Ariana’s Story — From human rights lawyer to founder of an emerging educational excellence startup

Having spent years in London as a finance lawyer, something was missing for Ariana. She shares her story of change that saw her start a business of her own in an industry she’s passionate about — education.

Trapped in conformity

I was pursuing a prestigious career for which I had great passion, and big plans. Growing up, I had always wanted to qualify as a lawyer and advocate for justice. So working as a human rights lawyer at the UN was incredibly rewarding, and answered some of my core ambitions.

Returning to the UK to be a lawyer, as a young, committed idealist, I soon became wrapped up in the economic boom and glory of the early 2000s. The moment was right and the law firm was perfect; it was a hugely exciting time.

But the image of being a ‘success story’ eventually drove me to seek a direction that diverged from my original aspirations. I felt trapped — how could I let go of this status? How could I abandon all the hard work that had led me here?

It took me time to re-wire deeply ingrained expectations of myself to steer onto a new path. How and where would I start? And what would I be, if I wasn’t to be a lawyer.

What were the moments of change
Change was a process, rather than a single event, and came about in incremental steps. It took a willingness to accept that what I had always imagined could be transformed into something new — a new dream. I had to become flexible, and allow myself to be open to new opportunities. There was a whole other world I had not considered before and was ready for me to explore.

We’re often made to think that we’ve not succeeded if we change the path we set out on, but these thoughts of failure and confusion can eventually turn into overwhelming courage and excitement for change.

I took time out and embarked on a personal journey of fulfilment, doing things that I had always wanted to do. The most important one was to work with children. I became part of the founding team of an educational charity, setting up the academic mentorship programme for socially-disadvantaged and eager GCSE students. It was the most rewarding experience of my life — doing good at grass-roots level, sharing my knowledge, and learning from their experiences. This invaluable exposure soon triggered the strong desire to pursue a career in education.

My dream to make a change suddenly became more real, more attainable. The biggest gift of a legal brain is the ability to see what matters, and what matters is often very small — like a diamond in a mine. The tiniest change can make the biggest difference. And this is what we try to achieve through our work at Figtree.

What’s the Figtree story?
Figtree Learning is a group of brilliant, like-minded tutors. We all come from demanding and discerning academic as well as professional backgrounds, so we understand that success requires hard work and diligence — and that’s something we try to instil in our students.

We’re passionate about sharing our knowledge, our personal learning experiences and our joy in the rewards of progress. From brilliant scientific minds and accomplished artists, to nurturing teachers and experienced academics, we have a tutor to suit every student.

What are you looking for in Escapees?

Generally, Escapees will be people like us: adaptable, curious and passionate about education. They know what’s required to do well; they are proven professionals who are choosing to tutor for the rewards that it brings. It’s this choice that makes them special. They will want to share their academic knowledge with their students, and inspire them with their professional and personal achievements.

I signed up with Escape the City when I was looking to change careers, and I love the ethos of the company. Many of my peers have already escaped the City, but so many more are still waiting for their moment — and we would love to help them make that change. 

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