Bolton School Former Pupils
Steven Lord (1994-2001)
Occupation: Registrar and Deputy Superintendent Registrar for Camden, Islington and London City
What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?
My favourite subjects whilst at school were modern languages (I took French, German and Italian) and, to a lesser extent, English and History. My favourite teachers who helped bring these subjects to life were Mr Hiepko, Dr Holland and Mr Robson; but my overall favourite was my French teacher Mrs Green. She taught the language with such passion, focussing her students on fluency and the cultural output of the language rather than solely on the grammar and vocabulary. She treated her students as young men rather than children, involving them in discussion and debate and educating them beyond the syllabus, and brought handfuls of personality and passion to her lessons. She was smart, strong, inspirational and hilariously camp. I’ll never forget her Dior glasses. Every lesson was a pleasure.
What further study have you undertaken since leaving School?
After school I went on to read Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews from where I graduated with First Class Honours (with Distinction in spoken French and Italian) MA in 2006. The degree was intensely academic and literature-focussed; I enjoyed it thoroughly and did well, but it left me not wanting to complete further study; I’d had enough.
What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current role?
I am a registrar and deputy superintendent registrar covering Camden, Islington and London City. The role is a statutory legal position meaning that I have ultimate responsibility for ensuring that all the births, deaths, still-births, marriages and civil partnerships that occur in these boroughs are registered according to statute. Being a registrar is a rare and unique job and each day puts you into contact with a whole variety of different situations, dealing with people at the most emotional times of their lives. Doing this job in central London means I deal with many high-profile cases. I have to be ready to quickly draw on the legal knowledge required to do the job and respond appropriately given each individual case. I can go from conducting the smartest marriages at the top of the Gherkin in central London, to those in prisons or at a hospital deathbed.
I am also however the deputy service manager and so my role is also similar to any management role. The running of the service can be a complicated operational process which I must plan with precision, reacting quickly to unexpected situations. I line manage twenty members of staff. I deal with difficult customers and their complaints, and more complicated registration cases. Furthermore however, I play a key role in running a statutory service as a business; local governments have suffered massive financial cuts and so our department stretches itself to plug this hole by maximising income. This involves financial analysis and planning, creativity to come up with income-generating ideas and the organisational knowledge and awareness to put them into practice.
I am still at the same level that I was at when I first started working as a registrar in Bolton, albeit now managing a much larger service.
What/who influenced your career choice?
Nobody and nothing inspired my choice to be a registrar. I am often asked why I chose this job and what I had to do to get it, but the honest answer is that I didn’t choose it and didn’t have to do anything special to get it. Not long after I graduated, I saw the job advertised, I applied for it (as I did many others) and got the job. It was the best offer I got at the time and six years later I’m still in it. I also don’t see it as a career because working in local government unfortunately does not allow for development and progression in the same way that growing businesses do.
What/who has been your biggest inspiration?
Nothing has inspired me. In my life I aspire to be happy and follow the direction that feels right for me at the time.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
The skills which are essential for my job are absolute attention to detail and organisational skills, an ability to take in complex information and draw upon it to make correct decisions and, most importantly, to know how to deal sensitively, professionally yet firmly with all members of the general public. Additionally, the abilities to lead and inspire staff, make correct business decisions and put them operationally into practice are also very important.
What do you like most about your job?
What I like most about my job is the variety. This keeps me from getting bored.
What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
My biggest challenge in my current role is dealing with angry customers whose complaints are, in the grand scheme of things, of little importance. I have plenty of time for helping people who may be upset and angry because their close family member has died suddenly in unexpected or suspicious circumstances and I will go out of my way to ensure that I can guide them through the trauma and emotion of the experience. But I find it exceptionally challenging to tolerate someone furiously shouting because a member of my staff has missed a comma off an address on an envelope, or writing in with a formal complaint because they were seen one minute later than their allocated appointment time. I am simply too busy dealing with people’s real problems.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
I first started working as a registrar in London when, after legal wrangle, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the High Court which had upheld my predecessor's right to refuse to register civil partnerships (the Supreme Court's ruling finally being upheld last year by the European Courts of Human Rights). As a gay man, just to have got her job felt like a career achievement. Then subsequently to have conducted the UK’s first same sex marriage on 29th March 2014 was also a great career achievement; it was a real privilege to be at the forefront of the advancement of equality.
How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?
I loved my time at Bolton School and looking back I feel that it gave me a very varied and thorough education. The academic side taught the importance of attention to detail to obtain the greatest level of success, a skill which is very relevant to my role. It taught me the importance of precise written and oral communication. I very much loved the social aspect and friendliness of the school which I believe helped to shape me into someone who is good at dealing with people. And, of course, the ability to write with a fountain pen – mine is one of the few occupations that still requires this!
What advice would you give to our pupils interested in your field of work?
It’s unlikely there would be any students wanting specifically to become a registrar, however, if there are any, then I would advise that should approach register offices to see if they are recruiting sessional registration officers for weekend/holiday work; such an opportunity would provide them with great experience should they wish to move into the field on a full time basis.