronen Givon, owner of Hummus Bros. They have all been kind enough to share with the Enterprise Society their experience and knowledge by the way of lectures and talks. We have some exciting new speakers planned for the future too, so please join the Hughes Hall Enterprise Society to find out more!
If you are interested in knowing more about leadership, the Hughes Hall Enterprise Society, or would like some help from a mentor for your business, do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help where I can, or send you the link to the Hughes Hall Enterprise Society’s website.
MPhil (2009) PhD (2010) Education
I recently completed a doctorate in Education at Cambridge University. I am a Qatari mother of five children. Although my parents didn’t read or write, they were guided by a belief that education was ‘the passport to life.’ They encouraged my sisters and brothers to work hard at our studies and do well in school.
When I graduated from high school I was fortunate to be offered a scholarship to study in the United States. I was very excited and I had an aspiration of joining my brother who was already studying in Florida, but my parents were reluctant to allow me to leave home. I was disappointed, of course, but with hindsight, I can understand their perspective, and how religious and culture beliefs informed their reluctance. Instead, I attended Qatar University, and graduated with a degree in Physics and Education. I became a teacher of Physics in a secondary school for a year before getting married.
Two of my older sisters had already married at 20 and 21. But they had both continued with their education even as they became mothers raising young families. My mother recognized the difficulties they had balancing their studies with family life. So she allowed her younger daughters, including me, to finish our university education before getting married. And this was despite many marriage proposals! Although some girls still marry after leaving high school, and there is much variety among families on this issue, it is becoming less unusual for young Qatari ladies to follow the path into higher education, and delaying marriage. At present, one of my nieces has left home and is at university in London.
Ever since I had been offered the scholarship which I had had to turn down, my vision to study abroad never left my mind. Eventually, I applied for a scholarship at Sussex University, and was successful. I am ever grateful to my husband for his immense and steady support for me throughout my studies. He and our two children, at the time, accompanied me to the UK. Living and studying in a new and so very different place was a great challenge for me –and for all of us– but I do believe that we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges. I completed a Master’s degree in Science Education in 2005. I submitted my dissertation at four in the afternoon, and gave birth to our third child just before midnight the same day!
Qatar Foundation recognized my commitment and offered to sponsor my continued post-graduate education. I returned to England in 2009 with my husband and our children –now five. I earned an MPhil in Research Methods, and a Doctorate in Education. I became the first woman from Qatar to receive a Doctoral degree in Education from Cambridge University.
I started my Doctoral journey when my children were quite young (ranging from three months to ten years). It was a wonderful experience and exhausting at the same time. All my time was dedicated either to being a mom or to my studies. My mother, understandably, was apprehensive about my ongoing, intensive studying. She was worried that it would detract from my role as a mother. On the positive side, having kids is a brilliant way of keeping you grounded while absorbed in graduate studies. My siblings and friends were also emotionally supportive. But most important was the support of my husband. My success in meeting the challenges of being a mother and a student would not have happened without him. He too, in leaving Qatar, was leaving his friends, his family, and his life as he had known it. I can’t praise him enough for his role as a father and husband. I can’t talk about my PhD journey without mentioning my supervisor V Darleen Opfer. I don’t know how I could’ve managed without her support, ‘It’s amazing how far you’re willing to go when someone believes in you’. Darleen believed in me from my first meeting with her and this helped me to keep going. I left my country with five children to a “scary” phase of my life. Darleen was always reminded me that “I could do it”.
I found my graduate work to be unusually rewarding; there were many amazing discoveries and benefits to study. But it is a huge commitment! It is nothing like an undergraduate degree. You are mainly on your own. I know that some parents very successfully manage to combine study with young children, but you really need to be a disciplined kind of person. Your commitment transforms your daily actions into your desired goal. I think that many of the lessons I learned as a graduate student with a family continue to be crucial to my success today.
For me, being a mum for five children while in graduate school had several benefits. First, I clearly divided my time between home and study. I tried to give my brain time to relax and did not allow myself to be consumed with the minor crises and daily dramas of academic life. I rarely speak about my studies with my husband or my children. This gives me an emotional and mental break from my “research questions” when I am with them, and allows my brain to clear and recharge. Early to bed and early to rise became my best practice. After the children have gone to bed, I am too exhausted to study into the night, so I get up extra early and try to take some time before my children wake. I find it much easier and clearer in my head to do it all at the start of the day.
A second benefit of having children was that when I was at the university, I focused on my study and did not allow myself to waste time chatting with my graduate student friends about random topics. Of course, it is crucial to engage in dialogue with your colleagues and friends. But my limited time made me very disciplined about how much I allowed myself to participate in hallway conversations. Learning to focus and get my work done in a limited amount of time became a key skill that has been useful throughout my career.
Finally, I developed priority-setting skills and learned to multitask –like doing laundry, helping my kids with homework, and cooking all at the same time. Of course, my children mean everything to me, and when I was home I was, first of all, their mother. But while it is important to be there for my family and meet their needs first, there were times when writing up a chapter or analyzing my data had to take priority, even if I sometimes felt guilty about it. I try to do special things with my children when life isn’t so hectic, like baking together, taking a trip to the park or seeing a movie, or reading with them.
If you are a mother who is and considering a post-graduate degree, I think my story points to a few things you should consider.
