Two former classmates stressed the importance of being true to your authentic self as they spoke to sixth-formers about their lives and careers.
Arjun Paliwal and Matthew Chew, who both attended QE from 2006–2013 and were in the same Pearce form group, returned as guest speakers for the Year 12 luncheon. The annual event gives Year 12 boys the experience of the sort of formal meal, including speeches, that they are likely to encounter at university and in their later careers.
Headmaster Neil Enright said: “The luncheon is part of our programme aimed at supporting boys in line with the commitment in our mission statement to produce young men who are ‘confident’ and to ‘nurture intellectual, verbal and social skills, giving pupils the ability to act appropriately in any situation’. It is also, of course, a nice opportunity to get together over a long lunch, with the boys being joined by their form tutors and by senior staff.
“My thanks go to Matthew and Arjun who had some sage advice for current Elizabethans as they developed their theme of authenticity with respect to their respective careers, as well as touching on their sexuality.
“I am also grateful to the volunteers from the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, as well as to some Year 9 helpers, who made the event possible and helped it run smoothly.”
The lunch was the first formal occasion presided over by the 2022 School Captain, Theo Mama-Kahn, who was the master of ceremonies. He was supported by Senior Vice-Captains Antony Yassa – who introduced Arjun and Matthew – and Ansh Jassra, who said the grace and delivered the vote of thanks following the speeches.
The two OEs both work in different roles within digital advertising – Matthew as a Paid Social Account Director at MediaCom UK and Arjun as a Client Solutions Manager, Luxury, for Meta (parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram). Both are also members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In his speech, Arjun spoke of the importance of “finding and owning your rhythm”, which he defined as “the intersection of authenticity, energy and motion: knowing who you are, harnessing the energy that comes from that and then bringing it to everything you do”.
Doing so is difficult but nonetheless important, he said. He recounted his experience of debating with his parents whether or not to go to university: Arjun eventually went on to take a first in Fine Art at Oxford.
He added: “I came out as bisexual a couple of years ago and since then have not only felt prouder and more confident in myself, but I’ve also allowed my sexuality to become one of my superpowers. There are as many ways to be a man as there are men; we don’t have to be universal.”
Arjun also cited Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ now-famous speech at Stanford University in 2005: “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
He told the Year 12 boys: “I love this quote because it reminds me that going forward takes courage and authenticity…All you can really do is be the best version of yourself, own your rhythm and wear it proudly on your sleeve. Then let things fall into place around you. You’ll be well-armed to face the challenges that come and truly present to maximise the great moments that fill your world.”
For his part, Matthew recalled how he pursued his passion for German, spending time in Germany, where he still has many friends. He read German with Management Studies at UCL. Studying a language helped him think in a different way, he explained. He reserved special praise for the QE Languages department and was thrilled to catch up with Burgunde Lukasser-Weitlaner, Assistant Head of Languages (Modern), and Languages teacher Helen Shephard during his visit.
He stressed that “the path through life is not always a means to an end”, urging boys to own their decisions – “good and bad” – since “they make you who you are”, thus again corresponding to Steve Job’s maxim about joining the dots.
Matthew, who is a voice on LGBTQIA+ matters at a company-wide level, mentioned some of the initiatives he has been involved with, such as the move by Mars to replace the normal rainbow colouring of its Skittles sweets with grey to celebrate Pride Month.
With questions opened to the floor, the boys quizzed the pair on the use of targeted advertisements, given their respective roles in digital advertising. Arjun explained that, in his personal view, targeting was about showing people content they cared about, and that online advertising can be the lifeblood of many small businesses who would otherwise be really struggling. Matthew concurred, adding that there has been a big investment in processing data safely. It was noted that Meta has information about these matters on its privacy site.