Bryan on founding a technology company in NYC and lifelong learning
On what he does
I'm a founder of a technology company that we started in early 2009. After several years of building up the business in the United States (New York), we hired professionals to run each function I was running (head of finance, sales, business development, etc) and I moved to London.
Today I am in charge of all of our International business operations (my title is Senior Vice President, International). That essentially means that I launch the business in each new international market, hire a team, set up an entity, grow sales and start to roll the markets into the broader organisation as they grow. Today we're in UK, France, Germany, South East Asia, Australia and Japan with China and Brazil to come later this year.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self about life?
Measure success based on your level of happiness. It's the only thing that really matters. Happiness however doesn't just mean pleasure so don't get trapped into hedonistic beliefs that the 'here and now' is the only thing that matters. Think about your future and where you'd like to be often but live in the present.
With regards to a career, find something that can excite you but be aware the differences between a 'hobby' and a potential career. I love surfing and would love to be a professional surfer, but I know that's not happening and therefore I needed to discover other talents and interests. I would say fail early and often as one of the most important things you can do is experiment what you like, and equally important, what you don't like. Never in the history of mankind has it been easier (or more rewarding) to launch your own ideas, ventures and businesses. Never be afraid to experiment, fail and try something new.
Travel as much as humanly possible. You'll read a lot of bad things in the media about other cultures and people and regions. Go there for yourself and speak to the people. In 100% of the cases, you'll find out that the world is made up of kind, friendly, funny and generous people who will welcome you into their homes if you give it a shot. Don't join the angry mobs pointing fingers when they've never experienced what they're criticising. Go see it all for yourself. The world is pretty amazing.
Have a sense of purpose and clarity for who you are as an individual and don't let anyone change that. They're not living your life. Equally, be humble, have empathy for others and try and understand when people from different cultures and backgrounds are making decisions that you wouldn't make. You're not living their life.
Wait. Wait & wait for the right person to spend the rest of your life with. Never, ever, ever settle for anything less than what you know is right. You get the career and the better half thing right, and your life will be successful no matter what comes.
Don't take the easy road as nothing worth doing is easy (work, travel, relationships, children). Life will be stressful and difficult at times. You'll fail. You'll lose loved ones. You won't understand why life hands you what it hands you but it only gets better with age through all the ups and downs, so try and take a step back, put things into perspective and enjoy the ride.
And last but not least, you only know you, so take all my advice with a grain of salt and pave your own path.
Which experience has shaped you more than anything else?
My mom (mum): My mom is the creative side of the family. She took me to London when I was 18 and it changed me for good. I have been to over 50 countries since that trip. She showed me the arts and culture and is the most influential person when it comes to my belief that the only way you can truly know something is if you experience it yourself. I've had the travel bug ever since and like mother like son, I have a very creative art driven view of the world whether that's through architectural design, photography or music.
My dad: My dad has worked tirelessly and harder than anyone I know. He never complains. He just does what the leader of the household should do.. provide for the family and give everyone an education and support to grow. If you have a role model like that, you feel you can tackle anything with regards to a career (he also was an entrepreneur) but it also gives you the blueprint for how you should treat your wife and children. He is the standard for how a husband and father should act and he's shaped who I am as a husband and soon-to-be father.
Did you know what you wanted to do when you were younger?
No. I had to learn along the way. I knew I didn't want anything boring and I knew if I trusted my gut I'd find the right thing. Worked for me so far but you have to trust your gut and not convince yourself you're enjoying something you're not. Having said that, you need to know when it's "time to learn" vs "time to get paid" in business at least. So I had a bunch of crappy jobs I didn't love, but I made the most of it, got a pay check, had a good fun attitude and learned. When it was time to stop learning, and 'making', well I made my move and didn't look back.
What was the best year of your life and why?
Every year gets better than the year prior.
Did you have any jobs as a teenager?
Yes, I worked in a factory through high school packing boxes and moving large printers
Did you enjoy school?
Not especially. I hated homework. I liked a few classes here or there but I never really caught onto the school thing. For instance, I took Spanish in high school.. didn't really care for it. Didn't really learn much. Then I moved to Argentina in 2006 and I loved learning Spanish because I was immersed in it. I'm one of those people that needs to experience it pragmatically vs being in a classroom.
How do you believe schools of universities (colleges) might be changed to be more relevant or effective?
They're way too expensive and at the brink of irrelevancy in todays business and socioeconomic setting. Access to information is free with the internet. I'd prefer to start learning, failing, risking and succeeding in the real world at a music studio then tech startup then bicycle repair shop than sit in a classroom for 4 years without knowing "why" i'm learning the subject at hand yet, but that's me.