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Our rich heritage open to all: proudly presenting QE Collections

Eighty-nine people joined a special Zoom event held to present QE Collections – Queen Elizabeth’s School’s new fully digitised online set of archives relating to the School and the Barnet area.

Guests at the public evening ‘town hall’ event, including Old Elizabethans and others with an interest in local history, were given a virtual guided tour and shown how to get the best out of the extensive high-quality online assets spanning more than four centuries.

Headmaster Neil Enright and QE’s Curator of Collections Surya Bowyer (OE 2007–2014) explained that the School held a variety of historic material and was keen to make it accessible to everyone. QE Collections is therefore offered online free-of-charge for all to enjoy.

In his address to the guests, Mr Enright pointed out that QE been part of the Barnet community ever since its foundation by royal charter in 1573. “QE Collections therefore includes three different sorts of histories, nevertheless intertwined. These are the history of the School itself; the history of the local area, as viewed through the lens of the School; and the shared social histories that connect us.

“I am very excited that we are now able to share QE Collections with a wider audience.”

He paid tribute to the key role played by the late Richard Newton (OE 1956–1964), who promoted digitising the School’s archives and making them freely available to all, and also provided generous funding.

“It is certain that without his support, we would not have been able to launch this project – one that will be part of his legacy to the Elizabethan community,” Mr Enright said.

Mr Bowyer, who has played a central role in developing the platform and curating the material uploaded so far, pointed the guests towards a number of current highlights of QE Collections:

“We are constantly putting new material online, so the highlights would be different if I did this event in a few months’ time, or even next month,” Mr Bowyer added.

The event included tips and tricks for getting the best out of QE Collections, together with an explanation of how the various collections are organised, with ‘access points’ provided for the digitised objects – for example: People & Organisations; Subjects; Places.

All printed text in digitised objects is almost invariably fully searchable. Anyone wishing to search for a full name or phrase should put it in double speech marks in the search box, Mr Bowyer said.

Work continues on making archival material online. “Among several exciting projects that are currently mid-digitisation are the QE Governors’ minute books going all the way back to the earliest we have in 1587. The first is available now, with more coming soon.

“There is also our 20th Century History Project, which recreates life at the School during the last century through photographs, written records and ephemera. Lots of material from the 1940s to 1980s is already available and, again, more is coming soon.”

QE Collections was given a ‘soft launch’ three months ago. Since then, there have been more than 1,300 users from over 35 countries, with the Group Photographs and Everyday Life (Photographs) collections proving the most popular so far.

QE Collections uses professional digitisers to ensure its digitised files are of very high quality and has employed an industry-standard digital preservation system to ensure long-term availability for these digitised files, Mr Bowyer said, adding that while digital files are excellent for improving access, they are harder to preserve than physical objects, as digital storage media can become obsolete and data can become corrupted.

“All this work takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. If you like the work we are doing and are in a position where you can consider supporting this work, please consider contributing to our Digital Fund, which supports QE Collections.”

Take it from us: last year’s leavers give current sixth-formers the benefit of their university experience

QE’s University Convention may have gone online this year because of Covid-19, but the alumni still turned out in numbers to support current Year 12 boys.

Well over 50 Old Elizabethans – mostly those who left the School last summer – took part in the video convention for Year 12 pupils considering their university options.

With 19 sessions on 14 subjects delivered over seven days, the virtual event was a major organisational and technological feat.

Michael Feven, Assistant Head (Pupil Development) said: “We were determined to ensure that the current Year 12 did not miss out on opportunities and I am tremendously grateful to our former pupils who supported us. Their participation means that the University Convention was this year once again one of the biggest examples of alumni participation at the School.

“The event allowed boys to find out more about quite a wide range of university options and, of course, to discover how our alumni’s university student experiences have been affected by Covid. All Year 12 boys were free to drop in as they chose, and the sessions proved popular, provoking plenty of discussion afterwards.”

In normal years, OEs visit the School together for the convention, which therefore also becomes a reunion for them after their first two terms at university.

This year, however, their contributions were given on Zoom in a series of lunchtime sessions over the seven days.

The alumni spoke on 14 subjects in the first four days, from Architecture to Computer Science, Law to Medicine & Dentistry, and from Geography to Languages.

