City Alumni Network

Category Archives: Alumni Stories

Alumni recognised in 2020 New Year Honours list

Alumni Stories.

Each year the New Year’s Honours list recognises the achievements and services of people across the UK, from all walks of life. Alongside many famous names, such as Olivia Newton-John and cricketer Ben Stokes OBE, City is delighted to share that seven of our alumni have been recognised for their commitment to various services, including healthcare, inclusiveness, homelessness, entrepreneurship, music and dance.

Congratulations to all of the alumni recognised!

Here are your City, University of London alumni on the New Year Honours list:

  • Mrs Jeanette A Howe (MHM Health Management, 1993)
    • OBE for services to Pharmacy
    • Howe has been one of the most influential figures in shaping community pharmacy for the past two decades. She was a major influence behind the 2004-05 ‘new contract’ and was the lead responsible officer in the Department of Health for the Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme. Howe was a lead government negotiator for the most recent round of community pharmacy contractual reforms which saw £208 million cut from the pharmacy contractual reforms. She is also credited as being largely responsible for the creation of the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education in 1991, following the publication of the ‘Promoting Better Health’ white paper in 1987, and was instrumental in managing its survival through subsequent NHS re-organisations and changes of government.
  • Professor Dr Jane Melton (PhD Nursing, 2010)
    • MBE for services to Mental Health and People with Learning Disabilities
    • Professor Melton has worked with people who have learning disabilities and people experiencing mental illness for the majority of her 30-year NHS career. Her exceptional service and outstanding contribution to her profession was recognised in 2012 when she was awarded a Fellowship of the royal College of Occupational Therapists. Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Paul Roberts said: “This honour is richly deserved. Jane has made a huge contribution to improving the lives of people who use our services, as well as furthering developments in therapy and recovery-focused programmes for people with mental health and learning disability conditions locally, nationally and internationally.”
  • Ms Polly (Mary) J Neate (PG Dip Periodical Journalism, 1989)
    • CBE for services to Homelessness
    • Neate has led on public policy, campaigns, research, communications, brand, fundraising and the relaunch of one of the UK’s largest charities, Action for Children. As well as leading all the organisation’s external influencing activities, she developed organisational strategy and led significant cultural change and staff engagement programmes. Neate is a journalist by profession with her last job as a journalist being editor of Community Care, a major weekly title for professionals in children’s services and social care, which under her control included two magazines as well as web-based products and large-scale events. She won several awards as an editor, both for journalism and campaigning. She has been a member of several advisory and working groups for government and opposition. Neate was recently voted one of the Top 30 charity CEOs on Twitter.
  • Ms Judith Palmer (MA Cultural Management, 2009)
    • MBE for services to Dance
    • Palmer is the CEO African Heritage UK and an independent dance artist with an expertise in African dance. Her specialism is analysing and teaching the forms she worked with Adzido Pan-African dance Ensemble as Principal dancer. Palmer was Chair of the Board of the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora for six years and spent 14 years with the IRIE. She is currently running African Heritage UK which is a unique agency that delivers masterclasses, technique training, and mentoring for artists working within the genre.
  • Mr Michael Plaut (Marketing MBA, 1986)
    • OBE for services to Business and Entrepreneurship
    • Plaut is the Managing Director of Northmace & Hendon, a leading hospitality company founded by his father and fellow City alumnus Rudi Plaut CBE (Civil Engineering, 1954). Between 2016 and 2018, he was the Chairman of CBI Wales, helping to make Wales more prosperous. Plaut has advised the Shadow Cabinet on SME business policy and has regularly commented on business and economic matters on both national and regional television and radio. He chaired and co-authored a report for a Welsh think tank titled “Wales: time for a realistic perspective” and the CBI’s influential report “Facing the Future”. He has also worked as investment banker, involved in capital raising, flotations, and latterly mergers & acquisitions. Michael is a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and is a Trustee of The Lady Tangye Charitable Trust.
  • Mr Harry Virdee (Mathematical Sciences, 2004)
    • BEM for services to the BAME community and to Diversity and Inclusion
    • Virdee won the award for his charitable work in his capacity as trustee for the City Sikhs Foundation. He is a leading supporter and advocate for City Sikhs since it was founded in October 2010 as a network for British Sikh professionals. His vision, guidance and advise has seen it develop into one of the leading Sikh organisations in the country with more than 7,000 individual members. Throughout his life, he has championed diversity and fairness. He also has worked with a number of charities to raise awareness amongst the BAME community on issues such as promoting living organ donations and bone marrow transplants.
  • Dr Roy Wales (MA Arts Administration, 1979)
    • BEM for services to Choral Music
    • Wales is well known for creating and directing the annual Spring Music Festival and Rottingdean Arts, which promotes musical events on the Terraces Stage and in other village venues. He has directed more than 30 music and arts festivals in the past. With more than 50 years of extensive international experience as a conductor and in educational and arts management, he has been the director of many music schools and has sang at the Royal Opera House, while being the conductor of many orchestras and choirs. He is currently Music Director of the English Concert Orchestra, English Concert Singers and Chorus and The London Chorale.

Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

helen lewisHelen Lewis (Newspaper Journalism, 2005) was a part of an exceptionally talented year of graduates from City’s Journalism Department. Helen went on to follow her passion for Journalism immediately after graduating and was successful in securing a trainee position with Daily Mail. Although it was difficult to go through a series of placements around the country Helen’s talent was considerable and soon she found success as a Journalist.

