IT'S WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO BE

My Journalist self follows fabulous people into fabulous places.

Category: interview

You’d like to be Tom Hulme. But, Would you really?

Another White Man Saving Brown Women from Brown Men?

(Disclaimer: I adore Tom Hulme and I would love to intern at his company. But after this article I’d imagine it would have slipped away naturally)

In complete contrast to his dishevelled hair – this gentleman’s list of achievements is as breath-takingly linear and long as they are well documented, in another word, world-class. Carrying the charisma that sets himself apart from other entrepreneurs who utilizes pretension for a conspicuous cause to establish status, Hulme – in check shirts and trainers talking to a podium-ful of work hungry students playfully.

“a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and was listed in WIRED UK’s top 100 “digital power brokers” in 2011 and 2012. In November 2012 he was included in the Evening Standard list of London’s 1000 most influential people. Tom is also a member of the advisory board of the Tech City Investment Organisation of the UK government, supporting the startup community in East London.”

Founder of OpenIDEO, a project that enables “anybody” to contribute ideas usually for a specific seasonal task is currently burgeoning a campaign aiming at Indian women’s safety in low socio-economic areas, extending the social debate that gained worldwide attention due to the number of cases of rape, gang-rape in India last year, coinciding with the biggest election that the world has seen in India where 800+ million voters participated last Saturday certainly has got all eyes on him.

His hour-long talk at London College of Communication ended with a Q&A session where I had the privilege to ask the final question:

Me: “Post colonial cultural theorist, Gayaki Spivak is known for her criticism of “Western” doctrine’s interest in the debates on post colonial states, like India. She once famously criticized the ‘West’ for ‘White men saving brown women from Brown men’, do you think that your challenge on helping indian women could be a bit indulgent.”

Probably not as indulgent as my question.

It was the journalist in me that made me want to stir up the otherwise homogenous agreeable applause applause talk. Branded as an open innovation platform, OpenIDEO serves as a levelling tool to democratize ideas. Slide after slide of empirical data and research findings narrated in his non-threatening and yet authoritative tone, Hulme had smitten the room with the look of an Australian surfer and the backlog of jaw dropping credentials, as well as saint-like proclaims of the non-profit driven nature of his work. The question on my mind was, has he really discovered the ultimate levelling platform for ideas or is he just an amazing motivational speaker?

India, with its roots lying in a culture built around hierarchies of gender, religion, caste and colour produces the most number of millionaires in a country in the world but is known for the human pyramids built on travelling trains and “slum dogs”. Dealing with the issue of women’s safety in India is comparable to dealing with cocaine use in Hollywood, Indian men’s disrespect towards women is justified by the disregard of women’s identity as a whole. From the time a brother is sent to college whereas the sisters are left running errands to accompany the mom, to the criticism of a western tourist showing cleavage inviting a gangbang, to me woken up by a penis on my face that belongs to a married Indian friend of my housemate’s that was staying over who was told that I was gay, all these evidence suggest that sexual crimes can all be justified because the victims have all “asked” for it. (Possibly not all) Indian men live by the rules that the patriarch structure can be taken for granted and sexual offenses are the reward of sexually deprived women and gay men. Where can I send my “thank you for your penis” card?

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Khajuraho, a town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometres (385 mi) southeast of New Delhi

From the country that brought you Kama Sutra, which features not only the 100s of sexercize positions (some even include horses, probably as props) but also the depictions of gay and lesbian sex to a society that bans prostitution as well as homosexuality, the change is held accountable by one country – UK. It was during the Victorian colonial period did the British labelled the Orientals “the oriental vice” during its “Fanatical Purity Campaign” – meaning the “West” didn’t like it that the Indians expressed their sexuality freely whose gods include hermaphrodites and androgynous beings.

Arjuna and Krishna – 2 Indian gods who are frequently referrenced for their same sex love. Photo by pramoduniverse.com

Centuries later, the repressed physiological needs of men (sex) are compensated by the compromised safety needs of women, due to the very fact that it was the colonial Victorians who initiated the increasing imbalance. We are brainstorming ideas globally to help with women’s safety? Something’s got to give. And solving the problem one-sidedly will only create future imbalance. If men were to blame, help THEM first. After all Marslow views sex as a more basic form of needs than safety. Shouldn’t we be thinking about how to feed the wolves?