The final three days involved sessions structured around topics such as the year spent in industry during Engineering degrees and the different types of universities available, with sessions including Campus vs City, Oxbridge, International and London.

To ensure full coverage of the planned topics, the first-year alumni were joined by a number of OEs from earlier years , such as Nik Ward (2003–2010) and Danny Martin (2010–2017) speaking on studying Architecture, and Rhys Bowden (1996–2003) and Simon Purdy (2009–2016) on Music.


Entrepreneur Akshay named in Forbes 30 Under 30 list

OId Elizabethan Akshay Ruparelia has been named in one of the influential Forbes 30 Under 30 lists, following the success of his online estate agency.

Still only 22, Akshay (OE 2009–2016) is the youngest person named on the Europe Technology list and is significantly younger than the Forbes Under 30 Europe lists’ average age of 27.

Published annually by Forbes magazine since 2011, the lists recognise young people achieving success across a number of sectors.

In the citation for Akshay, the judges noted that his company, Doorsteps, has not only raised £1.4m in investment funding, but that last year it generated more than $2m (£1.46m) in revenue, turning a profit for the first time. Charging a flat £99 to sell a home with no commission, it has sold properties worth more than £1bn to date.

Responding to news of the accolade, Akshay said that the list was one he had always aspired to be in and that he was humbled by his inclusion. “This may be a recognition of my determination, but [is also] greater recognition that I have the right people in our team.”

He paid tribute to the love and support from his family, friends and advisers. Akshay added that the award “doesn’t mean success, yet” but was “a nod to the hard work, grit and commitment of those excelling in their field.

“Onwards and upwards. This is just the start, and yet it if all disappears tomorrow, we’ll go and try again.”

The past year has been a busy time for Akshay. In addition to steering Doorsteps to profitability, his coaching and consulting business has been named a Department of Work and Pensions Approved Kickstart Gateway. The Kickstart scheme aims to help young people facing long-term unemployment because of Covid-19.

In March last year, Akshay became a board member of The Prince’s Trust’s RISE2025 campaign, which comprises a group of young professionals committed to social change and social mobility.

And since May 2020, he has been an ambassador for the Royal Association for Deaf People.

As Akshay explained to the boys on a visit to QE in 2018, his parents, a care worker and a teaching assistant, are both deaf, so in addition to the customary demands on a QE boy’s time, he had responsibilities in caring for them. He had therefore been motivated to start Doorsteps by a desire for financial freedom, he said.

Akshay, who had already displayed his entrepreneurial inclinations at school by selling sweets and perfume, spent the first year of his A-level studies working on an app to help people buy homes cheaply and easily. He then used the lessons he had learned to create

In an interview with Forbes Advisor UK last summer, he stated that his ambition remained for Doorsteps to be the UK’s number one agency. “But in life,” he added, “I want to leave a legacy and to make a difference. I want to make a fundamentally positive difference in a way that can inspire or drive changes in individual lives, across the country, or world. And I want to help my parents retire in whatever way they desire.”



At your service: Andrew’s human-centred approach to technology

Andrew Kettenis’ work as a digital experience consultant can be both diverse and sometimes high-profile: recent projects have included working on the UK’s vaccine roll-out and providing support for an AI-powered automatic ship, the Mayflower.

And the ship’s purpose – gathering data about the oceans for scientists looking at climate change, pollution and marine conservation – points to an area of focus for Andrew, namely sustainability.

After four years with IBM, he is currently transitioning to a new job as a UX (User Experience) designer with a leading London agency – “exactly what I enjoy doing”.

And yet Andrew (OE 2003–2010) acknowledges that his professional life today is very different from the career he expected when he was at School. “When I look back at my subjects for A-level, the two I focused on myself were Maths and Economics, but when I look at what I use, it’s Design. I use the principles I learned in it every single day, yet it felt at the time like a bit of a rogue one!” (Andrew also pays tribute to the support of Ian Clift, his Design Technology teacher.)

After leaving School in 2010, he went to study at Birmingham. “At university, I did International Relations, with Economics ‘on the side’.  In normal QE fashion, I was intending to focus more on the Economics and how that might relate to finance, but I actually enjoyed the politics side more, especially the sociology.

