The end of school is nigh, and all of a sudden you feel like you’ve got 100 decisions to make. What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to go to college, or uni, or do I want to get stuck straight into work? It’s easy to feel lost when you don’t know what you want to do, or how to get there.

But while you have literally your whole life to make up your mind, a little bit of good advice can go a long way. So with that in mind, in a series of interviews, we’re speaking to women who’ve ‘made it’, and asking their advice on how to follow in their footsteps.

This month, we speak to Regula Ysewijn, a food photographer and writer.

What actually *is* your job?

I am a food writer, photographer and author. I also do a lot of judging, so for the Great Taste Awards, the World Cheese Awards which is great, and also the Belgian version of The Great British Bake Off. So there are different aspects to what I do, but it’s all about food.

How did you get into it?

The cooking came first, because I always wanted to eat lovely things. Then, when I was travelling, I would take pictures of whatever I was eating, and make a note of where you could buy nice food and great places to eat in a blog, but it was only really for myself. Then after a while, people began to read it. I thought, what is this? All of a sudden I had a proper food blog, so I started to put more effort into my writing and my photography, cooking more. So for me it all started with a love of food, and wanting to capture and remember it.

What’s the coolest part of your job?

I enjoy meeting different people and experiencing different cultures. Every single time I do a shoot, I learn so much. Having people open up to me and capturing their lives in a unique way is a privilege.

What are the bad parts?

A lot of people do not want to pay the price. It’s a big problem, not just for photographers and writers but also graphic designers, illustrators and artists. There’s a lot of competition, so sometimes you don’t get the job because somebody is offering to do it cheaper. Sometimes you have a hard time getting paid what you deserve.

The Big Question: uni, or no uni? 

A course or qualification might be handy to learn about things like composition, but the photographers I know are hugely self-taught—I suppose if you can why not, it’s always good to learn, but I would suggest people just get their camera, photograph every day and practise, practise, practise. You do not really need to go to school, it’s more about time and willpower. You have to be passionate about it, that’s the first rule. It’s a good idea to start a blog—it doesn’t have to be writing, it can just be photos. It’s always good to have a portfolio of sorts, and it’s good for that not to be static; for the blog to be alive and updated constantly. It’s a great way to show your work and personality.

I studied art in high school and as part of that we did four hours of photography a week, but it was still analogue back then and it was too expensive for my parents to pay for all the things connected to photography. I got a job working as a graphic designer, doing my blog on the side. I think the skills I learned as a graphic designer have definitely come in handy.

So, do you have to be a fancy chef?

You don’t have to be a chef or anything but you do really need to understand food—how to play with the light, for example, and what to take into account. We do not use shoe polish and all kinds of stuff anymore, it is real food, so you need to have everything set up correctly so that you can photograph a dish immediately. Often you see people who don’t have that experience will leave the food on the set too long and by that time, it’s wilted and horrible. Every photographer has their own field, either food or portrait or landscape—it’s not a given that if you can do, one you can do the other.

What’s your fave food to cook (and eat)? 

That’s a really hard question. I enjoy oxtail stew, things that are slow to cook. I also love to make bolognese ragu, because I know I am really good at it! Every time I make and eat it I am a little bit proud. I make such a stunning bolognese! I don’t like complicated cooking: I like good, honest food.

If you were to give one piece of advice to your 14-year-old self, what would it be?

I think I would say, do exactly the same as you are doing! I was lucky enough to figure out what I wanted to do very early in life and I have managed to make the right choices. My one regret is not going abroad to study something or to live and work but then again, if I did that I would never have met my husband. I think I would say to myself, you’re obviously having a hard time because you’re a teenager, but follow your passion and do not compromise on that. Keep on going, always follow your dream, even if you don’t have the money—it’s because of my passion that I am where I am today.

@EllieCostigan

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

Starting to think about university options? Exam season makes you think about the future like that, right? Or maybe you already know exactly what you want to do with life, but you’re not sure which subject route to take.