Indian Men in/on/above A Running Train. Photo by BBC

An Indian girlfriend once said to me, “look at the UAE, if someone steals, they chop his hands off. That’s why their crime rate is so low, why can’t we do something like that?” Obviously we can’t, coz we are the “West” and they one thing we take pride in is the discourse of human rights. In cultural theorist Spivak’s essay “Can Subalterns Speak?”, long story short, subalterns can’t speak. Coz when they do speak, how are we going to listen with an ear that only takes in what fits in the western discourses such as feminism and human rights?

Solving a third world problem within the Western doctrine is very likely to lead nowhere. But if Hulme’s challenge is aimed at raising awareness and showing concern or goodwill, he certainly has accomplished that. After all, as of today, 585 profiles have contributed to their research, a research according to my question to him, could be of western problem-solvers’ indulgence.

My question for him certain got him interested. Having distinguished the contributors to OpenIDEO from the Westminster suit and tie white middle aged men, he gave a convincing answer that OpenIDEO users are of wide demographics which include victims themselves. However, my scepticism remains as my enthusiasm continues to find out how big of an impact could this challange manifest.

Hulme at London College of Communication, 2013. Photo by London College of Communication

N: is there any personal reason that made you consciously choose a path that’s not necessarily guaranteed to generate great revenue?

H: “My dad was an entrepreneur so I’ve always admired entrepreneurs. And I spent a year in Africa before I went to university the first time when I was 18 and that had a huge impact on me. I promised myself that I’d create businesses and do start ups that will have positive social impact so I combined the two things. That why I never went to work for a big company I never consider it.”

All eyes on Hulme and his OpenIDEO contributors. Participate and contribute to the reasearch and ideas here: http://www.openideo.com/
Follow Hulme on Twitter:

You’d Like To Be Peter Firth

“It was enthusiasm that did it, rather than any degree of talent.”

Probably a bit of both. Senior Journalist Peter Firth from the Future Laboratory – one of the world’s most renowned and respected trend forecasting consultancies speaks of the beginning of his career in the most understated fashion. Citing the article “Doormen in it for the kicks” in the Guardian as his first commissioned piece, having just graduated from London School of Journalism, his articles can be seen in Total Guitar Magazine, Songlines and the Hackney Gazette. But it wasn’t until he joined LS: N Global of the Future Laboratory, did he witness exponential personal and career growth. On some occasion his words are heard by an audience of 400-500 people including clients from Microsoft and Harrods in Tate Tanks. Firth in a telephone interview speaks to me about what the futures industry entails.

Firth has given Trend Briefings to brands including Marks & Spencer, Estée Lauder, Microsoft and Harrods, examining consumer behavior through case studies, quantitative data and expert analysis.

F: “Future Laboratory has developed a reputation for being accurate.”

Trend forecasting as an industry seems to resonates with the ideas of many contemporary cultural theorists. Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche and Pierre Bourdieu to name a few have all made their prophecies on what the western societies could become and underpinned the principles that fuel the subsequent commercial affluence. In Firth’s work however, it is not as taste driven or theoretical like you’d except. Firth’s predictions are based on empirical data, the results of think tanks, and a congruence with the opinions of industry experts such as Stephan Sigrist from Wire and Steve Vranikis the creative director of Google. These foundations underpin the accuracy and confidence in the trend future forecasting.

F: “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Firth quoting William Gibson.

Tactfully exploring social shifts and human behavioural patterns, LS: N Global clears the visions of the lucky and selected few who bare the privilege of seeing life from the other side of the microscope, by subscribing LS :N Global‘s reports – some of which are often adorned hilarious and intentionally self-referential and peudo-scientific titles such as the upcoming one in New York called “The Polarity Paradox”.

A sneak peak into the near future

LS: N Global present their briefings to clients such as Harrods, Marks & Spencer and Harvey Nichols which for members of the public are trends’ driving force and taste makers. When asked about the balance between finding/forecasting trends and creating trends when reporting to clients of such profile:

F: “There’s a self-perpetuating quality about these things. When you think that something is happening you will have an selective eye. When you buy an iPhone, other people start buying iPhones and when you start smoking, other people seem to start smoking. It’s not that more people are smoking but it’s just that you notice it more. Things to watch out for. The way we get around that is by having a network of forecasting. It’s not just me on my own forecasting because we are a range of diverse thinkers.”

