Monday 26th April saw us enjoy a fascinating virtual session arranged by Head of Careers Helen Airdrie alongside Head of King’s Modern Foreign Languages department Richard Ball (Hon OV) and his department. We were absolutely delighted that six OVs joined us as speakers and panellists for this Languages Insight Evening and thrilled that so many pupils and parents dialled in to enjoy and benefit from hearing the experiences and advice of the speakers.
We began with OV Sam Maitland (Ch 05-12).
Sam always enjoyed languages at King’s, studying German and Spanish at A Level, alongside Maths and History.
Sam explained he had no idea what he wanted to do in his career throughout sixth form, but said he did know what he enjoyed doing. It was this understanding of how much he enjoyed languages that led Sam to the University of Bath where he studied Modern Languages and European Studies.
As a part of his degree, Sam enjoyed an Erasmus year in Spain and was also able to spend time in Germany. It was here, in Munich, that Sam got his first taste of his future career as he worked for sports content agency MMC Sport, helping to run the social media accounts and websites for a large number of Bundesliga football clubs. Sam continues for the company today as a freelance translator on various Bundesliga projects. He said that it was undoubtedly this time in Germany, and his interest and passion for languages and different cultures, that catapulted him into world of media. Following this experience, Sam was able to continue gaining exposure in the field, and during the 2016 Rio Olympics worked for Twitter, creating the first-ever Twitter Moments exclusively in German.
Sam is currently a Senior Social Manager at Bleacher Report, a sports publisher that creates digital sports content around the world. While he doesn’t use languages every day in his career, Sam believes that his earlier studies and interest in languages as well as his experiences abroad have definitely opened doors and given him the capability to do well in his career through transferable skills, such as interpersonal and social confidence and the ability to debate and converse in different languages and cultures.
Sam now enjoys working in his dream career and has great opportunities to travel. In fact, he moves to New York later this year!
Next we heard from Donald Jackson (Cl 80-82).
Like Sam, Donald had always enjoyed languages at School and had no clear idea of exactly what he wanted to do with his future whilst at King’s. He did know that he loved travel, holidays abroad and different cultures. Donald also strongly felt that languages would open doors, broaden his horizons and give him a diversity of future opportunities.
At A Level Donald studied French, German and Maths before going on to study Modern & Medieval Languages and Literature at Oxford University. Donald spent a year teaching in Bavaria and still had no definite career plan as he neared the end of his studies.
Donald was offered several professional opportunities on leaving Oxford, including teaching English in Japan and a position with the Foreign Office. However, it was an opportunity to work in the City which felt at the time the biggest risk and the largest challenge. 35 years later and with only two employers to his name throughout his career, Donald has enjoyed a very varied and successful career in investment and Wealth Management.
Currently Portfolio Manager for UBS, Donald says that whilst he isn’t using languages daily, his travel and enjoyment of languages have opened his mind and helped with international investors. He said his experiences have assisted hugely when working abroad, from sitting in boardrooms and meetings in locations such as Monaco or Reykjavik to speaking with his colleagues in their mother tongue wherever possible.
Donald encouraged the pupils to soak up as much as they can now and he said it becomes harder to absorb and learn new languages as you get older.
Donald continues to enjoying dabbling in learning new languages such as Mandarin at every opportunity, even if, as he said, it is just the basics for a holiday.
Edward Wilson (Cr 05-09) followed Donald. Ed studied French at A level alongside Art and Economics and went on to the University of Bristol where he studied dual honours French and Italian, taking on Italian Ab Initio. Ed always thought he would like to be in a career where he was speaking French every day, however he quickly realised that learning about different cultures and what motivates people around the world was more important to him.
Ed enjoyed his degree thoroughly, studying and writing essays on a variety of subjects including French and Italian cinema, post-war fascism in Italy and organised crime in Naples. He was also able to spend an Erasmus year abroad working in both Paris and Rome as a part of his degree.
Ed realised that he was interested in marketing and communications and was also keen to find a role which allowed him to work globally and, in his own words, to “scratch the travel itch”. He worked for a short while in London working on digital campaigns for Hertz, Canon UK and Betty Crocker but Ed jumped when an opportunity arose through OV friend Sam Geuter (W 04-07) to apply for a role in Gothenburg.
Ed moved to Sweden in November 2015 and still enjoys living there today. He worked for digital agency AKQA, which is part of the WPP Group, as a Senior Strategist representing well known brands such as Volvo Cars, Nivea, H&M and Nike and, during that time was able to enjoy a host of international travel opportunities to places such as Shanghai, New York and rather hair-raisingly a trip to Seoul in South Korea in February 2020, where he landed to find an email from the CEO of WPP Group banning all but essential travel to Asia due to the hit of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Ed currently works as Creative Planner for IKEA Communications. Ed’s passion for his job shone through and evidently it really excites him, with Ed saying how privileged he feels to work on items which will be “an essential part of people’s day to day lives”.