Don’t fret; turns out what you study might not actually have a huge impact on your future career anyways. Why do we say that? Well, because these 10 celebrities achieved some very unexpected degrees indeed…

1. Kourtney Kardashian has a degree in Theatre and Spanish

She’s the Kardashian known for her love of interiors and healthy living, but did you know that Kourt is a secret Spanish whizz? She studied the language, along with Theatre, at the University Of Arizona.

2. Lisa Kudrow graduated with a Biology degree

Lisa might have played ditzy Phoebe in Friends, but IRL the actress is super smart, and graduated from Vasser College with a degree in Biology. She went back to the College in 2010 to give a kickass speech to the graduating class, explaining how she went from Bio grad to actress – check out Lisa’s wise words in the video above!

3. Mayim Bialik has a Neuroscience degree

The role of neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory is perfect for Mayim, because she actually has a degree in Neuroscience from UCLA, plus a Ph.D. Genius.

4. Natalie Portman has a degree in Psychology

Proving that you don’t need to go to uni straight after school, Natalie took a four-year break from acting in 2000 to study Psychology at Harvard University. She did manage to squeeze Star Wars filming into her summer holidays – just your average student, then.

5. Sasha Baron Cohen has a History degree

You probably know him as Ali G, Bruno or Borat, but Sasha actually graduated from Cambridge with a History degree. Unexpected, eh?

6. Will Ferrell has a degree in Sports Information

Who knew Buddy The Elf was a sports fan? Will graduated from USC with a BA in Sports Information and went back to the university earlier this year to give an inspiring speech, which you can watch above.

7. Chris Martin graduated with a degree in Ancient World Studies

The Coldplay frontman got his Ancient World Studies degree from University College London. That’s one cool alumnus; wonder if they email him for yearly updates for the prospectus?

8. Rooney Mara has a degree in Psychology, International Social Policy and Non-Profits

Well that’s a massive mouthful! Rooney graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School Of Individualised Study in 2010 – the same year she appeared in A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Social Network. This girl’s got skills.

9. Tom Hiddleston has a degree in Classics

Before he dated Taylor Swift, Tom attended Cambridge and graduated with a Double First in Classics, smarty pants.

10. J.K. Rowling’s degree is in French and Classics

We would have pegged her as an English grad, but Harry Potter author J.K. actually studied French and Classics at Exeter University, before creating the boy wizard we all know and love.

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

Love music, but don’t fancy the unpredictable future of a wannabe pop star or jobbing musician? That doesn’t mean you need to settle for a quiet life! There are plenty of cool, musical careers out there to aim for – and none involve needing to impress Simon Cowell…

The music PR

So you didn’t make it as a rock/pop/grime star? No sweat. You can still live the high life with a job as PR for a rock/pop/grime star: a role that offers you all of the perks of being in the music industry, and slightly less of the pain. You represent whatever band or artist you’ve been assigned – which basically means writing press releases and emails that will convince the journos, stage directors and record producers of the world that your guys are worth investing in.

This demands a fairly decent knowledge of the music scene; if you’re the gal who can talk about chart-topping indie rock albums from before she was even born, then this is the job for you. There’s not much music-making, of course – but you do have to shoulder a lot of responsibility for the success of their tour or album: from the initial launch right through to their gig at Brixton Academy, which will live or die by your marketing efforts. You’ll need to be a good networker – the sort of gal who’s friends with everyone, instantly and for ever – and a decent communicator too. Honesty, creativity and energy are your stock in trade.

Music producer

Essentially these guys are the directors of the music world. They’re the ones musicians submit their original score to for approval and improvement. What you hear on iTunes or Kiss FM is the product not just of Ed Sheeran, but Sheeran and his music producers advising him on how to mix the song, modify the lyrics, pick a rhythmic background (a producer will generally be responsible for selecting session musicians to play rhythm section accompaniment) and audio master the final version before it’s set free into our radios and ears.