N: “What is it like to forecast trends knowing that what you like may be very subjective to your own taste. Do you fight the tendency to project your own taste into the work in hopes that it will turn into something big?”

F: “Actually I had this discussion with our visual editor a while ago. Certain things are subjective. Seeing the emergence of certain design over the course of certain time, you can talk things over chronology, rather than taste. One of our jobs is to find stuff, which can be fashion, a poster, an advertising campaign, something about the consumers’ way of living, that we can create and mimic.”

Since April 2012, Peter has been technology publication T3’s futurology columnist, examining the big questions surrounding our long-term relationship with technology.

Firth on BBC World Service, "The Hub", December 2012 Discussing the future of human communication, as well as the first wifi linked communication between two people's pulses.

Firth on BBC World Service, “The Hub”, December 2012 Discussing the future of human communication, as well as the first wifi linked communication between two people’s pulses.

Trend forecasting has definitely taken journalism into new grounds as the newly “taken off” form of journalism aims to drive commercialism within a codependent club as oppose to the old fashioned extra extra that’s just in. We are definitely witnessing a divisive industry which trades information about who wears what, what sells where, where likes whom secretively and hyped-up more than stock prices.

N: It seems to me that your work is closely tied in with commercialism and your findings are targeted at the middle class, which casts out a big sector of the bigger society. Do you ever feel that your work may carry some social responsibilities? Do you ever feel a bit detached from traditional journalistic work?

F: There are a lot of independent factors that weigh in here. First of all you become a journalist, you kind of want to believe in free speech and the idea that the public has the right to know about what goes on internationally, their locale and all the rest of that, which is what I completely agree with. It is kind of interesting to be on the business side. Essentially it’s not doing the same thing. It’s the same set of skills, you are doing it to empower organizations, which is kind of strange, but those organizations are not always the big and frighting ones, quite often some of them are small design studios and starting up ad agencies, people that are doing interesting work, the work itself might have an element of social responsibilities to it. That’s definitely an angle. Also that form of journalism is taking off. You are using the skills of a journalist to pursue other angles.

The angle I should take with my skills learned in school as a journalist may not be as arbitrary as I might believe. The girl who makes my coffee in Shoreditch Grind calls herself a writer/blogger/journalist. I’d imagine becoming a barista was probably not the best angle for her.

LS:N Global senior journalist Peter Firth explored the topic of Millennial luxury consumers with 22-year-old Amber Atherton, founder of online jewellery and accessories boutique MyFlashTrash.

“You are here because of your enthusiasm.”

It took me 3 weeks and at least 10 emails to get Mr Firth on the phone. Judging by the sound quality, he was talking to me on a mobile phone while walking in the cold streets of London. As a journalism student who has yet to get an article commissioned, and I know I am not alone on this, I had to ask what it takes to break into the industry.

N: There’s this tweet of yours, “There’s often a no before a yes.” I certainly had a bitter sweet taste of what that quote entails. Can you tell us about your experience in some of the hardships or disappointments on the road to success?

F: I know what you mean. I think it’s really tough to try and break into journalism. It’s kinda infamous. You know what, it’s probably even tougher now than it was when I was trying in 2009 or 2010. I think it’s just about perseverance. I think you should just TRY (X5), that’s how I sort of did it. I started as an intern at LS: N Global and it was kind of position swoop and I guess it was enthusiasm which did it rather than any degree of talent. At the beginning for a certain time, I didn’t particularly believe in my talent, or actually I think I did, but it was that [enthusiasm] which was attractive. Remember I said “you are here because of your enthusiasm”.

The next LS: N Global Trend Briefing – The Polarity Paradox takes place in New York on March 19. What does this mean for brands, stores and products? What does this mean for Peter Firth? And what does this mean for student journalists? I’d certainly want to be him, especially on that day.