Ed finished by saying languages have unlocked so many opportunities for him and that he wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for languages. He said that studying languages and cultures “instils an innate curiosity about the world” and puts people out of their comfort zones in the best way possible. Ed also stressed how much study of languages and cultures helps us to understand other people and different perspectives.
OV and King’s Worcester Development Trustee Leanne Sheen (W 99-06) differed from the previous speakers in that she knew whilst at School what she wanted to be – a lawyer. Work experience in a criminal law firm during her time at King’s cemented that ambition but also encouraged her to look into other types of law.
Following her A Levels, Leanne decided to carry on with her love of languages and she went to Cambridge University where she studied Modern and Medieval Languages (French, Spanish and Portuguese) knowing that she would follow her degree by studying Law.
Leanne enjoyed a year abroad with time in Buenos Aires and Paris. She explained how living away and exploring different cultures gave her wonderful exposure to new experiences and people; from the highs of organising wine tastings for Chablis and Burgundy wines to the challenges of finding herself in Buenos Aires without accommodation, everything gave her a foundation of confidence.
Leanne explained how much her study of languages benefitted her training in Law and her subsequent career. She said that the disciplines of essay writing and drafting as well as the focus on breaking down sentence structure, dissecting grammar and interpreting the meaning of words all play a daily role in her position at Law firm Allen and Overy, where she is currently a Senior Associate. Leanne also said how much her international experience and outlook benefits her when she is working with clients and organisations from different countries with different cultural outlooks.
Leanne enjoyed four years in the Frankfurt office of Allen & Overy and was grateful for that opportunity to improve her German.
Leanne finished with some advice to current pupils: not to be afraid to try new things or to explore many different avenues. She said whilst sometimes it can feel as if you are being indecisive, it is actually the only way to find your strengths and to identify what you enjoy.
James Gilbert (Cr 90-01) brought yet another perspective to the evening. Not an enthusiast for languages and not particularly believing himself a budding linguist, James decided at King’s that he wished to pursue a career in Civil Engineering.
James ceased studying all languages after GCSE, taking Maths, Physics and English at A Level followed by studying Engineering at Durham University. Durham encouraged James to take a French course and included an optional Erasmus year. James took up this option and enjoyed a year at a small French University where he said he was completely immersed in the language and culture.
James returned to England and despite now being fluent in French, James decided to work in the UK. Once again languages took a back seat as he began his entrance into the profession of Civil Engineering, working first with Costain.
James moved back to France later to be with his partner and he has now lived there for 12 years and enjoys raising his family there. He works for French Civil Engineering company INDURA and spends most of his life conversing in French both at work and home. James said, that despite not studying languages in the traditional way, he always made sure he took every opportunity offered to understand languages and new cultures and that has undoubtedly benefitted him.
James now uses English primarily on international projects, such as his work with ‘Horizon Europe’, the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation and James says he is an example that living abroad “can happen to anyone”.
We finished the evening hearing from recent OV Abi Hyde (Br 12-19). Abi is in her second year at the University of Exeter studying French, German and Spanish and she was able to offer her perspective on her current studies and future career aspirations.
Abi loved languages at School, something she said begun at King’s Hawford. Abi took French, German and Politics at A Level knowing that, as well as loving languages themselves she was interested in cultures and politics and policies around the world.
As a part of her degree at Exeter Abi is enjoying many modules based on history and culture and has recently finished an essay on political changes in Berlin and another on French rap music. Abi is also a part of the Women in Law Society, the Model United Nations and is Social Secretary for the French Society.
Abi has a year abroad planned next year, spending time in Paris and Frankfurt. She also hopes to spend some time working in Barcelona in the Summer.
Abi shared how much learning languages have given her strong communication skills and helped her to make friends around the world.
Abi secured an internship with a commercial law company in October, which she was able to complete virtually due to the Coronavirus pandemic and she hopes to study Law after her degree.
The evening was rounded off in breakout rooms where pupils could go to ask OVs questions. Donald for instance was visited by a member of the U6 who was particularly passionate about German and also hoped to work in the City in the future, so there was a lot of advice that he could pass on. Sam was asked by one pupil how they could get into a similar profession in the future and Sam replied “write when nobody is reading”, promoting the idea that you can practice writing as much as possible and that things such as blogs are a brilliant way to begin getting that exposure.
A huge thank you to all the OVs who so generously donated their time on Monday evening to make what was an incredibly inspiring and exciting evening. Each OV speaker brought a new experience and viewpoint to the table, however as the evening progressed, some strong and common themes emerged, predominantly that the study and enjoyment of languages had opened many doors and opportunities for each of the OVs.
Feedback from the evening was incredibly positive with pupils feeling “amazed by the different life-changing opportunities that studying languages at school can offer”, with one pupil “now more focused and determined to become a linguist”. Most powerful was this feedback saying that the “message that stuck the most was that languages take you wherever you like and as far as you wish.”