|19 Jan 2023
|Life After Hymers
We recently heard from Jacob Grantham about his life since leaving Hymers College:
In June 2022, I started a new job as Senior Consultant at Capgemini Invent, a digital transformation consultancy operating across the globe, combining strategy, technology, data science and creative thinking to solve complex business problems. A while ago, I agreed to write an article about my time at the school and how this has prepared me for my career so far. Despite agreeing straight away, I only recently found the time to write this, which I suppose leads me to my first reflection; no matter how much time has passed, I will never be particularly diligent in doing my homework!
I studied at Hymers between Year 4 to Year 13 (1999-2009). Writing this article has given rise to so many thoughts about my time at the school. I have more recollections than I have space to write but I have tried to produce something concise and interesting below.
Me and the Head Boy at the time, John Palmer
I couldn’t write about my time at Hymers without mentioning my old nemesis, the 1st XV rugby coach, Mr Guy. Understandably Mr Guy’s main priority was to encourage a dedicated and professional attitude towards rugby. Unfortunately, my own attitude towards rugby had fallen entirely out of sync with his by the time I was 15. By that point, I was trying to attend as little training as possible while never actually going as far as getting kicked off the team. This led to quite a bit of tension, such as the time he saw me eating a packet of crisps during a lunch break when I should have been at a gym session and told me, “You are what you eat, Grantham.” I’m not sure what he was expecting me to say, but I imagine it wasn’t to respond, “You must have eaten a short, sarcastic man then”. However, I was certainly expecting the dressing down I received afterward!
Mr Guy never did award me full or even half colours for sport, despite me playing essentially every 2nd XV rugby game in Sixth Form and most of the 1st XV cup games as well. Looking back, I’m not sure I blame him (although I remain open to a ceremony to rectify this historical wrong if Mr Stanley happens to be reading this). In regards to rugby, it’s funny to think that I remain obsessed, rarely missing watching an international game and even going as far as to attend Saracens v Tel Aviv recently at the StoneX Stadium. I briefly came out of retirement for the Hackney 2nd XVs last year, although one game against the London New Zealand Exiles sent me right back into it again. This interest was certainly due to the sporting opportunities and the standards of coaching we had during my time at Hymers. These were second to none and a huge benefit of my time there, even if I didn’t take advantage of them as much as I could have.
After Hymers, I was lucky enough to study Law at University College London, graduating in 2012. After a limited amount of time trying, unsuccessfully, to secure a training contract, I volunteered for the Israeli Defence Forces for 18 months. This consisted of nearly a year’s language and infantry training before six months of deployment to Hebron, a city in the West Bank.
A bit of a change from Spring Bank….
Even during this time in my life, there were links with Hull and Hymers. I remember doing passport checks at a checkpoint in Hebron, which would regularly process tourists or volunteers from abroad. Often I’d engage with the British citizens who would be surprised to see an Israel infantry soldier addressing them in English with a slight Yorkshire accent. One time, I told a woman who gave me her British passport that I had a similar one, but with Hull as the birthplace rather than Huddersfield, where she was from:
She replied “Oh, I went to university in Hull”.
“Ah, I grew up opposite the uni! On a street called Newland Park.” I said.
To which she gave me a sceptical look and muttered “Posh!”
It really amused me that of all the reasons I had in that situation to be judged, growing up down a nice street wouldn’t have jumped to the forefront of my mind. That exchange leads to another reflection on my time at Hymers. Hymers never felt like an ivory tower. It isn’t a school that is particularly removed from Hull or the people who live there.
Often when I meet people who have been to other independent schools, I am struck by how sheltered they are. I suspect the lack of this in Hymers alumni ensures we are often better placed to engage with the rich variety of life experiences available to us, with a level-headed appreciation of the world we live in. Whether it was at Craven Park watching Hull KR or as the first privately educated child to attend the marine cadets on Argyll, I cannot think of a single time that being at Hymers was ever a seriously negative factor in my interactions with other people in Hull and I’m grateful to the school for that. I think this is a hugely valuable element of a Hymers education and one that I hope has been fostered in the years since I left.