They’ll probably have guided him on content: what the public needs or wants from a new album, and how to pull it off – which means producers are often musicians in their own right. They work closely with the musicians themselves, to get the best version of the track in the first place, then they work with post production audio engineers to ensure the sound meets professional standards. Throughout the process their job is to ensure the track and the album is on point: pleasing to the public, while true to the artist’s vision – and within budget. A head for figures as well as fugues is key.

The A&R rep

Are you the girl who calls a summer hit in April? Did you have Issues on your phone before it was even on iTunes? If so, then you may want to consider turning your prophetic ears toward Artist and Repertoire, better known as A&R: the job of sniffing out the talent and recommending them to the label you work for, before anyone else can offer them a better deal.

This is a lifestyle career: you’ll spend a great deal of time propping up the bar with other A&Rs at music venues across the country, trying to unearth the next Charlie Puth. Knowing your way around music websites is also pretty crucial, because the holy grail of a musician might be a 17-year old living in a semi in Hull. She’s not going to be playing at the Roundhouse any time soon, so you’ll need to be savvy on social media and SoundCloud. Getting into A&R isn’t easy – many get into it by setting up their own blogs and taking the initiative in recommending acts to labels off their own bat, without formal employment – but if you’ve the ear and the stamina for it, it’ll be a load of fun.

Artist Manager

Artist managers get a bit of a bad rep in Hollywood (think Billy Mack’s long-suffering manager in Love Actually) but there’s actually a lot more to their role than bag carrier and reputation salvager.

From working on photoshoots, to dealing with their lawyers on contracts, to sorting studio sessions, to liaising with PRs and producers, you are as responsible for the success of the artist’s career as the artist themselves. You work with them on their own professional (and sometimes personal) development, and you work with their label to make sure the music and the image are on point. It’s your job to take the raw talent and polish it till it shines.

Music supervisor

Ever wondered how the soundtrack for Big Little Lies wound up being so fleek? Because matchmaking quality telly with quality music is an actual, real-life job. Yes, somebody was paid to sniff out songs from Charles Bradley, Michael K., Leon Bridges, Irma Thomas, and place them at the most devastating moments of the show.

Music supervisors need to stay within budget, check the copyright is all above board and that the artist is getting paid properly, and consider the overall effect of the soundtrack on the film. It’s creative to an extent, but if you want to cut the mustard, knowing who is who in the music biz, who owns the main catalogues and where to find cheaper alternative recordings will set you ahead of the pack.

Radio Producer

Hang the DJ – it’s the radio producer who more often than not decides on a show’s playlist. Working with broadcasting assistants, presenters and engineers, the radio producer is involved in the entire process of creating ‘audio content’, from dreaming up ideas and getting them launched on air right through to post production and dealing with audience feedback. Some producers even play presenter or reporter, so you’ll need a fair number of skills under your belt for this one – but it’s hugely rewarding.

The world of radio has changed almost beyond recognition even in the space of your lifetime, and if you’ve a knack for storytelling, a passion for music and you like both technology and talking, there is really no better place. Unlike some roles in the music industry you will find it a lot easier if you have a degree (and even better a post grad in something media-related) up your sleeve.

Sound engineers

You know that spine-tingling, hair-raising, lung reverberating feeling you get at a gig when everything – the vocals, the beat, the melody – comes together in one great ecstasy of harmony that’s better than anything you’ve ever heard on the album? Well it’s not just the musician who’s responsible for that sweet spot. A lot of it’s down to the sound engineer, whose responsibility it is to control microphones, sound levels, and outputs in order to ensure the best quality of sound.

Being pitch perfect is preferable, but it’s not a necessity. Neither is a qualification in radio, music, television and audio. Like anything to do with music or performance, practice makes perfect, and many successful sound engineers have simply learnt on the job, from helping backstage at school and university shows setting up amps and things, to working the set in local bars and jazz clubs.