Having written about feminism for nearly a decade, Helen has now addressed it in a more considered and substantial way in her first book Difficult Women: A history of Feminism in 11 Fights, now available for pre-order and releasing fully on Thursday 27th February. In the blog below you can get a glimpse of the difficulties and rewarding moments Helen experienced while writing the book as well as read of her starting years in City.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

It’s probably a bad reflection on my character that my most vivid memory of City is the horror of 9am shorthand classes, and therefore the inevitable rush hour interchange at London Bridge. It was a strong incentive to reach 100 words per minute as quickly as possible. My class included some great journalists, such as Alan White of Buzzfeed, Damon Wake of AFP, Sarah Weaver of the BBC and Devika Bhat, now at the Guardian. It’s weird to see their tweets and articles – Devika wrote an incredibly moving piece about miscarriage recently – and realise I’ve known them for more than a decade.

What happened after you graduated?

I got a place on the Daily Mail’s subbing trainee scheme, alongside another couple of people from the postgraduate course. That was reassuring as our training year involved a series of placements around the country, starting in the small village of Howden in Yorkshire. Going to City definitely helped me get that job – Linda Christmas, who ran the course at the time, was renowned as a talent-spotter, and so you came with a “pre-vetted” stamp – and to be prepared for a year living out of a suitcase.

Tell us about your most recent achievement?

I’ve just published my first book, Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights, with Jonathan Cape. It’s the result of nearly a decade of writing about feminism, and more than a year’s research into the specific women I have written about. After returning repeatedly to the subject in columns and features, it felt good to address it in a more considered, substantial way. The thread through it is the idea of “difficulty” – both the struggle to make social change, and the qualities you need to achieve it. As I write in the book, “most revolutionaries are not . . . nice”. The Suffragettes conducted an arson campaign. The “strikers in saris” of the 1970s picketed factories and were accused of fomenting civil unrest. I finish with the story of three older women in Derry who bought abortion drugs off the internet and essentially dared the government to imprison them. You don’t get change by asking politely.

Through your research for the book, what has been the most rewarding experience?

Meeting and talking to some of the forgotten icons of the Second Wave of feminism, from Erin Pizzey – founder of the first women’s refuge in Britain – to Maureen Colquhoun, the first openly lesbian MP at Westminster. These were tough, complicated women and trying to present their stories in all their complexity was quite an undertaking.

What has been the most challenging experience?

Trying to marshall so much information into a 350-page book was always going to be tricky. I haven’t written anything like a comprehensive history of feminism, and my own biases inevitably show through: it is easier to write about women who left behind memoirs or gave evidence to public inquiries. It’s easier to study the letters of middle and upper-class Suffragettes than someone like Annie Kenney, who left school at 11 to work in a mill. I’ve ended up with a very personal, imperfect, quirky history of feminism, and I hope people embrace that.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Write as much as you can. It’s too easy to get stage fright when writing because every sentence is not coming out like Shakespeare. But the initial draft is just a starting point. Writing a book meant paying much more attention to structure than you would for a column or feature, so I would advise anyone contemplating a book to sketch out the idea thoroughly first. You can stop for digressions along the way, but you need to know what your end-point is, or it risks being a pointless ramble.

Thank you to Helen for sharing her story!

Signed copies of Difficult Women are available from Waterstones!

Looking for something Scandinavian, stylish and sustainable? Introducing DELINDH!

Alumni Stories.

Noticing a gap in the market for a men’s premium dress shirt brand, Anton Lindh (MSc Finance with a Specialism in Corporate Finance, 2012) has launched his own high-quality fashion business with his girlfriend, Charlotta, which comes at an affordable price. Through the art of craftsmanship and the aim to be more sustainable, DELINDH offers a range of shirts with a Scandinavian style, which are completely made from materials approved by the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world, Better Cotton Initiative.

Find out more about Anton and DELINDH here:

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

Through being granted the Dr. Tech. Marcus Wallenberg Scholarship, I was given the opportunity to study at Cass Business School on the MSc Finance program (class of 2011/2012). It was a truly amazing and rewarding time, both academically and personally. My time in London was very enriching in so many ways and I really enjoyed my time at Cass by getting the opportunity to learn from some of the best professors and students in the industry, as well as making friends for life. Academically, I very much appreciated the practical orientation of the courses and where professors came in with real life experience into the classroom, which made the studies much more vibrant and interesting for me as a student. I also felt my studies gave me a head start in my career and learnings for life, which I brought into my entrepreneurial path when co-founding my company DELINDH.

What happened after you graduated?

After Cass, I went into banking (the “mandatory” way like many of my fellow classmates) and did M&A for two years, followed by working at an investment fund, Proventus Capital Partners, for three years, both located in Stockholm. Following my enrolment in the financial industry I felt I wanted to try out what is was like at a real company and went into a mixed investor relations/business development role at a fast-growing gaming company. However, I always – since before and after my time at Cass – felt that I was going to become an entrepreneur one day and start my own company.

How did the idea of DELINDH come about?

During my time in the financial industry and as a major consumer of men’s dress shirts, I really felt that this segment was very divided and old fashioned – both in terms of the product offering and go to market model. Either there were low cost men’s dress shirt brands with low price tags and a quality level that really wasn’t made to last and wearing these shirts did not give the right feeling of being on top of the game for a workday. On the other hand, there were a number of premium brands, with great quality, feel and slick design but which came at a cost and a very high price tags, e.g. £180-200 for a white twill shirt, which made filling up the shirt wardrobe a very expensive (recurring) project. Both segments were also very old fashioned in their offering models, having a huge reliance on numerous middlemen in sales and production.

I was happy to share this view of the market with my girlfriend Charlotta, with a background from the textile and fashion industry. We saw a gap for a men’s premium dress shirt brand with a truly high-quality feel, which could focus on craftsmanship and offering a really simple and affordable process for the customer.

