icould Founder Jeffrey Defries shares his own career story and inspiration.
Now, in my early sixties, I find myself in the most exciting and fascinating phase of my career. I was fortunate enough to dream up an idea some five years ago that has now been turned into this unique resource called icould! None of this would have been possible without hard work, unwavering energy and enthusiasm, the support of a great but small set of colleagues, and the philanthropist Harvey McGrath who has backed icould from the germ of an idea to its present existence.
I had a fairly modest upbringing and was the first in my family to go to university. On graduation, with a degree in Commerce from Birmingham University, I could have moved easily into Accountancy or Business. Instead, the course of my life was determined by a television programme. From the moment of seeing Ken Loach’s ‘Cathy Come Home,’ I knew that I wanted to work in the not-for-profit area – not the ‘touchy feely’ aspects but as a Business Leader/ Manager. From early jobs in charities, I then had some ‘biggish’ director level positions – the Institute of Cancer Research; the Science Museum; London Business School; and more recently at CRAC: the Career Development Organisation.
In parallel, throughout my working life, I have taken on various voluntary charity roles, from mundane work to leadership positions and from the local to the national and international. And I have spoken at conferences, facilitated national and international events and taken on consultancy and mediation assignments.
Throughout all this, I’ve spent as much time as possible with my family and although I’m a self-confessed workaholic whose mobile is never off, I’ve always managed to achieve a reasonable work/life balance. I am under no illusion that this is principally due to the fact that I am fortunate to have always enjoyed my work and that I’ve rarely slept more than four or five hours a night for the last 40 years!
Looking back on my career as a whole, I believe that I attribute my successes to two factors – a sense of proportion i.e. not thinking that what I was doing was more important than it actually was, and a willingness to listen and not just speak.
The proudest moments of my life, aside from the launch of icould, are all personal – and will remain so!
What I know is that everyone can achieve success but the definition of that achievement is both personal and individual. The common measures of position, title, salary etc. are poor substitutes for job satisfaction, respect of colleagues and work/life contentment.
icould is not non-directional by accident. Our belief is that all the routes through learning and work are equally valid and all can bring success. It’s your life to grab – it doesn’t belong to somebody else. In ‘Cathy Come Home’ the couple at the centre of the play had no such choices – they were victims of their circumstances and the decisions of others.
In our stories, there is always ‘success’ because people define their own successes. icould is mine!