Alumni - Class of 2011

Jake Beech

Jake Beech

The Route You Took After School
After Year 13 I joined Bristol University to do a Bachelor’s of Arts in Anthropology.

What You Do Now
After completing my degree in July 2014 I moved to London and began working at an IT recruitment firm in the City. I started as a ‘resourcer’ and within 3 months had broken the company record for the highest resourcing income generated in 1 month – a feat which I believe still stands today. From this, I was promoted to Principal Consultant and tasked with setting up a ‘Cyber Security’ division. Over the next 9 months, I built an EMEA client base with a small team of 3 individuals whom I managed. In the 12 months at this organisation I actually referred in 3 other ex-Hanley pupils, so at one time there were 4 Hancastrians all working in the same office.

On my 1 year anniversary at that company, I quit and set up my own recruitment firm with one other colleague. We decided to focus purely on Cyber Security, covering the US and Israeli markets. It was an incredibly fractious start with my old firm endeavouring to sue me. They did not have a case but was simply due to sour grapes. This legal battle lasted nearly 10 months, however, we successfully managed to fight off this litigation and my company has now been trading for roughly 3 years, with clients from across the globe; the US, Canada and Israel for example.

How Hanley Helped
The impact Hanley had cannot be overstated. Nowadays when applying to university it is not enough to merely have ‘good grades’. To put it bluntly, you need different facets and accomplishments that help you stand out – eg in practical terms for your UCAS application.

At Hanley I completed the Gold Duke of Edinburgh, went to Germany twice and was offered the chance to participate in numerous smaller opportunities; becoming Head Boy, taking part in 6th Form debates, being involved in the various different positions on the committees, organising events and chairing political and religious debates at Worcester Cathedral for example.

Now I hear that there are even more opportunities; local volunteering, trips to China, Africa and even Auschwitz to become an Ambassador. While these are undoubtedly fantastic experiences these also help you set yourself apart because when it comes to two identical sets of grades, you need something – whether it be on your job or UCAS application - to ensure that you are picked.

In a less practical sense, Hanley gave me the chance to develop as an individual. I was consistently challenged which helped engender a sense of tenacity which I have needed, not only to fight off a legal battle but also navigate the challenges presented when running your own business.
In summary, I would not be who I am and not be where I am, were it not for the support and opportunities offered by Hanley Castle High School that has been integral to my development and success after leaving school.


Callum Berryman


The route you took after school
After leaving Hanley I went straight to university to study Mechanical engineering. Engineering is a really good progression from Maths and Physics, taking the basic principles learnt from years 7-13 and applying them to challenging and real world problems. Doing Engineering, it isn’t long before you are tackling problems that simply don’t yet have a solution, this level of problem solving is really what I love most about studying engineering.
As with a lot of degree programmes, my degree was a ‘sandwich’ degree, meaning you do a year of work placement in a company by your own choosing. I’d already done some summer work at an Aerospace Engineering company (Ultra Electronics) and continued there for my placement. This is something I can’t recommend enough to everyone who goes to university. After finishing my placement I was a student transformed. Gone were the days of doing coursework the day before the deadline, late nights cramming revision into my caffeine fuelled brain and narrowly scraping through exams. Work had given me a passion to know more and understand more that I had wholly not been expecting.
In the next two years I finished my Bachelors and Master’s degree in Engineering, then went back to the same Aerospace Company to continue work. However since then, my life has taken a significant detour.
In the summer between my Bachelors and Master’s degree I’d become interested in learning Chinese. I’d been backpacking for a couple of months in Asia and found myself unexpectedly spending a month in China, I later found myself returning to Taiwan to do a 3 month Summer semester at Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學). Now that I’d started work, I was keen to exploit any opportunity to get myself back to Asia and learning Chinese again. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long. With most of the world attempting to expand to China, I suggested to my Managing Director that he send me off to learn as much as I could, he agreed, and my Chinese journey began…

What you do now
After my work sent me to Asia, I stayed for a second 3 months in Taiwan, before moving to Beijing. I studied Chinese on an intensive course at Tsinghua University (清华大学) for 9 months and then moved on to Shanghai, where I am now. I’m at Shanghai Jiao tong University now (上海交通大学). In total, I’ve been studying for about 20 Months, and in that time I’ve achieved professional working proficiency.
Looking forward, our businesses plan is to begin manufacturing, developing a supply chain and trying to exploit new market opportunities in China. With me being our only Chinese speaking employee in a company that turns over a billion USD, I’m hoping this leaves me in a good position to put my problem solving to the test once more.

