City of London School and Me
My parents arrived from Nigeria with literally nothing in 1987. They got degrees and they both went into teaching: dad in IT, mum in science. Education was important to them. We were made to learn our times tables by the age of six. At school, we were miles ahead. When I was in Year 4, I was moved up a year. I went to secondary school in aged 10.
I grew up on the North Peckham Estate. It was notorious for having up to five different gangs in operation. Outside school, I was surrounded by crime and people who were up to no good. The guys responsible for killing Damilola Taylor lived next door to me. We were in each other’s houses. We’d go to school together, have dinner, watch TV. A lot of kids I knew were in social care which seemed worse than growing up in prison from what I heard. It led them to the streets. Once you get your first conviction, you’re trapped. It becomes your way of life.
I wasn’t sucked in because of my passion for football and I was pretty good at it. People respect you for that. Everyone wants you on their team and you get a kind of immunity from being pressured into joining gangs. And a lot of them knew my family: my dad was a father figure to a lot of kids on the estate. I had a few fights, usually in retaliation to people calling me ‘poor’, but it never really escalated into knives and all this kind of stuff.
By accident. There were kids in my school who were really trying to get into independent schools after GCSEs but I didn’t want to know. I thought I wouldn’t fit in. So the deadline passed and all those guys had been rejected. But then my teacher called CLS behind my back, suggesting that they give me an interview. Then she called my parents. And then everyone was telling me, ‘Just go to the interview’. CLS was only one bus from my house, the No 63 and then a walk along the river. It was easy to get to. It had concrete playgrounds. It felt, not like a state school, but at least an inner-city school. I liked it straight it away.
As soon as I got there, some guys came up and introduced themselves to me. ‘Hi, nice to meet you.’ And I was immediately like, ‘What’s going on here?’ I wasn’t used to that. That wouldn’t have happened at my old school. You kept your head down there. But CLS was a friendly environment. I wasn’t used to it but I liked it. I wasn’t going to be looking over my shoulder all the time. It was a breath of fresh air.
Being at CLS broadened my horizons. People at CLS had friends and relatives who worked in the City. I was mixing with people who were talking about careers I had never heard of. I had thought I could be an accountant or a retail banker… I had no idea that the whole world of investment banking, trading and markets existed.
The summer after I left CLS, there was a scheme for inner city students to do work experience in the back office of HSBC in Canary Wharf. Six weeks in, my A-level results came out and I was in the Evening Standard. I had got six A grades. Maths. Further Maths. Physics. Chemistry. Economics. Additional Further Maths - that was an AS - so five-and-a-half A grades! Just being in Canary Wharf was a wow factor for me. It was my first experience of an investment bank. I just enjoyed being part of it. They took me to the trading floor for the last two weeks - and I thought ‘Wow - I want to be a part of this.’
I went to University of Warwick to study MORSE – Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics – and did more work experience in my summer holidays. At the end of my third year, I started at Goldman Sachs as a trader. It’s funny – three of the four of us who went to CLS together started at Goldman Sachs in the same summer. None of us knew the others were there until we bumped into each other. The fourth one did medicine and became a doctor.
CLS is a fantastic opportunity. If you get the chance, go for it. If you want to get that opportunity, work hard for it. If you prepare for the opportunity, then sometimes in life you get fortunate. And, in going to CLS, I got very fortunate.
To make a gift towards supporting transformational bursaries at City of London School, click here.