“My whole career view changed quite a bit, taking on a more human-centric focus, particularly with regard to sociology and how technology relates to that.”

Reflecting on all this, Andrew has his own advice for current QE pupils: “Follow the things you love, and lean into the things you love and that you find special or unique about yourself.” Unless boys are set on a very specifically vocational degree, they should choose a university subject simply because they find it interesting, he says.

After completing an MA at Birmingham in International Law, Philosophy and Politics in 2014, Andrew worked for a few months as a technical specialist for Apple. He then headed off to Osaka in Japan, where he spent 16 months as an English language teacher.

“I loved it. It was one of the hardest, but also by far the best, two years of my life,” he says, adding that he was speaking Japanese at conversational level within six months and learned many transferable skills. At QE, he had been a keen member of the robotics club. That experience now came into its own: “I brought a lot of that to my classes, using technology as a medium. I took a very tech-centric approach to my lessons.”

It is an approach which he has followed in his subsequent career. “Technology is an effective tool for social change and is pretty central to any social or entrepreneurial mechanism.”

He worked briefly for specialist IT training consultancy Optimum Technology Transfer – “a really good job” – and then went to IBM in 2017.

“IBM is where I found essentially what I will be doing for the foreseeable future – product and service design.”

Among the projects he has enjoyed most recently has been his work on the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project. “What the Mayflower essentially is, is an AI-powered automatic ship that has been developed by ProMare, a marine research and exploration company, in partnership with IBM. It incredibly important for our sustainable future to understand how our planet is changing. It’s really cool!”

Andrew’s side of the work has been to help design the people-facing digital products that will be used by scientists and by the wider public.

The ship has already been launched and is due to go on its first mission in a few weeks, sailing from Plymouth in the UK to Plymouth in Massachusetts – hence its name, recalling another pioneering venture, that of the Pilgrim Fathers, who established the first permanent settler colony in New England after arriving at Plymouth Rock aboard their own Mayflower in 1620.

He has also been involved in some of the UK vaccination work, re-designing the experience from a service user’s perspective, so that it works better and reduces waste, looking not at apps or the website, but at the general experience being offered.

“UX design is about what the end-to-end journey looks like,” says Andrew, who adds that his aspiration is to cultivate his skills “for a wider societal impact”.

He has developed a specialism in the sustainability of supply chains and products. He has, for example, just finished working with an automotive company to help them with their thinking about the future – “the big stuff, envisioning exactly how they will provide energy and mobility to people – how energy and electric vehicles tie into our future”.

Andrew, who is based in London, helps a number of mindfulness charities on a pro bono basis. He has worked with Dose of Nature, a charity promoting the benefits of engaging with the natural world which “does some really good work in mental health”.

He is encouraged by the ethical approach of many of his fellow OEs: “They are an upstanding bunch of human beings – just really good people, whatever path they have gone down, which I think is super-encouraging.”

A music-lover and media enthusiast, Andrew also enjoys gaming in his spare time. To find out more about Andrew’s projects and interests, visit his website.


Harmful and hurtful: asking the hard questions about micro-aggressions

Old Elizabethan Bilal Harry Khan threw down a challenge when he took part in a video conversation about ‘micro-aggressions’ as part of a new series of bitesize discussions on vital issues such as race and discrimination.

Anyone accused of perpetrating micro-aggressions should overcome the natural instinct to go on the defensive and instead be open enough to “interrogate the ideas at the root of things that may be causing harm”, urged Bilal, a podcaster, workshop facilitator and event host.

His ten-minute conversation with Year 13 pupils Thomas Mgbor and Ayodimeji Ojelade was recorded so that the issues raised can be discussed in tutor groups. It is one of a series of Perspective discussions being arranged by the School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors. Last year, Ayodimeji and Thomas were instrumental in the founding of Perspective – a new forum set up in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Michael Feven, Assistant Head (Pupil Development), said: “I am so pleased to see these short, accessible discussions taking place, and I thank especially Old Elizabethans such as Bilal who have agreed to take part. Thomas, Ayodimeji and the ambassadors’ team are to be congratulated on being so assiduous in ensuring that these important issues are both raised and discussed at QE.”

Other conversations in the series so far have included one with Natasha Devon MBE, an activist and researcher in the fields of mental health, body image, gender and social equality.

