Where are they now?
Rob McCarthy (BSc Maths 1995)

Rob McCarthyContinuing our series of interviews with Sheffield alumni we spoke with Rob McCarthy about his time at Sheffield, his years overseas working in finance, and his passion for sport and the Special Olympics.

What did you study at Sheffield?

I studied Pure and Applied Maths. Prior to attending uni I had pretty much only shown a modicum of skill in either maths or cross country running - the running was never going to see me get a collegiate scholarship so I went with the numbers.

What first attracted you to Sheffield?

Being Rotherham born and bred I originally intended to live at my parents’ and commute across to Sheffield every day. That lasted until day four of freshers’ week when I saw how much fun my peers were having and I was missing out by getting the last train home. So I went to the accommodation team and thankfully they could squeeze me in to Riverdale.

Did you get involved in any clubs or societies during your studies?

I was in the Cross Country club, also a loose member of the Orienteering club – mainly by association as a lot of my running friends were in that club. I mainly attended the socials, but cross country was my first love.

What were some of your favourite things to do in Sheffield?

Naturally running, getting out for long runs in the Rivelin Valley. I certainly spent far too much time playing pool in Bar One and eating £1 mini pizzas – that probably contributed to me not making elite athlete status. It also probably contributed to the pizza addiction I developed later in life!

What are your best memories of Sheffield?

Every Sunday evening about six of us crammed into our mate’s VW Beetle and headed out to Castleton to do the pub quiz! How on earth we survived some of the journeys back I have no idea. One of that crew has become my life-long best mate too – best man at my wedding and there for me many times over the years.

After graduating from Sheffield where did you go?

I joined the ‘Big 4’ accounting firm KPMG, having interviewed on the milk-round. I’d never intended to head towards a career in accounting – I wanted to be a police officer – but the fact someone came to interview you at uni seemed like the easier path.

But the career in finance has been good to me, and I quickly realised that not all finance and accounting folks were robots, or greed orientated. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with plenty of generous, cool folks along the way. I spent two years in Frankfurt and nine years in New York before returning to the UK in June 2014. I’m now working in Yorkshire with a boutique corporate finance firm (Dow Schofield Watts) where I serve the Yorkshire markets including Sheffield, which is fantastic as it is still my favourite city (yup New York has nothing on Sheffield!).

Rob coaching members of USA Special Olympics teamYou are now also heavily involved with the Special Olympics, which are being hosted in Sheffield this August - can you tell us a bit about the competition?

The National Summer Games for Special Olympics (SO) Great Britain will be held in Sheffield this August. This is the country’s largest multi-sports event for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Around 2,600 athletes with intellectual disabilities of all ages and abilities will come together from across the country. They will be supported over 4 days of competition by 800 coaches, 750 volunteers, 150 officials and over 5,000 family and friends.

How did you get involved with the Special Olympics?

Originally I was a volunteer at the SO National Games in 1993, during my second year at University. It was hosted at the now defunct Don Valley Stadium and was such a rewarding experience. I had also been involved in local SO events as my older brother, Martin, has intellectual disabilities.

In the USA I was Head Coach for athletics in the USA National Games, and since I returned to the UK I have been Athletics Coach (and Treasurer – I knew that maths degree would come in useful) with a regional Special Olympics team. I am also Competition and Coach Advisor to SO GB and Deputy Competition Manager for the National Summer Games in Sheffield.

So it’s been one heck of a great experience for the past 24 years since volunteering in my second year at uni. Don’t miss the chance to do the same if you are a current student and reading this.

How will it feel to bring the Special Olympics to Sheffield – have you had many chances to come back to the city since your student days?

It will be full circle being involved in the SO in Sheffield for the first time since 1993, but I know it’s not the end of anything, just the beginning really, there’s plenty more experiences of Sheffield and SO to come.

I’m in Sheffield every week – I love coming back to the city and it feels new each time. The two universities being so close to central Sheffield always creates a young, dynamic demographic everywhere you go. So many folks come to Sheffield for their education and end up never leaving – it really is that fantastic. We are currently looking for a new house in Sheffield. We live at the wrong end of the Snake Pass at the moment so that’s our next big adventure: to move back to Sheffield.

And how can the people of Sheffield and the University get involved in the Special Olympics?

Special Olympics is always seeking volunteers, this can be in a coaching capacity, volunteers at general events, fundraising (always keen on fundraising!). I can happily help anyone interested in working with their nearest sporting group.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self or a recent graduate?

Live every moment and don’t live with regrets, take every opportunity to do something different and challenging.

Oh and really, really don’t try to take your first year Statistics exam the morning after an all-nighter at a rock club… Having to waste your Summer on resits really is no fun!

To find out more about the Special Olympics in Sheffield please visit sheffield2017.org.uk

You can read more about Rob and Special Olympics GB via the Special Olympics GB website.

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