There are different specialisations, according to whether you are recording, editing, mixing, or mastering a track – but to be honest, unless you’re the sound engineer to Adele you’ll probably be fulfilling at least two, if not all of these duties yourself. You’ll need to be adaptable, well versed in a wide range of styles of music, and get on well with everyone: most of this work is picked up by word of mouth and reputation, not a CV, so sell yourself well.

Music therapist

There’s no winging this one: if you want a career in music therapy, you will have to be qualified at both graduate and post-graduate level. You’ll need to be all the things you associate with a therapist – caring, analytical, organised – but you’ll also need to be highly musical, in order to devise creative ways to help your clients communicate and deal with their issues through sound.

That warm feeling you get from playing in a band or singing in a choir with your mates? That’s the feeling music therapists tap into, in order to inspire wellbeing and confidence in those suffering from anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, learning difficulties and other psychological challenges: enabling clients to find new ways of expressing themselves and communicating with others. Your post grad will be in music therapy (obvs). Your undergrad could be in medicine, nursing, psychology, education, music – anything, really, as long as you can prove some sort of relevance to the career.

Bioacousitician

A new and exciting area of research, bioacousticians are responsible for studying the sound production and hearing capacity of the world’s most sharp-eared animals, and finding ways of recreating it for human benefit.

Ultrasound and sonar scans for medical and industrial use can be improved by this technology, which draws upon the auditory systems of many animals, but mainly insects, deep sea creatures and bats. It’s not for the squeamish (unless you wind up studying whales and dolphins, which can happen). But it’s perfect for people who are as geeky about science as they are music – and who might want to earn slightly more than your average muso. You’re best off with a degree in engineering, ecology, biology, and then a masters in something related. It’s no easy job to fall into, but it could be amazingly rewarding.

@clare_finney

Image: Unsplash

When I was at school I had all kinds of grand career plans. I was going to be a Blue Peter presenter. Obviously. I mean, they PAY YOU to go on a massive summer holiday every year. Or maybe I’d be a journalist. Or a barrister. Or a diplomat. I didn’t know what that last one involved other than living abroad and going to Ambassadors’ Balls where I’d need to wear gowns and eat canapés but I mean, YES PLEASE. But yeah – when I say had grand plans, what I mean is that I had no bloody clue whatsoever what I was going to do with my life.

And if you’re in the same boat and are starting to panic, I’m here to tell you there’s no need. It’s totally fine not to know what you want to do. Seriously. No. Biggie.

Even Clare Howard, a careers advisor, is with me on this. “I interview youngsters all over the country, and the majority of them don’t know what they want to do. And that’s absolutely nothing to worry about. How could you possibly know? You haven’t had the opportunity to try things or even think about jobs, really.”

There are some things that could help you achieve Beyoncé levels of future success though, even if you have no idea what that future looks like. “Nowadays people are going to have lots of different jobs,” Clare says, “so it’s important to develop transferable skills that you can take from one job to another, like communication or project management. I’d also advise picking your A-levels and (if you’re going to university) your degree because you’ll enjoy them, not because you think they’ll get you a better job.”

“Talk to people about their own career pathways and why they made the choices they did. And get lots of work experience – it gives you some of the skills that’ll make you employable, and helps you work out where your heart really lies.”

Just to be totes upfront though, once you get out into the big bad working world, you might still feel as confused as Louis Walsh at the end of Judges Houses (or Louis Walsh during any part of X Factor, let’s be honest). And that’s all good, too. I took a very winding path to get to where I am now – a general degree; a year abroad; jobs in sales, events, space travel (I wish) and marketing before I became a journalist. TBH I’m not even sure if journalism is what I’ll do forever – I’ve just finished a Masters in something totally different. And that’s fine, too.

Loads of my friends feel the same, including Faye who’s a freelance Art Director, designing magazines, books and adverts. It’s a supercool job, especially since she moved to Australia so she can surf after work (you see, your future could literally take you anywhere). But she’s sometimes felt confused. “I went through a big turmoil at uni, thinking I’d picked the wrong course (Graphic Design) and should be doing English because I liked writing. Then at some point it clicked that you can be interested in a range of things and use that to inform what you’re doing. Being interested in writing has ended up being a strength. I can see how the design and words need to fit together, and I often write concept ideas for my clients.”