After Israel, I came back to Hull, supposedly while applying for a career in law again. Instead, I found myself working as an operations officer at Hull City Council Children’s Safeguarding (after a few eventful months as a bartender at Tofts on Newland Avenue). I was able to apply for this job through a friend I knew from Hymers, Sami Bell and it was instrumental in helping me in my successful application to the Civil Service Fast Stream, which I joined in 2016.
On the Fast Stream, I had a range of postings in my two and a half years on the scheme, including working as an international policy advisor on digital identity. This involved quite a bit of international engagement, although both that experience and in fact most of the stories I’ve quoted so far have confirmed, I’m not much of a diplomat! Other postings included a move to Leeds, to work on DWP’s Find A Job service and a secondment at an education tech startup based in a school in Hoxton.
The breadth of these jobs so far leads me to another element that education at Hymers provides, self-confidence. Hymers pushed me to challenge myself and taught me that everyone is an autonomous agent, capable of directing and shaping their own circumstances to achieve the results they desire. This is a vital mindset to have, particularly professionally, and in my experience is something that really sets successful people apart in a corporate environment.
I left the Fast Stream in 2019, to run the Gender Pay Gap Service as a product owner and then later service owner, in the Government Equalities Office. There were some particular highlights to this role, including briefing the UK’s shortest-ever serving Prime Minister, Liz Truss, when she was Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. This was a marvelous opportunity to work on a ground-breaking service, utilising digital product development towards the ultimate aim of encouraging widespread societal change at a grassroots and organisational level. We didn’t quite achieve this in my time there but I’m immensely proud of what we did do, weathering the storm Covid created and ensuring reporting has continued to the present day.
During this time, I was also redeployed to the National Shielding Service at the Government Digital Service during the Covid crisis, another service with an important social function. Following the trend of this article, I think you can trace my interest in social support back to Hymers. There was always a marvelous tolerance for slightly eccentric personalities at Hymers, but tempered with an emphasis on the value of hard work, mutual respect and supporting everyone in society as best we could.
As I have said, we never sat apart from the community we existed in, either geographically or theoretically. I am sure this trend will have continued to the present day and in fact, I imagine Hymers is more integrated than ever. Attending the school recently I was struck by how much more of a diverse community it is now, which can only help strengthen the trends I’ve mentioned. I am sure this is reflected in the way students’ individual circumstances, cultures and lived experiences are considered as well.
I hugely value my time at Hymers. It was always supportive, often challenging, fun most of the time and a credit to the dedicated staff who work there. I cannot finish without mentioning Mr O’Byrne who was my form tutor for three years between Year 9 to Year 11. He had a marvellous way of making clear what his red lines were, without removing his own personality or humour from a situation (in fact there is someone who would have made a great diplomat!). I remember one time we were causing a commotion while waiting for him to arrive to register after lunch. We were already in trouble as he’d received some complaints about our form’s behaviour that day. Mr O’Byrne stormed into the classroom, slammed the door behind him, and proceeded to tell us off. Unfortunately, the message was somewhat lost as we were all staring at the glass window in the door, which had cracked when he slammed it. After finishing delivering his message, he stared angrily at us, gestured to the door behind him (which he’d shown no reaction to at all), and said, “And I’m not happy about that either!”. The slight hint of a smile at the corner of his lips gave him away, and we preceded to dissolve into gales of laughter. He was a marvellous teacher and I’m sure is very sadly missed.
It is fantastic to have the Development Office in place, helping maintain and develop links to the school and between those of us who attended. Thank you so much to those working there, in particular to Emily who is doing such a fantastic job.
I was very lucky in the sacrifices my parents made to send me to Hymers, which certainly wasn’t always easy for them; especially as the feedback they received mainly revolved around me being “a known troublemaker” (thank you Mrs Gravelle for that genuine quote, I’ve dined out on it many times). I’m also lucky in the friendships I have from Hymers, both with people still in Hull, such as Leon Welburn and Joe Crampton, and those in London. Until fairly recently I still lived within fifty metres of two of my oldest friends from Hymers, John Palmer (ex-head boy, definitely didn’t peak at school) and Eddy Harrod. I will carry those connections with me throughout life and it is for them that I am most grateful, even above the memories I have of the school itself. It is a special place and while I probably won’t live in Hull to send my own children there, I think it is very unlikely they will attend anywhere better. If they have half the fun I had, I will consider them very well served indeed.
Jacob Grantham OH 1999-2009
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