What skills did you develop on your courses that have become useful in your chosen career?
During my days at university I formed good habits of working hard. Especially during the master's degree, when I also had two part-time jobs. The specific knowledge I acquired may not be entirely relevant to my career, but the mechanics of working as a team with other people, applying principles of constant improvement and self-discipline are hugely beneficial while running a one-man shop. The tools learned at university in an environment supporting learning are invaluable, because it makes the mistakes made on live operations less frequent and less costly. Despite that learning continues every day.
What has been the toughest thing you have faced in your career?
Raising finance for the start-up. You have to keep an open mind and look at it with a cold mind. Getting emotional when things are getting tough does not get you any closer to the goal. Cash is just one way of looking at finance. Looking for good deals, investors and knowing exactly what you need to achieve the goals is just as important. A bit of luck also helps – and you are responsible for creating that – by being prepared and have a detailed plan with multiple scenarios, so life does not surprise you!
What has excited you most through your career so far?
Taking the decision to open my own business, without having much experience in the field and moving to another country to do it! The journey was very difficult, with cultural differences and law intricacies, but certainly worth it. Building a business from scratch may not be for everyone, but if you want independence and freedom, do not fear taking a huge risk (i.e. all your personal finances and taking a debt) and have a good idea – that might be the best you can do for yourself! Seeing happy faces of people who come through the doors and enjoy their best hour of the day in my own gym – that is a real dream come true situation.
Have you got any advice for current students, based on your university experience?
Start thinking about what it is that drives you to get up every day, despite the time of the day. It was easy to go through the first year partying, but it takes a lot of energy to figure out who you want to be in the end. Do not be afraid to try different jobs and quit. Until you find that one thing you truly love. You will know it! In hindsight I would have started looking for that one thing I cannot live without and spend time doing it every day.
If you were just about to graduate again, what would you do differently?
I would start thinking about opening my own business much earlier. Having had previous experience in various companies I just did not know I was ready. Take as much time as you need to learn from others, but if you prefer being in the driving seat there is no better place than to create your own business. You cannot experience a quicker learning curve than that.
Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?
Doing placement was a huge advantage. Seeing first-hand what a multinational company (Toshiba) does and how the cogs move, gave me a better understanding of what is really required from prospect workers. Later, while applying for graduate jobs I didn't have to think much about what my strengths were, I also knew what to say about my weaker points and what I was going to do to improve them.