Senior Director at Google & Board Member of UK Sport
Neil recalls Hampton as somewhere “boys could find their place and purpose.” It was a time of hard work but lots of fun, he says, and a lot of the friendships he forged then still remain strong today. He remembers many of this teachers with great fondness, particularly those who guided him through his A-levels and credits them with instilling within him a love of learning: “I still visit the theatre to see productions of the plays I studied at Hampton because my appreciation of them has endured, and I am reminded of the enjoyment I had studying literature in the Garrick as a schoolboy.”
Neil and his friends spent many a break-time playing the traditional English handball game ‘fives’. He was also a member of the Combined Cadet Force, and led the contingent as Warrant Officer in his final year at School. The CCF offered him the opportunity to fly solo at the age of 16 which he stills recalls as a highlight today. “The CCF taught me the value of self-discipline, resilience and courage. It also helped me to develop leadership skills which have been key in later life.”
After Hampton, Neil studied Geography at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, as an undergraduate, and Politics and Sociology as a postgraduate.
It was at university that he discovered a passion for rowing and began to train as a cox with the Oxford squad. He was appointed Captain of Boats at St Catherine’s College in 1988, and helped his Oxford crew win the Boat Race in 1991.
Neil was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009. After holding senior positions at Goldman Sachs and Sky, he is now a Senior Director at Google, at the heart of a global company with enormous influence, and is enjoying the challenge: “The technology industry is revolutionising the way we live and work, and despite the inevitable challenges brought about by such rapid change, I do believe that it is ultimately a democratising force for good in society.”
Neil credits Hampton with engendering many of the characteristics which he believes have helped him succeed in business and life beyond:
Self-discipline, resilience and hard work; teamwork, esprit de corps and respect for others are all values that I learned at Hampton and still hold dear today. As an employer of highly educated, talented graduates, I see first-hand how much value there is in the capacity for humility and self-awareness that a well-rounded, well-grounded education provides.
Rowing has remained a major part of Neil’s life. Coxing crews for Great Britain, he won Gold medals as both an under-23 and a senior international at the World Rowing Championships. He has also served the sport as Chief Executive Officer of British Rowing, as a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta and a member of its Management Committee. Neil’s sport and business-leadership credentials led to his appointment as a Board member of UK Sport, the Government’s leading strategic body for Olympic and Paralympic sport.
His message to today’s Hamptonians:
Hampton boys have a breath, depth and quality of opportunity that is extraordinary. My message to them would be to embrace that kaleidoscope of chances, try many different paths, try to find what you are passionate about, and make that your vocation.