Navigating the Jungle Gym – Heather Stevens

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou Insights With Experts

Learn more about Marko by visiting the link: https://markostavrou.webflow.io
  1. Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou
  2. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  3. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  4. Do you think it's luck?
  5. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures

Who?

It was Queen’s University Belfast where Heather Stevens first embarked on her journey in law. After graduating with the Lord Chief justice’s Prize for highest overall marks, she then started to pursue numerous work experiences such as taking on the role of the Head of Human Rights Unit at the Office of the First Minister in Belfast. Soon after, she was selected for the Yale World Fellows Program. Back in Ireland, Mrs Stevens took on the role of being responsible for advising Government Ministers on all issues concerning the health and social care workforce. This included making decisions on a number of health professionals and ensuring that the budget of 98 million GBP was accounted for. Heather Stevens is currently situated in Marlborough College Malaysia, where she plays a marketing and representational role as well as chairing the Charities Committee which co-ordinates the College’s outreach activity. She also delivers leadership programs for the college prefects.  

A Quick Summary

The journey to reach our desired destination isn’t always a straight path, nor does it come without challenges. The ability to enact change genuinely inspired Mrs Stevens and stimulated her passion for law. However, through her first role as a solicitor, she felt she wasn’t fulfilling her goal and wanted to move onto something that could genuinely change the lives of others. As the opportunity came for her to apply for a job in the civil service, it was in law reform, which meant that she could change legislation and make change on a macro level. A struggle she found was present especially in the early days of her career was her inclination to ‘take personal stories home’. As a solicitor, the majority of her daily interactions revolved around dealing with the problems of others. This resultantly turned the experience into an emotionally exhausting one where she felt that she wasn’t really making a difference. Another challenge she came across as she started to take on more senior roles was the need to balance an important work life with the responsibility of raising a son. 

When asked about the presence of influential figures, Mrs Stevens referred to her grandmother as a key source of inspiration in her younger years. Qualities such as having a clear sense of integrity and a strong persona led Mrs Stevens to try and emulate these qualities by doing whatever she did to the best of her abilities. In terms of her years in the civil service, Mrs Stevens derived her influence from watching the figures who were in the higher ranks of her institutions and pinpointed the best characteristics they carried. For example, as Mrs Stevens took heed of certain management techniques from other individuals, she thought about how she could emulate them in the later stages of her life. As a whole, Mrs Stevens tried to see the best in all the individuals she worked with as opposed to finding one particular role model. This way we can be exposed to a variety of qualities in a variety of situations. 

The path that Mrs Stevens embarked on was not always one that she had planned in advance. This example stands at the basis of the fact that it’s never too late for us to redirect our vision. While students shouldn’t be expected to have a definitive path in mind, it is important to think about ‘what matters to you’ and what we feel is important. If we focus on this and what we love, career options and opportunities will follow, especially if we put ourselves out there and show a sense of interest. 

Mrs Stevens’ final piece of advice revolved around the idea there is no definitive route to success or the top of what we want to achieve. Through the analogy of a jungle gym, Mrs Stevens referred to the fact there are multiple ways to the top and we shouldn’t be discouraged if one of the routes we take don’t work out. In conclusion, the youth should be resilient and always open to responding to setbacks. 

From the Guest Student

The Interview was an incredibly insightful experience. As someone who aspires to work in the legal sector, it was interesting to find out the various challenges that Mrs Stevens had faced entering the workforce. I was especially intrigued by Mrs Stevens’ comment on how the concepts of rule of law have been adapted to face the ongoing pandemic. I would highly recommend this podcast series to anyone who wishes to find out more about their intended field of study from an expert. Thank you to the Discere team and Mrs. Stevens for having me on the podcast.

Eden Fall-Bailey

“Life is like a jungle gym, in that there is no one clear path to success”

Heather Stevens

A Passion and a Mission – Priya Krishnan

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here. Who? Priya Krishnan is the founder of KLAY, the largest owned pre-school chain in India with over 200 centres. KLAY has enabled over 20,000 women to get back into the … Continue reading “A Passion and a Mission – Priya Krishnan”

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou Insights With Experts

Learn more about Marko by visiting the link: https://markostavrou.webflow.io
  1. Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou
  2. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  3. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  4. Do you think it's luck?
  5. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures

Who?

