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How did you get here?

In this video a variety of people discuss how they got to where they are today.
I’ve always been inspired by kind of politics, policy, making a difference to society and to those who are most disadvantaged in our society, and that’s kind of what led me to run for the position that I’m in at the moment. It’s an elected position and it’s a chance to kind of make change to people and people’s lives on kind of a smaller scale. I initially got into it because I had the skill-set to do the job but as I’ve gone through, the actual challenge of it has become less important, and the outcome has become more important.
Towards the end of my studies, one particular lecturer really inspired me with the interest in semiconductors and how they were manufactured and that has resulted in a more than thirty years’ career in the semiconductor and electronics industry. So I’ve had the huge privilege of working all over the world looking at things like sustainability and community for many years and my journey to here was about hearing so many people talking about what really mattered to them and seeing how universal it was and also seeing thousands of projects doing amazing things but tended to be dealing with the symptoms of a society that puts consumption as the end goal.
My journey was to see that universality and see if we could provide some simple ways for other people to start having that conversation for themselves. So I grew up on a farm, I grew up in Ohio and to be fair it was a um, it was a small farm and we didn’t have much money. It helped me understand the importance of how we interact with the environment. It made me understand the, how nature is powerful and beautiful and wonderful, but it’s also something that we depend on. We depend on nature for our food.
Even in an agricultural system we’re still dependent upon the soil, the sun and the weather and I also learned how fickle it is, and if you were poor… if things didn’t go right, you were, you were the ones who were bearing the burden. Lesson to me has been my time when playing basketball we played as a team. And playing in a team had taught me to use that skill for my career and sharing things with others I think is my best, um, best achievement. How did I get here? I got here through what I think has been incredibly hard work, being passionate about what I do um, and um having some really really inspirational leaders, with whom I’ve worked with.
I went to a regular school. A state school and it wasn’t the kind of school that sent very many people to University. My mum and dad hadn’t been to University, there was no one in my family that had been to college but I was encouraged to do so, and I loved not only meeting people from all, from different parts of the country and different parts of the world and different cultures, but the intellectual landscapes that open up to you, the things that you can learn at University are just… I fell in love with the whole process and I’ve been involved in Universities ever since. From very early on in my childhood I was very conscious about social justice.
Partly through my upbringing and my mother’s own involvement with community work. I was fortunate to be able to get scholarship to do my PhD. Through that I was able to do more research beyond the ground because it was ethnographic study. I learned an enormous amount from communities themselves living there with the communities. I was a big fan of punk rock which is obviously a very political musical movement. I did a degree in astrophysics which everybody who works in housing needs to have. I was president of the Students’ Union, more by accident than by design, and then I came back to where I lived and was elected as a councilor when I was twenty four.
Obviously very naive, very idealistic. I’m still idealistic, hopefully not quite so naive. My dad was the main inspiration for me going into research. He was always interested in physics and so I went onto study materials at University and then realised that I wanted to do something that would impact the rest of the world so I went from doing a PhD in chemistry to working in an engineering department here in Bristol. I’m very privileged, went to private school, went to Bristol. All I’ve had to do is jump through hoops to end up in a, sort of, a fairly standard business job I’d say.
But my pathway is probably a mix of being sensible enough to stay on the straight and narrow and broadly take a sensible step each time, not taking huge risks but also always having a sort of, eye for searching for wider meaning and ethical impact in situations. I went out to work for a water and sanitation charity in Bolivia and they said to me, ‘would you like to do a menstrual health program?’ And it was something I’d never thought about. So I was really excited to work in this and then it’s all gone from there.
I worked in Bolivia, Uganda and Nepal and then back here in the UK on the topic of, ‘how do you manage your period if you haven’t got any money?’ I do lots of different jobs. I worked in research and publishing of various descriptions. But I realised relatively late on in my career I wanted to be working in sustainability, I wanted to, however grand this sounds, be part of a solution. In my first year I really realised how much food is going to waste. When I got involved with FoodCycle as a cooking volunteer, I learned more about the issue and it really astounded me and I wanted to do more. So I’ve continued volunteering with FoodCycle.
I think I ended up being an academic by mistake so it was never planned. I always wanted to be a journalist, um, but I kind of fell into this and it’s something that I actually find I like doing. I think for me the key moments that brought me to where I am now is, just general appreciation for the world and the things that reside in it, be it the human population or ecology. I’ve always loved seeing the natural environment so that’s one thing that sparked the light for me. It’s not just a formal education route, it’s what you can do outside of that.

When we look at people in positions of success, whether that be success in terms of happiness, finance, occupation or anything else, it can feel like we’ll never get to that point.

However, success doesn’t happen overnight. All of the people you see and think “they are successful” have a story to tell. Some of those stories may have taken paths they were never expected to take.

Watch the video, think about it, and add some thoughts to the comments:

  • Were you surprised by any of the life paths that were described in the video?
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