The period of the pandemic has proved to be a somewhat surreal but exciting one for me. I have come out of it with a new career, a new life as an author with my first book published, and also as a new Governor of the School.
I owe Brentwood a great deal. I was there for two years (the years of my GCSEs, 1990 to 1992) but they were highly influential ones in my life.
During my teenage years my parents had taken an adventurous stint as doctors in the Saudi Arabian National Health Service, and my brother and I had spent seven very happy years in the British International school in Jeddah.
Then the Gulf War erupted. We left Saudi Arabia abruptly because of my parents' fear that it would disrupt our education. I still remember being interviewed by Mr Jackson who told us: "How can we not take you in, given the circumstances?" It was a gesture of kindness I'll never forget.
Getting used to the UK was a real shock of many kinds for me: of weather, culture, food, you name it. I was lucky to make a great circle of friends from the school bus I took everyday from Hornchurch to Brentwood and back.
Most of all though I was lucky to have a great teacher in Paul Henderson, who was my English teacher. He helped me believe in my own potential, and that confidence transferred to my other subjects. Despite joining midway through, I ended up with strong GCSEs and that eventually led me onto Cambridge where I read Economics.
I think the time at Brentwood sparked an adventurous spirit. I learned to acclimatise to a new situation, new people and friends and still feel confident in myself. Those hallmarks have very much been a feature of my career. After spending the first ten years of my career in the corporate world, I went on to found two education charities.
The most recent one, STiR Education, ended up re-igniting the motivation of 200,000 teachers, 35,000 teachers and 7 million children in developing countries. I became deeply fascinated by the questions of motivation more broadly. This led me to write my first book "Intrinsic", which came out a few weeks ago and was published by Octopus Publishing, part of the Hachette Group (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Intrinsic-re-ignite-inner-drive-rewards-based/dp/1913068382/). I mentioned the role the School played in my life in the book.
It's all about how we can re-ignite our inner-drive (or intrinsic motivation) in the key aspects of our life, such as our work, careers, relationships, parenting and as citizens. The book has had some wonderful endorsements from bestselling authors like Dan Heath and Sir Anthony Seldon, all the way to former BBC Dragon Nick Jenkins to the People Director of Booking.com and the former Prime Minister of Greece. It also had front page cover feature on the Telegraph's Saturday section.
It's been a really tough time for us all motivationally through the pandemic and I hope the book can make a genuine difference to people's lives. I now make a living by advising a range of organisations - from corporations to governments to foundations - around the motivation related challenges they are facing, which has obviously been a key issue for many of us through the pandemic.
During this time I reconnected with Michael Bond and the School, and gave a talk to the Sixth Form on how to stay motivated through the challenges of remote learning, missing friends and new systems for exams.
It was a real honour to have been invited to apply to become a Governor of the School, and very much enjoyed meeting Sir Michael and the other Trustees at my first Governor's meeting.
Becoming a Governor feels like life has come full circle - and a great way to repay my own debt of gratitude for the School and the role it played in a very important stage of my life. I'm excited to serve and contribute, and very much like to connect with other OBs and current parents and learn about their thoughts and experiences. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Life really has come full circle for me through the pandemic, but in a very positive way.