Priya Krishnan is the founder of KLAY, the largest owned pre-school chain in India with over 200 centres. KLAY has enabled over 20,000 women to get back into the workforce. In addition, KLAY also employed 3,500 women in its GPW Top 100 team. Priya has won numerous awards, some of them include ET Startup Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 and ET NOW Business Leader of the Year 2020. Beyond entrepreneurship, Priya has over 20 years of experience in numerous strategic, corporate and leadership roles which spans across multiple continents.

A Quick Summary

It was the combination of a passion and mission that motivated Priya Krishnan to start KLAY. Being someone who has years of experience in not just entrepreneurship but working in a corporate environment, Priya could genuinely empathise with women who faced the choice of caring for their children or remaining in the workforce. While Priya was fortunate enough to have good quality childcare and remain at her job, she noticed many other people in her teams quitting due to a lack of good quality childcare. Priya strongly believed that all women should have the choice to remain in the workforce as they wish while having access to quality childcare. This prompted Priya to start KLAY, the result was a company that allowed 20,000 women (and counting) to get back into the workforce. 

When asked about the challenges Priya faced as an entrepreneur, she spoke about the overwhelming accountability that can often be placed on your shoulders, specifically stating that “Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey”. Priya talked about 3 lessons she learnt as an Entrepreneur:

  1. Surround yourself with people who have the ability to support you on your journey. Whether it’s friends, family or co-workers. 
  1. Be conscious of how your teammates and workers evolve as your business moves forward. The mindset of your first set of employees may not be identical to the 5th or 6th wave of employees, as an entrepreneur one needs to be able to sympathise with this constant change. 
  1. Ensuring your business vision is carried over as you attempt to expand. Whether its private equity or venture capital, the other end should be able to acknowledge your vision and intentions for the company. 

When asked about the qualities and characteristics Priya looks for as she brings new people into her business, she spoke about four features:

  1. Attitude. Whether it’s possessing a growth mindset or being positively predisposed, this is a key indicator of their approach to the business. 
  1. Experiences. For example, indicators like whether this person has lived in the same city for all their lives or stuck with the same set of friends can provide insights into their social approach. 
  1. Skills. Considering the uncertainty of which skills will be in demand in the future, Priya expects this quality to rank lower as time goes on. What Priya looks for is specifically the potential of a person to learn new skills and be open to change. 
  1. Work ethic. From schooling life to previous jobs, knowing how the person has functioned in their past experience is a good indicator of how they will function at your firm. 
  1. Personal Discipline. This revolves around not necessarily how the person will balance their work lives with personal lives, but otherwise integrate it with them through discipline. 

Priya’s overall judgment takes into account a confluence of factors, however as a concluding statement, Priya would often empathise and question whether she would want to work for the person she is hiring, if the answer is yes, she is presented with a pretty good indication of the person. 

When asked about the importance of possessing a role model, Priya states that everyone should have one, however should not be limited by only a singular figure. From Priya’s point of view, she talked about having utmost respect for her mother and tried to emulate her qualities throughout her life. In addition, she talked about other figures she looked up to such as Indra Nooyi, an inspirational leader who currently stands as CEO of Pepsico. The effect of having a role model can be amplified by the extent to which we are clear about the qualities of them we wish to emulate. 

To conclude the interview, Priya left us with a valuable piece of advice. That we should maintain trust in ourselves and not be dependent on external validation. Using an example of social media, Priya talked about the need to not peg the value of ourselves to the amount of likes/comments/views we receive. Instead, we should trust our instincts and believe in ourselves. 

