Year 10 Inspire & Career Talk

Guild Careers

Year 10 Inspire & Career Talk

On the 29 January 2020, we welcomed back eight former students to share their experiences since leaving WHS with Year 10 students.

The talk featured alumnae from a wide array of professions, ranging from careers within the culinary arts, to quantum physics, to architecture. The Year 10 students were able to hear first-hand about how each of our alumnae reached where they are today and what paths and choices they had to make along the way. The talk was not only engaging and fascinating to listen to, but it was also a fantastic opportunity for students to gain an insight into what decisions they should start to think about, as well as the breadth and variety of future career prospects open to them.

Flickr album: Year 10 Inspire and Career Talk 29 January 2020 | Height: auto | Theme: Default

Rachel Aston Class of 1994 – At school, Rachel studied Politics, Sociology and Art A-levels. She especially enjoyed the opportunities for travel at WHS and took part in the first ever WHS World Challenge expedition, to Guyana. After Rachel left WHS she took a gap year and volunteered with a housing organisation, living in a hostel alongside people who do not have a home, offering support, which was a huge eye opener for her. She then returned to education and achieved a BA in Politics from University of Essex. After graduating she returned to work in in the housing sector wanting to make a difference with the young people affected by homelessness, mental health issues and substance abuse. After 9/11 Rachel realised she wanted to study why this had happened. She studied for a Master’s in International Studies at the University of Leeds, hoping to work with government/ in politics afterwards. It took her two years of applying for jobs to get into the policy sector (working in housing and youth work again in the meantime), doing admin for a charity, which gave her the skills and experience to get a job as a policy officer, then policy manager. This involves lobbying the government to make change to policies and law. Currently she works for CBM UK, an international disability charity, and has been there for the past two and a half years.

"Thank you for such a wonderful day yesterday. It really was a pleasure to hear everyone's talk and about where your paths have taken you, and the Year 10 girls were a pleasure to talk to." - Rachel

Kathryn Boast Class of 2008 – At WHS Kathryn enjoyed Music, Science and Art. She did her A Levels in Physics, Maths, RS and Music. She enjoyed the rigor and clarity of Physics and Maths. She then took a gap year and went on to Oxford University to study Physics and Philosophy.  She stayed on at Oxford to do a PhD in Particle Physics. She had the opportunity to travel to different countries, work with amazing scientists increasing her own desire to want to talk to people about science and engage young people in the enjoyment of science/engineering/apprenticeships. She now has three part time jobs at Oxford University, two of which are in the Department of Physics and one at Hertford College as a STEM Outreach officer.

Thanks again for having me on Wednesday. I had a lovely time, and the students were very engaged and perceptive.” - Kathryn

Amanda Bradley Class of 1993 – Amanda was a keen rower in her school days. She took English History and French A Level whilst at WHS. She also took a gap year and enjoyed travelling around Australia. She then went on to achieve a BA degree in History from King’s College in London and also trained to be an accountant and is a Fellow of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Association of Corporate Treasurers. Amanda spent 20 years of her working life doing what she thought everyone else wanted her to do but this life was not for her. At 39 Amanda retrained as an executive coach and psychotherapeutic counsellor.  She is continuing her advanced clinical training as a psychotherapist. She did not know this job even existed when she was at school! She now has a private therapy practice as well as working with a personality disorder clinic, and a successful coaching company supporting the emotional wellbeing of business people, promoting diversity in business and teaching leadership behaviours.

“I wish such an event had existed when I was at school. It was a brilliant event and a highlight of my week.” - Amanda

Haniya Dar Class of 1996 – At WHS Haniya studied Politics, Economics, English Lit, French and German at A Level. She went on to take gap year where she worked with the conservative party and did research for ‘Question Time’. After this she achieved a BA in Politics from Royal Holloway, MSc in Political Theory from London School of Economics and Political Science. She had the opportunity to do an Internship in a law firm in New York and spent time in Paris practicing her French. She now works in International Development spending 5 years in East Africa as a Humanitarian and now is a consultant with her own business.

“It was lovely to be back at school yesterday.” – Haniya

Paige Dawkins Class of 2013 – Paige Dawkins Class of 2013 – Paige took A Levels in Drama, French, English Lit and Business Studies but had to drop drama as she became very nervous on stage! When she left school, she was working for Lush in High Wycombe and at a local music shop. She went on to complete an apprenticeship for a TV shopping channel in Barbican, London which allowed her to improve on her digital marketing skills, and stayed working here for 3 years. After going through a tricky period in her life when Paige received counselling, Paige started on the path of wanting to become a counsellor herself. She then left London to begin her counselling training and worked for a skin care brand in Windsor for six months. She is in her final year of a Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling from Bucks College Group and now works for the Epilepsy Society as Social Media Officer, alongside undertaking a placement in Maidenhead offering person-centred counselling sessions.

I had such a lovely day yesterday. I am so pleased to see that the school has come a long way since I left in encouraging the students to consider a variety of career paths, rather than solely the university route.” - Paige

Sqn Ldr Cath Gillespie – Cath completed her O & A Levels and went on to join the Royal Air Force having decided University was not for her; she trained as a Fighter Controller. There are over 50 different branches of the Royal Air Force and they are all open to woman; similarly, there has been equal pay for men and women since 1991. Cath spent time as a controller and an Instructor before spending 5 years flying on the E3D Sentry aircraft.  This role enabled her to travel the world. After 20 years in the RAF, Cath decided to take some time out and trained as a Chocolatier setting up her own successful business.  However, she could not stay away and returned to the RAF as an Air Ops (Control) Officer and now works on the specialist engagement team for London area. Cath made clear to everyone in the room that it is your life, accept advice and guidance from the loved ones around you but you must forge your own path and be happy. We all make mistakes but do not be afraid of this as this is how we learn. Life is there for the taking when you decide you will not be constrained by others.

