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Our Ambassadors

Our Employ Autism Business Ambassadors are senior decision-makers representing a cross-section of the UK’s economy. They are enthusiastic in their support of Ambitious about Autism and are committed to helping us bridge the gap to employment for young autistic people across the country.

Employ Autism Business Ambassadors draw on their networks and expertise to engage with potential Employ Autism partners and funders, through meetings, events and other opportunities to connect. 

Watch the film that our Business Ambassador Group have contributed to, telling us why they’re so passionate about Employ Autism and Ambitious about Autism. Thanks to ATOS and Magnus Schoeman and Craig Allen, who made the production of this film possible. 

For more information, please contact Eleanor Hull, New Business Lead.
 

Simon Clements

Simon Clements

Director of Workforce Transformation at CapGemini Invent

Simon Clements is Director of Workforce Transformation at CapGemini Invent, where he supports clients with HR transformation, strategic workforce planning and talent management.

As Executive Sponsor of Capgemini's CAPability employee network, Simon is working to promote disability inclusion, accessibility and neurodiversity programmes across their UK businesses and with clients and partners.

In his spare time, you'll find Simon either exploring the great outdoors, pulling out his hair (what's left of it!) at an Arsenal match, or at an art gallery, museum, gig or restaurant!

Jean Lavenant

Head of Internalisation and Chief Innovation Officer for RISK systems, BNP Paribas

Jean is from France and moved to London in 2007. With more than 20 years of experience across all aspects of IT from infrastructure to development, Jean manages a worldwide team and is passionate about people and technology.    
 
BNP Paribas has a strong track record in offering various opportunities to their staff from leadership programmes to volunteering and charity work. It was when Jean was invited to take part in a strategic day with Ambitious about Autism, that his passion for the charity started. Seeing and hearing how the charity makes a real difference to the lives of people with autism was not only seriously impressive, it also had a big impact on him. Jean is now Co-Chair of the Ability network for BNP Paribas in the UK. 
 
Outside of work, Jean is an Arsenal fan who loves taking part in sport, running, football, sailing and skiing with his son his favourite things to do. Being French, Jean is also a big fan of food, especially cheese!
 

ruth topham

Ruth Topham

Finance Partner (CFO) for Grant Thornton UK

Ruth is the Finance Partner for Grant Thornton UK having joined the firm in 2020. She leads a large team of passionate and committed professionals to look after the firm’s finances, property and procurement.

Ruth has a passion for ensuring that everyone can meet their potential and has seen the unnecessary barriers and obstacles that young (and old) autistic and neurodivergent people have to navigate in education and the workplace. Since 2021 she has seen this from a new perspective, having been diagnosed as autistic herself.

Ruth is the convenor of one of the firm’s five Inclusion & Diversity groups focusing on Disability, including neurodiversity – a group that works to take positive action, remove obstacles and raise awareness. Grant Thornton UK is committed to continuing to build an inclusive culture, where we value difference and respect our colleagues, because we believe it is the right thing to do and it helps our people to perform at their best. Diversity of thought, background and experience enables better decision-making, improves the quality of our delivery and helps us to meet the needs of our clients.
Outside of work, Ruth can be found practising karate to work towards her second dan blackbelt, up in the hills with her family or reading.

tim-barber

Tim Barber

Head of Casualty Treaty Reinsurance at QBE

Tim is Head of Casualty Treaty Reinsurance at QBE, a global insurance and reinsurance company.

QBE teams have volunteered at TreeHouse School’s horticultural site ‘Saplings’ and Tim, as a long-time supporter of Ambitious about Autism, has personally taken part in several challenge events including London Marathon, Rapha Rides and attended our Night of Ambitious gala events. 

Matt Davis

Co Owner of Red Brick Road

Matt Davis is Co-owner and executive Creative Director of Red Brick Road, whose clients include Ginsters, Shpock, Hillarys, Yorkshire Building Society and Hilton Hotels.

He blogs about his son Isaac who has autism at mysonisaac.net, and is also a parent patron of Ambitious about Autism. As a champion of neurodiversity in the workplace, he speaks publicly about his experiences as an employer and mentor.

He is also a trustee at Autistica. Most recently, Matt has been a mentor for Create not Hate, an initiative set up by Trevor Robinson OBE to bring more diverse talent to the advertising industry.