But like me, she still doesn’t have a tidy life map in her head. “I don’t think what I’m doing now is what I’ll do forever and I don’t have a real plan for my next few years, which is fine. You’ve got to try different things and I think you can take things from every job. Plus, loads of great stuff has happened without me planning it. I never would have considered going freelance two years after uni but circumstances meant that I tried it. It ended up being the perfect thing for me at the time and I learnt so much. Not necessarily knowing what you’re doing can actually work out pretty well sometimes.”

And if you’re thinking my friends and I just got lucky, and that your life will defo implode unless you decide on one path RIGHT NOW, I’ve roped in another professional to help keep you breathing.

Career coach Corinne Mills thinks flexibility is where the future’s at. “Nowadays people have way more careers than they used to. People are living longer and working later and that actually opens up lots of chances for new experiences – you’re not going to want to do the same job at 20 as you do at 40 or 60.” Her advice is just to get stuck into something. “You don’t know what you like and are good at until you try things. Something that sounds glamorous, like PR, actually might not be for you because there’s a lot of humdrum work, too. Get as many experiences as you can and use each one to work out what you enjoy and what you don’t want to do again, then spontaneously work out as you go along what kind of path you want.”

And if there’s literally no job in the world that excites you, there’s still no need to sweat it. It probably just doesn’t exist yet. Caroline O’Donoghue is a Social Media Manager (which means somebody actually pays her to tweet. Dream job anyone?). But when she was at school she wanted to be a novelist. “The job I do now didn’t exist when I was at school. In fact, the only social media I had was Bebo. But when I moved to London and started bouncing around marketing jobs, social media just became my thing and I really enjoyed it. In the end though, my job actually gave me the storytelling skills I needed to write my book. A publisher bought it and I’m leaving my job soon to be a novelist!”

You see! Proof that everything will work itself out in the end. Promise.

@LucindaEverett

Image: Katie Edmunds

Corinne Mills is a Career Coach for Personal Career Management

Yes, it’s freezing outside and no, the day isn’t quite over but no matter how your day is going, spare a thought for the team of people who will have five hours to move the Obama family out of The White House and the Trumps in. It turns out no detail is too small for this team to care about – even the room temperatures and humidity levels in the house are changed to suit the new family’s preferences (who knew people had humidity preferences?)

Here are some of the other things we’ve been reading, watching and loving this week.

#WhyIMarch

On Saturday, an estimated 1.3 million women in 616 locations around the world will take to the street for the Women’s March. The aim of the march is basically to send the message to political leaders (*ahem* some newer than others) that women’s rights are human rights too. Or, as its Facebook page explains: “We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognising there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”

If you want to attend a march, visit Women’s March to find the one closest to you – and get your walkin’ shoes on.

 

Bond, Jane Bond. 

Do you always hesitate when people ask what you be when you grow up? Well, we’ve got your back. GCHQ’s (that’s the Government Communications Head Quarters) new National Cyber Security Centre has invited teenage girls to enter a competition that could reveal the cyber spies of the future. And yes, it’s exactly as cool as it sounds.

Teams of four girls aged 13-15 can enter the CyberFirst Girls competition, where they’ll have to complete a series of online challenges. The top 10 teams will progress to a national final in London in March. Plus, the winning team will all take home individual prizes and their school will receive £1000 of IT equipment.

We imagine it will be exactly like Spy Kids, but, you know, set in 2017.

spy-kids

Can’t sleep? It might be Instagram’s fault. 