Report by Nate

Follow Peter Firth on Twitter @PJFirth


LS: N GLOBAL

The Future Laboratory

You’d Like to Be Carl-David Granbäck

Humans all need to be rescued. As I am writing this feature about a person who lives life defying hegemony in all forms, it brings me incredible shame that I have been so absorbed in commercialism and flunked in life by never challanging its possibilities. I’ve had the pleasure to study alongside this gentleman, who despite all other accomplishments, will be an inspiration to many for his courageous and extraordinary ventures into a world we may never be able to see for ourselves. He tells stories that will make us question. His camera bestows photographs of nature and culture, which are such works of art that will melt the hearts of the cynical. He will rescue us by rewinding us back into innocence. I will let his own words tell who he is:

“My name is Carl-David Granbäck and I am a 28 year old guy from Sweden.”

Granback in France. Days in after his cycle journey from Sweden to Africa. Photo by Granback

Granback in France. Days in after his cycle journey from Sweden to Africa. Photo by Granback

“In 2009, I embarked on a great journey and cycled across South America, from Tierra del Fuego in Argentina all the way up to the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.

dinner

Dinner never looked so good! Granback on his previous cycle journey “South America by Bike“. Janurary 2010. Photo by Granback

Ever since I came back from that trip, I’ve felt a strong desire to get back in the saddle and head out into the unknown. So this time I have decided to cycle from Sweden to Africa!

Granback in Copenhagen, days into "Sweden to Africa" by bike. Photo by Granback

Granback in Copenhagen, days into “Sweden to Africa” by bike. Photo by Granback

With this blog, I want to share my experiences from the road with the rest of the world, and hopefully make you feel inspired!”

Granback's Photo of Him self at crossroads Featured in National Geographic

Granback’s photo of himself at crossroads Featured in National Geographic

 Granback’s South American triumph began with a question that needs not asking. In his words,

“I simply do it because I can, because I have the opportunity and because I think it’s a great challenge! But of course there’s more to it… Our planet is an amazing place! There is a lot of beautiful nature and interesting cultures to experience. In comparison to the size of Earth, and everything there is to see, a lifetime is actually quite short, and that’s why I want to travel and explore places and cultures when I have the opportunity to do it.”

He may not have anticipated the impact it had on him upon returning to civilization, where he was welcomed and cited by fellow adventurers as their inspiration to cycle. Some even followed his routes for their travels. The bravery to search for a life that won’t be bound by fear is what Granback has accomplished and he certainly has reached the sublime.

Granback at 6,542 m above sea level on the top of Sajama, Bolivia. "South America by Bike" July 2010. Photo by Granback

Granback at 6,542 m above sea level on the top of Sajama, Bolivia. “South America by Bike” July 2010. Photo by Granback

A year since his triumphant return from South America, I met up with him in Gothenburg and relived his memory of this significant venture. 4 years had passed since our youthful time in university, Granback seemed more responsible of his role in the world. There had been talks on farming techniques, cycling and fitness as well as reading. Playing back some of his photos on TV, it’s incredibly melancholy to see him indulging the beauty of nature as I have never imagined that imagery could exist outside television. One of books that he showed me was one about cultivating a farm that could be self-sufficent in a miniscule civilization. Of course he brushed off my suggestion of making plans to make it happen and credited such ideas of less reliance on industrialization and commercialization as “interesting”, showing immense devotion to a life driven by goodwill and environmental conservation.

A reminiscing night in Gothenberg with Granback. October 2011. Photo by Nate

A reminiscing night in Gothenberg with Granback. October 2011. Photo by Nate

The world was not shocked when Granback made the announcement of leaving tire marks from his birth place Sweden to Africa last year. Having aquired survial skills that put Bear Grylls to shame, the world welcomed Granback’s return to a life he knows best and we envy the most – a life of freedom, self-exploration and nature.

“Whether it might scare you to get hooked on the feeling of travelling this way and have difficulties returning to a normal life, then I’d question that big time. I mean, after all, life is all about doing what you like and what makes you happy! And I think that if you can motivate whatever activity by exactly that, then what you have in mind won’t pose a problem for you in future.”

