This is a very personal story about my career. Why? Because it illustrates one man's journey from disciple of the traditional view of employment and scaling the corporate ladder toward what we at UP THERE, EVERYWHERE, call e-ployment. It's a story about the evolution from running in the corporate rat-race to living in the gig economy. Hopefully some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way might be helpful to you.
I’ve always been quite cocky or at least totally fearless intellectually. At sixteen I decided to sit five A-levels when the average was fewer than three. As a result, I set two school records, still held to this day, one of getting the highest grade the school had ever received in one exam and the lowest grade the school had ever received in another. I’d decided I was above studying for A-Level Chemistry and paid the price for being such an arrogant little sh*t!
After four years studying Maths, which I really didn’t enjoy, I decided I wanted to go into the glitzy world of marketing. To that end I attended loads of corporate student events, did a business course over the Easter holidays, blagged my way into a serious summer internship by chatting to someone at a wedding and scraped through my degree. I then somehow got a place on L’Oréal’s Graduate Scheme, as one of the 15 selected from 6000 applicants.
Bored of that, I emailed the Global Head of PR and blagged a job at L’Oreal’s head office in Paris. I then fell in love with a Swedish woman and decided to move to Sweden, where, I assumed, I’d easily learn the language and find a job.
I set myself the goal of becoming a marketing manager before the age of thirty. Why not? The ego trip is much more important than being ready, right?
Next, I chatted to the boss at the coffee machine, wangled myself a position as head of the Asian marketing team and moved to Thailand with my wife and newborn baby.
Great career, great salary, great goals achieved. As Borat would say: ‘much success’.
Being a dad
My wife went back to work after a year with our daughter and it was my turn, in Swedish style, to spend five months as a stay-at-home dad. And that is where my problems started! You see, I fell in love with my daughter and loved every second of my paternity leave. I realised that flying around Asia, living out of a suitcase and occasionally seeing my family at weekends was actually not what I really wanted. For the first time in my career, I stopped listening to my ego. I went back to my employer and explained that I’d changed my mind about Asia.
The company I worked for was incredibly understanding and generous. Although my former role in Stockholm was occupied by someone else, I was offered a new position to build up a brand and communication department from scratch. It was perfect: challenging and exciting while simultaneously feeding my awful ego. I got to stand on stage in front of hundreds of people and manage big budgets. Plus, I was involved in forming strategy. I was back! I was important!
At this point two things happened. Firstly, our two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with DDH, a deformation of the hip socket which meant her thigh bone and hip were totally dislocated. She had two minor operations and one major surgery. Secondly, my wife, who was pregnant with our second child, developed a very rare condition which made her allergic to our unborn child. Needless to say, I set aside my career goals and focused on home life. My employer was amazing, allowing me to take time off to literally carry my daughter around in her full body cast.
Exploration and independence
These medical emergencies were the wake-up call I needed. Once everything was stable at home, I went back to work, but I had an itch to explore life outside the corporate world; an itch to leave the rat race, to reject my 9-to-6 job and to stop working long unpaid overtime hours to benefit not my family but company shareholders. It was time to embrace the unexpected. It was time to be my own boss. I resigned.
For a while, I worked at a brand strategy consultancy and freelanced at a top Swedish ad agency. What I learned during this time was that the whole big agency model, and particularly their client relations, gave me a rash. I needed to find my own way so I went fully independent, establishing my own company, Reisz and Shine, where my goal was to work hands-on and closely with clients, using my skills and experience to bring value and make meaningful progress beyond delivering PowerPoint presentations. I was lucky enough to work with big and small companies, building new international brands from scratch, helping businesses through full transformation, supporting social start-ups and even building a communication strategy that ended in a film featuring my son.
And then I discovered UP THERE, EVERYWHERE, the world’s first global cloud-based agency. There are no offices and no employees. Instead independent specialists are brought together around global business and brand challenges to build agile dream teams of international talent. Working with UP involves me in exciting projects while allowing me the flexibility to spend time with family.
Gamble on yourself
Having experienced the glamour of international corporate life and the ego boost of being promoted up the career ladder, I can assuredly say that I value freedom and independence above all else. Going it alone is not easy. It's challenging financially and emotionally and it sometimes feels like being in permanent therapy as you question the future, your direction and what you are trying to achieve. You need to spend a considerable amount of time chasing work and you’ll sometimes have to take on jobs that you find dull. But the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls and it is overwhelmingly a rewarding, though constantly evolving, process.
What’s the measure of success?
Last year, my wife gave birth to our third child and, since no one controls my schedule but me, I get to spend a great deal of time with the most important people in the world.
What is e-ployment?
Find out more about how a new model for working in the cloud spans the gap between traditional employment and freelancing, and takes self-employment to a new level.