Head of Interaction and Service Design at @DigitalDWP
What Makes You?
In 1986, I was three years old. My sister, a little bit older than myself was at school whilst I was at home with my Mum. At some point on that day my Dad came home from work and told my Mum he was leaving her.
Ever since, that day has been etched in to my memory. My Dad packed up what he could carry and I watched him walk down the driveway to his car and leave from the living room window.
I turned around to find my Mum sat on a chair inconsolable with her head in her hands. I walked over to the coffee table, picked up some tissues up and handed them to her so that she could dry her tears.
There are a lot of thoughts that go through your mind as a three year old. I didn’t know at that point if I’d just lost my Dad altogether. I didn’t know if I was ever going to see him again.
That day in 1986 set me on a path fraught with unknown challenges.
I was so young, I had no path and had no one to set me on a course. For better or worse, that day made me the person I am both personally and professionally. You see, a couple of years after it happened we moved 100 miles away from my Dad to be closer to my Mums family. In 5 year old terms that is like traveling to the other side of the world.
Luckily I saw my Dad every weekend as he’d travel over to see my Sister and I. We regularly saw apocalyptic arguments break out on the doorstep for what I thought was no reason but tensions were high as you’d expect. My Sister and Mum would get upset, I’d cry but fight for things to calm down and shout at everyone to shut up to defend my Sisters emotions.
Over the years I became incredibly independent, I had to be. My relationship with my Mum and Sister were weak at best and I didn’t see my Dad as much as I needed. We still spoke on the phone nearly every day but I had no ‘life-guide’. A person who taught me rights and wrongs or what makes a good person. I had no idea of morals and values that you live your life by and how they integrate in to everything you do.
I had no idea where I would find those things until I started reading heavily and found my solace in books. I used to love library time in Middle School. Our library was old, so old you could imagine the bodies from yesteryear wandering through the aisles with their Victorian clothing brushing past. The floor boards used to creak with every change of step and the shelves were so high you couldn’t reach the top without a ladder, a proper library.
I yearned for real facts and could easily connect with geographical and historical data. A true fascination, I liked to know where in the world things happened and the reasons why.
Everything I picked up from books underpinned my thinking. As I was fairly introverted and ‘didn’t need anyone else’, I became very steadfast in my decision making. If ever I wanted to do something I would do it and put everything I had in to it. If I didn’t want to do something then it would be made perfectly clear.
I had nothing and no one else to show me anything different, I didn’t want anything different. All I needed was a straight line from A to B. There were no buts or maybes.
As I headed towards my teen years I became more and more aware of the world I would have to head in to. My Dad has always worked in a finance related industry so I asked questions about money and business. Knowing how the world works with regards to business and money was intriguing to me. I can remember at 15, I sat with my Dad and wrote my first ever business plan for an Internet cafe.
I knew even at that point that the Internet was becoming more common place in residential homes so the profit wouldn’t be in renting ‘Internet time’, so expanded the business plan in to providing food and refreshments for the people using the Internet cafe as the profit margins would be higher. On top of that, there was another potential avenue of growing revenue by running gaming events and competitions since I had the computers waiting there to be used.
My head is still wired that way. To me, black is black and it is nothing other than black. Within split seconds I analyse situations and make rapid decisions. I don’t delay and once I’ve set my course I’m already too far to turn back.
I look back over the past 10 years and can clearly see how I ended up in so many different situations. At 15 I had my first interview, at 16 I had my first job, at 17 I had my second job and co-ran a large tech website (because I said I could/would do it so did) and at 19 I joined the Army. At 22 I set my course in to the industry I’m in now.
I’ve never been qualified for the things I’ve decided to do, I’ve done them because I wanted to and believed I could so did. That one day, all those years ago set me on this course and made me the person I am today. Some people say that my story is sad and unfortunate.
Maybe it was unfortunate but it is definitely not sad, I’m perfectly happy how I turned out. I doubt I would have the same drive and determination to execute on things if it hadn’t of happened. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail for every last little thing in my life, and I love that. I love battling but more so I love achieving the things people say I could/would never be able to do.