Therefore, we decided to sell our newly refurbished apartment in downtown Stockholm and quit our high paying jobs to go down the entrepreneurial (low cost living) life and to start our shirt brand DELINDH. Our idea, which we later came to materialize by launching DELINDH during the Christmas of 2019, was to offer high-quality and sustainable premium men’s dress shirts made with fair working conditions in Europe and to create shirts that were made to last a long time. A premium dress shirt in a modern Scandinavian design and at an accessible price point with sales only through our own e-commerce channel to deliver as much value as possible to the end customer. Our idea has always been to be very considerate by partnering up with only the best manufacturing partners in Europe with the right experience and understanding of the craftsmanship of making a men’s premium dress shirts. There are really only a handful of these manufacturing companies in the whole world and all are located in Europe. In addition, we have also been very selective with our materials and only used BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) certified long staple cotton from the US. All to deliver a sustainable premium men’s dress shirt with the highest possible quality and feeling for the end customer – all at an accessible price and only online.

What have been the biggest challenges?

I cannot point to one single obstacle, but things take time and are costlier than expected. In addition, there are many “unknowns”. Charlotta and I were starting a business for the first time ever and as it was a new venture, we had no external retailers or brands to rely on. Excel and spreadsheets are great tools (which I used a lot in the financial industry) but in real life, other parameters will also come into play and affect your strategy and operations – ultimately taking you more time than expected. Thus, facing challenges and overcoming them also prepares one better for future obstacles, in my opinion.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Everything! As an entrepreneur you are facing so many challenges, ups and downs and different “roles” within the company, from logistics, product development to customer service. So, the most rewarding feeling is the positive responses and feedback from our customers (and all other supporters), which is the ultimate proof that our idea and business model is working – a truly great feeling! We have been very fortunate as DELINDH has had a great start and numerous customers have returned in such a short time span, which of course has been very rewarding.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

This might come across as a bit cliché but just do it! Life is too short to wait for the perfect moment or timing for your idea. You must try your idea in real life to assess if it is working or not, as in the end the customer will decide – in a more fiercely competitive, fast phased and changing landscape than ever before.

I have never had such a steep learning curve before and I personally felt prepared by both my studies at Cass and the work experience I had had prior to co-founding DELINDH.

Thank you to Anton for sharing his success with us! Visit DELINDH for more information or check it out on Facebook and Instagram

Chasing your opportunities and passion are the only guarantees for success

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

zoe morris

Zoë Morris (Social Sciences – Psychology, 1998) carved out her career with precision and passion. During her time in City, Zoë maintained a focus on her future, balancing a job next to her studies to get the most out of her time. Understanding the importance of wellbeing, she made sure her schedule included enough activities to de-stress. After graduating, Zoë took up a graduate training programme with a brewery, which was hard work but taught her fantastic life and career skills, working in a male-dominated environment she learned how to make herself noticed and ensured her talents were recognised. Throughout the graduate programme, Zoë learned that her passion lied in working with people.

In 2000, armed with a new goal, a wealth of experience and fantastic skills, Zoë began working at Hays plc, a global recruitment agency, where she worked herself up to a directorial position. Then, harnessing her great potential, she joined Frank Recruitment Group in 2016 as Chief Operations Officer, later becoming President of the company.

Through her career, Zoë didn’t allow complications to deter her from succeeding and achieving her goal. She continued to push forward and remained determined to bring success to both herself and her team.

Find out more about Zoë and how her hard work allowed her to establish a successful career below:

Can you tell me about your time at City?
The most important lesson I learnt at City was the value of hard work and the importance of balance. Managing my studies with a 25-plus hour-a-week job taught me how to get the most out of life mixing studies, work, and relaxation, and also of course how to live independently, prioritise, and manage my finances.

Sometimes university can seem stressful so having the right balance in your life is important. For me, the joy of living in the heart of the capital city, combined with the sense of achievement from my studies, letting off steam at the gym alongside the support of the reliable network of my life-long friends that I made at City made it a memorable period of my life.

What happened after you graduated?
After graduating from City in 1998, I was hired for a two-year graduate training programme at the Belgian brewery company, Interbrew, later bought by the British multinational company Whitbread.

Most of my time was spent on the road meeting eight clients a day and left little time for mentoring and coaching. It was hard work and through this experience, I gained a confidence that enabled me to persevere in a predominantly male-dominated environment and successfully negotiate on behalf of the company.
The time alone on the road at Interbrew made me realise that what I really wanted from life was to work with people, and hence I left to pursue a career in recruitment. When I began working for Hays plc, I found working closely with people to find their dream job was so much more rewarding than working alone to sell a product.

Can you tell us more about how you established your career?
I began my career at Hays plc, starting out as a junior recruitment consultant and eventually worked my way up to the position of Director of the company’s flagship office in London. I was with Hays plc for the first 15 years of my career, and in 2016 I was given the opportunity to join Frank Recruitment Group as the Chief Operations Officer. Since then, I’ve become the company’s President. Today I oversee the organisation’s ongoing business and sales operations, which includes everything from exploring whitespace sales markets and territories to being actively involved in the direction of our employee training.

When I took my first few steps into the world of recruitment, I realised that a great deal of psychology applies not just to sales, but leadership in general. As a psychology graduate, it felt like a very natural fit for me from day one – I just fell in love with the industry. Finding and landing your dream job is a special achievement, so helping driven, talented people build and shape their careers and having a front-row seat to that experience is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.

