Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born and raised in Croydon, although I moved abroad for my parent’s work towards the end of primary school. I came back to the UK to study for my A-Levels at a local Further Education college, which was at risk of cutting their A-Level programmes due to severe underfunding. I got involved in local civil society and charity work as a teenager, because I wanted to be involved in the impact sector. I wasn’t particularly set on which avenue I would take – research, law, journalism or advocacy – but I knew that I wanted to work on equality and human rights. Starting early and trying out different ‘hats’ helped me figure out which angle I wanted to approach social change from.
What was your experience like on the UK Summer School programme?
It was like a week-long open day…only with taster courses, lots of interaction with the lecturers and the opportunity to bond with fellow attendees.
I enjoyed the Sociology and Social Anthropology Summer School at the University of Cambridge, largely because it made me more certain that I wanted to eventually study a social science discipline. Academia previously seemed like a functional place, where you get your qualification and then go out to get a job, as opposed to somewhere you really explore and expand your knowledge.
At the Sutton Trust Summer School, everyone came from such varied backgrounds. By contrast, when I later had an interview at the University of Cambridge, I realised I was the only pupil in the waiting room from a state comprehensive. The Sutton Trust did a good job of letting you try out different things in a friendly, supportive way. Even if you don’t end up applying to the university where you did your Summer School, you still gain perspective and a clearer idea of what you want to do.
How did your career progress after your Sutton Trust Programme?
I’ve worked in the public and charitable sectors for the past 10 years. I was part of the early cohorts of students faced with £9000 tuition fees, so going straight into university did not make economic sense to me. Instead, I sought to qualify for the career I wanted through on-the-job experience. I did a few short courses and professional certificates whilst working before I took the plunge and studied my degree in Development and Globalisation. By the time I did study a degree, the course content felt more ‘real’ due to my practical experience of working in social change organisations. Studying alongside employment was definitely a challenge, but I appreciated the opportunity to explore different concepts that I just wouldn’t have heard about or discussed in day-to-day life.
I lived abroad in the USA for a couple years, which was exciting. I did everything from assisting with research at the United Nations Development Programme to giving a guest lecture at the State University of New York on urban change. After training with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, I enjoyed freelancing as a journalist for clients like the BBC alongside my primary employment. I was able to exercise different skills and interests of mine by developing a ‘portfolio career’ in this way. I credit my current ability to communicate with different audiences and build effective partnerships to this period of my life.
Currently, I hold a dual role as Deputy CEO and Public Affairs/Policy Manager at the Small Charities Coalition, an organisation representing over 90% of the charitable sector. My role is quite varied, some days I will be writing a letter to the government, other days I’ll be leading on an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion project. Separately, I am also an Associate at the Getting on Board, where I provide training and guidance on diversity and inclusion to charity boards.
What are your ambitions for the future?
My ambitions for the future have become more open-ended as time goes on, which I wasn’t expecting! I’m realising I am enjoying working in roles with a flexible portfolio, which give me the freedom to draw on varied skills and experience across communications, research and campaigns. Internally, I am working on leadership with feminist values and doing my part to build inclusive workplaces. Outside of work, I would like to get a master’s degree in Law. A lot of my work over the years has inadvertently overlapped with the law, I would love to have a formal qualification and more recognised training in that area.
What advice would you give to a future Sutton Trust student?
Try not to be so future-focused that you let this time of your life pass you by. I was working so hard at the time that I didn’t really pause and live in the moment. It is a pressured time, when you’re applying to universities and thinking of your future, but remember to enjoy yourself.
Make the most of your time on the Sutton Trust programme, you will never again be in that time and space or with that cohort – it’s entirely possible you won’t come across as many people with similar backgrounds during the course of your career. Ask questions, absorb the knowledge of the lecturers. Take walks around the town and take lots of pictures. Get to know the other participants – stay in touch and join the alumni network if you can. I have remained close friends with one of my fellow attendees from the summer school, all these years later.