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Discovering Your Passion

You don't have to have all the answers yet, Charlotte Baker, Class of 2009, reassured U6 students last week as she gave an inspiring Careers talk about her own pathway at work.

Charlotte, who now works as Communications Lead at the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, was invited back to LEH to talk to students about her career, as well as the charity she runs in her spare time. She is seen here with pupils, third from the right  

She said: “The choices you make in your career are as much as being open to opportunities as they arise, as they are to being wedded to a five-year plan.”

After studying Modern Languages at Oxford University, Charlotte went on to do a Masters in African Studies at SOAS, University of London.  She started her career as a journalist working on a local paper, before moving onto a BBC local radio station and then on to BBC Radio 4 as a producer and reporter on the PM programme and the World at One.

Not long after the pandemic started, an opportunity presented itself to work for the World Health Organisation, firstly at health innovation agency Unitaid, and most recently at the ACT Accelerator. Its mission is to end the pandemic around the globe, by raising funds for accelerated research and development, production, and global equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

“We are desperately trying to make sure that people all around the world, especially in low-income countries, have access to the vaccine,” explained Charlotte.  “It’s been very challenging. It’s really difficult to overcome some of the obstacles and get big Governments to understand they have a duty of care to other countries.  We’ve currently got a $16 billion ask for funding out to of the world’s most affluent countries.  But our job just got a whole lot harder recently with the outbreak of war in Ukraine. We need politicians to realise they can help on both fronts.”

Charlotte says she has changed jobs every year for the last five years and has found she’s been able to expand her professional skills with every move.  “It used to be the case that you had to have a linear CV, but no-one has ever asked me about the patchwork nature of my career.  Portfolio careers are more and more common, especially in media and communications.  You can do it both ways - but you don’t need to feel pressure to stay in a job you hate just for the sake of your CV. I think it’s important to take a while in your 20s to find out what you really want to do, to find your passion.”

She also talked to pupils about Small Steps for Africa, the NGO which she set up nearly 10 years ago. She was inspired to launch the charity after visiting Madagascar as part of her Year Abroad during her degree. “I met a family of six children who had never been to school, having been abandoned by their father and left in the care of their alcoholic mother.  I vowed to do whatever it took to ensure these children would get an education. 

“We now provide educational opportunities for more than 100 children as well as providing a home for vulnerable young girls.  It’s a labour of love.  I’m doing it alongside my day job, answering emails until the early hours.  But it’s incredibly rewarding to have something that is mine and to have an impact on a small scale.”

The U6 students were clearly inspired by Charlotte and asked a series of engaging questions before thanking her with a warm round of applause. We are very grateful to Charlotte for being such an amazing role model and sharing her story.

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