What has been the most rewarding experience?
I think a lot of people believe that because recruitment is a very sales-driven industry, people who choose this line of work do it because they love the thrill of a deal. But for me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a candidate land their dream job and knowing that myself and my team were a part of that process – it’s that element that makes my job that little bit more special to me.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your career?
Working in recruitment, you come across challenges daily, as the industry operates entirely on short-term targets that can change suddenly without much warning. One of the biggest challenges both my team and I have faced was navigating the 2008 global financial crisis while attempting simultaneously to break into the highly competitive tech market. We not only survived the financial crisis but we came out stronger on the other side, entering the European market in 2009.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

You need to get out there and forge your own opportunities instead of waiting for them to fall into your lap. You miss out on so much by waiting for the ‘right’ opportunity to come along – many of my achievements have come from creating my own opportunities. I would recommend carving out your own space in the world and mapping your own path to success, rather than following the paths of others.

I think that when you are just starting out, it is natural to want to get your bearings before committing to a long-term plan. Throughout your time at university and early on in your professional life, I would recommend focusing more on short-term goals and achievements rather than long-term planning. As you build up more experience, it will become easier for you to make long-term plans and set more ambitious career goals to keep you motivated.

Follow Zoë’s activities on her LinkedIn profile.

Breathing life into art and emotion with music and sound

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

adele cuttingCity alumni Adele Cutting née Kellett (Music, 1995) started her student career in a music course with the dream of being in sound post-production. At the time City offered one of the most advanced music courses in the country allowing Adele an opportunity to work in a recording studio and do technical modules which interested her the most. In addition to technical skills, Adele’s dedication allowed her to learn skills that would become hugely successful in her later career. From City, Adele moved on to the National Film and Television School. The connections and recommendations she acquired there scored her a job at EA (Electronic Arts), one of the largest games companies in the world, to work on cutscenes for one of their games. Through perseverance and hard work, Adele managed to go from having a temporary role at EA to becoming a Senior Audio Director and working on the Harry Potter franchise.

In 2011 EA Brightlight closed its doors, as part of a company-wide restructure. For Adele, this end of a chapter opened up a new opportunity – she started her own company Soundcuts Ltd to provide across a wide range of industries. In nine years she has been able to introduce junior talent into her team and offer a platform for young sound specialists to put their talents to use in incredible projects for TV, games and installations which have won her company several awards.

Find out more about Adele and how her hard work allowed her to create a successful and innovative business below:

Can you tell me about your time in City?

When I started at City, University of London, I knew I wanted to be in sound post-production. The University landscape was quite different then and there wasn’t a wide variety of courses available specifically to study that area as there are today. City was the best course for me, primarily because it had a recording studio and the recording tutors were employees of the BBC. The course also had other technical modules that really interested me but was balanced with the more traditional music subjects. I also really wanted to be in London, so my choice of City, was perfect for me.

I really enjoyed my time at City, I loved being in London, enjoyed the music course and liked mixing with people from other courses, one of my best friends today is a girl I met from the nursing course. The performance aspect – something I was anxious about – helped me in my current job with presentations and speaking at events. I loved being in the orchestras and ensembles, but I didn’t want to be the ‘soloist’, I much preferred to blend into the background.

You’re very busy, when you’re on the Music course, as not only have your academic work, but you also have to be involved in lots of instrumental groups and performances. I was also fortunate through an academic to find great work experience which ultimately enabled me to start working in an industry I love.

What happened after you graduated?

After graduation I decided to apply for a position in the National Film and Television School, they required letters confirming my work experience. So the experience I gained at City was invaluable, plus lots of other work experience I applied for myself during my university holidays.

As part of my course at the NFTS I started a work placement at Reelsound, a post-pro company based in Pinewood, and before even finishing my course the company offered me a contract – It was a great opportunity, so I managed to negotiate working to finish the course and start my first professional job.

Whilst at Reelsound, Electronic Arts (EA), contacted the film school to ask if anyone was interested in working on their cutscenes for one of their games, and the head of audio contacted me. I thought it was an interesting proposition, as I didn’t – at that time – know much about computer games, and once I’d visited the studio I thought it was a creative opportunity. So I accepted a short contract, then returned to films before EA offered me a full-time role. This was a pivotal time for games development. The PlayStation 1 was new, and new audio technology was being created to playback audio assets in-game. So being able to help shape this technology was incredibly exciting.

Every time a new project started a huge leap forward in technology was made. I started at EA as a Junior Sound Designer and worked my way up the ranks – eventually becoming Senior Audio Director working on the Harry Potter franchise. I really enjoyed my time at EA, it was a fabulous audio team and we won 2 BAFTA’s during this time.

soundcuts logoHow did your business come about?

The EA Brightlight studio finally closed its doors in 2011, after several waves of redundancies. I had always considered opening my own company but I had previously had a great position with job security. I understood audio but had a big learning curve ahead on what goes into managing your own business. I decided that this was the perfect time to give it a go.

In 2011 my company Soundcuts Ltd became official. It started off as just me, but as I gained more and more work I started growing the team, many of which were my colleagues during my time at EA. Although, as we’ve grown we’ve introduced new junior talent to the team. The team consists of less than 20 people but we have worked on some amazing projects like voice direction for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (UK/Athens), the music for a Netflix show Pinky Malinky and sound design and music editing for a James Bond cinematic installation in the Alps, plus involvement in various other games such as Quantum Break, The Room Franchise, Planet Zoo and some fabulous Indie titles.

One of the huge bonuses of owning my own business is that I get to build a team of people who are super talented and respect each other and create the companies identity. We’re a close-knit team, yet we also get to experience so many different companies and see different office cultures. Working across a variety of different formats (TV/Games/Installations) keeps the work fresh and brings the challenge of learning new pipelines and technology as each project is different. Plus, currently, we work remotely which is good for a work-life balance and was one of the key factors when starting the company with two small children.