• Be sure you are committed; choose a topic that fully engages and interests you, because it could occupy your life for several years.
• Be sure that your family, and especially your partner, supports you.
• Be prepared for the un-expected and be ready to adapt.
• It is a long road ahead but never give up!
BA (1994) Land Economy
Liam started his career as a professional rugby player at London Irish, Exeter and Bristol, before moving into the legal field. Having gained his law degree from Cardiff and a further MA in Cambridge, Liam became a lawyer working at city law firms, Kennedys and Michelmores. In 2002, he formed his own business, a niche legal executive search and recruitment company, Blue Pencil. As the company grew, Liam moved to the UAE to grow the business further and has been the driving force in making Blue Pencil, one of the leading companies dealing with recruitment for the legal sector in the region. In 2014 Liam was named by Arabian Business, as the Business Mentor of the Year in the Middle East.
Liam founded Club Fit For Business, a global sports business network in May 2013 and over the last 3 years has conceptualised and delivered a fantastic platform to support and promote smaller & medium-sized enterprises, retiring sport professionals making the transition from sport into business as well as using sport to improve youth citizenship, social inclusion and community cohesion with the club’s ‘Sport in the Community’ programme. Club Fit For Business also gives businesses the means by which to leverage the many benefits of sport from a platform of shared values and principles. As sport cuts across all divides and nationalities, Liam has brought numerous business connections together in a unique format to build one of the most powerful business networks in the region with a great blend of sport, business, legal and charitable connections from Europe, Middle East and the Far East, including many influential people from the world of sport, business and HNW’s. The organisation has over 40,000 subscribers worldwide and has received several prestigious business awards and nominations.
Liam is now an entrepreneur, businessman and investor, living in Monaco.
BEd (1975) Education
Life after Secondary Teaching….
I have not only survived many many years of secondary English and Drama teaching in a variety of former grammar, comprehensive and secondary modern schools, but have also loved the experiences and challenges. I have particularly enjoyed leading a large English Department and for a very long time working as a member of a senior leadership team where I could shape policy; ethos and play a very ‘full on’ and ‘up front’ role. I have always been a secondary teacher through and through and I had never, for one moment, imagined waking up and discovering myself employed instead in a variety of junior/ primary schools. It was always unthinkable to picture myself with small learners flocking round and to let go of high level examination work where my specialism was leading learning of Literature for the most able.
Initially I became involved in junior schools when one of my many responsibilities as assistant head teacher was to organise and deliver enrichment work for targeted feeder schools and oversee the smooth and seamless transition of students from junior to secondary. To everyone’s surprise I found myself thoroughly enjoying setting up all manner of cross phase initiatives and delivering sessions of creative and flamboyant literacy- based work to children aged 10 and 11. As someone, known to be a fierce dragon of the secondary world of disaffected adolescents from very challenging backgrounds, it was hard for friends and colleagues to imagine me delivering all manner of ‘unusual’ sessions with clapperboards; rain sticks, inflatable microphones (to help students to feel like experts) and huge bunches of massive keys representing the skills needed to unlock learning. However, against all the odds I really enjoyed the work and when it became known that I was toying with the idea of retiring from secondary education, I was immediately ‘head hunted’ by several junior schools, who, having had my services free when I was employed by my secondary school, were now only too happy to pay me to continue the work. I have frequently been involved in staff training events and doing ‘open door’ teaching demonstrations to help to ‘up-skill’ newer and less experienced teachers, working with them to deliver sessions that will enable them to teach to higher levels.
This year, as well as working in four different schools, I have also agreed, in one of them, to develop a whole school elocution initiative where I will devise; set up and deliver everything from correct breathing techniques; enunciation and the removal of irritating ‘fillers’ from speech, to individual and whole class poetry recitation; choral speaking; play readings; debating and competitive public speaking. The plan is for every child in the school to be involved and I am very much looking forward to the post Christmas launch…
In the same school I regularly deliver a training session for parents on how to prepare their children for the move to secondary school and ways to ensure that they develop some necessary independence before leaving the safety of the junior school environment. I have also led a course for parents and adults in the community on how to tackle the business of getting back into employment after time out to have children. We have looked at the production of Curriculum Vitae; the writing of letters of application; the completion of detailed application forms and have rehearsed the type of questions that could well be asked in interviews. Confidence building and the breaking down of the recurring fear that as individuals these adults have absolutely nothing to offer to an employer, has been key to these sessions. I have been delighted to witness the course members securing posts both paid and voluntary and making some first steps back into the elusive world of work.
I enjoy the fact that the work that I do in junior schools is so varied and I am always pleased to take on any groups that I am given, whether it be pre 11 plus preparation or working with pupil premium students to help the school to narrow the achievement gap. I like having a whole new ‘take’ on education and going from school to school with my bag of strange objects and tricks. My daughter often laughs at the fact that I seem to be turning into the Mary Poppins of literacy teaching. I may not advocate a ‘spoonful of sugar’ to help the learning go down, but I am loving every minute of finding ever new and more eccentric ways to help young people to access and enjoy their own learning. I was asked, only the other day, if I miss being a senior leader and the world of secondary education…of course I do, but producing parrots; hat stands and large pot plants from a carpet bag is something that I have now made my own.