This year saw our Director of Careers, Dr Strobel, pioneer a new kind of careers event that drew upon the extraordinary wealth of inspiring alumnae which OHS has at its disposal. Entitled ‘Women of the Future’ in recognition not only of our alumnae’s distinction but also the potential of our current students, the event saw forty-one alumnae volunteer their services for the evening.
What made last night so different was that our visiting alumnae spoke about their respective career paths not in isolation, but grouped into panels by degree discipline. This novel idea enabled the students, parents and the wider OHS community to learn about not only the wonderful opportunities out there for OHS girls, but also the fact that a modern career does not have to be linear; it can deviate according to inclination, opportunity and newfound perspectives.
Dr Stringer started the evening by reminding the girls sat in the Main Hall that now is a very interesting time to be young, when territories are expanding, barriers are falling and attitudes are shifting. It is a time that, despite the obvious challenges, should fill us with hope.
Knowledge is like a torch: one torch can light another without being extinguished.
She encouraged the girls not to succumb to the assumption that knowledge and expertise are finite resources. Rather, she urged them to see knowledge as a torch, with a light that is potentially infinite. After all, Dr Stringer noted, one torch can light another without being extinguished, and one torch can stand alongside another and make the scene brighter for both.
Having introduced this elegant concept, she turned to the audience and reminded us that there were forty-one torch bearers present that night: forty-one alumnae willing to pass on the light of their to the younger generation. Listen, Dr Stringer urged the girls. Be curious, ask questions – and perhaps come back one day yourself as a torch bearer for someone else.
Following this inspiring opening, we were joined by Sara Esperon (1989), a Fellow and Director of Development at Somerville College. Sara has had a fascinating career spanning a degree in Classics, 14 years in media as a BBC documentarian and Head of Development for two major television companies and three years at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, before taking up her current post at Somerville. There she oversees Somerville’s fundraising and development as well as managing fundraising campaigns for the Oxford India Centre, among other initiatives.
Nothing is off limits to an OHS girl, and nothing is unimaginable.
Sara started by introducing the theme for her address, which was reasons to be cheerful. This led to a memory of succumbing to a fit of giggles during assembly and then recollections of the friendships she made at school, many of which she still maintains, only now her friends are doctors and curators and academics and lawyers.
Another reason to be cheerful was that, at OHS, Sara met the teacher who changed her life. The reason this teacher changed her life was that she told Sara not to pursue the path of lesser resistance afforded, for Sara at least, by an MFL degree, but rather to take Classics because, the teacher argued, ‘Classics is a passport to anywhere.’ And so it has proven.
Sara’s key message, having caught us up on the journey that led her here, was that the USP of Oxford High School is that nothing is off limits and nothing is unimaginable. It’s that which gives OHS girls the self-confidence to embrace the possibility that a career doesn’t have to be linear and no experience is wasted.
The flip-side to such opportunity, Sara said by way of conclusion, is that one must appreciate that such opportunity is itself a form of privilege. She reminded us of Toni Morrison’s advice that, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that, if you are free, you need to free somebody else.’
Sara ended by reminding the girls that they were just as brilliant and irrepressible as past generations of OHS girl. But unlike them, they were also kind, and tolerant, like Greta, like Malala. You’re going to be fascinating, she concluded. I can’t wait to see what you’ll become.
We were told by returning Head Girl Anoushka Patel (2019) about her first two terms at the Dyson Institute, working on top secret projects, but also getting involved with the global engagement project and sustainability initiatives.
We learned all about how a history degree can lead to fascinating careers working for the FT or making your way in academia.
Students learned how an MFL degree can lead to working in anything from translation to investor relations all over the world, second-guessing what Vladimir Putin might do on any given day!
Psychology and Sociology
Among others we heard from returning alumna Katy Barrow-Grint. She fascinated us all, as ever, with a fascinating talk about career with Thames Valley Police, covering some of the most shocking cases but also embracing the versatility of day to day life on the Force.
Music and the Performing Arts
We heard about how to get your first book deal, and then your second, as well as how to do your own PR when launching your own opera productions.
Medicine and Biomedical
Our medics told us all about the challenges and opportunities of studying medicine and bio-science degrees, including the difficulty of postgraduate study and the lure of using a medicine degree to embark on a career in investment banking. We also heard about the spectrum of medical degrees on offer, from traditional science-based courses to vocational problem-based learning, with the moral that whichever course that suits you the best is the one that will you best
Economics and PPE
With several of Mr Gallacher’s old students returning to spin a yarn or two, we heard about how not securing your first choice of university doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world, especially not when you secure a place on the rotation with MSBC.
The lesson of Classics, we heard is that it teaches you to inhale knowledge. You learn how to think, but you also learn how to do a deep research dive, how to synthesise knowledge quickly and how write persuasively – all skills which are transferable to any number of jobs.
Bringing the metaphors to bear, we heard how an English degree can lead from here to anywhere, by way of goat’s cheese, freelance editing, journalism and publishing.