Marilyn Swinney

Marilyn Swinney

Managing Director and Head of Institutional Sales UK and Ireland at Principal Global Investors

Marilyn, born and raised in Malaysia, is an entrepreneurial minded Business Development professional and a CFA charterholder with more than 17 years international experience within asset management working with Pensions, Insurance and other Financial Institutions.

Marilyn is severely visually impaired and an active champion for Diversity and Inclusion. She is particularly passionate about seeing more inclusion of “people of determination” (Disabilities & Neuroabilities) within the Financial Services sector, and has chaired a Disabilities Awareness Network and worked with charities including Blind in Business and VICTA.

“I believe that everyone can learn how to see things differently with what resources they have and in so doing sows seeds that can push boundaries for not only themselves but also for the people they can invest in”.

 

jim-berrisford

Jim Berrisford

Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Partnerships at Rezoomo Talent Acquisition Software, Owner of Berrisford Associates and Co-Founder of RCIRCLE

Jim is Chief Commercial Officer at Rezoomo. He has been working in the recruitment arena for over 20 years and has his own consultancy with involvement in several other roles, including a voluntary position as REC regional director. Jim now works in the recruitment technology sector and has a wide range of global connections whom he interacts with on a daily basis.

Jim is also a champion, ally, and speaker on neurodiversity having worked in the sector early in his career in a firm set up by social services, which recruited in the health care sector. During conversations around inclusive technology, recruitment, and best practice he hopes to help make a difference while increasing awareness and support. Originally from the Isle of Wight, Jim now lives in Northern Ireland and is a big motorsport fan.

He trained as a chef and being an aspiring actor, he currently co-hosts his own show and has even had his five minutes of fame, albeit in the background, on Game of Thrones.

danuta-gray

Danuta Gray

Chair of Direct Line Insurance Group and St Modwen Plc

Danuta is Chair of the Direct Line Insurance Group and Chair of the property development company St Modwen plc, as well as a non-executive member of the Board at the UK Ministry of Defence.

She has over 25 years of experience in the IT and communications industry in the UK, Germany and Ireland; and has, since 2012, been a non-executive member on the boards of many different businesses. Danuta is passionate about creating a culture of inclusion in the workplace, has been involved in several initiatives in support of this. She wants to help make a difference to the employment chances of young people and can see how Ambitious about Autism has a profound, positive impact.

Outside of work, Danuta enjoys gardening, travel and spending time with her family and friends.

Mark Edwards, CEO SERT

Mark Edwards

CEO Sertwork

Let’s start with an objective; The clock is ticking I have approximately 8-10 years left on a call to arms. My beautiful, talented, funny daughter (8) should enter the world of work and I am adamant she will have all the opportunities in the world, #inclusion.

Now the dry bit..

  • 20 years+ recruitment experience (big corporate/Start-ups/scale ups/and SMEs - South Coast).
  • Main board member – Recruitment Employment Confederation.
  • Running apprenticeship, reskilling and training programmes (Hampshire) for Engineers  entering the Metering Installation market.

Passionate about training opportunities / pushing the talent pool perceived boundaries  / adaptation opposed to accept the ceiling of skill shortage.

Ruth Kennedy, Group Business Development Director for the TalkTalk Group

Ruth Kennedy

Group Business Development Director for the TalkTalk Group

Ruth joined TalkTalk in 2011, has worked within the Telecoms market for nearly two decades and is passionate about building strategic relationships and ensuring that collaboration is at the heart of everything she delivers. Her inspiring leadership style combined with her enthusiasm and ability to adapt to all situations has enabled her to motivate and lead her teams to deliver outstanding business performance whilst maintaining the highest levels of professionalism and integrity.

 “Working for TalkTalk has given me a unique opportunity to advance my interest’s and to continue developing my awareness of supporting children who have special needs, I am passionate about the inclusion of SEN children and how parents and carers can access support during difficult times. TalkTalk have supported Ambitious about Autism since 2006 and raised nearly £5 million for the charity. Joint fundraising events have helped Ambitious about Autism to make the ordinary possible for young people with autism.”

As a parent to an autistic child Ruth understands all too well the challenges faced by autistic young people and their families.

Ruth is a neurodiversity champion and is currently organising a 10k run for all TalkTalk staff in light of the cancellation of the Salford 10k.

