Connecting my classroom to the world with the FT

By Krishan Puvvada, FT student advisor

In 2016, sixth former Krishan Puvvada approached the FT with an idea. He saw an opportunity to use journalism to help students prepare for university and fulfilling careers. In June, Krishan's idea came to life. The FT, in partnership with Lloyds Bank, now offers free access to FT.com for all UK secondary schools and colleges. Learn more at ft.com/secondaryschools.

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My adventure with the Financial Times started in January 2015 when CEO John Ridding came to my school in Cambridge to give a talk on the future of newspapers. Prior to the talk, I did some extensive research into the FT and the media industry more broadly. I approached John afterwards about spending a day at the FT to learn more about the brand and what motivates people there. We exchanged details and John very kindly agreed that I could visit FT headquarters in London that summer.

On the day, I was fortunate enough to interview people across the business, including former global commercial director Ben Hughes, managing editor James Lamont and John Ridding. I received some invaluable advice from everyone I met, and it was humbling to be championed by John and Ben who invited me back for work experience the following summer.

“As a seventeen year old, I didn’t have any previous experience in business strategy, but my opinions were valued and I was able to contribute ideas and learn from everyone else.”

On my second placement, I worked closely with Jacqui Dobson and Francesca Fraser in the commercial department. During this time, I pitched an idea to key people across the business about how the FT could better engage with secondary schools. Everyone was willing to listen, offer their input and connect me with others in the business who could help get the idea off the ground. I was surprised at how readily people gave up their time for me. The ideas I presented gathered momentum following conversations with B2B managing director Caspar de Bono and chief commercial officer Jon Slade. By the end of my placement, there was a consensus that the FT should explore the secondary school market further. Caspar agreed to become my mentor and consented to give The Leys school free access to FT.com while we explored our options.

Throughout the past academic year, I have acted as a student advisor to the FT. This has involved asking my friends and teachers what would motivate them to read the FT and assessing how the FT could be useful. Although I worked from my school, I had regular contact with Caspar, and as the project grew, the number of people involved did too. Once we recognised the potential opportunity, the next challenge was thinking about how to commercialise it. As a seventeen year old, I didn’t have any previous experience in business strategy, but my opinions were valued and I was able to contribute ideas and learn from everyone else.

In March, my mum died unexpectedly. This was obviously a terrible shock and it remains extremely difficult for us all to come to terms with her death. I vividly remember calling Caspar the following morning after I told him what happened. He said, ‘my heart goes out to you.’ This truly epitomises how genuinely caring FT staff have been towards me. From private chats through to offers of counselling and hugs, I could not have asked for any more support and it made me realise that the FT is a special place.

In April , we secured sponsorship from Lloyds Bank, ensuring every secondary school in the UK could register for free access to FT.com. Once the FT’s tech team started building the webpage and the marketing creatives came to fruition, the project moved from a concept to something more tangible. In just 10 days, over 1000 schools signed up! I was even lucky enough to have Alpha Grid film a promotional video at my school, home and at the FT. It was a great couple of days. The school had a buzz, and I enjoyed pretending to be a film star!

We are delighted to have so many schools interested in the FT and are committed to getting more schools registered. During my most recent time with the FT, I have been working on ideas to keep schools engaged, and looking at how to retain students when they leave. It has been an awesome three weeks making connections with more people across the business and getting involved with so many different things. I have been able to attend the editorial news conference, present at the B2B town hall meeting, and see Mark Carney in action at the Bank of England. We have made excellent progress on the schools project, which culminated in a focus group with fellow students from my school. We now have a base of compelling ideas to shape over the next few weeks and months, which is very exciting.

“If you ask and show an interest, people are willing to help you fulfil your aspirations and create opportunities.”

Finally, I was asked to write an article for FT money editor Claer Barrett and the FT Millennial Money column. I did not think I would have the honour of writing for the paper, but I’m extremely grateful. This typifies the attitude and culture of the FT. If you ask and show an interest, people are willing to help you fulfil your aspirations and create opportunities. It is a fantastic place to be and I will always remember how much I have learned from the FT. I just hope I have added enough value in return!