There is an inner-city housing estate in Birmingham where my school used to be. Frankly, I don’t miss it much. I have never really understood the saying “School days are the best days of your life“, it sounds too pessimistic to say to a 16 or 18 year old that you’ve already reached the highlight of your life. Before it closed it was pretty poor academically – the bottom ranked school in one of the bottom ranked areas in the country. In the school’s 80 odd years of existence, only two pupils went to Oxford or Cambridge University (I never did find out who the other one was) and in my year of about 180, only 4 of us went on to university.
Despite my bleak picture, I enjoyed it. A few of the teachers genuinely did care about the kids – a couple in particular noticed that I did well in lessons and made a real effort through extra homework or giving me a book to read and offer to chat about it. I guess I was lucky in that though these few teachers did help, I was always pretty determined about what I wanted – I could see that messing around in class wasn’t going to get me to the places I wanted to be. I don’t think I was a swot or a nerd – I played in the school football team, had lots of friends etc, but I did realise no-one was going to hand me anything on a plate.
That ethic stayed with me. When I first went to Cambridge where a lot of the students tried to be “effortlessly clever”, I could see it was an act and I never felt uncool in admitting that the harder I worked the better my achievements were, these same principles worked after I graduated and I started work in the City.
I am now a European Legal Council for Apollo, which is a global investment company. I’ve lived, worked and travelled in a lot of great places. I used to say any success was despite my school, not because of it. I now think that’s unfair – it just made me more determined.
European Council, Apollo Global Management