Industry Sector: Business, Consulting and Management
A Levels: Economics, French and English
Grades Achieved: BBC
University: Aston University
Degree Course: Managerial and Administrative Studies
I am the Chief Executive Officer of a global group of companies, employing over 2000 people, operating in 16 countries and I am responsible for all aspects of the 5 entities within the Group. The Group has an annual turnover of around $100m and operates in some of the most challenging countries and environments.
The Group clears landmines and explosive threats, educates people on the risks of explosives, and trains and deploys explosive detection dogs. We are working in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso and the Falkland Islands, and some other places too. I am writing this from my HQ in Ma’arib in the war-torn country of Yemen where I spent this morning visiting several minefields. The photograph below pictures me with my client at the Ma’arib dam (and my close protection).
"I had achieved a Scholarship into the Army at age 16, so I knew that after Aston I had a job."
After A Levels, like 95% of the other pupils I went to university and studied Business Management, although to be honest I did not study very hard. I played a lot of sport, including captaining the Hockey team and doing a little bit of Territorial Army work for extra income. Mostly I partied. In the end I achieved a 2:1 Hons degree as I did plan and structure my revision carefully and I was diligent in its delivery – probably mostly out of guilt at not having worked for 4 years and not wanting to let my parents down.
I had achieved a Scholarship into the Army at age 16, so I knew that after Aston I had a job. I went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. It does not matter how bright or skillful you are, you have no choice but to work damn hard there for 12 months. It is unforgiving and relentless but extremely rewarding. I then commissioned into the Royal Engineers where I spent 11 years training and on operations around the world including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I left the Army in 2010 and joined a mine clearance company as an Operations Manager having spent 2 years with the UN in Cyrpus helping the mine clearance efforts there. In 2012 I became an Operations Director followed by Managing Director in 2013. I took over another company in 2016 and then became the CEO of a Group of companies in 2017.
At school I was only really interested in French and English, mostly because those teachers were fantastic. I found sport to be the ultimate break-away where I could really be myself, and luckily, I was fairly good at it. My Birthday is 30 Aug, so I was always the youngest in the year which was frustrating as I was competing in athletics etc. against people nearly a year older. Perhaps I would have had a few school records if I hadn’t been so young…maybe that’s just a bad excuse.
Did anything at school prepare me well for uni or life? Sub-consciously probably…as an insular boarder, pretty much on my own, I knew I’d get by fine – and I did. I was dropped off at uni by my grandmother as my parents lived in the Middle East: I didn’t know a soul. I sat down in my room, lit a cigarette and cracked open a beer. I didn’t smoke and I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but no-one told me off!
I guess being at boarding school and then joining the Army I knew a lot about rules (when you’re in a minefield rules are important). I was pretty successful in the Army becoming one of the youngest Majors on promotion at 30. I volunteered for the first tour every time and I found a manageable balance between work and play. Work always came first though. I got married, moved into my first house and went to Iraq two weeks later, leaving my very understanding wife in a very empty house. I had a baby a few years later and volunteered to go Afghanistan when my daughter was 6 weeks old. I missed her first Christmas and her Christening. I guess I could be described as driven.
In business I have found my forte. I instinctively understand profit and loss. I can see opportunities on the horizon and I can play the long game to make them happen. I am not a big risk taker, but I am committed, and I care about the company and the people in it. Every day we make a difference to peoples’ lives around the world. Every day we pick up items and devices which could kill and maim people and most of the victims would be women and children. So when all the emails are done and the Human Resources problems are resolved and the spreadsheets are ok – I sleep reasonably well (most of the time).
Job Search Tips
Try lots of things. You learn more from what you don’t like than chasing the dream of what you might think you like. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Grow a network and maintain it.
Current Needs of Employers in my field
Accountants, project managers, dog handlers, bomb disposal experts, logisticians.
Things I wish I’d known in Sixth Form
What a Profit & Loss account is and how it works. It doesn’t really matter what you do, just make sure you own it as opposed to working in it. Employees have long working lives, owners have yachts.
Describe LGS in three words
Grounded, meticulous, established