What has been the most rewarding experience for you?Souncuts team receiving an award

Everything has been so incredible to be honest, we’ve worked on some amazing projects and I have been able to meet fantastic people.

In 2017 we won the Develop Award for Audio Creative Outsourcing and have since won another two awards (Develop and a TIGA), which has given us some great validation for the work we are doing, all of which I’m incredibly proud of, it means so much when it’s a company you’ve started from scratch. Another was being named in the GIBiz ‘Top 100 Influential Women In Games’, which was a massive surprise.

Another brilliant experience was when Austin Wintory, an accomplished composer, had a ‘BAFTA – Conversations with Screen Composers’ event at the Royal Albert Hall and wished to do an interview with someone who understood interactive music. I was called and asked if I could host the interview. I was terrified and honoured at the same time. It was a completely new experience for me, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

What has been the most challenging experience for you?

Being a working Mum can be challenging! I’m very lucky to have a super supportive husband! When I started Soundcuts both my parents were seriously ill in hospital, my youngest had just started nursery (and was NOT enjoying it), and my eldest had just started primary school…So this was a very emotional time for me.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Work Experience – Make sure to get plenty of work experience as early as possible, that’s one of the main ones!

Network – Networking is not about thrusting your business card or showreel upon someone you’ve never met before. Actually, try to get to know the person and their work and show genuine interest in them and learn something from them.

No Ego – Teamwork is very important to me. We quite often work to tight deadlines and stress levels can be high. So it’s important that you’re working with people who you like and are professional and personable, no egos allowed!

Lastly, a lot of CVs look exactly the same, you should be determined to be different, go the extra mile.


To view further work Adele’s company has done check out their Souncuts Portfolio.

You will be able to contact and follow Adele on Twitter!

Courage in the shadow of the Berlin Wall

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

author of the book Volker HeinzCity’s alumni Volker Heinz (Law, 1988) joined the University in the late 80s, leaving Germany to pursue a law qualification in the UK, unperturbed by the fact that to pass a Law degree you must have an excellent understanding of the English language, Volker rose to the challenge and excelled. Volker has recalled his time in the UK with fond memories, having made life long friends with a few of his peers. After getting called to the bar, Volker remained in the UK for work for a few years before returning to Germany in light of its unification.

In 1965 Berlin, Volker met someone who helped people escape East-Berlin by digging tunnels under the Berlin Wall. Without hesitation, he offered his help and was eventually recruited to the operation. His autobiographical book The Price of Freedom details the events that led Volker help some sixty people escape East-Berlin and earned him the Federal Cross for Merit. Volker’s book is published in both German and English, the purchase list for the latter is available at the end of this blog.

Can you tell me a little about your education?

My father was an international engineer and was eager for me to follow in his footsteps. He had understood that English was the language of the future so, in 1962 when I was 18, he decided to send me to the UK to gain some practical experience from one of the largest engineering companies at the time, Babcock & Wilcox. He had managed to get this opportunity for me through his connections in the company.

I first went to Glasgow, Scotland where the company had one of its factories. It was my first trip to Great Britain and I loved it. I had never met so many different people from different corners of the world. It opened my eyes to a different world outside of what I had known.

After three months I moved on to Birmingham for a month and from there for another two months to London to finish gaining experience in the company’s headquarters.

After returning to Germany I studied mechanical engineering for a year but then decided that engineering was not something I was very keen on, so I decided to study Law instead. I worked as a Solicitor and Notary Public in Germany, having completed law school there. From my travels to England, however, I had become very interested in the English Legal System as it was so different from Germany’s.

In 1986 I decided to pursue a law qualification in the UK so I joined City University in autumn 1987. I had considered my English passable after the 6 months I had spent in the UK in my youth. Although having been warned that the language skills required for practising Law in Great Britain as a barrister are considerable, I chose to become a barrister since I had considerable litigation experience in Germany. I was called to the bar in November of 1989 after which I joined an American law firm in London for a few years.

What happened after you graduated?

I very much enjoyed my time working in London but decided, in view of Germany’s unification, to return to Germany in 1992, before eventually moving to Australia, following my wife, an Australian violinist.

I wasn’t entirely keen on the idea as I wasn’t sure what a German solicitor could do in Australia. Nevertheless, shortly after we moved to Germany I started to look into what type of work I’d be able to find in the island country. Originally I was told that with my German qualifications I’d have to go through the entire studying process so as to be admitted to practice law in Australia. All in all, it would’ve taken me 6 years before I could practice.

I did, however, discover that when you are a UK barrister or solicitor you will be able to start working immediately. While I was preparing my move to Australia, I discovered, to my great surprise, that Australia had recently removed the UK privilege. In order to avoid further examinations, I decided to stay in Berlin, while at the same time servicing English clients.

Tell me about your time in City.

I loved my time studying at the university. I had thought before that my language skills were enough to get by quite easily but as it happened it was very difficult. I was fine with conversational English but when it came to legal terms and professional talk it was certainly hard work.

I met a lot of people in City. There are four people who became close friends of mine and with whom I am still to this day in regular contact. For thirty years now we and our families have met regularly to catch up on each other’s lives. Especially our children very much enjoyed visiting each other, mainly in Berlin, London and the Oxfordshire countryside.

What gave you the motivation to have your story published on paper?

In 2011, 50 years after the Berlin Wall was built, there was a remembrance event to commemorate the time when Berlin was split into two. I was invited to the event by someone who knew of my involvement with helping to smuggle people from East Berlin to the West in the mid-1960s. At the event, I was asked to tell my story and I did. Without me being aware of it, the organiser of the event suggested to the office of the German Federal President that I receive an award for my actions. A few months after the remembrance event I received the Federal Cross of Merit for my courage and involvement in helping some 60 people get out of East Berlin.

