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Hands up who knows the modern Greek for “smart-arse”? Anyone? Hello-ooooo?


Way back when, two budding entrepreneurs whose arms would have been raised aloft were Jan Hruska and Peter Lammer, the two founders of Abingdon-based cyber security firm Sophos.


After meeting in Oxford in the mid-1980s, the two founded a technology company named - you got it - Sophos!


And where were the glamorous offices for this now huge, multinational, FTSE 250, $640million company? Kidlington of course!


After an aborted launch into the hardware market with the never-released AC-86, the pair focused on software - creating encryption software for the disk operating system (DOS).


By the late 1980s, Sophos had carved out a niche as an anti-virus company, growing significantly by protecting people against a growing number of viruses.

Since then, the company has grown internationally by a healthy mix of innovation and acquisition. With offices around the world, over 100 million business users are protected by their products, helping to secure computers in hundreds of countries around the globe.

Co-founders Jan Hruska and Peter Lammer continue to serve on Sophos’s board of directors - although sadly the dodgy glasses and barnets are (almost) gone!

So from everyone here at Selective Recruitment to everyone at Sophos Cyber Security: WE SALUTE YOU!



As you may know, May 2019 saw Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year is Body Image, and how the way we view our bodies impacts our mental health.


At Selective Recruitment, we care passionately about mental health. We all spend most of our waking week at work, so our job can have a huge influence on our happiness. It’s the reason why we don’t make a placement for the sake of it, or try to fit a square peg in a round hole.


Instead, one of the many reasons we’ve been a successful Oxfordshire recruitment business since 1992 is that we’ve always taken the long term view. This means we try our absolute best to introduce great candidates to great clients - which creates literally happy customers!


With this in mind, we wanted to share with you the thoughts of Mental Health Foundation CEO Mark Rowland, who discusses the subject far more eloquently than we can. In this excerpt Mark discusses how we live with our bodies as they evolve and change - and all of us have a role in shaping an inclusive culture where we help others feel comfortable in their own skin.



Why does body image matter?

We are all intimately aware of the particular idiosyncrasies of our own body; its strengths and wonders and its limitations. No piece of technology that you will ever buy will match the complexity, sophistication and regenerative powers of your body.


And yet… For too many of us, our bodies are sources of shame and distress.  From an early age, we are bombarded with images that define what an ‘ideal body’ looks like.  Sometimes we have faced stigma or cruelty as friends and family have used how we look as a way to put us down for a cheap laugh.  I know I have been guilty of that within my own family.


In therapeutic terms, we have internalised a sense of SHOULD when it comes to our bodies.  It is as if we each have our own internal GIF on a loop reinforcing what the ideal looks like. My GIF repeats Daniel Craig strutting toned and chiselled from the sea.  It’s no wonder that when I catch a glimpse of my actual reflection, I sigh with a sense of disappointment.


And although we know girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to poor body image, this year we will explore body image as an issue that cuts across gender, age, sexuality and ethnicity. Bodyguard star Richard Madden is among the surprising voices to have spoken out recently against the demands they face to look a certain way.



Body image is closely linked with mental health

All this might not be so serious if it didn’t have profound implications for our mental and physical health. The opposite also seems true: the more comfortable you are with your body, the greater your overall wellbeing, and the less likely you are to engage in destructive behaviours.  


During Mental Health Awareness Week, we will release findings that will bring together the latest research on body image with one of the largest surveys ever completed to give a picture of how people of all ages and across the UK feel about their bodies. It will also set out the increased risk of mental health problems that accompany poor body image.   


We want to ignite a national conversation about how we can be kinder to our bodies as a guard against the individual, family and cultural influences that can lead to a gnawing and sometimes debilitating sense of dissatisfaction with our bodies.  


Since ancient times, there have been a long line of Western philosophers who influenced how we think about the separation of the body and mind. But the evidence definitively shows that this sort of dualism is not a helpful construct and that a holistic view about the inter-relatedness of our bodies and minds is vital to achieve a healthier population.  It is perhaps why it still surprises us that cultures that are focused on materialism, consumption and celebrity fare worse in terms of people’s body image and mental health.


So, during Mental Health Awareness Week, we will make the case that the distress related to poor body image and the related mental health problems can be prevented. We will explore the changes needed in our cultural values, parenting styles, schooling approaches, use of technology, advertising standards and reducing discrimination that will make a real difference.  


We know we can make a difference because with your help, we already have.  Last year, it was a concern over body image that led us to seek a ban on a series of cosmetic surgery ads shown around the TV show Love Island. We warned the Advertising Standards Authority that the ads ‘painted a false picture of perfection’ and ‘exacerbated young people’s insecurities’ – and I’m glad to say the ASA seemed to agree and ruled it should be banned.


Evidence into action

So, we don’t simply want to publish a report. We’ve already offered some ideas about how people can help protect themselves against harm from social media. During Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ll publish further suggestions about body image in particular, and how we can look after ourselves and each other. We will also make recommendations to policymakers, about the changes they can make towards better mental health.


