OS University and Careers Forum

We welcomed six Old Sennockians to a virtual event on 25 June to answer some of the Lower Sixth’s burning questions about university and careers.

This event took place over Microsoft Teams for the six speakers and one-sixth of the year group and the remaining 200 students watched the screen in the Pamoja Hall. Mr Smith, an Economics teacher for more than 20 years and a crowd favourite, put the questions to the panel.

Simon Wergan (OS 1982) has a BA in Geography from King’s College London. He spoke about how after graduating, he ended up ‘sitting on a yacht for two years’ but over the last two decades has had a varied career, including in the military and coaching of GB Olympic athletes. As he spoke about doing what you enjoy and having patience, we learned that sometimes there is beauty in unknowing and not having a clear, linear, set plan for one’s future. 

Juliet Valdinger (OS 1998) has a BA in Social Anthropology from LSE and an MSc in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment from Cass Business School. She has worked with a broad range of entrepreneurs and charities and has also worked in social investment and asset management. Juliet showed us that acknowledging what you enjoy and then channelling this passion throughout your lifetime and into a proactive educational form can lead to success.

Michael Haskamp (OS 1996) has a BA in East Asian Studies from Harvard and an MBA in finance from Columbia Business School. He now works for Audible at Amazon. His interesting and unconventional first degree choice also showed us that you can go on to do many things in life, and that although choosing a degree and university may currently seem the toughest choice we have ever had to make, actually it is not, and we can always go on to do a Master’s if we are unsure at this moment in time.

Veena McCoole (OS 2015) has a BA in English Literature from Yale and has worked in media and journalism. The main message that we learnt from Veena, is to trust our instincts and do what we are passionate about, as that is the key to success in life.

Vittoria Fallanca (OS 2010) has an MSt and a PhD in Modern Languages (French Literature) from Oxford. Before this she studied for a BA Philosophy, which she did not particularly enjoy, and through her story she showed us how opportunities can arise from our mistakes and bring us to bigger and better things. Vittoria is now a Career Development Fellow in French at New College Oxford, a career she really loves. Hearing Vittoria speak was reassuring; we heard again that our first degree choice is a part of life and not the end of our educational journey.

Jacob Wedderburn-Day (OS 2011) has a BA in Economics from Oxford and is the founder of Stasher, a company he founded with a friend, now valued at around $12 million. He also runs a small climate change enterprise and has spoken on multiple podcasts. He provided a different perspective, that if you study for a more traditional academic degree, you do not have to abide by the stereotypes and go into traditional careers; you can consider other paths such as entrepreneurship and design.

We wanted to organise this event because students in Years 11 and 12 can feel overwhelmed by their future and the important choices which must be made. Our aim was to prove that it is not necessary to make a ‘typical’ degree choice such as Economics (for which a Higher Level 7 in Maths is required for the top universities in order to work in the finance sector). Instead, it is possible to take many different routes to get to an end goal. Through forms and surveys that we conducted, we found that many people in the Lower Sixth think that a specific degree is required for certain careers. We chose our speakers to help open all our minds to the sheer breadth of possibilities and opportunities that exist.

We gained many different insights from the excellent speakers at this forum and in the next academic year we hope to replicate a similar event for the new Lower Sixth so that they can benefit too.

Jenny Funnell, Emily Wooders, Ece Tumer and Trinity Pointon

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