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Olivia Scevity and Rowan Carter: Two Buckinghamshire women pursuing diverse careers

PUBLISHED: 10:26 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:26 10 October 2017

Olivia (left) and Rowan (right)

Olivia (left) and Rowan (right)


Sandra Smith catches up with two young Buckinghamshire women setting the pace in very different careers

If you buy into what has become something of a cliché about the future being in the hands of young people, I reckon our prospects couldn’t be more secure. You see, across this wonderful county there are ambitious teenagers and talented twenty-somethings focusing on personal aspirations, their career goals matched by a determination to succeed and willingness to throw themselves into the necessary training to help them achieve their aims.

But if that isn’t enough to give you confidence, come and meet two of the best. Their work ethos will impress you. And make you proud.

When Hazelmere’s Olivia Scevity learned about Harrods School Leavers Programme she, along with 1,000 other hopefuls, embarked upon a lengthy application process.

“Over several months there were six interview stages,” the 19 year old recalls. “One day I had to do a SWOT analysis, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a designer. I chose Alexander McQueen. You have to tell people who are quite senior what they could do better - it was quite daunting! The woman I presented to is the sister of McQueen’s manager at Harrods. In the end 11 of those who applied got through.”

Having previously studied business and fashion retail at London’s Fashion Retail Academy at the same time as a weekend job for Mint Velvet in Beaconsfield provided shop floor experience, working at one of the world’s most famous store continues to inspire.

“I’ve wanted to do fashion for so long. Every time I walk through the store, it’s surreal. As part of this 18 month programme I do six months in different departments. At the start you’re given guidance about cultural awareness. For instance, you should smile and greet Middle Eastern wives, rather than their husbands, which would be seen as promiscuous.”

Among the store’s many famous visitors, the Beckhams are regulars while Olivia has personally served TV Presenter and Strictly Come Dancing star Abby Clancy and her husband, Premier League footballer, Peter Crouch.

Olivia’s current secondment is Luxury Accessories on the ground floor: “I started in women’s wear, but now I’m a multi brand specialist dealing with stock, budgets and sales patterns. I might sell products worth £2,000; the other day I had a £14,000 sale for two bags.”

Not surprisingly, there’s an emphasis on creating the best first impression for customers walking into Harrods, so outfit, hair and make-up are expected to be of the highest standard. The store looks after its staff both via a subsidised restaurant serving food from all over the world plus regular talks by Directors who encourage career development and communicate ongoing company plans. And there are staff discounts too.

“Normal goods are eligible for 33% discount. Something you might buy to wear at work, such as black shoes, is discounted by 50%. I’ve bought a few things in sales, as well as a Stella McCartney bag.”

On a normal day 5,000 shop floor staff are on duty at the Knightsbridge store, a number which can double during sales periods. Yet Olivia feels a strong sense of community with her colleagues and socialising is popular.

Meanwhile the ex-Pipers Corner School pupil is clear about her future plans: “I would like to do as much as possible, maybe have a go at managing a team – I think I’d be good at that – or work my way into learning and development. Most people stay, and I think I will; I’m lucky to have been chosen.”

A few miles north of Hazlemere, the parish of Ellesborough is home to Rowan Carter. The 22 year old soprano is a student at Birmingham Conservatoire where Sir Simon Rattle (President) and Julian Lloyd Webber (Principal) are part of the management team. Despite her young years, Rowan has already mastered numerous musical instruments, performed in front of thousands and developed a successful teaching business.

“My first instrument was the piano. My best friend started to learn so I just copied her, as you do. Then I started singing and clarinet lessons. I also play flute. I’m good at the woodwind side and picked it all up very quickly,” she reveals.

An enviable list of exam successes includes Advanced Certificates with Distinction alongside Grade 8s in classical and jazz saxophone, clarinet, flute, singing and piano, all of which Rowan dismisses with a smile, insisting her accomplishments are due to hard work. There’s no doubting her commitment. During the past three years Rowam has commuted between Birmingham and home, combining midweek lessons and practice with her own teaching on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We have to take our own instruments to university so that means bringing everything home at weekends. I teach all ages, from six year olds to adults, and from beginners up to high grades. Each one is equally fun in its own right. I’d say adults are easier because they want to do it so they take on board everything you say, and they practise. I also work with babies and toddlers, teaching them rhythm and pulse so they can play in time.”

Conservatoire auditions comprise a performance, scales and sight reading. Not that any of these fazed Rowan whose comfort zone is being on stage.

“I have several years of performing behind me, including my own concerts,” she says. “I’m in my element; I know I’m good at this. I get nervous beforehand but with experience you learn not to show it. Sometimes if I’m singing I might play the piano or saxophone too, or use backing tracks. I’d like to start making my own recordings.”

Although Rowan takes much in her stride, this musical talent confesses to finding the transition between village life and living in the country’s second largest city a challenge.

“I like the countryside; going to Birmingham was a culture shock. It’s noisy and busy all the time and I’m right in the middle of the city. But this was my first choice and I’m looking forward to my fourth and final year when we get to specialise more in what we want to do. I’ll be focusing on pedagogy.”

Meanwhile she has plans to further her oboe skills as well as try the bassoon. Well, why not fit in another couple of instruments between studying and running a growing business?

Talented and energetic, Olivia and Rowan are each pursuing diverse careers. Yet they have much in common: motivation and a desire for success. Doesn’t such dedication make you proud? 


The story behind The Arts Society in Wokingham - Behind the scenes in Wokingham, a group interested in finding out more about everything from street art to tapestries is thriving, Linda Fawkes discovers


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