What do you do now?
I am a Client Engagement Director at Ten10, a tech academy I founded.
I had an interest in computing and electronics from an early age. An Electronics Club at South Craven School sparked my interest and I progressed to study Computer Studies and Technology (as it was called then). I was pretty studious during my GCSEs, but went a bit off the rails during my A levels and didn’t get the results I hoped for. Fortunately I managed to get into Northumbria University to study my degree there. I chose to study microelectronic engineering, as it was a hybrid between computer science and electical/electronic engineering.
After completing my degree I had a few job offers, but I took a job with 3D Labs, a 3D graphics company in Surrey. The job used and built on the skills I’d learnt during my degree as a design engineer, and I’d already had an interest in computer graphics. After a couple of years there I found I liked software more than hardware, so I jumped ship and worked for a number of financial institutions as a software developer, working on software for trading systems.
In 2004 my wife and I decided we wanted to move closer to home in Yorkshire. I took a role with Accenture, working in their Leeds office. Whilst working there I met three other guys and between us we started TheTestPeople, focusing on ensuring that software and systems performed, worked correctly and met their specification. More often than not they didn’t - so there was quite a lot of work to make sure it did!
We started our Tech Academy in 2013, which I still look after today. We were struggling to bring junior people into the business with the right attitude and aptitude to successfully work with us on customer projects. We built a programme, hiring people every year (currently around 120-180 per year), irrespective of their academic background, training them in the skills they need to be effective and employing them as consultants for Ten10.
What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?
The time between GCSEs and A levels is a tricky time. There are lots of changes in your life and lots of distractions. If you want your life, outcomes and opportunities to be the best they can be, the most important thing is to not be distracted, focus on your education and get the best grades you can!
To anyone wanting to start their own business, my advice would be; don’t do it on your own, have an exit strategy, work with other people you know and trust and share your values. Don’t take funding from a VC/PE too early - the loss of control is a big thing, and they’ll go in with an offer for less value for more equity than you’re happy to give up!
What are you most proud of?
The Ten10 Academy! We’ve employed hundreds of people over the years in tech, starting their career in technology - often without them having any experience in it!
For more information, here’s a video we put together which has some people who’ve been through our Academy.