Although she is known to most people as Lord Alan Sugar’s advisor on hit BBC television series The Apprentice, an hour and a half in the company of Margaret Mountford is enough to realise there is much more to the twinkly-eyed doctor than her recent foray into television.
Organised by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, this Q&A session allowed the gathered audience to ask as many questions as they could about Dr Mountford, about careers, job interview etiquette, and, of course, what Alan Sugar is like in real life.
After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in Law, Dr Mountford went on to spend twenty-five years in City law firm Herbert Smith and serve as a non-executive board member for companies including Amstrad and Georgica before winning legions of fans on the small screen. After a brief introduction by Dr. Ulrike Roth, including a clip from The Apprentice in which Ms Mountford noted ‘I don’t think Edinburgh [University] is what it used to be’, we launched straight into the Q&A session.
A tentative start from the audience soon gave way to a steady stream of questions that explored everything from Ms Mountford’s experience of city law to anecdotes from behind the scenes of Countdown. Proving herself an engaging and entertaining speaker Dr Mountford struck a good balance of carefully considered career advice – from what makes a good CV, how to present yourself in an interview, and what activities might improve your chances at a training contract – and lighthearted stories involving applicants who went to ‘collage’ and consider being a primary school milk monitor a position of responsibility worth noting on a graduate application.
As an Innovative Learning Week event this session was very successful. It provided students with the opportunity to quiz a truly successful, multi-skilled individual, get advice on a multitude of topics and even garner her opinion on subjects including the recent unearthing of corruption in the City and politicians. Throughout, Dr Mountford’s intelligence and drive shone through, delivering a quiet inspiration based on the sincere belief that everyone should work hard to achieve their best; this will lead them to where they wish to be eventually.