My name’s Sam. I’m am 30 years old, and right now I’m working for Qatar Airways. I’m based at the company’s headquarters in Doha, and aside from the fact that it’s about 45-50 degrees Celsius in the shade at the moment, and I’ve not had cold running water for a couple of months, things are going pretty well.
I got here by what probably most would regard as a circuitous path, and it has been an interesting one for me…certainly not one I had in mind when I was in my late teens at school. This is chiefly because I didn’t really have a path in mind at all at the time. This isn’t to say I’ve drifted from one thing to the next; each step along the path has always been thought out and reasonably well prepared for. Nevertheless, it can hardly be described as a grand plan.
When it came to choosing an undergraduate degree, I had no intention of picking something geared towards a particular vocation or career path. This was convenient, as I hadn’t the faintest idea what I wanted to do after university anyway.
Like many people, I chose a subject that I felt I was good at, that I was enjoying at the time, and which I thought would be quite cool to do more of after A-levels. This happened to be English Language and Literature – arguably a strange outcome for someone who didn’t really like reading that much (at least up until that point). Through a combination of luck, careful preparation and graft, I won a place at Oxford University. No-one was more surprised than me.
Oxford was brilliant fun – if rather tough work-wise – and proved an excellent place to study, grow up and learn self-reliance. What it was rubbish at was steering me onto a career path, and by the time I finished finals I remained none the wiser in this regard. I was, however, pretty convinced that I wanted to travel and do something quite unrelated to what I had been doing for the last three years. This proved to be – of all things – studying martial arts in Tokyo, at the Yoshinkan Aikido school. I also taught English like most Westerners in Tokyo… not so unrelated to my degree I admit but far removed from the joys of translating Anglo-Saxon poetry. My two and a half years over there were fantastic: I met some great people, I travelled around Asia, working abroad proved a great experience, and life in Japan broadened my horizons in general. I made sure, however, I set a time limit on my time there, and once I achieved my target goal of black belt in Aikido, I set off for home to find that elusive career.
When I got there, I found that what I perceived to be the typical career paths for an Oxford English Graduate did not quite float my boat. Thus I ruled out lawyer, publishing type, advertising exec, management consultant and teacher in one fell swoop. I decided to take the first decent job that was offered to me and see if that gave me more ideas. This was in a company that produced B2B conferences and managed events, and my role was sales-based. While the job had its pros and cons, I loved being at the company. The moderate salary was offset by a fun working environment, great colleagues, recognition of my efforts, and – crucially – good hours (Japan taught me the value of having time for extra-curricular activities). What it also conveniently did was expose me to lots of different industries, and I got the chance to shop around.
Funnily enough, when I decided which industry I wanted to move into, it ended up being the area in which I had had a passion since I was about two years old: airlines. Also, I found that the senior airline execs I had met on the conference circuit were generally a very nice bunch – a highly important thing for a happy working life in my experience.
Through my conference job, I learned of a Masters degree in Air Transport Management; this seemed a decent way to jump start an airline career and fire up my brain. So that’s what I did. It proved to be a well-spent year, and it paved the way to the next phase in my working life: this phase. I did just over a year in the UK in my first airline job before moving to the desert to work for a company with more opportunities (and to escape the looming recession).
In five years I still hope to be in the airline business, but as to which role I’ll be doing I really have no idea. I actually find that prospect appealing. This is not to say that I’m not fussed about career progression- right now that’s of central importance, especially as I’ve recently got married! However, whilst I hope that this progression generally is forward moving(!), I’ll be making sure it veers to the left and right now and again.
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