Jo Smith

Vice President of Information Security Governance, Kroll

Jo is Vice President of Information Security Governance at Kroll - following IT Group's acquisition in 2020. She has spent over 10 years of her career working to improve internal operational processes and build compliance and information security into everyday business practices.

Her desire to make a difference has seen her take up a pro bono role assisting Ambitious about Autism with their internal processes to ensure stability during growth.

Jo lives in Lytham, St Anne’s where her family can make the most of the sea being on their doorstep. She has two amazing children and they love to spend their free time making amazing memories together and working as a family team to smash all their goals.

Her youngest child, Harvey, is on the autistic spectrum and he brings the whole family joy and an appreciation for the importance of the little things in life that they never fully appreciated before.

Nathan Ott

Chief Polisher, The GC Index

With over 20 years of working with business leaders to get the best from their talent, Nathan has always thought there was something missing. Subsequently, through years of conversations with business leaders he realised he was not alone. This notion that ‘something was missing’ is the key stimulus for the original The GC Index research. 

Nathan is the vision and driving force behind The GC Index. He has a fundamental belief that everyone can make an impact in their world and has created a global community of GC Partners and GCologists that is committed to fostering the impact and contribution from everyone around the globe, whether they are a global Fortune CEO or a child in a developing country. 

Outside of work Nathan has a love for Hot Yoga, Liverpool Football Club, WhatsApp and tasting the red wine from every country he visits. He has a wonderful (and very understanding!) wife and three magical children who fuel his daily energy. 

Dom Hilleard

Dom Hilleard

Director – Ethical Leadership Search & Digital Recruitment Projects – Rethink Group & Non Exec Director at CXK & MYT

Dom is an Ethical thought leader with over 20 years’ experience delivering innovative "People, Talent & Tech / Digital Recruitment & Project Solutions” with a wide range of clients in the social / profit for purpose space with RTM which is part of the Rethink Group. Dom has particular focus on innovative talent acquisition, people development, leadership and change solutions that are redefining recruitment. Dom is also a Non Exec for CXK & MYT who are in the Social Mobility space

Dom has a personal interest in Autism as he has twin identical boys who have been diagnosed.  Dom is very interested in raising awareness and helping to play a part in bridging the gap with neurodiversity and employment

 

Neil Patel, Global IT Director at Apax Partners

Neil Patel

Global IT Director at Apax Partners

Neil is the Global IT Director at Apax Partners, where he is responsible for leading and executing on the technology strategy of the firm. He channels his 15+ years of working in IT by advising a number of technology start-ups and charities with their technology strategies and roadmaps, often providing support to see them deliver on their growth plans.

Since his partner’s five year old daughter was diagnosed with autism, Neil has taken a personal interest in raising awareness of neurodiversity, with a particular focus on improving the levels of diagnosis, support and inclusion to families affected.

harriet-forrest

Harriet Forrest

CEO/ Founder of Fortay Connect

Harriet is the Co-Founder and Director of leading cloud communications specialist, Fortay Connect. As the marketing and alliance director, Harriet takes a data-driven approach in creating repeatable solutions and programmes that are targeted on specific business growth metrics including; revenues, lead generation, brand awareness and comms outreach.

Her background is in public cloud, focused on developing and driving global strategy and revenues for cloud service partners within the Google and Amazon eco-system. As a female with aspergers, Harriet is passionate to challenge the stereotypes of autism and disability within the workplace. Harriet is a business ambassador for Ambitious about Autism where she engages with businesses to create a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Harriet’s hobbies include a love for Formula 1, theatre, and Crossfit. 

ian-iceton

Ian Iceton

Freelance Consultant

Ian is a freelance consultant working for several different organisations, including two charities and a school. He is also a writer and speaker on autism and neurodiversity issues and is a qualified Chartered Management Accountant (FCMA).

Prior to that, he was an HR Director (FCIPD) for 20 years across four businesses, including Volkswagen Group, Skanska, Network Rail, and River and Mercantile. For the last four years, Ian has been researching autism in the workplace as part of his Doctoral degree (DBA) at Cranfield University School of Management. During this, he has met so many amazing autistic people and heard about the challenges they face in getting and retaining employment. He says "I would like to support the autistic community, and especially employers to make some important changes to improve this position based on the findings of my research."

Ian loves sports, particularly triathlons. He is married with three grown-up children.

paul-cunningham

Paul Cunningham

Chairman & COO of Daymer Bay Capital

Paul is Chairman of Daymer Bay Capital, a specialist in outsourced asset raising for the fund management industry. He is also an active investor in small and medium-term businesses and acts as a mentor and advisor to several CEOs.