My four children, being very proud of me, insisted that I write my story down. I hadn’t had much of a reason to speak of the events that occurred many decades ago, mainly because as long as Communist Russia controlled East Germany you simply couldn’t talk about these things without pulling unwanted attention to yourself.

After the wall fell, however, I at first didn’t have access to many of the East- and West German Government files that held info on my activities. It was only some 7 or 8 years ago that I was able to purchase a book, prepared by government-appointed historians, that showed many documents connected with my activities as an escape helper.

The Proce of Freedom book coverCan you give us a little summary of what your book and story entails?

The events in the book The Price of Freedom – Courage in the Shadow of the Berlin Wall took place when I was a law student in Berlin. I happened to meet someone who had dug tunnels under the wall from East Berlin to the West. At first he, understandably, denied any involvement, but I managed to squeeze the truth out of him. I was very impressed with the work and courage of these people so offered them my help. 6 months went by before I was contacted by a person who was also involved with the famous tunnel 57. He asked me to help with smuggling East Berlin citizens to the West. The time of tunnels had come to an end quickly: the Communists had developed seismographic technological devices that essentially heard us digging before we had finished the tunnel. Other methods were using large American limousines, falsifying passports or trying to break through barriers with lorries.

We realised that to move people unnoticed, we needed someone who could continuously move between the East and the West of Berlin without going through checks. We tried to contact allied soldiers but that didn’t work out. Finally, we found a diplomat from Syria who agreed to help us. With his assistance we managed to get some 60 people out from East Berlin – I, among others, and the diplomat were eventually caught and arrested.

I was extensively questioned, then sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Around a year later the West German government swapped me for two soviet spies and a whole lot of money – I was free again. The diplomat had managed to escape to West-Germany but was later sentenced to death in absentia by his home court in Damascus.

What has been the most rewarding experience for you while writing down your story?

A lot of people contacted me after I published the book in German and it became more widely known what happened to me in the 60s. People didn’t understand why I hadn’t talked bout this before. They saw me as a hero

But for me, this wasn’t about receiving praise and awards – I did it for humanitarian reasons, following my deeply held belief that people in serious need of help ought to be helped by those who can provide it. These people entrusted me with their lives, with their liberty.

Many of the letters I received I found very moving. The most special of them was from one of “my” refugees who had tried for fifty years to establish my identity.

Did you experience any significant difficulties when writing?

When discussions for a book started, I told the publisher that I am a very busy man and needed some support.

They understood that I couldn’t possibly just take 6 months away from my professional responsibilities to start writing the story, so they sent a lady who over a number of days recorded my answers to her questions. The recording was then transcribed into a raw text. Once I saw the transcript, I organised it into chapters and turned it into a proper narrative, assisted by one of the publisher’s editors. She re-checked and edited everything I had already written. She also gave me a lot of advice that turned my script into a captivating story.

For the English version, I paid a translator. The final touches were applied by my wife and myself.

Volker, what advice would you give to others who are looking to help like you did?

When it comes to escaping dreadful conditions, the world is not that different now – there are still people trying to find safety and generally a better life in Europe, away from their war-torn countries.

What is different, however, is that in my day, when illegal intra-German migration happened and people moved from East Berlin to the West, they immediately had rights, unlike now where people are considered asylum seekers and have to apply to be allowed to stay.

I have enormous respect for those who help refugees and have absolutely no understanding for those who make money out the blight of others, by charging the refugees a fortune for a promise – often broken – of guiding them into another country. People’s health and security should be everybody’s main priority.

We need, more than ever, people with truly humanitarian ideals, not profiteers of people trafficking.

Purchase the book below –


Purchase in German –
Rowohlt (Also Ebook)

Cass graduate secures place on prestigious Schwarzman Scholars programme

Alumni Stories.

Congratulations to Alexander Scharrer (BSc Investment and Financial Risk Management, 2016) on being named as one of the Schwarzman Scholars for its Class of 2021. Schwarzman Scholars is designed to prepare graduates to build stronger relationships between China and a rapidly changing world, and to address the most pressing challenges of the 21st Century.

Find out more about Alexander’s experience at Cass and his latest achievements here:

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Cass. The practical nature of the degree prepared me well for my internships in the financial industry and eventually helped me secure a position at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

During university, I also developed a strong passion for Technology, in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI). Cass gave me the opportunity to follow this passion and represent the university at European Tech conferences such as LeWeb in Paris. However, the best part of my experience at Cass were the friendships I have formed with other students and that I continue to have to this day.

What happened after you graduated?

Upon graduation, I joined Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) in London, where I have previously completed a summer internship. In my role as Retail Sales Analyst, I represented GSAM’s full product range and covered financial intermediaries such as banks, funds of funds, private banks and asset managers, primarily in Austria and Germany. At the same time, I continued my AI research and later volunteered for several AI societies in the UK and Austria.

My three years at Goldman have been an invaluable experience and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a talented group of people. However, I also wanted to pursue postgraduate studies and thus made the difficult decision to leave my position at Goldman in July.

How did you get involved with the Schwarzman Scholars programme?

Given the importance of China in AI and virtually every other industry today, it has always been clear to me that I would like to gain first-hand experience in China. I truly believe that nowadays every student should have a fundamental understanding of China and its economy.

