Lunch with a Leader

Lunch with a leader logoDo you have questions you would like to ask of leaders in business, society, technology or charity? 

Our ‘Lunch with a Leader’ sessions invite small groups of students to sit down and quiz some of the University of Birmingham’s most successful alumni who have gone on to lead, influence and shape a range of different organisations. 

You can apply to take part in as many sessions as you like. The opportunity is open to students of all disciplines and all years and levels of study. 

For each session you are interested in, please email to with the following information:

  • Your name, course and year of study 

  • Tell us why (in no more than 100 words) you would like the opportunity to sit down with the leader. 

  • Share two questions that you would like to ask them over lunch. 

Individual dates to submit your interest for each leader are shown in their profiles below. Eight students will be selected to take part in each session.

 To find out more about each leader and session, follow the links below. 

Thursday 16 February
How to Network
Professor Simon Hepburn - CEO UK Cyber Security Council


Simon Hepburn (Social Services Management, 2003), is the first Chief Executive Officer of the UK Cyber Security Council (UKCSC), the self-regulatory body for the UK's cyber security profession who develops, promotes and stewards nationally recognised standards for the sector. 

Simon has more than 20 years’ experience working within the charity, education, careers and quality management sectors. Prior to joining UKCSC, Simon was the UK Director at an international social action charity, Director of Education and Policy at a EdTech Company and, until recently, an Enterprise Advisor as part of the London Enterprise Advisor Network. In addition to this Simon is a former CEO of a national education charity, where he developed an award winning service, and is an experienced Trustee and Advisory Board member. 

He has worked for national charities including The Children’s Society, where he led on the development of the quality assurance division and the Charity Sector Quality Assurance Group. Simon is passionate about supporting people and organisations to reach their full potential and to make a positive contribution to society. 

Please submit your interest and questions for Simon by: Friday 10 February (deadline extended)

Tuesday 21 February
Being Authentic
Charlotte Hill, OBE - CEO The Felix Project

charlotte - webCharlotte Hill OBE (BA Political Science & Philisophy, 2001) is CEO at The Felix Project. Founded in 2016, The Felix Project is a London-based food redistribution charity that rescues good, surplus food from the food industry that cannot be sold and would otherwise go to waste. It then sorts and delivers it to almost 1,000 front-line charities, primary schools and holiday programmes in London. 

Before joining The Felix Project, Charlotte was awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year's Honours List for services to young people. She has previously worked in Whitehall advising Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman QC MP, as a parliamentary advisor at the NSPCC, as CEO of UK Youth, and as CEO and founder of Step up to Serve and the #iwill campaign. 

Charlotte lives in Peckham with her family. She is a non-executive director on the Board of the English Football League Trust and an avid volunteer.  

Please submit your interest and questions for Charlotte by: Friday 10 February

Thursday 23 February
Women in Leadership
Maggie Appleton, CEO RAF Museum

maggie - webMaggie (MA Heritage Management, 1991) was appointed CEO of the RAF Museum in October 2014. She has been in the museum sector for 30 years. Her museum appointments began at the Royal Armouries from where she pursued her career as a social history curator, museum director and then CEO at the Stevenage and Luton RAF museum sites.

For Maggie, museums are learning experiences with transformative power. She says: 'Museums are all about communication... they are about telling people stories; learning from the past to understand our present and inform our future.'

In 2012 Maggie was awarded the MBE for her services to Museums and Heritage and, in the same year, she was included in the Independent on Sunday’s ‘Happy List’, its annual celebration of 100 people who make Britain a better and a happier place to live. 

Maggie’s public positions have included three years as President of the UK’s Museums Association (2018-21), six years (2010-16) as a Committee Member for the Heritage Lottery Fund and three years (2015-18) as the Co-Chair of the Women Leaders in Museums Network.  

Please submit your interest and questions for Maggie by: Friday 17 February

Please note, this event will take place off-campus at RAF Cosford. Transport will be provided for students taking part.

Wednesday 8 March
Building an International Career
Rob Sherwin - VP Corporate Relations, Shell

rob - webRob Sherwin (BCom, 1996) is VP Corporate Relations for Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa at Shell. Based in Shell’s HQ in London he leads a team of corporate affairs professionals across more than 30 countries, responsible for government relations, policy advocacy, internal and external communications and social performance.

Rob began his career at Shell, working in natural gas commercial, marketing and strategy roles, before focusing on Middle East new business development and government relations.

In 2006, he left Shell to join The Foreign & Commonwealth Office as the first Middle East Energy Adviser to the UK government, working across Whitehall and with Middle East governments and National Oil Companies on the twin challenges of energy security and climate change. Rob then spent five years building and leading the Middle East and Africa practice of the energy sector management consultancy Regester Larkin, based in Abu Dhabi, working with both private and state-owned energy companies, and complex joint ventures between the two.

In 2012 Rob returned to Shell as General Manager Corporate Affairs and Deputy Country Chairman for Qatar Shell, at that time Shell’s most valuable single operating entity. In 2016, after more than a decade in the Arabian Gulf, he moved to Shell HQ in The Netherlands to lead a team providing external relations support to all upstream oil and gas deals and transactions during a period in which Shell delivered on a three-year commitment to divest $30 billion of assets.

Prior to his current role, Rob was Shell’s VP Global Media Relations, managing the company’s press offices and editorial writers around the world, and serving as principal communications adviser to the CEO and CFO.

Please submit your interest and questions for Rob by: Friday 24 February