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a sinking feeling in your stomach that no one will like your latest Instagram? Well, you’re not alone. According the Science of Us, a new study was released that found a fifth (or 20%) of teens regularly wake up at night to check their social media. The study showed that those who woke up in the middle of the night for a sneaky Snapchat session were THREE times more likely to say that they constantly felt tired at school, and were less happy than their better-rested peers. So if you’re reading this after 11pm, go back to bed! Like, now.

snoopy

How to be flawless in one easy step

Anyone who’s ever taken a selfie knows it’s all about the angles… but fitness model Anna Victoria stepped it up a notch when she posted this image on her Instagram this week, to show how misleading social media can really be. While Anna looks ridiculously 🔥 in both pics, she wanted to send a message to her fans about body image: “I will not punish my body I will fuel it I will challenge it AND I will love it,” she says. Flawed? More like floored.

Me 1% of the time vs. 99% of the time. And I love both photos equally. Good or bad angles don't change your worth ❤️ I recently came across an article talking about how one woman stated she refuses to accept her flaws, because she doesn't see them as flaws at all. I LOVED that because it sends such a powerful message that our belly rolls, cellulite, stretch marks are nothing to apologize for, to be ashamed of, or to be obsessed with getting rid of! As I'm getting older, I have cellulite and stretch marks that aren't going away, and I welcome them. They represent a life fully lived (for 28 years so far :)) and a healthy life and body at that. How can I be mad at my body for perfectly normal "flaws"? This body is strong, can run miles, can lift and squat and push and pull weight around, and it's happy not just because of how it looks, but because of how it feels. So when you approach your journey, I want you to remember these things: I will not punish my body I will fuel it I will challenge it AND I will love it 💗💗💗 If you're following my page, you're a part of helping me spread this message and creating this movement – thank you. #fbggirls www.annavictoria.com/guides

A photo posted by Snapchat: AnnaVictoriaFit (@annavictoria) on

 

Royally good news! Prince William gets serious about mental health 

This week, Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry appeared at a Heads Together event to urge people to talk about their mental health. Prince William encouraged people to not ‘keep quiet and carry on’ but to open up to a friend or family member about any mental health challenges they may be facing. Good work, Will.

If you’re worried about your mental health, visit Childline for more information.

In need of some LOLs? 

If you haven’t already watched Raised by Wolves, you should really get on that asap. Written by hilairo author and all-round Shero Caitlin Moran and her sister Caz, the show is based loosely on their own childhood growing up home-schooled in Wolverhampton. Despite the show finishing mid last year, Buzzfeed reminded us of its awesomeness with this week’s round-up of their fave moments – and the main character, Germaine, is just as fist-bitingly hysterical we remembered.

raised-by-wloves raised-by-wolves

 

One of the biggest mysteries of all time has finally been solved

No, not how they built Stonehenge. The other big mystery: are all the Pixar films related somehow? Well, there’s some good news for all the animation-lovers out there – Disney has finally given us an answer. Get ready to have your mind blown.

To infinity and beyond… or, you know, Monday.

It’s a weird world for nerdy girls. In one way, it seems as though life has never been better. There are projects celebrating self declared nerds, like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girl ProgrammeKarlie Kloss has her own tech school where girls can learn to code, and academically, we’re excelling. Last year, in the US, a study found that more women were likely to have college degrees than men.

However, if you’re at school, whether you’re often at the top of the class or just feel passionately interested in a particular subject, there’s a chance that your nerdiness is not being supported. Have you ever wanted to ask a question or dig a little deeper, but worried about whether the other people in your class would think you were a bit, you know, keen? How many times have you known the answer, and felt nervous about putting your hand up? Do you ever wonder where all your nerdiness is getting you, and whether life might be easier if you kept your head down?

If you need inspiration and proof that one day, the geek will inherit the earth, you need to meet our Shero Anne Miller. Anne is one of few female ‘elves’ working on TV show QI, and at 29, one of the youngest. She started working on the show five years ago, and most impressively, she’s written the latest book of QI facts. If you’ve ever watched Stephen Fry on the show and been dazzled by his knowledge, it’s worth remembering that some of it comes from Anne.