Bilal (OE 2003–2010) read Theology at Cambridge and then worked in youth engagement. He has designed and delivered hundreds of speeches and workshops in schools and youth settings on behalf of partners such as KPMG, Virgin Atlantic, Boots and Barclays. He is also frequently called upon to speak on issues of social justice, race and masculinity for news and current affairs programmes.

Bilal began the discussion by defining micro-aggressions: “They are statements, actions or incidents which are regarded as indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group, such as a racial or ethnic minority. The key bit for me is the words ‘indirect, subtle or unintentional’…These are things which are unintentional, but are still harmful or hurtful, when somebody might say ‘ah, but I meant that in a nice way,’ or ‘that was just a bit of banter’ or ‘that was supposed to be a compliment’. “

He gave an example from his own experience: “That question: ‘Where are you from? No – where are you really from?’ Where you have said you are really from is never the right answer. They want to know where your grandparents or great-grandparents are from; when I say ‘north-west London’ that is not believed.”

Bilal continued: “It’s the cumulative impact of loads of micro-aggressions that really makes someone feel like ‘I don’t belong here’ or ‘I am angry’ or ‘I am ashamed’ or perhaps that there is ‘something about me that is not right’.”

He suggested that QE pupils should be a true “ally” by challenging micro-aggressions not only when someone who might be hurt or harmed by them is present, but also when they are absent. He urged boys to be “more confident and comfortable to challenge and question, and also just to own up and apologise when we have said and done these things”.

Thomas asked Bilal how he would respond to those who would suggest we are turning into a “snowflake community”.

“This is not about being ‘woke’ or hyper-sensitive or being ‘snowflakes’,” Bilal said. “It’s about recognising that these issues have actually been used as tools of oppression for centuries.”



Spearheading change in society: PinkNews boss speaks to QE boys

Benjamin Cohen, founder and CEO of PinkNews, dotcom success story and broadcaster, spoke to current pupils as part of LGBT+ History Month.

Benjamin, who was at QE from 1993–1998, took part in a video conversation with the School’s Student Leadership Team and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Ambassadors.

The session was recorded so that it can be used by form tutors to stimulate discussion among all year groups as an eQE online resource within QE’s personal development and wellbeing programme.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Our students will take courage and inspiration from all Ben had to say when reflecting on his career, the success of PinkNews, equal marriage, Section 28, religion and much more besides.”

Benjamin launched PinkNews, a UK-based online newspaper, in 2005. PinkNews describes itself on its website as “the brand for the global LGBT+ community and the next generation”.

But before that, Benjamin had already made his mark as a serial entrepreneur in the boom around the start of the new millennium.

After leaving QE, he created JewishNet, which he describes as “Britain’s first social network before the term was invented”. It grew rapidly, making him worth £5m at one point.

Soon after, he established CyberBritain – “a darling for a couple of years” – which, among other things, launched a UK-specific search engine powered by its own technology and attempted to launch a service similar to Spotify.

For much of his time with CyberBritain, Benjamin was also an undergraduate at King’s College London.

He went on to be a columnist for The Times, corporate advisor for ITN, business & technology correspondent for Channel 4, a PR director, and, from 2010 until 2017, was a presenter for the BBC, where his work included writing and presenting a critically acclaimed documentary, I was a teenage millionaire. He is also a longstanding UK trustee and non-executive director of Humanity & Inclusion, a global disability development charity.

He explained the importance to PinkNews’ success of its leading role in the campaigns to legalise same-sex marriage: “Since then, we have just grown and grown and grown.” Having expanded further during lockdown, PinkNews now has more than 40 people working for it and 50m consuming its content monthly, he said.

During his talk, there was plenty of time for questions from the boys, which Benjamin was happy to answer.

Asked about whether religion comes into conflict with LGBT rights, Benjamin, who comes from a Jewish background, said it was partly to explore such questions that he had chosen his degree subject – Religion, Philosophy and Ethics – at Kings. “Some faiths have moved on quite a way, but others still have a long way to go,” he said, reflecting that families often found their own ways to adapt, including that of his (non-Jewish) husband.

Questioned on barriers still facing LGBT people, including school pupils, Benjamin spoke of how much things had changed in schools from when he was a pupil. At that time, the ‘Section 28’ law that made the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ illegal in state schools was still in force. “This would have been literally against the law,” he said, referring to the discussion.

