What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to your years at The Mount?
I would never have expected it, but quite a lot of my memories centre around the Hall: my first ever Morning Meeting (where Year 7s used to have to sit on the stage in front of the whole school..!); being the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland; bursting through the doors in the Christmas panto as a One Direction heartthrob; sitting in silent hysterics next to one of my best friends in Meeting who was wearing a giant cardboard Kracken outfit; and, later, sitting on the stage next to my classmates, laughing and crying as we shared our favourite memories with the rest of the School in our final week. I also have to mention toast. And the amazing school trips.
What is your fondest memory of The Mount?
It has to be when my sister and I swapped classes for a morning. She’s a year older, but everyone got us mixed up at first, so we decided to play a game. I dressed up as a cool Year 8 in her tatty jumper and bracelets, she took my giant Year 7 bag, and off we went to each other’s classes. I tricked her friends into giving me a slice of cake, and she briefly became a celebrity amongst mine. We managed to escape the notice of the teachers, but Year 8 Maths sent me running, begging that we swap back over Choc Lunch. A few weeks later, we happened to be walking through Reception at the same time when we bumped into the Headmistress. She accosted us about the swap, which had begun to filter through school… only to say, “Bravo!”
How important an influence has the Quaker ethos been to you?
Hugely important. The Quaker Advices and Queries that define the School culture have really sunk in as I’ve left school, in particular: “Live adventurously” and “There is that of God in everyone you meet”. The first one spurs me on to live the fullest life I can – travelling as much as possible, meeting as many people as I can, and always taking the more daunting option when faced with a choice. It’s also a good excuse to use when things go wrong! The second one reminds me that everyone has something to teach you. As a Quaker school, The Mount’s focus on supporting charities is something that will always remain with me.
Through your years at university and in your career thus far, are you conscious of any influences from The Mount that helped you?
Being comfortable in silence. I remember when I was at school, hearing old scholars talking to us about how they missed Silent Meeting and wondering whether they meant it or not. I now know they did! University had its stressful moments, and mindfulness really helped me. I also think The Mount develops a quiet confidence and unselfconsciousness in its girls that really becomes apparent as you leave school. If there’s a debate going on, we’re right in the middle of it! This set me up well for fully involving myself in supervisions at Uni. The Mount also has such a gentle way of teaching (never pushing, but always motivating) that brought the best out of me. I don’t think I’d have got the grades I did if I hadn’t “learned to learn” in that environment.
In creating my current role, which I love, I’d been offered a place as a trainee lawyer at London law firm, but I was much more interested in the company’s strategy (being very different from most law firms). To the recruiter’s horror (and my own disbelief), I plucked up the courage to ask if I could join the Head of Strategy as a Strategy Analyst instead and, after a snap interview, he gave me the job! I’m sure that falls under “independent thinking”.
How do you keep in touch with school friends?
I’m lucky enough that a few of my best friends from The Mount live in London with me, so I get to meet up with them regularly. We still do all the same things we did when we were in school (sleepovers, festivals, parties)… it’s just the topics of conversation that have changed! Other friends live in different countries, or other parts of the UK so we might not see each other for months. Of course, as soon as we meet up it’s like no time has passed. It’s amazing what everyone from school is up to now – pursuing PhDs, setting up companies, working with international governments… I can’t think of anyone who’s not living adventurously!
Looking ahead, what are your hopes for your future?
I love the phrase, “Be micro-ambitious”: absolutely throw yourself into whatever you’re doing right now, do it to the best of your ability, and stay light on your feet for the next opportunity. I’m excited to see where I end up in business, whether that’s working in another industry, or living in a completely different city (New York maybe). Either way, I hope to get to a stage in my career where I can mentor other women in business to give them the confidence to excel.
Bryony (2005-2011) studied Linguistics at Homerton College, Cambridge, graduating in 2016 with double-starred first class honours.