James Mirfin - BA (Hons) Business Studies graduate

Current employer: Thomson Reuters

Current job title: Managing Director & Senior Site Leader, North Asia

Current location: Hong Kong

“99 per cent of the time with experience you should go with your instinct”.

Tell us about your career path since graduation?

It’s been a wild ride! I started off with a couple of years in London in a sales role with Reuters. In 2002 I moved to Singapore for two years and I have been in Asia ever since. Two years later I joined American Express and spent almost ten years with them, living and working in Singapore, Thailand and India. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to lead cross-functional teams across Asia. I moved to Hong Kong in mid 2013 with PayPal and am now running the North Asia business for Thomson Reuters.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Yes, I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing chances to work in sales, business development, strategy and product development, all of which helped as I stepped into general management roles in the last few years.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

I’ve had to manage teams through some difficult periods, like SARS in Asia, the banking crisis and subsequent downturn in 2008/9 and through major restructuring programmes. It doesn’t matter how many times you go through restructures where peoples jobs are impacted it never gets easier to tell people their job has been eliminated. The good news is that they almost always end up happier elsewhere!

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career? 

I’ve had lots of fun, the most surreal experience was being on Sky News in Australia immediately after John Howard who was launching his autobiography. I was sat chatting to him in the green room beforehand… really nice bloke.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I’m quite impatient, however I also tend to deeply consider important decisions. With hindsight there are a couple of decisions I’ve made in my career, which I would have made faster. 99 per cent of the time with experience you should go with your instinct.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work? 

You need lots of luck, but luck is a combination of hard work, strong preparation and opportunity. You can control two of those three variables, and if you put yourself in the right place the third will always come. Also, always identify good mentors and sponsors in the corporate world, they can help a lot.

How did studying at Plymouth help you? 

Plymouth was great. The BA (Hons) Business Studies course gave me the breadth of understanding, which has served me well as I’ve moved into general management roles. The industrial placement year helped me get a real sense of what I wanted to do when I left, and also gave me real experience I could reference in interviews.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth? 

It’s hard to pick, but from an academic perspective the law lectures with Peter Shears were always a highlight.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers? 

Yes. Lots of alumni, who are now scattered all over the world.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why? 

Absolutely, it served me well, the course was broad enough to give me lots of career options, but went deep enough into many different disciplines to be useful in the various roles I have had. Combine that with the fact Plymouth is still one of my favourite places in the UK and it is hard not to recommend it.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students? 

Don’t think that learning stops when you leave Plymouth, its just beginning!

What does alumni mean?

The ‘alumni’ word simply means a group of individuals that have graduated from an educational institution. So, once you become a graduate of Plymouth University, you'll automatically be a part of our alumni community! This unique community includes over 100,000 Plymouth graduates across the globe, including James.