Shining a light on alumni and how you can support our students

Heather Barnfield – Senior Director

Senior Director, Intellectual Property Development – Korn Ferry

Class of 1986

Art Major, Geography Minor

Former name:


If you studied your undergraduate programme at York St John University or founder colleges, did you go on to postgraduate study?

Yes, somewhere else.

Why have you chosen this photo as your YSJ snapshot?

I’ve chosen the 1st year and 3rd year pictures because they show how much I grew up at St John’s. I looked about 12 when I arrived. Surprised they let me in!

What are your fondest memories of York St John University?

Without doubt the amazing people. Loads of us are still great friends almost 40 years later, which is a great testament to how authentic and true to ourselves we all were and still are. St John’s attracted amazing characters, year after year.

Why did you choose York St John University or founder colleges?

I’d always loved the campus on Lord Mayor’s Walk and had heard great things about the college from someone I knew who was a lecturer there. That was all I needed and I didn’t apply anywhere else. Choosing St John’s was once of the best decisions I’ve ever made; if not THE best!

What have you been doing since completing your studies?

I started out selling advertising for Yorkshire Post Newspapers (YPN) and then moved into training for them. I then moved to the company that owned YPN and lead their training and development function, working with their publications (about 350, at that point) all over the UK. After 13 years in the newspaper industry, I moved into consultancy, and was based in the East Midlands for three years. In 2004, I joined Aviva insurance as Training & Development Manager for Sales and Marketing, based in York. (it was great to be back where it all started!) I then progressed to become Talent Manager for Aviva UK. In 2009, Aviva offered me a three-year secondment, as part of the team who established their North America region, based in Chicago. In 2012, I moved to Korn Ferry, an organizational consulting firm based in LA. I lived in Chicago for 13 years, and returned to York in 2022, still working for Korn Ferry (based from home). I’m now settled in York, and loving being back home.

Without doubt, my time at St John’s was key to building my confidence and developing me into the person I am today. My whole career has been based on building relationships, for which I know have St John’s to thank. My time there formed an amazing foundation to my entire career.

What one piece of advice would you give to a current student, or one about to graduate?

Make the most of every minute you have at college. Grasp every opportunity with both hands!

To find out more about Heather’s career since graduating from York St John, check out her webinar:

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