How Hanley may have helped
Hanley was 100% the place where I developed a passion for problem solving. I learn by being challenged, and I find in most schools and institutions they teach a certain syllabus without any deviation from the standard. This means that the weaker students find it too hard, and the stronger students find it too easy. What Hanley did really well was keep everyone in the class challenged to the right degree, so nobody is getting disheartened and nobody is getting bored. To use an analogy, a fire needs the right sized log to keep the fire going, throw on a huge log, and it won’t burn, throw on too small a log, and the fire goes out for lack of fuel. Looking back, I think the best thing Hanley did for me, was kept that fire burning to its highest potential.

James O’Keeffe

Jams OKeeffe

The route I took after school
After school I decided to stay on at Hanley 6th form to take my A-Levels in Maths, Physics, Biology and Music. At this point I was not at all certain of what I wanted to do, but I eventually came to the decision that Physics was my favourite of the subjects I was studying and that I wanted to continue with it at University. I was lucky to be offered a place at Queen Mary University of London, and after 3 years I graduated with a 2.1 BSc (hons) in Physics. During my undergraduate degree I got my first exposure to computer programming. Once I had graduated I moved back to Worcestershire and got a job with QinetiQ in Malvern. This work experience proved to be pivotal for me, as I quickly developed a passion for robotics and artificial intelligence. It was then that I started to apply for funding to do a PhD in robotics, and after some initial disappointment, was awarded a scholarship at the University of York. The PhD was a fantastic experience, and allowed me to focus on a subject that I was passionate about whilst also enabling me to develop rapidly as an effective researcher. My thesis was on developing artificial immune systems for swarms of robots. The biological inspiration behind this work was something I found fascinating and am currently pursuing a career in.

What you do now
I am employed as a researcher at Newcastle University. I am investigating how the praying mantis’ eyesight works. The praying mantis is the only known invertebrate that is able to see in 3D because it has two eyes, and it does this in a fundamentally different way to humans. Our long term goal is to equip robots with ‘mantis vision’ so that they can see in 3D.

How Hanley may have helped
What I am doing now is entirely possible because of my decision to stay on at Hanley Castle 6th form. I was constantly pushed and challenged during the two years, which resulted in me applying for University — something which had not previously felt like an option. The teachers encouraged my friends and I to form a band; performing live greatly improved my confidence and helped shape the person that I am today.

Kat Lewis

Kat Lewis

The route you took after school
I decided to stay on at Hanley Sixth Form after school to complete my A - Levels. As a student who initially wasn't sure what career path to take, I undertook subjects that I was interested in including Art, Maths, Biology & Physical Education. After attending numerous open days at various universities around the country, I was toying with the idea of being an architect or an engineer. I eventually settled on civil engineering and went on to pursue a Bachelors of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Plymouth.

What I do Now?
After graduating university, I worked for an engineering consultancy firm for just under a year; I then had the opportunity to travel and work in Canada and decided to take the plunge and moved out to British Columbia with only a suitcase (no job leads & accommodation) in May 2016. I went on the active pursuit for a job in my field of study and landed on my feet a few months later working as a Junior Civil Engineer in the transportation team for an engineering firm called AECOM at their Vancouver office. So far in this position, I have had the opportunity to work on projects giving me the option to fly across Canada visiting various sites, which has been an amazing experience and has given me the chance to get a taste of the country and its vast landscape.

How Hanley May Have Helped
I thoroughly enjoyed my time Hanley. I had a fantastic network of friends, of whom I still keep in touch with now as well as an excellent support network of teachers who helped me to focus and supported my every step on achieving my career goals. During my time at school, I threw myself into extracurricular activities such as Gold Duke of Edinburgh, and I was voted in Head Girl of Sixth form in year 13 while going on to achieve the Lechmere medal. These opportunities have helped to provide confidence in myself and the determination to succeed while stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Camilla Barnes

Millie Barnes 2

The route you took after school
I studied A levels at Hanley Sixth Form. I then took a year out to work in a children’s day nursery. I went on to uni to study Bsc Early Years Development & Education, I continued studying after my undergrad and studied MSc Play & Therapeutic Play (both at the university of South Wales.) Whilst studying for my masters I began working part time for Pyjama Drama South Wales, then I moved back to Worcestershire.

What you do now
I run Pyjama Drama South Worcestershire. Having worked for the company in Cardiff, I missed it dearly when I moved home, so I decided to take the plunge and buy the South Worcestershire territory. Two years on and I have built a successful business teaching drama and imaginary play classes to young children. The business has really taken off and as I approach my third year of trading, I am very much looking forward to continuing the growth.

Millie Barnes 1

How Hanley may have helped
I had some wonderful teachers who were really supportive during my A levels. I have also maintained close contact with a few of my teachers, one of which organised a placement week for me within the schools Aspire department for my undergrad degree. This gave me a brilliant insight into the work of the SENCO and the SEN department, which subsequently inspired me to go on and work as a 1:1 SEN support for a young boy in a local holiday club.