Granback in Sahara Desert. Janurary 2014. Photo by Granback

Granback in Sahara Desert. Janurary 2014. Photo by Granback

Granback was in Senegal when we had our last conversation regarding my request to use his images. He said, “Of course – you’re welcome to use whatever you want!” Can you imagine a more perfect man? As of today, he is over 6000 kilometers in his journey and has covered Demark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Gibraltar, Morocco, and Senegal as well as everything else in between. Let’s follow his bike marks now, shall we?

Wouldn’t you like to be Carl-David Granbäck? Do you dare to be Carl-David Granbäck? I believe I speak for him when I say this, Yes you can!

See more of Granback on his original blog “Sweden to Africa by Bike

DSC_0926_960x638

Granback rock climbing in France. Aug 2013. Photo by Granback

Follow Granback on Sweden to Africa by Bike here!

You’d Like To Be Matthew Rettenmund

Novelist, writer, magazine creator, Madonna analyst and founder of one of the most successful online blogs BoyCulture.com, these titles barely cover what Matthew Rettenmund has aquired under his belt as a writing giant. Praised by New York Times writer Nick Hornby, “[Rettenmund] with his sharp eye and his careful, knowing prose, sounds like one of the freshest voices on the block.”

In a Q&A email interview, Rettenmund lectures me on transitioning journalistic shift from print to online, shows off his expertise in pop careers of Queen Madonna and fellow artists Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga, as well as fulfills my personal request by giving advice on how to make it as a sucessful journalist. Nate reports.

First things first! On Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga.

madonna kylie gaga

N: Tell me about your life as a Madonna fan.
R: Madonna is my everything, artistically, because I love her work and also I love that she seems to embody so many notions that any opinion on her winds up having less to do with her and more to do with the person expressing the opinion…and with cultural trends.

Rettenmund’s admiration towards Madonna has long been acknowledged. At one point, this facination has turned into a best seller!

Encyclopedia Madonnica by MatthewRettenmund

Rettemund With Madonna at her Fragrance Launch in Macy’s 2012

R: Kylie was a terrible copycat early on, but did eventually find her own path, and is quite a good singer. She pays tribute to Madonna affectionately.

R: I did enjoy Lady Gaga a lot at first. She was the first artist since Madonna who seemed to be taking up the mantle with all seriousness and who attempted to replicate Madonna’s brilliant touring strategy and form. However, she has stumbled badly. Her latest album is not forgettable, it’s unforgettably poor, and her pronouncements make her seem like the egomaniacal version of Madonna. (And Madonna is as daunting an ego as any!)

sucess across all boards

Rettenmund has seen sucess across all boards. BoyCulture.com which sees over 20,000 to 25,000 page views daily is among the most popular Blogs targetted at male gay audience in the world. His 1995 novel “Boy Culture” was adapted into popular 2006 film of the same name.

N: You’ve written novels and now become the biggest contributor to one of the most successful blogs BoyCulture.com, a move that resonates the industry shift, from traditional print media to “citizen journalism”. What is your attitude towards the shift? Is there any nostalgia from writing novels?

R: I think a lot is lost and a lot is gained, going from print to digital. What I love about blogging is that I can make lengthy, unedited (except by me) pieces immediately available—and widely. However, I think that it can become addictive, keeping up a daily blog, and that definitely, 100% takes away from other pursuits, including writing fiction and maintaining relationships.

R: Also problematic is the fact that people are now trained to receiving writing and humor and imagery for free. Yes, bloggers can make some money via ads, but that is an invisible fee to readers, who forever after will be less likely to pay for a book, digital or print.


The 2006 Film “Boy Culture” Adapted from Rettenmund’s 1995 Novel of The Same Name

On Visual V.S Texual
papers

Left: Carrie Bradshaw Wearing Newspapers
Centre: Carrie Bradshaw Writing for Newspapers
Right: Newspapers

N: Do writers have to be good photographers to be good writers? What is your attitude towards this visual culture of selfies, instgram, tumblr and their impact on readers? Is it really true that a picture is worth 1000 words?

R: If anything, I have gravitated more to imagery and away from writing over time. It’s new to me, but I am very eager to improve my photographic skills. I’m doing shoots and learning, little by little. I’m not bit on selfies myself(ie), but I love the trend in others because I’m a big ol’ voyeur and also, I do think that there is an art to it.