Today, the situation was very different, he said. “With me as a gay man, I can pretty much do everything I want within the UK…but trans people do face some challenges.

“It generally takes an example – so, if a student was to come out as trans or something, that would create the atmosphere to enable pupils [and] the school to move on.”

He reflected that there was a growing acceptance in society that families can differ from traditional patterns.

Benjamin, who applauded QE’s policies in areas of sexuality and relationships, said that the national introduction of ‘compulsory Sex and Religious Education’ over the last year had been a significant step: “We are in a pretty good place.”


Light at the end of the tunnel: Max’s positive message on mental health in the pandemic

Old Elizabethan Max Hassell gave a virtual talk for senior pupils on his experiences with ADHD, anxiety and depression as the country marked Children’s Mental Health Week.

In the lunchtime address, Max (OE 2002–2009) reflected on his own journey and underlined to the boys the benefits of seeking help, should they need it. It was only when, quite recently, he received his medical diagnosis that he was finally able to make sense of some of his own reactions and behaviour in the past, he explained.

Max concluded with an appeal to the boys to look out for themselves and for their friends. “Especially because of Covid, a lot of people are struggling in these times and people’s mental health has gone down a bit…Don’t be afraid to show weakness with each other…check up on each other; talk about things…be kind to each other.”

At QE, Max was a keen sportsman, playing in the First XV and representing Hertfordshire at U16 and U18 levels. “I absolutely loved it [at QE],” he said. “I grew up just around the corner. I was a really confident kid, and it was only later that I started to get these feelings around possible depression and possible anxiety.”

After gaining straight As in his A-levels at QE, Max went to Bristol to read History and continued his rugby there, playing in the university Second XV.

In his talk, Max said it was beneficial for the boys to hear from an alumnus of the School – somebody who had been in their shoes. He explained that he sought to open a dialogue on important topics around which there can still be stigma and to challenge the stereotypes of what someone with ADHD is like: great progress had been made in society, he acknowledged, but there was still further to go.

Left to their own devices and with their own thoughts, people could find themselves in a “dark place”, he said, which was why he urged the boys to check up on each other.

Today Max is a football agent – “my dream job” – with Sync Global Sports, a London-based agency.

“You can be diagnosed with these kinds of medical conditions, but you can still have a very happy and fulfilled life and it does not have to hold you back in any way,” he said.

The Headmaster, Neil Enright, said it had been a privilege to be able to hear Max’s talk, which was timely in the context of the lockdown and ongoing pandemic. “Prioritising wellbeing and encouraging boys to talk about their feelings is at the core of the daily pastoral support and guidance sessions in eQE, our virtual school.

“Thank you, Max, for being a great role model, for raising awareness about some of the barriers to positive mental health young men may face and for prompting so much discussion across eQE.”

Assistant Head (Pupil Development) Michael Feven also conveyed his thanks to Max: “He spoke so openly to our current boys about his experiences of being diagnosed with ADHD and living with anxiety and depression. This is such an important message for young men to hear, and we are hugely grateful to Max for sharing his story in this way.”

The talk was recorded and remains available on the QE Connect network, where it can be accessed by alumni and senior pupils.

The poet, the prince and the podcast (and a proposal, too)

George Mpanga is among only a handful of voices to be heard on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s widely publicised first podcast, which has been issued following the royal couple’s deal with Spotify.

For the first episode of Archewell Audio, Megan explains, she and Prince Harry decided to enlist “a few friends and a lot of other folks” who “we admire, and get their thoughts on what they learned from 2020”. George (OE 2002-2009), whose relationship with Prince Harry stems from his long-standing role as an ambassador for one of the prince’s charitable foundations, joined singer Sir Elton John, American politician Stacey Abrams, presenter James Corden, and tennis player Naomi Osaka in making his contribution.

The invitation from Harry and Meghan capped a momentous year in which George the Poet has rarely been far from the headlines: he has frequently been called upon to comment and reflect on both the Covid-19 crisis and the Black Lives Matter protests.