“Trust in your instincts and believe in yourself”

Priya Krishnan

Empowerment through Social Media – DearAlyne

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here. WHO? Alyne Tamir or Dear Alyne as she is commonly known, is a social media influencer and content creator. Alyne’s Facebook page has over 2 Million followers from 80 countries … Continue reading “Empowerment through Social Media – DearAlyne”

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou Insights With Experts

Learn more about Marko by visiting the link: https://markostavrou.webflow.io
  1. Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou
  2. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  3. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  4. Do you think it's luck?
  5. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures

WHO?

Alyne Tamir or Dear Alyne as she is commonly known, is a social media influencer and content creator. Alyne’s Facebook page has over 2 Million followers from 80 countries around the world. The content created is mainly focused on social issues such as health care, environmentalism, gender equality and many more. In addition to content creation, Alyne also runs Girls Gone Global by Dear Alyne, a Facebook Group with over 125,000+ women who want to improve their lives and as well as the world around them. Alyne has even interviewed global presidents of states such as Malta and Taiwan. When it comes to the world of social media and influencing, it’s safe to say that there are not many people doing it better than DearAlyne! 

A QUICK SUMMARY:

Becoming a social media influencer wasn’t always on Alyne’s agenda. In fact, she grew up in Los Angeles aspiring to become an actress. However, after contemplation she eventually ended up in a more ‘practical’ job. It was not until she was 28 that she began to actively pursue social media. When reflecting on this aspect of her journey, she reminded us that life is not as short as we think, in a sense that it is never too late to start our ambitions. Through small steps at a time we can achieve our goals. What stimulated her passion for social media were the flaws she saw engaging in it as a consumer. The lack of purposeful content on the internet led Alyne to take matters into her own hands and produce content that she believed would genuinely make the world a better place. 

When asked how the youth can use social media as a tool to not only empower themselves but others, Alyne talked about her journey as an influencer. She believes that before we empower others, we need to empower ourselves; ensuring that we are independent in numerous ways. This suggested the idea that we shouldn’t feel as though we are responsible to everyone. We should advocate for issues and messages which we feel a sense of empathy for, others should be empowered by advocating what they can empathise with. 

While social media has brought countless benefits to our society, there is also the rising concern of users looking for validation in the form of likes and views. Alyne highlights this danger by assuring that we should keep a clear distinction between audience validation and value in content. Essentially meaning we shouldn’t judge our content on the basis of its audience response but otherwise the value that the world can derive from the content to make itself a better place. Even while we can use audience data as a barometer, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our self esteem as content creators. As powerfully put by Alyne, “Do you care about any views? Or views that will make a difference…”.  

In recent times, there has been a growing realisation that the education system needs a change, one that focuses on the individual ambitions of students. What social media allows for students is the ability to education themselves and supplement what they learn at school in accordance to their interests. What we learnt is that social media as an educational tool does not only help students learn in accordance to their interests but share what they learn and teach others. In addition, what social media allows for the sharing of content that wouldn’t necessarily be found in schools, such as life skills. 

As we concluded our interview, Alyne left the youth with a very valuable piece of advice. She stated that we should always continue to improve and develop ourselves, even if the opportunity to use these skills are not staring us in the face we should always look to grow beyond our bubbles. In doing so, the world might just be a better place.

“Always keep improving yourself, even if you do not know what you are going to use these improvements for in the future.”

Alyne Tamir

If you’d like to recommend us an expert to interview, or have any questions, suggestions or feedback in any shape or form, feel free to send us an email:

experts@discere.org

A Headmaster’s View on the Next Generation of Education – Alan Stevens

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here. Who? It was Ireland’s oldest school; Royal School Dungannon, where Mr Stevens was first educated. From here he followed his passion for History to study at Queen’s University, Belfast, where he … Continue reading “A Headmaster’s View on the Next Generation of Education – Alan Stevens”

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou Insights With Experts

Learn more about Marko by visiting the link: https://markostavrou.webflow.io
  1. Entrepreneur, Speaker, Podcaster; Marko Stravou
  2. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  3. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  4. Do you think it's luck?
  5. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures

Who?

