Senior Leadership

Oliver Lee OBE – Chief Executive OfficerPortrait image of Oliver Lee

Oliver is responsible for the executive leadership of The Challenge. He joined the organisation in 2014 following twenty years in the Royal Marines, serving in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, including in command of the coalition forces in Nad-e-Ali District, Helmand Province. He also worked on the personal staffs of the Chief of Defence

Staff and Ministers. His final military job was as a colonel, leading one of the courses at the UK’s Defence Academy.

Oliver has a degree in geography from Jesus College, Cambridge. In his spare time, he enjoys attempting to tire out his 14 and 11-year-old sons, as well as watching rugby and hill walking.


Antony Hawkins – Strategy and Business Development Director

Antony is The Challenge’s strategy and business development director. He joined The Challenge in 2016 after six years working with consultancy firm, McKinsey & Company, where he was part of the education practice leading projects in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Antony has also worked on government employment and further education policy as head of operations for a social enterprise incubator, and was a schoolteacher in rural Japan.

Antony is a non-executive director for Action Tutoring, an education charity and sits on the advisory board of Inline Policy. He is a keen amateur brewer and also enjoys cycling and playing music. Antony holds an MA (Oxf) in Physics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford and an MBA with distinction from INSEAD.


Emma Jenkins – Operational Development Director


As operational development director, Emma is responsible for the design and delivery of The Challenge’s new programmes and services. Emma joined The Challenge in 2012, co-creating the award-winning HeadStart volunteering programme, which connects young people with their community while increasing their employability. Prior to this, Emma led business development, strategy and fundraising teams in consultancy and third sector settings.
Emma is also a Trustee for the Hilden Charitable Fund, a grant-making trust which supports refugees, homelessness and youth charities.

Emma has a BA in English literature from the University of Leeds. When not working, Emma can be found eating dumplings, reading books or out running around Alexandra Palace.


Ellen Rutherford – NCS Director

As the NCS director, Ellen is responsible for all NCS delivery carried out by The Challenge. This includes ensuring as many young people as possible take part, making sure the programme is of the highest possible quality and the taking responsibility for the safety of young people on the programme. Ellen works with our internal NCS teams across the country and our network of local delivery partners.

She joined The Challenge in 2011 to manage the then very small south-east London and Surrey sales team, and has held various roles in the organisation before her appointment to NCS director. Ellen also chairs the board of Invisible Flock, an interactive art and technology company. Ellen attended the University of Sheffield and graduated with a BA in English literature (British and Commonwealth).

Michelle Shuttleworth – Chief Financial Officer

Michelle joined The Challenge in 2019 as chief financial officer, having previously held CFO and finance director roles at both Thomson Reuters and the BBC. Michelle brings with her more than 20 years of experience in audit, mergers and acquisitions, business advisory and operational finance from organisations as varied as the Virgin group and Burberry Plc.

Michelle is a chartered accountant, having trained with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and has a BsC in finance and accounting from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Outside of work, Michelle works to corral her three young boys and sausage dog.

Siân Vernon – HR and OD Director

HR and organisational development director Siân was born and bred in South Wales and is an utter Francophile. With a love of all things French, it is hardly surprising that Siân has spent most of her working life working for Renault. Siân’s career started in the world of venture capital investment before a move to the automotive industry, initially in sales, led her to HR. Her experience spans all areas of HR management across the Renault/Renault Nissan Alliance organisations, most recently as HR director for Groupe Renault, looking after UK and Ireland operations.

When not working, Siân spends time with her husband, two sons and daughter and elderly mum, who lives with them and for whom she is primary carer. Siân is ‘completely besotted’ with her dog, who was recently rescued from the streets in Spain, and drags her out for a 6am walk in the woods every day before work. She has a BA in French from the University of Reading.