Through a former scholar, I discovered Schwarzman Scholars and was immediately convinced that it would be the ideal programme for my professional aspirations. Inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship, it is the first programme that was designed to respond to the geopolitical challenges of the 21st century. The scholarship is anchored in a one-year Master’s degree in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University and focuses on China, global affairs and leadership. I applied over the summer and following an interview in London at the end of October, I was fortunate to be selected out of a total of over 4,700 applicants. I am very excited to become a part of this interdisciplinary, multi-cultural environment, where like-minded individuals can discuss ideas and help each other succeed. In the future I hope to serve as an intermediary between the European Union and China in order to facilitate discussions on AI.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

I strongly recommend students to apply to the Schwarzman Scholars programme. The application process can be overwhelming at first but it challenges you to think about your personal as well as professional aspirations and you end up learning a lot about yourself. Apart from being one of the most prestigious graduate fellowships in the world, the Schwarzman Scholars programme is an amazing opportunity to learn more about China and study at Schwarzman College, at the heart of the Tsinghua University campus. You will be surrounded by a remarkable group of individuals with different academic backgrounds but the shared vision to have a positive impact in their respective fields.

Thank you to Alexander for sharing his story and good luck with the Schwarzman Scholars programme

Discover how a City Journalism alumna explores the Caribbean Irish and the making of the slave myth!

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

Miki Garcia posing in IranCity’s Journalism alumna Miki Garcia (International Journalism, 1998) has pursued a successful and fascinating career in the sector, having utilised her time as a student at City to ensure that she takes away all she could from the course. Miki interned at Reuters and persistently carved out her spot in the industry. Having already written about humanitarian topics before starting her course in City, Miki had more than enough experience and passion to follow her professional dreams – this saw her living in locations all around the world. In time Miki developed into an academic researcher and a freelance consultant, dealing with topics like Brexit, world wars, cancer immunotherapy etc.

She has written and published several books relating to the Irish Diaspora as Irish history is her lifelong passion. The Caribbean Irish: How the Slave Myth was Made is one of the products of this passion. The latest in Miki’s collection of 6 publications Caribbean Irish explores the little known fact that the Irish were amongst the earliest settlers in the Caribbean and poses the question, were the Irish people there slaves?

Find out more about Miki and how she came to publish this thoroughly researched historical gem below:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

If my life was a book, the year at City would be one of the most exciting and gripping chapters. I enjoyed and learned immensely. Some of the highlights were that I did my internship at the Reuters’ equities desk/Alertnet and the Independent’s foreign desk. I am so grateful for all the support I received from my classmates and lecturers, and especially I feel privileged to have known late Colin Bickler – Reuter’s veteran war correspondent and human rights advocate – and to call him my mentor. I still vividly remember one of his lectures about abuses of power in real-world contexts. I kept in touch with him and he continued to give me career advice. He was such an inspiration to me.

What happened after you graduated?

I stayed at Alertnet for a while. They had just launched this relief news website. Before I went to City, I had already been writing about human rights issues in Rwanda, Myanmar and the Philippines, so Alertnet was a great place to be. But my dream was to work as a foreign correspondent so I went to work for local newspapers and magazines in Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan and the US. I currently work as a freelance consultant and an academic researcher. I still research, interview people and write – so basically what I am doing is still the same but a bit more in-depth research and I absolutely love it. I also write books.

How did your latest book come about?

I’ve been writing on the Irish Diaspora for many years and have published several books about it. Before City, I did some volunteer work for street workers and people in the Kings Cross area. There were lots of Irish people sleeping rough in the 1990s and the IRA was bombing all over England. To clear so many whys, I immersed myself in Irish history, language and all the rest of it. The Irish Diaspora is truly unique because it was not a one-time event in history but it occurred across centuries and continents involving diverse individuals. I have a lifelong passion for Irish history.

the carribean irish book coverWhat has been the most rewarding experience as an author?

When I started out as a journalist, the internet wasn’t ubiquitous yet. The internet has eventually destroyed the traditional newspaper business/journalism practices. But of course, the internet has lots of advantages. The most rewarding experience (as a journalist/author) is that I receive thank you messages online from all across the world. This truly makes my life worth living. Also, I love talking to people and I feel so privileged to meet notable historical figures and brave individuals – from Henry Kissinger and Gerry Adams to wives of the Taliban and displaced people across the globe.

What has been the most challenging experience?

I had to be immune to rejection.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Attending a course is a brilliant idea. City opened so many doors of opportunity for me. Also, I always bump into City-grad journalists in all corners of the world. But just like Steve Jobs said, the most important thing in life is: ‘you’ve got to find what you love’.

Thank you to Miki for sharing her story!


Connect with Miki through her Social Media:

Purchase Miki’s books:


An exciting and facinating journey from being a journalism student to becoming a novelist!

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

Helen Buckley, posing with her first novelHelen Buckley (Journalism and Contemporary History, 2007) was a successful journalism student in City, thriving in the industry by scoring several placements with publications and even a paid internship with an MP. After graduation, Helen took the vast experience she accumulated as a student and channelled that into helping vulnerable and in-need people both in the UK and abroad.

Helen used writing as a medium to manage and understand the difficult situations she was experiencing in her private life. She has managed to get her first novel Star in the Shadows published, already earning positive reviews from readers! Her book tells a story of Kiara, a teen runaway who has found stardom but is fighting the demons of her past in private. In a reveal-all TV interview her story will finally be uncovered, find out what effects Kiara’s confession will have on her fame, fortune and the ones she had left in her past by buying it on Amazon.

Find out more about Helen and how she came to publish her first novel below:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I really enjoyed my degree at City University. Our degree was a fairly small intake and was run in conjunction with Queen Mary, University of London, so I was a member of both universities.

At City we concentrated on the journalism part of the degree. I did placements at various publications including Health and Fitness magazine, Zest magazine, Cosmopolitan magazine, and I also got a paid internship with Emily Thornberry MP – who is the MP for the area where City University is located. It was when she was a fairly new MP and the experience of working in her Commons office was fascinating.