It was Ireland’s oldest school; Royal School Dungannon, where Mr Stevens was first educated. From here he followed his passion for History to study at Queen’s University, Belfast, where he achieved a First Class degree. His first role as an educator was seen through Campbell College, where he became a housemaster and the Head of History. Before embarking on the next stage of his career at Trent College in England as Head of Main School, Mr Stevens completed a period of research at Yale University and gained an MA in Educational Management and Leadership. In 2010, he was then appointed Headmaster of Barnard Castle School in 2010. Followed by this is his current appointment as Headmaster of Marlborough College Malaysia. Outside of his role as an educator, Mr Stevens was commissioned in the UK reserve forces and acts as an inspector with the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

A Quick Summary

Best put by Mr. Stevens, inspiration is the catalyst to pursuing your interests. The feeling we get when something enlightens us and leaves us challenged is what moves us forward. While a passionate historian, Mr Stevens admits to not liking all the topics he studied, and what we learnt is that there is an element of naturality to this. His interests were leaned over to the study of historiography; the study of the practice of history. In addition to historical content, specific figures during his youth such as his history teacher would go on to ‘genuinely inspire’ Mr Stevens. Highlighting the extent to which educational figures can impact our lives.

While Mr Steven’s journey was one that was evidently enjoyed. It did not come without the presence of a challenge. The most prominent of which was time. Time builds a sense of pressure that forces us to make specific choices and possibly even sacrifice elements of our lives for more strategic matters. Mr Stevens witnessed his passion for teaching history erode with the fact that he has to take on headmaster commitments. However, as seen from Mr Stevens experiences, we grow at the hands of  a challenge. This was seen through his substitution of teaching with events such as working with prefects, observing teachers in action, lectern clubs, etc. 

In addition to time, our personality traits can often clash with the roles we are expected to fulfill. As many of us might as well, Mr Stevens considers himself an introvert. A characteristic that often contrasts with the confident and public role of a leader. However, as resilient people, we must stretch ourselves and aim to get better in the areas we are less confident in. But while qualities such as public speaking often compose successful leaders, Mr Stevens would argue that the core quality of a leader lies in their philosophy, integrity and thought as he referred to Barack Obama as a celebrated example. Furthermore, when taken into the perspective of a team, a dangerous composition can often be surrounding yourself with clones, differences should be acknowledged and embraced. 

In recent years, that has been an increased realisation for the need to incorporate softs skills and emotional intelligence into our schooling curriculums. Mr Stevens acknowledges the prevalence of exam focused teaching systems, especially in the APAC region of the world. While he is an educator, he is also an employer. Mr Stevens values the need for empathy, communication, flexibility as well as other soft skills when looking for people to join his work teams. Acknowledging the importance of these skills, he integrates them into teaching the students in his school. However, how that is executed is a different story. Mr Stevens compares teaching emotional intelligence to teaching swimming, in the sense that it cannot be done in a classroom but instead a pool. Suggesting that if we aim to develop these skills, students must be taught through experience and action. This is seen through pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, immersing ourselves in new communities among other emotionally developing activities. 

Another academic realisation emerging is the preparation for uncertainty. Change has been exponential, and we should be educating our students in accordance to this coming change. While technology and math compose the majority of this new era, Mr Stevens would argue that education is about discovering your potential and passion. Referring to Jack Ma, education should be about teaching students what machines can’t do, skills that involve emotional intelligence. This would entail maintaining the importance of breath in learning. As a macro view, Mr Stevens referred to two main components to this learning; problem solving over memory testing and being open to inspiration.   

To conclude our interview, Mr Stevens left us with a valuable piece of advice; “don’t do what is expected of you”. By this he suggested that we should not feel pressured to do things that don’t necessarily inspire us. The weight of expectation is often what limits us and we should escape this by giving ourselves room to flourish and embrace the unexpected. 

Don’t just do what’s expected of you, embrace the unexpected, explore what’s possible and give yourself permission to flourish

Alan Stevens

Marlborough College Malaysia is a prestigious British boarding school located in Johor, Malaysia; learn more here.