Alongside my role as International Development Director at Caffè Nero, I am also Chairman of the community social network Streetlife which is the fastest growing local social network in the UK with over one million users. I still use the skills that I learned as a student now; the technology training from my degree gave me the confidence to undertake the Streetlife project.
To be able to visit Caffè Nero branches around the world and see our customers enjoying the brand gives me enormous pride. It has been a real force for good, where we bring something positive to people’s everyday lives. Equally, to watch Streetlife survive the difficult early years and now to grow into a national network of communities and bring people together in areas that had previously lacked a sense of community is fabulous.
After University, I went to work as an engineer in the Sahara desert for two years which was a tremendous experience – I was in a hostile environment with 70 other men learning how to live in the desert! However, after two years, I decided that it wasn’t for me and that I wanted to work in management instead. I worked in industry for 12 years in various general management roles, during which time I completed an MBA at The INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France. It was through a friendship that I made during my MBA course that I got involved in setting up Caffè Nero, which has now grown to become a global coffee shop chain with over 650 stores in seven countries and 4,000 members of staff.
Primarily it was the reputation of the Physics and Electronics department, but also the atmosphere and feel of the campus and the halls; I was in Glen Eyre halls which I really liked. Southampton was also close (but not too close) to London, where I am from, which meant I could go home every now and then.
I was very busy during my student days. In addition to studying for my degree, I got involved with lots of extra-curricular activities.
I was captain of the third rugby team and founded the ski racing club and team. I was captain of the ski club which meant that I took 120 people to the Alps every year which really helped me develop key organisational and administrative skills, and to grow in confidence.
Make the most of your time at Southampton. It is important to work hard and achieve a good degree but it’s also important to take advantage of all of the other activities outside of your course.
That’s a tough question! It’s a disciplined University but in an informal way, which means it attracts a particular type of person. I really liked the people I met and studied with at University.