What happened after you graduated?

In my final year, I started volunteering for the charity Young Minds and through that experience, I realised I wanted to focus on work in the charity sector. I started work before I graduated with Stonewall, and stayed there for a few years running their national information service. Once graduating from City I also did an MSc degree in Gender, Sexuality, Politics and Culture at Birkbeck, University of London. Then I spent almost four years in Honduras, working with children and families living in poverty. After that, I returned to work for the Salvation Army, the Council for Disabled Children, and then Age UK.

How did your novel come about?

I started writing seriously as an escape – my husband and I were dealing with infertility and writing helped me to manage the difficult emotions arising from our situation. I completed my first novel and then fell pregnant from IVF!

My novel, Star in the Shadows, was recently published and I’m chuffed to pieces with the positive reviews and feedback I’ve received.

The book is about a teen runaway who becomes a pop star but she carries the shadows of the past with her. The book follows her journey and that of the family she left behind. It’s dramatic and gritty with a dash of romance too.

I’ve just finished writing my second novel and I am writing my third, when my baby son allows me time to write!

What has been the most rewarding experience?

As an author, I think the scariest thing is letting people read your work. I was terrified! When the novel was published a number of book bloggers reviewed it and all the positive comments were so encouraging. Even if the book doesn’t get onto the bestseller lists, I’ll still find that experience so rewarding.

What has been the most challenging experience?

I’m lucky to have found a publisher but it’s a crowded market out there for books so it’s not easy to get your novel noticed.

It’s also been tough to find the time to write. I had to edit the novel when my son was a newborn so I was extremely sleep deprived! Now that’s he’s over six months and sleeps fairly well I get up early to write. Those 5am starts aren’t easy, but it’s the only time I have free to think creatively.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t give up! Keep pressing on and get those words down on the page. As Jodi Picoult said, “You can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” My first drafts are often extremely rough, riddled with mistakes and verging on gibberish – but I can work with that.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. It could be the best decision you ever make!

Thank you to Helen for sharing her story!

Take a look at Helen’s website to explore the work she is doing –

Purchase Star in the Shadows from Amazon, Austin Macauley Publishers or Waterstones

Follow Helen’s activities on her social media: Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Emmy winning journalist recounts her time in City and discusses her impactful work in South Sudan

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

Anna Cavell standing at the emmy podium

City graduate Anna Cavell (Television Current Affairs Journalism, 2007) was an ambitious student at City, which landed her with a contract with the BBC as soon as she graduated. Anna worked in newsrooms in London and Moscow for the BBC and RT for three years before moving to report from East Africa almost 10 years ago. She spent 5 years reporting from South Sudan, considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. In the process, she saw both the good and the bad of humanity, which enabled her to stay motivated to use her career as a tool to assist in the causes of those suffering. In Africa, Anna has reported on topics as diverse as conflict and displacement to arts and culture.

Anna’s dedicated herself to her work, investigating the stories of Ugandan parents, who allege their children were adopted by American families without their knowledge or consent. The documentary earned Anna a News and Documentary Emmy, validating her efforts and giving a huge platform for her monumental documentary Adoption Inc: The Baby Business.

Find out more about Anna and her road to winning an Emmy here :

Can you tell me about your time at City?

The best thing about City was that all of my lecturers were closely connected to industry and had all had impressive careers prior to teaching. This meant that studying there was valuable preparation for a career in journalism and provided students with a network of contacts who were in a position to hire us when we graduated.

What happened after you graduated?

One of our final assessed projects was to make a 30-minute documentary which was shown to people from the industry at the end of the year. The editor of the BBC programme Newsnight came to the screening of those films and commissioned the story made by my team.  This was great as it meant that pretty much as soon as we’d finished the course we went straight to Newsnight to re-make the story with their correspondent.

How would you describe your experience as a foreign correspondent in Africa? 

Reporting from this part of the world has been an enormous privilege and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity. I’ve been here for almost 10 years, 5 of which I spent living and working in South Sudan. I moved here just after it became independent from Sudan and two years later civil war broke out. While there, I reported on some of the most horrific events imaginable – war, massacres, starvation and mass displacement. However, at the same time, I saw some of the greatest acts of courage and experienced enormous kindness from people enduring terrible suffering. Witnessing these events and meeting these people has forever changed my perspective.

What has been the most rewarding experience in your field?

There are so many! In September this year I received an Emmy Award for a documentary I made about fraud in international adoption. It was an investigation I’d worked on for many years so seeing it recognized by people in the industry was wonderful. Seeing the impact of my work is also a perk of the job. I made a documentary about some victims of human trafficking in 2010 and since then they’ve been trying to get justice through the Ugandan courts. The verdict in their case is due to be announced in November this year and it’s unlikely they would have got this far without the media attention. It came as a surprise when I started in this job that often after people experience trauma it comforts them to speak to a journalist. I don’t know why this is, perhaps the interest of strangers validates their grief or suffering, but it’s rewarding to think we can sometimes help, and almost makes up for all the times politicians tell us to sod off!

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your work?

That really varies according to the situation. In conflict reporting safety, logistics and communications are usually the hardest parts. Working on investigations in Africa can be difficult because public institutions don’t necessarily keep records (or permit access to them) in an orderly way.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to seek a career in journalism?

Learning about how newsrooms and commissioners work is very important. It can be difficult to get a great story to air if it’s the wrong moment, or the wrong angle or the wrong outlet.  Investing time learning about which editors are looking for what is seriously worthwhile, whether you work in-house or freelance.


Find out more about Anna –

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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