On Blogging and Advice on Pursuing a Career as a Journalist
journalism-177fd0

N: What attributes does a blog need to become a hit?
R: I have no idea if my blog could be called a “hit.” I will say that thanks to the support of bloggers like Andy Towle, Joe Jervis, Kenneth [in the (212)], David @ Wicked Gay Blog and others, my blog could be described as an influencer. I’m able to get original stuff or first-reported-by-me stuff out there.

N: How do u view success now? What still excites you? What had been some of the hardships and challenges you had to face to get where you are? Any advice for people who want to make it as a writer/journalist like myself?
R: Success is elusive. I feel somewhat successful, but I also feel like a young, struggling artist at times. I go back and forth between wanting to express myself and be creative, and simply wanting money and nice things and comfort. As I age, it becomes more urgent that I make the right choice, but I’m not closer to knowing which choice that is, so I am trying to cover all the bases.

R: My ultimate advice is to try things. If you’re interested in a field, explore it. Try it. Don’t wait to be validated, just do it. Most of the greatest photographers and writers are completely self-taught. All you have to fear is messing up. If that happens, move on and try something else. Life’s too fleeting to second-guess your every move. Adventure!

Rettenmund as founding Editor in Chief of Popstar! Magazine from October 1998 until May 2012.

I dreamed a dream! And interviewing Matthew Rettenmund has definitely taken me one step closer to that dream. What an absolute pleasure! Thank you! MAN, wouldn’t you want to be Matthew Rettenmund!!

Check out his fabulous blog BoyCulture here!

You’d Like to Be Richard Coombes

I am that 1%”

Humbly admitting that he sees himself very much the same as everybody else but the truth is, maybe he is a bit different. Coombes on some level is like the rest of us, building a career in constant struggle between circumstantial limitations and personal ambitions, insecurities and external confidence, balancing professional and personal life as a driven and yet emotional creature. Few dare to claim titles such as Head of Talent, Graduate Programme & Management Development at Barclays Commercial Bank, HR director at Leo Burnett EMEA, Lecturer and Tutor at University of South Australia (at age 19) and most importantly, Executive Coach whose clients include Bloomberg and Procter & Gamble, as well as Lenstore – one of the Times Top 10 fast growing private companies 2013, under his own company Coombes Business Coaching. Speaking to me in landmark location of Shoreditch, The Book Club, Coombes reveals the force that has asserted a modest Australian boy into the world of finance and Britain’s elite class. Nate reports.

Having arrived half an hour late for the interview I had scheduled for Mr Coombes, I was thousands of times more gratified that he had stayed to be interviewed than when he agreed to it, in exchange for my help in lifting some boxes at one of his cooking classes. Wait, cooking?

Richard_Cutting

(what’s going on here? Coombes had put 10 members of The Supper Club, UK’s premier network for entrepreneurs in a boot camp of high pressured cooking task, in order to observe their organizational behaviour under his microscope. Jan 30th, 2014 photo by Nate.)

For the first time, we could see how a pressured cooking environment creates high quality in a limited time. Then you can talk about leadership development and management behaviour. In that situation, entrepreneurs who are used to working separately and individually are with people they don’t know. Some of them begin to coordinate and work together but some would surge out of the group, not only being able to get the assigned task done but also seek to learn everything else within that space. What we’d be looking for is that I work more with them to identify in their business where they need to work as a team.”

I should mention that one of my highlights in life so far had been the time I had the privilege to taste Coombes caviar in the 3-story townhouse that he owns on a summer day in Hackney, East London, over looking the stand-alone fish-tank-like studio which he calls “office” across the garden. The fact that both of us were in flip-flops gave me enough excuse to indulge in his treat without feeling undeserving or too self conscious of my own status or cooking skills. How good was the caviar? … Sorry, did I mention it was caviar?

