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Alumnus of the Month

9 November 2022

Jack Grylls is our Westminster City School Alumnus of the Month. Jack left Westminster City School in 2005 and is now an Officer in the British Army.

Please tell us a little about yourself – where do you work and how did you get to this role?

I am currently a Major in the Corp of Royal Engineers, which is the section of the Army that predominantly focuses on building places for people to live and putting bridges in place on the battlefield. I have been in the Army for 9 years and the job has taken me across the UK and abroad to Jordan, Canada, Norway and most recently, Afghanistan. 

To be an officer in the Army you attend a 4-day assessment process to be selected to attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. This is a year long training course and during your time there you will be selected for an area of the Army. I then had six months additional training with the Royal Engineers. 

Before joining the Army, I attended Brimingham University where I studied Mathematics and then spent two years working for a bank in the City of London. 

Outside of work I like to keep myself physically challenged. A few recent highlights include an eight-day, 500 mile cycling trip around North Scotland whilst camping, and I am currently attempting to run along every London Underground Line from station to station (above ground). I have the Jubilee, Piccadilly, Metropolitan and Central line left to complete and I have run past Westminster City School a few times so far!

What are some of your proudest achievements since leaving Westminster City School?

My proudest moments are when I know I have achieved something to the best of my ability. 

It took a while for me to apply myself and concentrate academically. Managing to get my head down and work hard in my final year of university to achieve a 2:1 in my degree was probably the first moment I was really proud of what I had achieved. 

Although I have done some amazing things since joining the Army, I was extremely proud to initially get a place at Sandhurst. I spent a year preparing for the Army Officer Selection Board and with no military background, I didn't have a lot of help to lean on from those closest to me. 

In 2016 I completed the UK Ironman, which saw me swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and then run a marathon in 14 hours and 3 minutes. Crossing the finish line I felt I had failed, when entering the event months earlier I had wished to go a lot faster and on the day had hoped to go quicker than 14 hours. Those 3 minutes really got to me! 

However, I now see it as one of my greatest achievements. I had to accept that it was far harder than anything I had ever attempted and I prepared as much as possible, given a number of other factors in my life at the time. I learnt a lot about myself throughout the whole process which has taken me onto greater challenges. It also taught me that sometimes failure isn't a simple concept and as long as it helps you move forward, it is a positive thing. Not attempting the event would have been the real failure. 

What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar career path?

It's not for everyone, so if you do research and at any point decide it's not for you, then that is absolutely fine. The most important thing is that you are honest with yourself. If you do think it's for you then it can provide an excellent career, it has and continues to be a great career for me. 

Don't under estimate the selection process and make it something that you prepare very well for by being dedicated with your time.

If you are not successful, then listen to the feedback and either try again or use everything you have learnt in the process to go and do something else that you will enjoy. 

How have your experiences at Westminster City School contributed to your life and successes since leaving school?

Everyday in my job I look to add energy, positivity and respect for all, which definitely stems from my time at Westminster City School and it has also been a strong part of my achievements.

There was an event every year that showcased the different cultural backgrounds represented in the school. This helped me and everyone else understand and respect the similarities and differences between everyone's heritage from around the world. 

Looking back, the energy and enthusiasm that the teachers showed everyday inside and outside the classroom was extremely admirable. The teachers at Westminster City School were impressive, always bringing positivity to a learning environment thus allowing students to develop and flourish.

Can you describe one of your fondest memories from your time at Westminster City School?

Mr Huxley driving the School Minibus back from Fulham Football Club's Training Ground as 2005 West London Champions. This is a fond memory that sticks with me.

What’s next?

As I have just been promoted to the rank of Major, I am being sent back to school for 6 months in January to learn about the next stage of my career. After that I will be rejoining the deployable force and will be ready to head off to wherever the country decides we need to go. 

Next year I am also planning on attempting to run from London to Birmingham on the canal without stopping (147 miles); with a long term goal to go from Land's End at the bottom of the UK in Cornwall to John O Groats at the top of Scotland (about 1000 miles) by foot in under a month. 

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