In the past few days, he also had a big announcement of his own to make: through his Instagram account, George revealed that he had become engaged to Sandra Makumbi, who is Head of Operations at his company, George the Poet Limited. “I proposed to my best friend and she said YES!” he wrote. “Glory to God for this fairy-tale engagement… you’ve made me laugh every day since school, you’ve always uplifted and protected me, now all I want to do is take care of you for the rest of my life.”

During his recording for the royals’ podcast made earlier in the month, George, in fact, revealed his plans to get engaged  – “I would love to give a shout-out to my beautiful fiancée, Sandra” – and was duly congratulated by both the Sussexes.

In line with the royal couple’s brief, George reflected on 2020.  “This year to cope with all the change, I just took more pride in the little things – I had a deeper appreciation for going out for a walk, being able to see my loved ones, and thinking about these things consciously really opened my eyes to what was right in front of me.

“One of the hardest moments for me this year was when a loved one, who was pregnant at the time, was hospitalised with Covid and forced into an early delivery. Fortunately, she made it, the baby made it too; they are now happy and healthy, but that was quite a scary moment.”

He recalled the joy of a family birthday: “My little brother turned 23 this year. That was one of those moments: we were all on the call, six of us kids and that was one of the first times when we all got to really ‘touch base’ and it was just fun…it was like being in the room as kids again, even though we’re in different rooms as grown-ups now. That was beautiful.”

George’s family have often been uppermost in his mind in his public appearances during the year. In April, when the UK was in the grip of the first coronavirus lockdown, he paid tribute to NHS workers “like my mum” in the short poem which he performed at the opening of BBC One’s coverage of the international One World: Together at Home concert.

The following month, his acclaimed podcast,  Have You Heard George’s podcast?, was nominated for, and subsequently won, a Peabody Award – one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious media prizes. His was the first British podcast ever to receive a nomination for a Peabody Award.

In June, with the Black Lives Matter protests at their height, George was repeatedly sought out for his views by the media, appearing as a panellist on BBC One’s Question Time , an interviewee on the corporation’s Newsnight and as a guest at the online MOBO awards, to name only three examples.

His links with Prince Harry date back some years. The prince’s Sentebale charity supports the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana. George had seen at close-hand Harry’s warmth and compassion in meeting the children helped by Sentebale and became an ambassador for the charity in 2015.

When the royal engagement was announced, George was one of the commentators interviewed by the BBC for an insider’s perspective. He was then chosen by the BBC to perform his poem , The Beauty of Union, to introduce coverage of the 2018 wedding of Harry and Meghan and was therefore seen by a global TV audience numbering hundreds of millions.




Nilesh champions emerging technology’s “profound and positive impact”

After seven years in a senior role for the global advertising agency behind Nike’s ‘Just do it’ tagline, US-based Nilesh Ashra is now blazing a trail with his own innovation consultancy. 

Named in Ad Age’s 40 under 40 list in 2016, he has been profiled in the print edition of Fast Companythe influential American business magazine. He is a high-profile speaker who has appeared at events including SXSW (the annual conglomeration of jointly organised film, interactive media and music festivals and conferences in Texas), Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and numerous other conferences. And he has won several industry accolades, a winner of Webby, Cannes, Fast Company and D&AD (Design & Art Direction) awards.  

Nilesh (OE 1995–2002) launched his consultancy, Pragmatic Futurism, in January last year. “My consulting work involves helping companies face the future of technology, work, and business,” he saysWe give our clients new ideas, new strategies; we create prototypes, and redesign their internal processes – all to help them face the future in a more optimistic way. 

His interest in technology was apparent early – he started coding at the age of 11 – and after QE, he took a degree in Artificial Intelligence at UMIST (now part of the University of Manchester) 

On graduating, Nilesh says he was interested in working in a non-traditional technology space. That led me to a digital creative studio called Poke, in London. 

In his four-and-a-half years with Poke, there was, he says, “barely a corner of modern, open-source-stack web development that I didn’t have the opportunity to work on. 

“From there, I was headhunted by the iconic Wieden+Kennedy.” Not only had W+K famously produced Just do it for Nike, they also created all of Nike’s TV commercials.  

