Sam Davys MBE

Sam Davys is an inspiring LJMU alum. The 31-year-old mum of one from Greater Manchester graduated in 2013 with a BA (Hons) in Dance Practices and went on to become Vice President, and then President of John Moores Students’ Union (JMSU). She also completed a CIPD at the university in HR Management in 2016. She is now the Equality and Future Talent Manager at broadband provider TalkTalk.

At just 30, Sam was one of the youngest MBE recipients on the 2023 New Years Honours list, the very first under the reign of King Charles III, and was recognised for services to young people and to inclusion in digital industries. She received the MBE for her work with TalkTalk’s Kickstart scheme, during the pandemic, whereby the Department for Work and Pensions provided funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.

In her own words, Sam recalls her LJMU journey and beyond, from undergrad to student officer to working and studying to further her career and becoming a mum as well as an MBE recipient.

“I was a dancer from a young age, and continued lessons outside of school all through childhood, and was lucky enough to do it at GCSE then at A-Level. When deciding what I wanted to do at university, all I knew was that I wanted to do something that I enjoyed and was passionate about at the time, as I was really unsure about what my future looked like. So, I decided to do dance.

“I visited a number of universities, but LJMU was my first choice as I liked the set-up of the course with a focus on teaching, and I loved the city. It was far enough away to gain independence and have the whole university experience, but close enough to home to take my washing back!

“I studied for three years, graduated and then went on to become a student officer for two years. I was lucky enough to be elected as Vice President Activities in 2013, and then again for President in 2014. Representing students at the time was an incredible experience, but it had its challenges. It was during those years that our Students’ Union as we knew it at the time, in the Haigh Building, closed, and we were transitioning to life on different campuses, in hubs, trying to build the profile of what the students’ union could do.

“It was also around the time that the fees shot up to £9k a year, so understandably students had higher expectations of quality of learning, so we had a lot on our plate as a sabbatical team. My priorities as President were to ensure that years down the line once Copperas Hill was eventually going to be built, that we would have a strong presence, and a voice at the table in all the plans. It was a distant vision back then but I’m really proud to see the amazing facilities JMSU have today, and hope that my small piece of the puzzle helped that journey!

“During that time, I also studied a coaching and mentoring qualification funded by the students’ union, and I think it was doing that which made me realise I wanted to work with people, support them, coach them, and deliver training. In order to pursue a career in Learning and Development (L&D), I needed to gain a qualification in HR, and I was lucky enough to receive a sponsorship to continue studying at LJMU part-time, alongside a full-time job in L&D.

“Studying both times were very different experiences. First time, a young girl with no responsibilities embracing the student experience, the second time round a mature student, with a full-time job commuting over 70 miles to complete my studies.

“I have many incredible memories of my time as a student and a sabbatical officer at LJMU. From presiding and delivering the first ever student officer speeches in the graduation ceremonies, dinners with incredible honorary fellows, to standing on the roof of the old Royal Mail building trying to visualise a future university building. Being able to go to Myanmar with student officers from other universities to support students in Burma, on how student representation works, to meeting friends for life – I’m maid of honour at my friend's wedding this year, and I met her on my first day of uni.”

“I think by doing work with the students’ union, and generally working in a career that supports people’s development, I’ve always been passionate about equality, whether that be in the workplace, or generally in society. I’ve never really considered my purpose until recently, but anything I can do to provide opportunities for people, and ensure we act inclusively and equitably then I’m motivated.” 

– Sam Davys

“After achieving my CIPD, I worked in L&D for a few years within industries such as law firms, retail, health and safety. I was then able to take on a huge project in managing apprenticeship programmes which was required in a lot of companies at the time as it was a new government initiative.

“All my roles had been far away from home, so I finally saw an opportunity in TalkTalk as they had opened a new head office in Salford, Manchester, and I had just bought a house at the time so wanted to spend more time there rather than living in hotels. The role in TalkTalk was Early Careers Manager, which involved managing apprenticeships but also building relationships with local universities and other education providers, to offer opportunities to support student employability – full circle from being a student officer.

“I had been Early Careers Manager for 3 years, then took 8 months off to have a baby. I was lucky enough to come back to a brilliant promotion which means I now also manage our diversity and inclusion strategy at TalkTalk. I think by doing work with the students’ union, and generally working in a career that supports people’s development, I’ve always been passionate about equality, ensuring people have the same opportunities despite their backgrounds, or how they identify. I’ve never really considered my purpose until recently, but anything I can do to provide opportunities for people, and ensure we act inclusively and equitably then I’m motivated.

“I found out that I was nominated for an MBE in the King’s New Years Honours list towards the end of 2022. I had not long been back to work from maternity leave, and what had been a challenging year personally. I received a phone call from a lady who worked for the Cabinet Office. I had absolutely no idea what the call was about, or what she was about to say, but it was in strict confidence, and I couldn’t tell anyone!! But she told me that I was awarded an MBE for services to young people, and inclusion within digital industries. I later found out that my director at TalkTalk had nominated me for a project I led on during the pandemic, which was providing 6 month paid placements for 100 young people who were unemployed and on Universal Credit as a result of the pandemic.  

“I was, and still am in disbelief to have been nominated, and awarded this huge achievement. I was lucky enough to receive my medal at Buckingham Palace on 3 March 2023, where my mum, grandad and brother joined me. Princess Anne presented me the award and had a conversation with me in an incredibly intimate presentation, it was truly amazing, memories to last a lifetime.

“I was one of the youngest people to receive an MBE this year, and although I feel that there a plenty of people more worthy than receiving it than me, I do also feel very proud of what I have accomplished at such a young age, and I’m excited for what the future holds and what doors it might open for me. I hope that it can show other young people that as long as you work hard, are able to align your career with your values, you can achieve anything."

Listen to Sam on the TalkTalk podcast ‘Walking the Walk’ (link opens a new window) where she talks more about her own career progression and life changing work she has driven forwards with the company.