Chris Howard

College: John Snow
Subject: Business Administration
Class of: 2011

Location: London
Employer: EPAM

Chris Howard, BA in Business, John Snow 2008-2011, tells Julia Atherley how being JCR President prepared him for a career in technology consultancy and how he is now striving to make a difference in the world of primary education.

Chris Howard is the sort of person who can’t sit quietly when he notices something isn’t right. He thrives on identifying problems and fixing them, whether that be in his job as a technology consultant, at the three primary schools where he chairs the board of governors, or at his LGBT+ non-profit organisation.

This journey into leadership and consulting began in his first few days at Durham as a Business student at John Snow. I caught up with Chris just before he boarded a flight to Poland for a three day conference and he told me how even during freshers’ week he had high ambitions.

“I knew pretty much from arriving at John Snow that I wanted to be JCR President. Luckily when I ran during my 3rd year I won.

“It was such an incredible job and at the time it was my entire world. John Snow is one of the biggest colleges with over £140,000 of revenue – that is a lot of money to deal with as a 22-year-old.

“The conversations I had were important, I was not just organising a summer ball. We were accountable for a lot of things and it taught me a lot of soft skills.

“Looking back, I can see that sometimes the student politics was a bit of a storm in a teacup but it was good fun.”

During his time as President, Chris pushed for more engagement from the student body and achieved higher attendances at the JCR meetings. But things didn’t always go his way, a fact he is glad he realised during his university years.

“I learned a lot about diplomacy: how to listen to people and take onboard their opinions. At the same time, I learned the hard way that more than half the people in the JCR didn’t really care.

“They were at university to get their degree and have a nice time, and that was completely fine. No matter how powerful your speeches are, if people’s hearts aren’t in it then they are just not going to bother.

“In a recent meeting I was advising eight CEOs on how to collaborate globally. At one point one of the CEOs said, ‘enough of the theory, can you just get to the point?’.

“I found at Durham that students will tell you when they don’t care - they were often incredibly honest. So, the comment from the CEO didn’t shock me that much. As JCR President I learned that people aren’t always on the same page.”

Chris left Durham in 2012 and joined Capgemini as a graduate consultant. He was working for big name clients such as Royal Mail and the NHS. Two years ago, he joined EPAM Systems as a Senior Business Analyst.

“I’m incredibly lucky because I love my job,” Chris says. “I like to swoop in, get it all sorted out and then move on. I like finding a problem, picking it all apart, and then making a recommendation.”

From London to Munich, Amsterdam to the Canary Islands, his career has taken him all around the world doing what he loves.

When he’s not jet setting to meetings, Chris runs a charity called Intertech, which encourages LGBT+ diversity and inclusion in the UK technology sector. Three years ago, he noticed that the organisation was facing difficulties and decided to take a lead on improving its direction. They now have over 3,000 members with bases in London, Sydney and Dublin.

“We still do our networking events as our main focus but with all of those people we have got onboard there’s an amazing opportunity for us to advise on policy and connect companies, so we have started to do more in that space.

“Now working for EPAM I am able to input into diversity policies at a global level. I advise on what we should be doing not just in LGBT+ issues but women in leadership too.”

Chris also finds time to sit on the British Army LGBT+ forum to advise on media issues. When the BBC or The Telegraph come to the organisation with a query, they turn to him.

About three years ago Chris was invited to provide strategic direction to three primary schools in the New Wave Federation, based in Hackney. Initially he thought he would advise on the new technology the schools should buy before moving on to another project.

But two years into his connection with the schools, Chris was elected to chair of the governing board. He now relishes the task of helping over 1,600 primary age children to achieve their potential.

“There are three schools, and they’re all graded Outstanding by Ofsted but they are on a real spectrum,” Chris tells me. 

“What I most enjoy is when I go in on a Wednesday morning and go on a learning walk, see the teachers in the classrooms and just see the kids having the best time.

“It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Some of the things I am dealing with are outside of my circle of daily life, particularly when I was a child.

“I’m 31 next month and over the last few years I’ve been thinking less of the living the London graduate life and more of where I’m going to root myself.”

Chris has just bought a house in the Canary Islands with his boyfriend of six years, Alberto, and their French bulldog Lily. Looking to the future, he is thankful for what his years in Durham taught him.

“It provided a really nurturing, safe space to have four great years. I was pushed really hard and the best was pulled out of me. People expect the best of you and I always had a lot going on. That is what makes me who I am.”

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