He began his seven years with W+K, based in Portland, Oregon, as Creative Technology Lead and was later promoted to Director of Creative Technology. In creative industry circles, Nilesh is best known as the founder of W+K Lodge – the agency’s technology-focused division. One example of the Lodge’s work was the 2017 launch of Nike’s new retail experience that combined video-game-style motion capture and projection mapping to reduce the time needed to customise shoe graphics from eight weeks to less than two hours. This was short enough for it to be done on demand and in-store.  

My professional obsession has been the profound and positive impact that emerging technology can have on culture and on businesses alike. After many years in the spotlight at W+K, I am now committed to my young family, and to humbly helping my clients thrive in their careers.” 

Nilesh is married and has one daughter aged six months and another who is four. “I have found myself very settled in Portland. It is mostly a liberal, relaxed, and positive community of creative people. 

I’m an avid surfer, and have surfed all over the world,” he adds. 


Doing what he loves – HOW good is that!

Frankie Vu (OE) has secured a role as a presenter of the iconic children’s television show, HOW, while also enjoying a new job with Facebook, working in virtual reality.

ITV have revived the educational programme, with Frankie (Francis) among the team of four presenters. HOW originally ran from 1966 to 1981 and was then re-launched in 1990 as How 2.

“I have very fond memories of the children’s television I grew up with in the 90s and 00s, and a handful of those shows were memorable enough that they still find their way into nostalgic conversations with my peers,” said Frankie (OE 2000–2008). “How 2 was one of those shows, and when I received the news that I would be part of the new presenting line-up, it took weeks to really process the heritage that I would be contributing to.

“Before the audition process, I was unaware that How had been a successful series from the 1960s through to the 80s, and that How 2 had run for a further 16 years from 1990 to 2006. So to be a part of such an iconic format, and to be reviving a show with so much history, is a real honour.”

Produced by Terrific Television, the new series is being shown on CITV and simulcast on ITV; it is also available on ITV Hub. The team also includes veteran HOW presenter Fred Dinenage MBE, who has been a TV presenter for 56 years and was a presenter on both the original series and How 2.

Frankie, a freelance presenter who has worked for broadcasters including the Disney Channel and CBBC, has also been working for Facebook since the start of this year.

“I work in virtual reality (VR) for Facebook ‘by day’. I’ve juggled this with presenting by using annual leave days to film, as and when necessary.

“After spending the best part of ten years messing around in front of cameras, I decided to get a ‘proper’ job, where I spend my days in the virtual world, desperately avoiding the perils and responsibilities of real life. Jokes aside, VR is a rapidly growing part of the tech industry, and over the past few years, I’ve witnessed huge development in the capabilities of the hardware, as well as the current and potential uses of VR.”

Beyond its most obvious application in gaming, VR is now also being used for fitness, surgical training, sports rehabilitation, corporate meetings and tourism, amongst other industries, Frankie points out. “My own role involves overseeing the training and development of Product Experience Specialists, who are tasked with delivering memorable first-time VR experiences, both in-person and now remotely.

“Managing my schedule has been challenging at times, but the gratitude I feel for being able to do what I love massively outweighs any negativity.”

On leaving QE, Frankie studied English Language & Communication at King’s College London. After attending a talk on careers in the media in his final year, he was invited to screen-test for Disney, and secured his first TV contract at the end of the summer.

A sports enthusiast – he won the UK football freestyle championship while still at QE in 2006 – he was a host for the fencing and taekwondo events at the London Olympics and for the wheelchair fencing at the 2012 Paralympic Games, as well as for other live sporting events, including rugby, football and NFL.

“If I could glean any lessons from my own journey, and from this year in general, I would say that we can never know what lies ahead, so it doesn’t serve any purpose to worry too much about the distant future.

“My advice would be to focus on what you love doing, work hard – and don’t give up. Many of us will spend 50 years of our lives in the world of work, so it’s worth trying to figure out what really motivates you – and if that changes somewhere down the line, that’s fine too. The job I’m doing at Facebook didn’t exist a few years ago, and when I was at QE, I had no idea I’d be presenting TV shows – so focus on the things you can control and everything else will fall into place.”

Frankie adds: “I’m still in regular (socially distanced) contact with lots of friends from QE, and I live within walking distance of two my closest friends from Underne house, Robert Michel and Anil Douglas.”

  • Frankie can be reached at:
    Instagram: @frankiepresents
    Twitter: @theFrankieVu