Few workplaces can boast the number of family connections amongst its staff as Radley can. One of these family ties are siblings Anne Blagrove (Estates Administrator) and Jane O’Connell (HR Administrator). Jane and Anne were kind enough to share with us stories of their childhood and the roads that led them both to Radley.
Jane: I’m the middle child but I like to think that I’ve avoided middle-child syndrome.
Anne: I definitely have the classic signs of the youngest sibling! I was always the cry-baby, always being picked on. We have an older brother Mark, who is two years older than Jane, and then there’s an eight year age difference between Jane and me.
J: We had a great life before Anne came along, we called it ‘BA’ – Before Anne.
A: I used to get bossed around all the time, I was like a little slave!
J: Especially in the years when I was working and you were still at school. Every night I’d come home, get changed and go out again. I was a bit schizophrenic – sometimes I ‘allowed’ Anne to sit and chat to me while I got ready. Other times she would trot upstairs behind me and I’d get to my bedroom and shut the door in her face!
A: I enjoyed watching her get ready and do her make-up and I loved listening to her music. It’s why I love 80s music now.
J: We grew up in Surrey – a classic British childhood in 70s and 80s suburbia. When I left school I went to work in a bank – I think that’s where I got my love of admin and figures. I started in the machine room, putting in details of all the transactions, racing to get everything processed and balanced before the end of the day. I did a variety of roles over the years but it wasn’t until my role became more sales-focused that I started to think about leaving as that didn’t appeal to me.
In 1989 I started work as an assistant at an independent financial advisor and I ended up staying until 2018! The company grew exponentially over the years and so did my role – I progressed to Head of Relationship Management for all our outsourced partnerships. By the time I’d reached this point, the company had had several changes of ownership and leadership, and each time I could feel the values becoming further removed from those of the original company. I became increasingly disillusioned. I’d always been good at absorbing the stress of long days and high-pressured situations, until suddenly I found I couldn’t. Once I’d made the decision to leave, I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner.
A: You had a break and were starting to think about what to do next, meanwhile I’d been keeping an eye out for anything that might interest you at Radley.
J: I’d been to the campus with you and thought how beautiful it was. I’d always found boarding schools fascinating, since reading Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers as a child!
A: Also, our Mum went to boarding school and we’d grown up listening to great stories about her school days.
J: Having not been for a job interview for so many years, I met with Jo Bailey who was looking for exam invigilators. I was so nervous and in preparation had read the entire JCQ regulations – Jo couldn’t believe it! Anne invited me to one of the Staff Quiz evenings and I met the HR team who seemed like a fun bunch, so when the part-time Administrator job came up in HR I decided to go for it. Here I am four years later and about to go full-time!
A: A testament to how much you enjoy your job! I’d always wanted to be a teacher – I loved school and all my childhood games involved playing schools. I did my work experience in a school so the natural progression for me was to go to teacher training college.
In my final year of a Bachelor of Education in Oxford at Westminster College, it dawned on me that teaching was less about having fun with the children and more about assessments.
I wanted to get some office experience so I took a temporary Receptionist role at a construction consultancy while I thought more about what I could do next. I ended up staying there for two years and working my way up to Senior Secretary. Following that, I worked for Blackwell Publishing for eight years, where I managed the medical journals admin team. Looking for a change, I applied for the role of PA to the Foundation Director at Radley. The funny thing about that was when I got in the car after my second interview, I immediately sent a message to my Mum to tell her I thought it had gone really well … only to realise I had in fact sent it to my boss! So that saved explaining to him that I was leaving.
I worked for Foundation Director, Anthony Robinson, for two years before joining the Admissions Team – originally as Tash Cooper’s maternity leave cover. The three of us in the Admissions team worked closely with the Warden’s Secretary, Ali Goodfellow, becoming known by Andrew Reekes as the ‘Giggle Deck’.
After seven years of organising Admissions visits – about 170 each term – I was looking for a new challenge. As it happened, at that point in 2016 David Anderson was looking for a new assistant so I applied for that role and have been part of the Estates team ever since.
J: I always thought you were exaggerating the friendships you had at Radley until I started working here!
A: I think we’ve both made lifelong friends here.
J: Yes, and great relationships within our teams as well. Radley is a beautiful and inspiring environment. I love the opportunities we have as staff to attend concerts, use the library, explore the grounds – we’re very lucky.
A: Although we work in different teams we both really enjoy the cross-over we have at work. In the summer we work together on joiners, leavers, start dates and the great jigsaw puzzle that is summer house moves!
J: I’ve found it really helpful to understand how much is involved. Anne roped me in one summer to look at a house which had been used for years as shared accommodation.
A: I wanted a second opinion on what we could do with this property which had definitely seen better days, so we made it our project! We didn’t spend a lot of money but thought about what homely touches we could add – plants, lamps, artwork, rugs, cushions – to make it feel more inviting for graduates and language assistants who might be living away from home for the first time.
J: And building flat-pack furniture of course.
A: Yes, our favourite! It has definitely had a positive effect on the way the house is left, and it’s changed the way we set up multiple occupancy accommodation.
J: It was great to work together on a successful project but I don’t think we could work in the same office! We’re too similar, we both like to be the one in control. And if Anne came up with a good suggestion I’d find it so annoying!
A: We’ve always been a close family but Jane moving to Oxfordshire in 1997 meant we spent more time together and our relationship evolved into more of a friendship. Since then we lived together for a few months, we’ve been on holiday together, enjoyed loads of ‘crafternoons’ and supported each other through difficult times. We even invented our own Sisters’ Day – each year we swap gifts and cards and spend the day together doing something nice.
J: We are aware that we’re very lucky we all get on so well.
A: It’s a testament to our parents, who have always had close relationships with their own siblings. We have this sense of loyalty as a family and have been able to get on and get through stuff. Mum and Dad have always been so supportive of us.