On Tuesday 30th November, students of Years 12 and 13 were joined by Old Runnymedians Daniel Caverzaschi, Elena Monge and Manuel Muñiz for an interactive question and answer session to learn about these successful alumni’s fascinating educational and professional trajectories. The panel event, held in the Julia Powell Auditorium, was led by Mr Crumpton, who put the speakers through their paces with a wide array of interesting and insightful questions.
The first panelist to brave the questioning from Mr Crumpton was Daniel Caverzaschi who, as a world-class Paralympic athlete, is of course no stranger to the spotlight and took the questions in his stride. Pupil at Runnymede from 2003 to 2011, Dani went on to study Economics at the University of Warwick, obtaining First Class Hons. Since his graduation in 2014, he has focused on his professional tennis career, participating in the Paralympic Games of London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 – achieving an Olympic diploma at both of these later games and earning his title of Top 10 in World. Dani currently trains at the Emilio Sánchez Academy and is the President of the Wheelchair Tennis Committee within the Spanish Tennis Federation. He is also Brand Ambassador for Key Capital Partners, Kia Motors and Arrow, sharing his journey online with his fans with hashtag #ValeLaPierna, proving that disability is no barrier for success.
From his responses to Mr Crumpton’s questions, it was clear to see that Dani is someone who is driven by both his ambition to be the very best in his field and by his passion for what he does. In response to a question from one of our students, Dani explained his choice to go to university rather than focusing solely sport. He was unequivocal in his rejection of the idea that he might regret having taken his focus away from his sporting career during his studies, emphasising to our students the importance of exploring all the options are open to them and following their passions above all else. To confront the challenge of juggling a highly demanding degree and rigorous training regime, time management was key, and Dani was happy to share some useful tips with our students on how to improve their self-organisation skills.
Aside from his sporting accolades, Dani is also gaining traction as a brand ambassador and campaigner, having launched the #ValeLaPierna campaign, which aims to raise awareness about people with disabilities and what they can achieve. He also mentioned the lack of development in wheelchair technology, and suggested lightheartedly to Runnymede’s budding mechanical engineers that this is a field in dire need of research and investment.
Next up was Elena Monge, who attended Runnymede from 2009 to 2014, and was outstanding from the outset for her academic ability. Achieving four A*s and two As at A Level (in Latin, English Literature, French, Maths, Further Maths and Physics), Elena received offers from Oxford, Harvard and Yale, before eventually deciding on Harvard. Having graduated with a BA in English and Applied Mathematics in 2018, Elena then completed several internships at the City of London Corporation, Groupon and Adidas, before going on to become a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company in Madrid, where she has been since 2019.
Despite her many successes, Elena has faced her fair share of setbacks and was keen to emphasise the importance of learning how to fail and overcome challenges. Having graduated with a clear idea of the field in which she would like to work, and subsequently receiving a series of rejections from the companies in which she was interested, she was forced to reevaluate her options and change track. She emphasised the importance of making the most of internship opportunities, even if the role or company is not directly related to your desired field, since these experiences may well offer new perspectives and open up more opportunities in the future. The important thing, she pointed out, is to be flexible and to adapt to change. Elena stressed that it is perfectly normal not to know one’s strengths, and advised students to focus on what they enjoy and on making the most of the opportunities they are offered. She also highlighted the importance of actively looking for opportunities (sometimes even those that may be outside of their comfort zone or area of interest) and of making use of their network.
Our final speaker was Dr Manuel Muñiz, who has had an international career studying and working in Spain, the UK and the USA, providing policy advice to governments and international organisations. His research focuses on the fields of innovation and disruption, political economy, and regional and global governance. A pupil at Runnymede College from 1994 to 2001, Dr Muñiz went on to study Law at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, followed by an MSc in Finance at IEB, a Master in Public Administration/International and Global Affairs at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and finally a DPhil in International Relations from Oxford University. He later took on various roles such as Research Fellow, Teaching Assistant and Consultant for the UN Support Mission in Libya, Professor, Director of Program on Transatlantic Relations, Dean of IE School of Global and Public Affairs, and Secretary of State at the Spanish Foreign Ministry (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación de España), where he worked on the Covid task force. In September 2021, he took on the role of Provost at IE University and Dean of IE School of Global and Public Affairs.
Dr Muñiz’s interview focused on the changing nature of the job market, the growing importance of big data and tips on ways to maximise opportunities. Like our other panelists, he stressed the importance of adaptability, explaining that some jobs will become partially or fully automated in the future, and others will emerge as a result of the technical revolution. In this constantly changing world, he believes, just having a degree is not enough: lifelong learning is needed to keep skills and knowledge up to date and remain competitive in the job market. He also advised students to take care with their ‘digital footprint’ as, in this era of big data, a huge amount of personal data can be collected and accessed on the internet; now, more than ever, we need to carefully curate our ‘personal brand’ in the knowledge that potential employers will use this to inform their hiring decisions.
Reflecting on his own experiences, Dr Muñiz touched on the differences between studying in Spain, the UK and the USA, noting that academics in the USA tend to be more directly involved in research. He also echoed Elena’s sentiments when he reiterated that it is possible to change career path, as he has done, and still be highly successful. Dr Muñiz’s trajectory is a clear example of how we can adapt to our changing interests and skills, and to the changing world around us.
The final question from our audience asked whether it matters where you choose to study. Our panellists were unanimous in the opinion that holding a degree from a highly ranked institution can open doors and attract offers from top employers. Nevertheless, Dani was quick to add that the most important thing is to pursue your passion, and that success may come in many different forms.
We would like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to all our panellists for taking the time to come and speak to our students. The Old Runnymedian network is open to all our students and alumni and , as our panellists themselves were keen to testify, it is an invaluable tool for anyone seeking careers advice, mentoring and internship opportunities.