She’s a big fan of the people on her team, but admits that the world of obscure facts and the world of television does get a bit male dominated. “To be honest, my lack of experience helped me a bit – when I first started trying to work in TV, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t. If I’d known more people in the industry and had them tell me about how hard it can be, it might have put me off!”

The newest series of QI has finally put a fabulously nerdy woman front and centre – Sandi Toksvig, we love you and we often wish that you were our surrogate auntie – so I talked to Anne about how to celebrate the nerdiness in your nature, and use it to pursue your dreams.

Firstly, how did you get your amazing job?

“After uni, I got onto a talent scheme in Edinburgh called The Network which led to a longer six month programme. I met amazing people and learned loads about TV in a short space of time, and as a result of that, I got a short contract job as a researcher on a different programme. When that ended, one of my mentors was able to put me in touch with people at QI, and I spent a day in the studio learning about how it was put together. I stayed in touch with the people I met, and impulsively sent them an unusual fact I found – ‘A vulture can safely swallow enough botulinum toxin to kill 300,000 guinea pigs.’ They loved it and asked me to send any more I found, so I used to email a few facts a week, which helped me to keep building the relationship with them.”

What’s your typical day in the office like?

“It’s research heavy, so we all sit with unusual books and bits of text and search out interesting facts to include on the show.

Often, we’re working with a particular theme – each series corresponds to a letter, and then the theme will begin with that letter so I know if I’m looking for facts about something specific. But sometimes random things will pop up – I’ll come across something weird about onions and file it away for when we get to O! As well as the main show, we have the podcast, No Such Thing As A Fish, the radio show The Museum Of Curiosity and a new TV show, No Such Thing As The News. And I just wrote the book, so it’s quite busy!”

Is this what you always wanted to do?

“Actually I wanted to be a neurosurgeon! I even changed my Highers [Scottish exams, like GCSEs] because I realised I hadn’t picked enough science to get into medical school. My parents helped me to persuade the school to do it, they were really supportive of me. I think I was lucky, and my family and school was quite unusual. I loved learning, I was good at it and I was surrounded by people who made me feel as though there was nothing I couldn’t do.”

Why did you change your mind?

“I still think that being a doctor is the very best thing you can do, but if I’m honest I wasn’t totally committed to it. I’d started to get curious about other things. I did politics at A level and I loved it, and that’s what I studied at university, and I think that if you’re going to be a doctor you need to be completely committed.”

Were you ever bullied for being clever or nerdy?

“I was really lucky, it didn’t really come up. I think I had one fight with one girl who deliberately tried to trip me in the corridor. My parents talked to the school and I really just wanted to leave it, so I tried smiling at her before she could say anything nasty, and she was nice to me for a whole day. What’s weird is that I thought she was singling me out, and years later I’ve discovered that she was horrible to everyone I knew! To be honest, it helped that I went to school in St Andrews, which is fairly remote. There just wasn’t the time or space for people to be that mean, if you really wanted to go out of your way to bully someone outside school you’d have to get on a bus and they only came once a day! When I was at school Facebook, Instagram and Twitter didn’t exist, and I think that made a huge difference. It would be much harder now.”

Were you popular?

“I had my own crew of creative people. We didn’t like the popular girls, and they didn’t like us, which was fine. There was no real rivalry, we just ignored each other. I remember thinking that I was really glad that I wasn’t popular because they all wore the same clothes and had the same haircut, and it looked like it was loads of effort. I didn’t want a side fringe!”

What would you tell your 13 year old self?

“‘Try everything’. I love my job, but I wouldn’t have found it if I wasn’t curious, and confident enough in my intelligence to keep giving different things a go. When you see a careers advisor or go to a careers fair, you don’t see the breadth of different inspiring jobs you can do, you only meet the people who work for companies who have paid for a stand! Sometimes the path isn’t obvious, and you have to make a way for yourself – if you want a job and it seems like the door is shut, try getting in through the window.”

Anne’s book, 1342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted, is out on 3 November. QI, hosted by Sandi Toksvig, is shown at 10PM on Fridays on BBC2.

@NotRollergirl