Alumnus Wayne Snow (BSc MORSE, 1994 and Chief Risk Officer) and his husband Allister Dennis (BEng Engineering (Mechanical), 1994 and Product Manager Electrification and Advanced Power Systems) are passionate about social inclusion and changing people’s lives by breaking down barriers to accessing a university education. Explore their views on STEM inclusion and what motivates them to give to Warwick.
How did your time at Warwick help you in your careers?
Wayne: It was an academic at Warwick that encouraged me to undertake further study in the US, where I was offered a full scholarship to study Operations Research at Princeton. I’m sure Warwick’s international reputation contributed to me receiving that scholarship. From there, I spent 12 years in the US before coming back to the UK.
Allister: I didn’t have any role-models who were engineers when growing up, so my time at Warwick drove my passion for a career in engineering. The work taking place in WMG opened my eyes to the industrial side of manufacturing, engineering and product development and inspired me to follow that career path.
How can we encourage more young people to take up STEM subjects?
Allister: I’ve presented on this subject in schools and colleges before and I try to explain how STEM subjects are so flexible and can lead to a broad range of careers, beyond the traditional ‘scientific’ roles. There are many people with STEM degrees working in finance and business, for example.
Wayne: I was one of the few people in my family who had gone to university and the idea of studying MORSE at a place like Warwick happened more or less by chance for me. Reaching out to the local community is vital to show young people that there are opportunities to study STEM subjects and the opportunities that can bring.
Who have been the biggest influences on your careers so far?
Wayne: Jean Park was Chief Risk Officer at the Phoenix Group when I worked there. She taught me about the importance of risk management and governance and how applicable they are to any company. Thanks to Jean, I’m gradually moving towards a portfolio career, focusing on the third sector, including joining the University’s Risk and Audit Committee and being a Trustee for Queer Britain, who will open the UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum on May 5th.
Allister: There was a visiting academic from Loughborough who mentored me in the early part of my career. He encouraged me to take on completely new roles outside of my comfort zone, which helped me gain the experience I needed for my current role. A number of years later, a General Manager at Caterpillar taught me how to fundamentally invest money and create a return when developing a new product line. That experience developed my understanding of how to effectively run a business.
What advice would you give to a young person looking to succeed in your line of work?
Wayne: There is a temptation to focus on the technical side of a role. In the early part of your career, focus on developing a broader set of transferable skills and get out of your comfort zone. Speaking to people you look up to can help you to understand what opportunities are available to you.
Allister: Try to understand what you’re good at and what you enjoy, and then find a role that satisfies both of those things. It’s difficult to know what your strengths are, so ask people what they feel are your strengths and weaknesses. Finally, try to find a mentor who shares common interests to support you.
What motivates you to support students at Warwick?
Allister: I’ve donated towards student support initiatives at Warwick for a long time. I’m passionate about making a university education accessible to those for whom it might seem an impossibility or are unaware of its worth. A university education gives you so many opportunities and amazing experiences that prepare you well for your future.
Wayne: We support IntoUniversity Coventry, a University of Warwick partner charity that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to attain either a university place or another chosen aspiration. We’ve found that to be an incredibly rewarding experience. To hear from young children about what they want to study at university is an amazing feeling. The impact that IntoUniversity has on these young people is fantastic.
How do you see the role of universities like Warwick in facilitating social mobility for young people?
Wayne: Outreach work needs to raise awareness of the opportunities to go to university but also to convey what a university experience is like and the opportunities it can generate. IntoUniversity Coventry is an excellent example of where Warwick is supporting the community in this way.
Allister: Warwick can lead the way for fair access to education. Warwick is, and always has been, a progressive university, and with the increasing numbers of admissions, alongside the socioeconomic inequalities highlighted after Covid, now is the time to demonstrate that leadership.
How would you encourage other alumni to support Warwick?
Wayne: I find it an incredibly gratifying feeling to support initiatives like IntoUniversity and see for myself the positive impact that they have on people’s lives. I sit on the University’s Audit and Risk Committee and have applied my skills from financial services to benefit the university but have gained valuable experience myself working for one of the top universities in the UK.
Allister: I started giving back regularly to Warwick in a small way a long time ago but that can make a real difference over time or if lots of people give collectively. Giving your time can be so valuable too, mentoring for an hour per month is an example of how you can influence someone else’s success, it costs nothing and can be very fulfilling.