John's story

23 March 2023

John grew up in a small village just outside Oxford. His family life was difficult at times, as his father struggled with alcoholism. This resulted in his parents’ marriage breaking down when he was a teenager. At 13, John received a bursary to attend a private school in Oxfordshire. He describes this time as being very pressured with long hours at school. “it’s a school where you go from 8:00 am in the morning until 9:00 pm at night.” 

John received many opportunities and skills from his time in private school. This meant that John had a very different educational background from most Environmental Leadership Programme peers. School life changed his perspective on success and ambition. He describes how it changed his mentality about his future, “I think it actually maybe put a bit of a chip on my shoulder, like what your aspirations of what you should gain are.” Upon reflection, John realised that the attitude he gained from school was not the healthiest for him and his future. If anything, my aspirations were perhaps negatively impacted by my school in an unhealthy way but were also quite ambitious.”

After school, he went to the University of Sheffield to study Geography. Upon completing his degree, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to experience life abroad, so he worked as a teaching assistant in Australia for a while. On his return, he began job hunting; this proved to be challenging as he was uncertain about what direction to go in and was often met by unrealistic experience requirements. 

Eventually, he landed a place on the ‘Insurance Consultancy’ graduate scheme at a big 4 consultancy firm. It was at this time that he started the Environmental Leadership Programme. Before starting the programme, John describes himself as being a bit out of touch with reality; his time at school had warped his perspectives on wealth, success, and ambition. John was worried that someone with his background wouldn’t belong on an UpRising programme. Still, once he started, he realised that UpRising could benefit everyone. 

The programme exposed John to a diverse group of people who brought various experiences and expertise to the table. He describes this as particularly important for his development. Whilst he shared an interest in the environment due to his time at university. He had never been exposed to people from different backgrounds. “to meet people from a really diverse range of backgrounds… was really important for me as a person. To just understand different people’s perspectives and different upbringings”.

If I hadn’t done the programme, I probably wouldn’t be in the role I’m in now.

John describes that the confidence he gained from UpRising helped him pursue a role in the environmental-related team. “If I hadn’t done the programme, I probably wouldn’t be in the role I’m in now.” The time on the programme consolidated John’s interest in the environment and has given him the skills to pivot his career in that direction.

Since then, he has started a group at work that campaigned to move away from fossil fuel and environmentally harming investments in consultancy. “I met people… who were really interested in sustainability and climate change.” He continues to be passionate about the role of investments and pensions in decarbonisation and how things must change to achieve net zero.