100 Inspiring Minds – Victoria Connelly (née Bailey)

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Marathon des Sables

Victoria Connelly (née Bailey) (1993-2000)

I’m currently a Global Procurement Manager for the pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca based in Cambridge; prior to this I worked in similar roles at both Google and Glaxosmithkline (GSK). Whilst at GSK I was fortunate to receive funding to undertake an MBA in Strategy and Procurement Management at the University of Birmingham and it was during this time that I also discovered triathlon. In 2012 I completed my first iron-distance event, Ironman UK which requires athletes to complete an open-water swim of 3.8km, a 180km bike ride and a marathon, all within a time limit of 17 hours. Ironman UK takes place each July in Bolton with the run course passing the arches of Bolton School several times; I even spotted a few familiar faces within the crowds of spectators. Since then I’ve continued to dedicate around twenty hours a week to training and in August 2016 completed my sixth Ironman event having now raced throughout Europe. It’s a tough all-consuming sport and I’ve had major setbacks along the way including having to undergo reconstructive surgery on both hips. The surgeries and long recovery periods forced me to delay initial plans to participate in the Marathon des Sables (MdS) in 2015. Luckily I was able to transfer my place and get back to full fitness in time to compete in this year’s race back in April. The MdS is considered to be the toughest footrace on earth and requires competitors to spend seven days running 250km through the Sahara carrying all provisions, including food, on their backs. It’s difficult to put an experience like the MdS into words as it has such a deep impact on you…and on your feet. You certainly don’t leave the desert as the same person who went in.

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Iron Man    

In 2017 I will compete in the European Ironman Championships in Frankfurt followed shortly by the Fire & Ice Ultra in Iceland; another multi-day ultra event covering 250km across the Icelandic wilderness.

What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?

I attended Bolton School from 1993 through to 2000. My younger brother, Jonathan Bayley (1994-2001), and younger sister, Joanna Bayley (1997-2004), were also pupils there.

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?

There are so many! I particularly remember Princess Diana visiting the school in October 1993 to open the new arts centre. I had only recently joined as a fresh and eager-faced Year 7 pupil so was quite awe struck by the whole experience.

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?

In the Lower Fifth I captained the school orienteering team which was managed by Career Assistant Mrs Sutcliffe. Not only did she dedicate her time to running the Careers Room during the week but she also gave up her Sundays to drive a minibus full of noisy and muddy girls around the Northwest countryside more often than not in the cold, wind and rain. Not many people would willingly get out of bed early on a Sunday morning to do that.  I didn’t appreciate at the time just how dedicated she was and how lucky we were. Thank you Mrs Sutcliffe!

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?

As well as providing pupils with an outstanding education, Bolton School focuses on developing well-rounded individuals that are open-minded and confident. Without doubt this has provided the platform for me to pursue my ambitions and aspirations both in terms of my career and my sporting goals as an endurance athlete.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

Ideally we would all like to be paid to do something we are passionate about but don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what this is yet or it seems out of reach. Most of us will spend a significant proportion of our lives working and over the course of a career you will come across multiple and varied opportunities to take your career in different directions, often unexpectedly. So the important thing is to stay open minded and curious. Be flexible, receptive to change and embrace new opportunities.

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
I’m proud to be associated with a school that has this approach to education. I fully support allowing talented pupils from all backgrounds to benefit from everything Bolton School has to offer and to realise their full potential.