After Heriot’s Blog

Next on the blog we have Hector McKechnie.

Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.

Hector McKechnie, Class of 2018

What is your current role?

Relationships Manager for the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoys to Latin America and the Caribbean.

I’m extremely lucky because I love what I do, and within my role, no two days are the same. Nevertheless, although on a day-to-day basis my activities can very much vary, my role essentially revolves around 3 main functions:

Coordinate Trade Envoy visits to our embassies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sometimes (if I’m lucky) I accompany the Trade Envoys on these visits. I have been to Mexico and Brazil so far, and the next working visit will be Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. Whilst I’m abroad, my primary remit is to handle changes to the Envoy’s itinerary, record and disperse minutes from meetings with foreign stakeholders, and generally ‘firefight’ sudden problems that (inevitably) occur during logistically complex and fast-paced visits.

Maintain warm and constructive diplomatic relations between our Trade Envoys and Latin American & Caribbean embassies in London.

Find opportunities for the Trade Envoys to reduce Market Access Barriers for British businesses looking to expand/export to Latin American & Caribbean economies.

What was your journey to get there?

By the time I left Heriot’s in 2018, I had learned that I enjoyed working towards goals; having an objective contributed to my mental wellbeing. However, with that being said, I wanted to push myself in a different way – not just being stressed about the SQA Exam Timetable. I decided to follow in my sister’s footsteps and complete a 12-month volunteering posting with Project Trust – an educational charity based on the Isle of Coll, which many Herioter’s have used for their post-school plans.

During 2018-2019, I lived in Roatan, Honduras, which is the largest of the 3 ‘Bay Islands’ off Honduras’ north coast. Although I was looking forward to the opportunity to grow in a different environment, I also knew that I wanted to use Spanish in my future career, build my independence and resilience, and experience the realities of Latin America. In short, I was specific on how I spent my time in-between school and university – it wasn’t a case of taking time-off for the sake of it.

I lived in an Afro-Caribbean community, where I taught English in the local school. During this time, I was fully immersed in Spanish, which boosted my proficiency past Advanced Higher level. I also had the opportunity to visit the majority of Central America; as an 18-year-old, travelling in foreign countries was a sure-fire method of developing resilience!

Whilst I was in Honduras, I had an offer to study International Business at Warwick. However, my offers were only based on my Higher results, and early on during my time in Honduras, I realised that I wanted to study Political Science, so I decided to reapply on UCAS. This was a slightly complex process, involving constant searching for WiFi (there was none where we lived), and sending emails back and forth to my Heriot’s referees. However, we got there in the end, and I ended up accepting an offer from University College London (UCL) for International Social and Political Studies (ISPS).

I had a largely positive experience at UCL – I enjoyed my rugby, made great friends, and was challenged in my coursework. Since UCL (and indeed a lot of UK universities) attracts a large number of foreign students, I met people from all corners of the globe. This was important because it made me think about world issues from a non-British perspective, which I found to be a mixture of enlightening, shocking, and thought-provoking.

After a not-so-fun 2nd year COVID University experience, I was lucky to spend my 3rd year on the Erasmus Scheme, living in Seville, Spain, with two of my coursemates. This was brilliant because I studied and completed exams in Spanish, made local friends, and played for the University of Seville Rugby 7s team (just losing to the University of Zaragoza in the national finals – something I’m clearly not over). I also took up Portuguese lessons since I wanted to speak both Spanish and Portuguese in my future career.

I returned to London for my final year – which was not very interesting, just lots of days spent in the library. During my final year, I applied to the Civil Service Summer Internship Programme, and was offered a place at the Department for Business and Trade. Unfortunately, interns were not offered jobs if they did well, so during the summer I applied for lots of full-time roles, eventually accepting a place on the Trade Envoys team. I have been in the Trade Envoy role since October 2023.

What are your achievements?

I’m happy that I’ve taken advantage of opportunities that have come my way. I’m extremely lucky because I was given an education that few are fortunate enough to receive, but I have also sought ways to grow, both personally and professionally. Any Herioter has a huge head-start in life, but there is an element of making your own luck. 

I would avoid feeling ‘proud’ of professional successes – I think it’s important to recognise good work, but I would never want a career or job to define how I see myself. With that being said, I am happy that I’m currently in a career which I’ve done a lot of long-term planning for, and which I am deeply passionate about. 

Personally, I’m really happy that me and my best mates from Heriot’s are still as close as ever, despite all of us being spread out around the world. That is by far the most meaningful legacy from Heriot’s for me, and something I’m most proud of. 

What are your favourite memories of Heriot’s?

When I look back at Heriot’s, I generally just remember lots of laughter, hilarity, and socialising. There were so many interesting and interested people in my year, and I felt like I got on with Heriot’s from different groups, with pretty diverse passions. I also enjoyed being pushed; in sport, music, and academics. I think it’s always great to be in an environment where people want to do well, because you end up enjoying the time-off even more – we had a lot of great parties and social events. My favourite year by far was S6 – after a summer tour to South Africa, our Rugby 1st XV was one of the winningest Heriot’s teams ever; I had an amazing girlfriend; House Music and the S6 Pantomime were great laughs, and I got along well with my fellow School Captains. But also in a broader sense, by that point people were much more comfortable with who they were, what they liked, and what they wanted to do after school, and it generally felt like a different experience to S5 (still fun, but lots of hard-work and stress.) 

Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?

I know when you’re at Heriot’s it’s hard to think past the all-consuming stress of exams, extra-curriculars, and social life. School can be pretty tough – your plate is full, you work long hours, there are social pressures, and it’s generally a time of fast-paced transition.  

So, with all that to think about, I would keep planning for the future as simple as possible. My advice (and remember I’m 24 so any 40/50-year-old reading this would probably laugh) would be don’t get too fixated on the ‘end goal’. There will be many twists and turns, and the route you think you need to take to get to where you want might not necessarily be the correct one. Instead focus on aspects/skills you think you’ll need for your future – for me, that was Spanish, Portuguese, and exposing myself to different worldviews. And remember, we’ll all probably work until we’re 100 years old anyway, so don’t get too stressed about getting where you want fast – you’ll find that the journey is much more enjoyable than the finish line.