Reflections on Travel, Charity Work and a Civil Service Career
Senior Boys Careers

Tom McLenachan was the latest former pupil to return to Bolton School, virtually, to deliver an inspiring World of Work talk to Year 10 and Year 11 pupils. Tom, who left the Boys’ Division in 2004, talked about his travels and his career.

Recapping his life to date, Tom told how his interest in travel was sparked as he was about to leave Bolton School, when he was alerted to the Scott Bolton Trust. The charity, that still helps Bolton School students fund aspirational international travel, gave him a grant which enabled him to backpack around North America for three months during a gap year.

Tom recounted how he then went on to study Russian at the University of Nottingham and how he took full advantage of modules in Russian history and enjoyed a year in Russia, which opened his horizons. This was followed by a Masters in East European Studies, which included studying the Bulgarian language and Serbian language. He then completed a PhD in the history of Stalinism, where he considered the relationship between art, science and philosophy in the Soviet Union.

Keeping his options open and scratching his travel itch, Tom spent two years travelling and teaching English – in places as varied as Palestine and Israel, Sudan, Morocco and Vietnam. To date, he said, he had visited 76 countries and undertaken a wide range of jobs, including environmental work, being a beekeeper and working on an olive farm!

It is only in recent years, Tom said, that he has started to develop a specialism.  His role now is as a Senior Policy Adviser to the government on climate change and as a CEO of an international charity that provides access to clean water in Africa.

Tom told how, three years ago, he joined the Civil Service graduate fast stream. He explained how there are 15 different areas that you can join and that each one allows you to experience 6-12 month periods working in different departments. He also remarked on how the service offers the possibility of working internationally, which appealed to him. Starting in the project delivery section, he told how he quickly moved to the Department of Transport before he developed a specific focus on climate change. He reminded the boys that the UK is one of the leading First World countries in this field. He explained how, in 2016, transport became the worst offender for emitting greenhouse gases and that it is now his role to focus on reducing emissions from this sector. A lot of his work, he said, focuses on how to limit pollution, particularly from road networks and the HS2 project.

Separately, Tom runs a charity called Equal Aqua Uganda. He explained how he became involved with this after travelling to the country. The charity attempts to address inequalities in who can access clean water and sanitation.

Tom then fielded a range of questions, which involved him talking about the different places that the Civil Service can take you, the different job functions and rates of remuneration within it, as well as how flexible it is in terms of where you can work. He also spoke of his passion for both his work and his charity endeavours and about the most favourite place he has visited, Vietnam.

Watch Tom’s presentation on Bolton School TV


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