Prior to this he started and ran several businesses in the retail, design, and manufacturing sectors. Paul is a passionate advocate of the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit in everyone’s life and believes that with the right levels of awareness employers will come to see hiring neurodivergent people as entirely routine.

In his spare time, Paul enjoys cycling, tennis, reading, and low-quality DIY.

Sally Cairns

Chief People Officer at Global Media and Entertainment

Sally is the Chief People Officer at Global Media and Entertainment where she is responsible for creating a great employee culture and fostering diversity and inclusion.

She worked with children's homes in the UK and Australia for many years and is passionate about supporting young people to achieve their potential and take care of their mental health. She is a Trustee of Make Some Noise, Global's national charity, that funds projects helping disadvantaged children, young people and their families across the UK. She is also on the Board of Trustees of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

She started her career as a commercial lawyer and has a Masters in Sustainability Leadership. She has two amazing teenage children who are neurodiverse.

Dr Magnus Schoeman

Dr Magnus Schoeman

Head of Financial Services, UK&I and Global Client Executive Partner, Atos

Magnus is the Head of Financial Services, UK&I and Global Client Executive Partner in Atos. His background spans 20 years of experience in leading client relationships through growth and transformation in a range of sectors (Financial Services, Insurance, Public Sector, Retail, Health, Transport and Logistics, Industrial Minerals).

Magnus has a PhD in Microbiology from Imperial College, London University. He is a visiting lecturer at Cranfield School of Management where he specialises in innovation management. In his spare time, he authors a blog on rainforest conservation and enjoys running and cooking. Magnus has a personal interest in autism through his older son being diagnosed at an early age.
 

nick-medd

Nick Medd

Partner of Ridgeway Partners

Nick is a Partner at Ridgeway Partners. He is a headhunter, a keen sportsman, a passionate believer in the value of teams, and the critical importance of diversity to sustainable success.

Through direct family experience, he has learnt more about neurodiversity in recent years and is an advocate for this precious resource in the modern work-place. Nick has over 30 years of experience in international banking and finance. After leaving HSBC where he was a Managing Director, he joined Ridgeway Partners in 2011 and today advises on leadership roles across banking, asset management (including private equity), and the broader infrastructure of wholesale financial markets.

Nick is a qualified executive coach and holds an honours degree in Economics from Kingston University and an accreditation in coaching from Middlesex University.

andrew-mercer

Andrew Mercer

Director of BP

Andrew is a Director at BP. He is a digital leader, coach, and mentor with deep knowledge and experience with working in the healthcare and energy sectors. He has a passion for big challenges, such as how we transition the world to low carbon energy.

Andrew said “To solve these problems we need people who bring alternative solutions. People who think differently are essential to finding the breakthrough answers we need. That is why bringing cognitive diversity to the workplace and supporting neurodiverse individuals to reach their full potential is so critical.”

Andrew is married and has three sons, the youngest of whom is on the autistic spectrum and teaches him to be a better father every day.

dan-snape

Dan Snape

Director of Convenzis Group Limited

Dan is the Director and owner of Convenzis Group Limited, a family run business that provides politically accurate in person and virtual conferences to advise senior managers on current changes in policy. With over 14 years’ experience in B2B publishing and events, offering B2B marketing and networking is Dan’s passion. With personal integrity rated highly in Dan’s personal values, he enjoys nothing more than working with like-minded individuals and assisting them in achieving their personal and business goals. Working with customers to understand their real needs and deliver high-value solutions to help them grow their business is extremely important to him, so working with his team on demonstrating strong account management skills is an essential part of Dan’s role.

He has personally had a deep connection since his early career days with charities, through donations, volunteering, marketing, and supporting. One day Dan would like to run his own charity, either to rescue beagles from scientific testing and cruelty around the world or to support people of all ages living with disabilities to have access to equal opportunities in business. 

Richard Jones

Richard Jones

Former Bank CEO/Diversity Advocate

Richard has lived and worked in many developed and developing countries as an International Manager with HSBC. More recently he was CEO of Crown Agents Bank and now has a portfolio career as an investor and advisor in Fintech and other start up and scale up businesses. He is also the co-founder of a sustainable investment advisory business with academics from Cambridge University.   

