CEOx1Day: Our CEOs Journeys

The journeys some of our CEOs have taken to the top might surprise you. We take a look at some of their inspiring careers.

Investment in education

Professor Mary Stuart, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Lincoln, educated her way to the top in difficult circumstances. Life has taken her from apartheid South Africa to the UK in 1981, just before the country plunged into recession.

Despite a difficult start to her time in the UK, Mary had a will to succeed. A doctorate in Social Policy with the Open University paved the way to an appointment as Senior Lecturer at Sussex University and later assistant director of its Centre for Continuing Education.

Mary’s clear aptitude for leadership did not escape her colleagues. An invitation ‘for a chat’ with Sussex’s VC manifested as an interview for the university’s Pro Vice-Chancellor position.

Despite not seeing herself in that kind of role at all (Guardian, 2017), Mary’s career continued to climb upon her appointment as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Kingston University. In 2009, she rose to her current role at Lincoln University.

Her achievements at Lincoln are impressive. A strategic partnership with Siemens alongside investment in seven new schools of study has contributed to the university placing 22nd in the Guardian University Guide.

Mary’s approach to the university has been community-minded; ‘Because this is still a project, you can make a mark in creating a university. You can leave a bit of yourself behind. Students are involved in all our committees, deciding what goes into buildings, making the curriculum, helping to develop the city.’ (Guardian, 2017).

In recognition of her dedication to higher education, she was awarded a CBE in 2018.

If you’d like the opportunity to observe first-hand Mary’s unique approach to her Vice-Chancellorship, click here.

Creating change in the third sector

Javed Khan is Chief Executive of the charity Barnardo’s, overseeing 8,000 staff and 20,000 volunteers in their work to change children’s lives.

Javed has previously said of his childhood, ‘my upbringing was quite humble and taught me the importance of standing up for yourself. That deep need stayed with me and has come with me into the charity sector.’ (, 2018).

Indeed, much of Javed’s career has been devoted to advocacy for underrepresented groups and those in need.

His working life began in teaching at Birmingham City College. Following a rapid rise, he moved from education into the public sector leadership teams at Birmingham Council and later the London Borough of Harrow. His first Chief Executive post was at Victim Support.

In 2014, he was appointed to his current role. Under his stewardship, income broke £300 million for the first time in 2017. In 2017-18 Barnardo’s helped more than 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers – a record for the charity.

Javed has often spoken out about the need for diversity and inclusion in the public and third sectors;

‘Part of my job is to help create spaces where difficult conversations can happen and encourage people to talk about differences.’ (, 2018).

This continuous drive to ensure ‘equality, diversity and inclusion run through everything’ the charity does has led to initiatives such as LGBT Youth awareness training for staff and an ‘Independent Support Programme’ for over 1,500 disabled young people and their families last year (Barnardo’s Impact Report, 2018).

We are delighted to have Javed taking part in CEOx1Day, giving one student insight into his leading work in the charity sector.

Making history, 1000 years on

There are very few organisations which can boast 1,100 years of success.

The Royal Mint marked their landmark year with another milestone; the appointment of their first female Chief Executive, Anne Jessopp, in 2018.

Before joining the Royal Mint in 2008, Anne worked across brands including Rolls Royce, P&G and RAC.

Her career at the Mint began as HR Director, with a specific focus on culture shift. Through her appointment as Director of Consumer in 2015, Anne diversified and further monetised the operations of the heritage business, opening the Royal Mint Experience and increasing special edition coinage. The attraction now welcomes 100,000 visitors a year.

Anne’s strategy has led her to ask ‘How do I help the Royal Mint reinvent itself for the 21st century?” How do we develop new businesses that customers really want?’ (CoinCollector, 2017).  

Under Anne’s stewardship, the Mint has celebrated the past, with the introduction of the 50p coin celebrating women’s suffrage, and moved forward with 'cutting-edge secure currency' (FT, 2018), including the creation and circulation of a billion new £1 coins last year.

Like many women in leadership, Anne recognises the importance of opening doors to those on their way to the top.  Her advice to those aspiring to chief executive roles is ‘have the confidence to be yourself, learn from others and spend time enjoying the role you are in.’ (Womanthology, 2018).

To find out more about the opportunity to shadow a Chief Executive making history at one of the UK’s oldest establishments, click here.

Start your journey

The similarities in these stories come down to the people themselves. Individuals with drive, passion for their work and a deep desire to make a difference.

These are qualities you may possess. So, if you’ve found these stories inspiring, make sure you apply for our CEOx1Day programme.

Apply here