But we are nowhere near having all the answers. We would love to hear about your experiences and opinions around body image, and what you believe should change to help us to be kinder to our bodies and healthier in our minds.  


- Mark Rowlands, CEO, Mental Health Foundation




Banbury, oh sweet sweet Banbury.

As anyone with a car will know, Banbury's Junction 11 represents one of the the last outposts on the northbound M40 for God’s county of Oxfordshire, which tells us that our exciting journey has officially begun as we prepare to go beyond the wall.

After Banbury, the postcode changes and as we all know - normal rules do not apply. On our return, we know we’re nearly home when we hit good old ‘Banners’, safe in the knowledge that the county’s bosom awaits.

For those that share our slightly odd sentiments, you’ll know the one company whose titanic warehouse sits aside said signpost: that’s right, it’s Prodrive!

Prodrive designs, constructs and competes racing cars for larger automotive companies and employs nearly 500 people in both Banbury and Milton Keynes.

A bit like the (very sexist) phrase ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’, behind every great racing car there is probably a Prodive!

Most notably, fans of 90s WRC / Sony Playstations will know that Colin McRae’s award-winning and record-breaking Subaru impreza was built by Prodrive. Other automotive clients include Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, BMW, Ford, Honda, MG, Mini, Renault, Porsche, VW and Volvo. Phew!

Prodrive has also managed teams in both F1 (reviving the fortunes of BAR Honda) and Formula 3000 (Arden, with a young, Geri Halliwell-less Christian Horner as team boss!).

Another reason we love Prodrive is diversification, just like Williams F1 in Grove. Since 2010 Prodrive’s non-motorsport activities have grown to represent the majority of the company’s turnover, with its advanced technology division now delivering engineering solutions into automotive OEMs, aerospace, defence, marine and other sectors.

Prodrive has also worked with the Land Rover BAR America’s Cup team to develop control systems and new technology for the team’s ‘flying’ catamaran, and the company has also announced plans to engineer the world’s lightest folding bike to market, The Hummingbird.

So there you have it! To everyone at Prodrive, from everyone at Selective Recruitment: we salute you!





Amazing Thames Valley Companies: Oxford Instruments


As any home inventor will tell you, the best companies start in a shed, in a garden, behind your house.


This week’s amazing Thames Valley company is no exception, beginning life in a humble common-or-garden shed belonging to Sir Martin Wood in North Oxford in 1959.


It is of course, Oxford Instruments!


Oxford Instruments was one of the first spin-out companies from the University of Oxford and is still one of the most successful - so in effect it’s a 60 year old tech start up!


From such humble beginnings the company was listed just 24 years later in 1983 on the London Stock Exchange, is now headquartered in Abingdon, has current market capitalisation of over £650million and employs over 1500 people across the world!


Not afraid to get his hands (literally) dirty, Sir Martin began his national service in 1945 by mining for coal, first in Wales and then in the Midlands, so he’s built the company from the (under) ground up!


From 1955 to 1969, he was a Senior Research Officer at the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford and he used the knowledge he gained there about high field magnets to create the company. Since then the company has built all manner of amazing things such as X-Ray machines and the world’s first ever commercial MRI scanner at their former Osney Mead site in 1980.


More recently, the company’s NanoAnalysis division won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2019 for the Ultim® Extreme detector system.


But it doesn’t end there. Away from work Sir Martin also founded the Earth Trust to promote nature conservation at Little Wittenham and Wittenham Clumps, The Oxford Trust for the promotion of scientific education and science-based enterprise, and the Sylva Foundation to support sustainable forest management.


So an all round amazing company, founded by an amazing person: Oxford Instruments, from everyone here at Selective Recruitment, we salute you!

Take a walk around the beautiful countryside village of Grove right on the edge of Oxfordshire this summer and you’ll find a high street with a smattering of shops, two primary schools, three pubs, and both a rugby and a football team.

What you wouldn’t expect to find is a great big whopping state of the art manufacturing complex just outside the village, housing several hundred staff who all work for a company called Williams Grand Prix Engineering. That’s right, it’s the frikkin’ Williams Formula One racing team - near Wantage!

There are several F1 teams in Oxfordshire, such as Renault in Enstone and Haas’s European base at Banbury, whilst elsewhere in the Thames Valley we have Red Bull in Milton Keynes, Mercedes in Brackley and Force India at Silverstone.

But Williams is special and here’s why: it was originally founded by Frank Williams in Didcot in 1977 and can trace its roots back to 1967. It has manufactured its own cars since 1978 and is one of only three teams to win over 100 races - with drivers such as Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jensen Button, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

To date they’ve started 710 races, amassed 114 victories, won nine constructor’s championships and seven driver’s championships.

But it doesn’t end there. Williams has business interests beyond F1 and established both Williams Advanced Engineering and Williams Hybrid Power - which take technology originally developed for Formula One and adapt it for commercial applications. Such was the success of Williams Hybrid Power that in April 2014 it was sold to automotive and aerospace manufacturing giant GKN.

So there we have it, Williams F1 racing team, bona fide Oxfordshire and Formula One legends. We salute you!


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