He is a champion of true inclusion and diversity in the workplace and is committed to help the Employ Autism program bridge the gap between neurodiverse talent and businesses who need the transformational skills that are available. 

nigel-moralee

Nigel Moralee

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager at Sage UK Ltd

Nigel Moralee is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager for Sage UK Ltd. Being a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practitioner, he is passionate about diverse talent and would like to bridge the talent and employment of young autistic people.

As a Business Ambassador for Ambitious about Autism, Nigel would work with Sage IT and other local north east businesses, encouraging them to partner in the initiative. Being a gay person, he is also very interested in supporting LGBT people living with autism, helping them to break through more than one ceiling and enable them to thrive in a society full of talent. Nigel also leads North East LGBTQ meet-ups and is the Chair of SAATHI- LGBTQ+ women living with HIV+. He has recently been recognised by Involve as Top 100 LGBT+ Future Leader in 2021 and feels very thankful to Sage and the community for their support in his journey so far.

Nigel says about himself, “I am a queer man of colour, fitness-friendly and a bit of a geek”, and is currently pursuing a part-time PhD. He is married to a wonderful Geordie man, living the dream together by the coast with their two gorgeous Schnauzers. 

Gina Connell

Chief Marketing Officer at law firm B P Collins LLP a Chartered Marketer and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing

Gina is originally from Ireland but has lived, and worked, in London for over 30 years. In that time, she has worked with a variety of companies from start-ups to global FTSE-100 organisations. In addition to her day-to-day role, Gina spearheads the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts helping them to become the first law firm in the UK to be accredited for their work by the CSR Accreditation body CSRA.

In her personal time, Gina enjoys a long hike (mountains optional), exploring National Trust venues, working in the garden, reading, and learning lots about special interests from her son – she is now quite an expert on tanks and F1 racing.

Rob Ford

Senior ITSM Consultant at DWP Digital

Rob has over 20 years of experience working in the IT industry and specialises in running Digital Service Management Transformation programs. He has worked for numerous global organisations, across multiple sectors in both senior management and consultant roles. In each of these roles his focus is always to drive service improvement and add customer value, either through transformation, or building new teams and capabilities.

Rob is a dad to three and his middle son Thomas has a formal autism diagnosis and now attends a special school in the south west. This real-world experience means that Rob is all too familiar with the challenges autism can bring and the resulting apprehension for the future.  

As a Business Ambassador for Ambitious about Autism, Rob is keen to use his experience and network to increase the awareness of the charity and work with organisations to create a culture of inclusion.
 

Jack Biddulph

Jack Biddulph

Managing Director, Ridgeway

Jack is the Managing Director at Ridgeway, a global advisory business specialising in Executive and Non Executive search. Jack leads the HR and Communications practice, advising Chief Executive Officer’s on the appointment of their Chief People Officer and Chief Communications Officer.  He also advises Founders and Family owned businesses on appointing their new Chief Executive Officers. 

Jack is a member of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee at Ridgeway and a member of the Neurodiversity Committee at its parent, Teneo. He is also an Ambassador for Societi, a charity supporting children with Kawasaki Disease, the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children in the UK. 

Outside of work, Jack plays cricket for Hampstead Cricket Club and the Marylebone Cricket Club. He is also the Club Secretary for the Stock Exchange Cricket Club. Jack has a keen interest in Art, Theatre, and Music. Jack is passionate about creating a fairer world with equal opportunities for everyone. In particular, he wants to utilise his position to help organisations employ the amazing minds of neuro divergent people.
 

Tom Marchant

Business Development Manager at Capita Modular People Solutions

Tom leads Capita’s Neurodiversity Novus programme, an employment initiative launching careers for neurodivergent individuals in Business Analysis, Data & Analytics, Project Management, and Software Development. In 2021, Tom was part of the team that launched the Neurodiversity Chapter launch of Capita’s Ability Network.

After receiving autism and ADHD diagnoses in 2019, Tom spent the subsequent months researching neurodiversity and was stunned when he encountered the autism employment gap. Tom was impressed with the way Ambitious About Autism has helped autistic job seekers in various sectors and job roles and is keen to promote Employ Autism with his network.

Tom is on the management team of a new charity, Neurodiversity in Business, leading the corporate membership function. Tom also leverages his 10 years of experience in technology sales and recruitment by mentoring autistic jobseekers in his spare time.