I am interested in food and cooking schools, I have been to about 30 cooking schools across the world. I believe that it differentiates me as a coach because it’s a different way of beginning a conversation about high performance, communication and teamwork. “

Richard_Serious_Telloff Richard_man

Richard_Candle

(Entrepreneurs associated with The Supper Club are carefully vetted to ensure that the Club maintains the highest quality of entrepreneurs across all sectors. Here they are cooking up a feast, but not without some serious tough love from Coombes, which he describes as the “In your face” style. Jan 30th, 2014. Photos by Nate)

 

It’s performance coaching, focusing on individual development and career development. I work with senior management, they have business objectives, department objectives and individual objectives, things that they need to deliver to their bosses in order to get their pay rise or promotions. One of my particular target markets is one that’s fast growing, small entrepreneurial companies.”

As Coombes alternating between coaching corporations such as Bloomberg, Procter & Gamble and individual clients that his current work entails,he is now reflecting on the past times when he had been HR director in Barclays. This is what he had to say,

They were no more professional, in fact, they had even bigger challenges. There was a certain degree of dysfunction in the way that the business operates. There was a great need for intelligent HR, tactics and strategy, but there wasn’t much of it employed. There were so much of a need but so little commitment.”

Being an HR director in a corporate space means 300-400 emails a day, working on 15 projects simultaneously at any given time. It means 80 percent of your time is spent on internal stake holder management, otherwise known as Politics.”

Coombes now would spend 40% of his time on client relationship development, marketing and networking and the rest doing valuable work with smart people who he likes working with, certainly a lifestyle that inspires envy and admiration, as if he weren’t as much of being his own boss previously. With a personality and qualities that easily cast command, Coombes is rigorously focused and uncompromising.

I like my lifestyle, that also means I’m spending more of my time thinking and communication about value and less of greasing the wheels of politics. I respect it [corporate politics], I understand it needs to happen, I can go into that space and operate, but also come back out healthy.”

Ostensibly, Coombes had embarked on a journey to success which most of our society would recognize or assume as a road taken by the talented and ambitious and most important of all, lucky. I for one had quit school 4 times due to visa or financial issues or because I had to waste years not knowing what I want from life. Coombes’ life could seem a bit too linear. As I whinged over my shortcomings, Coombes stopped me right there and with such conviction, put me in my place. “You always have options.”

So, what choices did Coombes have to make?

richard

Coombes in 1995. Photo by Coombes

From the point I was 15, everything I did, I did it to escape from Australia (if you had been to Australia you’d know why) and become successful and financially independent from my parents. Because of my sexuality, I feared that they and the society they came from would reject me and I would be lost. So I had to become very good at something very quickly. That fear had been a source of a certain degree of insecurity, combined with real ambition to succeed in the world, as well as my understanding and talent in organizations and organizational theory led me to become a person you’d call “loud” and “in your face”, which led to one of my lectures saying ‘you could be a good tutor’. He then let me do that before I was really ready to do it but I learned a lot.”

Within 2 year of Coombes ending his job as a tutor (since age 19) in Organisational theory having finished a degree in Business, Marketing, Human Resources, Australia experienced its economic recession. The consequence of which saw his coming out of Australia to the UK at age 26.

There weren’t jobs in big companies, I didn’t have connections through family, so it was either to be entrepreneurial or unemployed. And that is not my thing.”

richard tub

(Coombes vacationing in Tromsø, Norway, waiting for Aurora Borealis to appear while keeping himself warm and clean in the hot tub that’s installed on private boat Feb 1st, 2014. Photo by Coombes)

N: what’s your identity now?
C: Part of my identity is linked to my work, the sophistication and the challenge of it, my intellect, my professionalism, and part of my identity is related to my relationship with my partner, and me being a learning growing changing and emotional creature.

N: How about that insecurity you felt at the earlier stage of building your career?
C:
It’s a constant state. I have less fear of it now because I know it helps me be good at what I do. I still feel it and I don’t want to stop feeling it.

N: what is that one quality you couldn’t have made it without?
C: (After a short pondering) The willingness to challenge the
status quo.

I was deeply ashamed for not knowing what status quo meant but I have a feeling that this latin word would linger in my mind for many years to come. Boy, wouldn’t you want to be Richard Coombes!!

273_19409153308_1045_n

(Coombes and partner Aidn at London’s Gay Pride Parade 2008. Photo source: Coombes’s facebook page.)

Coombes Business Coaching Main Page
www.coombesbusinesscoaching.com/

Coombes’ Covent Garden Cooking School
www.coventgardencookingschool.com/