I left my first ‘proper’ job as a commercial graduate at a major petrochemical company after 15 months, having despaired incessantly at my position in front of the computer. A year later, I decided it was time to start taking things seriously again. I’d spent most of my time off in Canada in British Columbia – snowboarding in Whistler through the winter, and plucking (and consuming) a surfeit of sweet plump fruit on an organic farm in summer. Such frivolous activity could only continue for so long.
On my return to the UK in September 2017, I headed to the Isle of Lewis to join forces with Rod at Windswept and Interesting, to learn about the wacky world of Airborne Wind Energy. My plan was to squeeze a toe in the door of the renewable energy industry and commence my career as a Mechanical Engineer, something my university friends had sensibly gone about doing three years ago. Things were looking good, with a number of interviews lined up as 2017 drew to a close.
Rejection followed rejection, and the prospects of a full time professional job were becoming ever bleaker. Interview number four provided the light bulb moment that I needed. Sat across the table from the director of a small solar farm development company, I learnt that as an entrepreneur, he was “always looking for the next big idea”. That moment, I realised I was on the wrong side of the table. Demonstrating my ‘competencies’ for the privilege of doing somebody else’s work seemed a rather odd idea.
Free from the thankless task of job-hunting, I had time to cogitate over my own big idea. The very next day, I set about setting up an outdoor activity business on the Isle of Harris – something I had been tentatively researching over the Christmas period.
A month later, I was paddling around in the shallows of West Loch Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. It was my first foray in a sea kayak, and anybody watching that day would likely have had doubts over my ability to lead people onto the turbulent waters of the Outer Hebrides! But four months later it became a reality, and Roam Outer Hebrides was born.
Through school and university, I had diligently jumped through the hoops presented to me, with the notion that it would lead to ‘success’. While I am incredibly grateful for the education I received, it had me pointing in the wrong direction when I finally graduated, aged 24. The system is, rightly or wrongly, built around OFSTED reports, exam grades and ultimately GDP figures; producing university graduates to keep the economic machine turning. While a traditional career is ideal for many (a lot of my friends included), it eventually became clear that it wasn’t for me, and almost a decade after leaving school I was finally able to make a choice that was best for me rather than society’s expectations. And I haven’t looked back!
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu