Name: Dame Stephanie Shirley, tech entrepreneur
Which school did you go to? My sister and I arrived as refugees from Nazi Germany in 1939, and were placed with a foster family in Lichfield. I started picking up this rather nasty regional accent at the village school, so my foster parents sent me to a tiny catholic convent school, St Paul’s. Neither they nor I was at all religious, but they were a bit snobbish, God bless them. Later I went to the local grammar, The Friary School, and Oswestry Girls’ High School.
What grades did you get? Oh, it’s too long ago. I got very good grades though. I was a rather nasty little swot. I did maths and English for A level, and geography I think.
How did you handle pre-exam nerves? It was so important to get good results because I knew that would get me out of poverty. I became very anxious, near suicidal at some stages, though I have since learned just to do the best I can. I’m lucky though that I always do my best when I’m under stress, so I did myself justice in my exams.
What was your favourite subject? I was desperately keen to study maths, but in my generation girls didn’t really study science. I had to go to the local boys’ school to get mathematical training, which was quite an experience. It was a forerunner of the sexism I’d face in the workplace.
What advice would you give your teenage self? Get yourself to university. I had a real chip on my shoulder until I was about 30 because I’d missed out on that educational experience. It took me six years of evening classes to get my degree, while working full time as a lowly civil servant. It’s possible but I wouldn’t recommend it.