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Year 10 Consider Future Plans with Old Boy

  • Prateek Buch 2.jpg
  • Prateek Buch 1.jpg

Boys’ Division pupils in Year 10 enjoyed two fascinating talks from Old Boys as part of their SPACE Day, which was spent off-timetable with a focus on enrichment activities. Prateek Buch (Class of 1999) and Krish Patel (Class of 2010) spoke via Zoom about the very different paths they took after leaving Bolton School, which have allowed them to both follow their dreams and make a change in the world.

Prateek is now Head of Data Acquisition at 10 Downing Street, collecting data for the government’s data scientists to use in projections, models and analysis; this evidence-based advice is used by ministers to help make decisions. Prior to his career in the civil service, Prateek was an academic and spent 11 years developing gene and stem cell therapy for blindness at UCL. He was one of the speakers at this year’s Tillotson Lecture.

He began by asking Year 10 to clear their minds of all constraints and imagine ten or twenty years into the future, asking them who they would like to be, what they would like to do, and one thing they would like to have. After sharing these ideas with the group, he went on to speak about his own decisions and choices when he was in their shoes.

After leaving Bolton School, he studied Molecular Biology at UCL after becoming inspired by science books and magazines he read at lunchtimes, and in particular an article about using gene therapy to cure disease. However, alongside his day job, he became aware of the need to improve how scientific evidence was being used in public life. He therefore got involved with campaigns to change how public figures thought about scientific evidence: volunteering, writing articles and blog posts, and becoming an advocate for political change. This led him to work for a charity called Sense About Science, and after doing more campaigning he eventually decided to change his career once again for the relatively ‘quiet life’ of working in the civil service.

He said: ‘There are those amongst you who will make a difference just by going your job well, and this is equally important, but School really equips you well to be a changemaker if you choose to. You can make a really big difference.’

Prateek advised the boys to consciously gather soft skills and networks, because while hard qualifications open some doors, contributing to friends’ work and ‘who you know’ matters too. His talk highlighted that there is plenty of potential to move between fields via a wide variety of routes, and also reminded the boys that their job isn’t everything they are ever going to do, as they can pursue passions outside of work as well.

Finally, he asked Year 10 to reflect on one skill, one connection and one qualification that would help them to reach the goals they set at the start of the session.

In the short Q&A that followed, Prateek talked about work/life balance and the difficulty of dealing with doubt, reassuring the boys that Bolton School equips its students with a great way of thinking that will help them to land on their feet no matter what. He was asked at what point he knew what he wanted to do and replied that there were several points: he spent 15 years following the path towards what he wanted to do when he was in Year 10, becoming a scientific researcher; but three of four times since then he wanted to switch and allowed that to happen. He said that having an idea in mind is great, but advised the boys: ‘Allow yourself to have the freedom to change your mind.’

Prateek’s talk about his unique career path offered the boys in Year 10 the opportunity to think about the choices in front of them in an open-ended way as well as giving them lots of hints and tips about how to look at the options ahead.

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