Flo Wilson Class of 2014 – At WHS Flo studied Phycology, Film and Geography. School was not the right environment for Flo who left shortly after taking her exams in Year 12. She worked part time at Nandos, entered lots of cooking competitions and discovered she was very good at it. She then took on an apprenticeship as Chef RA of Culinary Arts with the Gordon Ramsey Group for 3 years. Now she works at a Members Club in Mayfair as a Sous Chef. Although all Flo’s friends went to uni she followed her heart and continued doing what she loved doing the most…cooking!

Ayesha Wynne Class of 2006 – Studied A levels in English, Chemistry and Art, she enjoyed school and the creative subjects. She achieved an Architect degree from Newcastle and London Metropolitan, taking a total of 10 years to be fully qualified. Her company has now taken on an apprentice at the young age of 19. Ayesha has designed schools and is currently designing social housing.  Bbeing an architect also means being familiar with construction sites (not many females are in this line of work), she encounters a cross section of society as an architect.

Q & A

Has anything gone horribly wrong in your career life?

Cath – “I left after 20 years, retrained as Chocolatier, re-joined again after three years and retrained in engagement and recruiting.  This gave her flexi working time, with much better hours. So nothing horribly wrong.”

Haniya – “In my line of work it can get very lonely being away from all your family and friends spending time in lots of different countries can be very isolating.”

Kathryn – “ Do what you want, don’t dread those Monday mornings, look for your body giving you signs. Do not be afraid to change, listen to yourself.”

Rachel – “I had a toxic work environment, handed in my notice in without a job to go to as my wellbeing and happiness was most important. Took on a temporary job which lead into a new permanent job.”

Opportunities for travel in your line of work?

Rachel – “I have lots of opportunity to travel due to the nature of the job, but we must think about our responsibility on climate change and carbon footprint.  Now we use Skype and other online based methods to communicate across the globe.”

Kathryn – “Not much travel abroad, mainly UK.”

Amanda – “Within the finance industry there are lots of opportunities to travel but you miss your home comforts and family. I now only travel eight days a year.”

Haniya – “I travel one week a month now. Earlier in my career I would be spend months away from home missing out on family and friends milestones and basically living out of a suitcase!”

Paige – “My work is based in Chalfont so not much travel.”

Cath – “ I travelled very often in my first 20 years in the RAF, not so much now. You can choose to be posted overseas with your permission.”

Flo – “The club where I work are opening other locations all over the world, so more possible opportunities to travel now.”

Ayesha – “My clients are all London based so may only travel a little around Europe.”

Would you recommend a gap year?

Haniya – “Yes, I needed a break from being a student but in that year I worked with the conservative party and did research for ‘Question Time’.”

Amanda – “Yes, she felt it important for her to have a break. She went to Australia and travelled around, this taught her independence and financial responsibility. After this she felt she went to Uni wanting to study not being forced.”

Kathryn – “Yes, in my gap year I had to plan not to forget my Maths!”

Rachel – “I needed a brain break before more academics, took on paid voluntary work. Learnt a lot and gained great friendships.”

Would you change your Career if you could?

Rachel – “I would like to retire or become a forest ranger and study forest management and drive around the forest on quad bikes.”

Kathryn – “I feel I have only just scratched the surface in my current job, so much more to come.”

Amanda – “No.”

Haniya – “Becoming a full time fencer (sport).”

Paige – “A violin player, playing in a symphony.”

Cath – “I became a chocolatier.”

Flo – “Farmer or sommelier.”

Ayeesha – “Wrapping paper designer.”

Do you choose a job based on salary?

Ayesha – “Once you get a good salary it’s hard to give that up. Money is not everything and we are still fighting the gender pay gap in her industry.”

Flo – “Started an apprenticeship on £840, living in London paying for accommodation, bills and food.  It was not easy but I learned about financial responsibility, standing on your own two feet. I would never choose a job based on salary.”

Cath – “RAF pay bands are published online and since 1991 there has been equal pay for both men and woman. Cath advised the student to get their career started first, save money then step back and enjoy life.”

Haniya – “Never decide purely based on salary.”

Paige – “No, I am fortunate enough to still live at home with my parents, so I can earn and save. Many friends are in the sales industry earning £1000’s in commission but are very stressed and unhappy with no social life. Salary is not the be all and end all.”

Amanda – “My father taught me to always have one more pound in the bank than you need. Earn enough to live but don’t live your life to earn. Always ask for equal pay. In banking only 3% of woman get a pay rise and 97% of men.”

Kathryn – “I did make a salary based decision. Tell employers what salary you want, money matters.”

Rachel – “I have taken salary cuts on occasion for a better work life balance. Always ask for more than their offering.”

The talk concluded with a networking session as well as the opportunity for students to ask any further questions to any of the panel one a one-to-one basis. Overall, the talk was a huge success in not only inspiring the current students, but it also served as a reminder to Year 10 students that the possibilities awaiting them after school are endless. 

Follow this link for photos of the event:

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