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      MAKING A DIFFERENCE

      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics

  • ROSS’ STORY

    I subscribe to the belief that you can learn to be entrepreneurial.

    Ross is Programme Lead at the Business School for the undergraduate degree in Business and Management and a Senior Lecturer, specialising in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.


  • Ross has a highly entrepreneurial background himself. He spent the first stage of his career as a retailer, initially working behind a counter and then starting his own business which lead to him running a chain of five musical instrument shops, or more precisely

     

    Rock and roll shops: pointy guitars, drums, loud noises, that sort of thing.

    This was an intense but highly enjoyable time:

    We were so busy you couldn’t sit back and enjoy it. Only upon reflection do you realise that was something really special.

    Eighteen years on, when he exited that business he had a “huge career change” and embarked on an MBA at Oxford Brookes. He quips:

    So like a number of my colleagues, I came here as a student and have yet to escape!

    During this career transition, Ross had a number of different jobs: he worked for the Music Industries Association, ran a programme called ‘Weekend Warriors’ which encouraged lapsed musicians to take up their instruments again and “was about having fun.” He was also integral in setting up a charity called ‘Music For All’, which was about promoting the benefits of playing music at school.

    Two years on, the opportunity presented itself to do some Associate Lecturing at Brookes. He had always wanted to teach and despite his initial reaction to his first day - “I thought I couldn’t do it” - he persevered:

    “Luckily I came back and worked out how to help students realise their potential with lots of help and support from very experienced colleagues.

    Ross also borrowed some techniques from his hobby, stand-up comedy and sees similarities between this and lecturing.

    There’s no greater reward or pleasure than enabling someone to laugh. In the same way that I think there’s an equal reward and pleasure in helping someone learn something about themselves […] a lot of entrepreneurship teaching is about helping people to understand themselves.

    Alongside his teaching, Ross also worked in a number of different roles for Land Securities PLC (the developer of the Westgate Centre in Oxford), and set up his own business called “Brit Picks” which manufactures guitar plectrums out of recycled plastic.

    Ross continued juggling these various roles until 18 months ago, when due to the opportunities that arose, he had to choose between full-time work in academia or full-time employment in a commercial property PLC. Ultimately, it was the teaching that swung it:

    Fundamentally I love teaching and I love the student experience. I love seeing people learn and find their place in the world.

    Moreover, as an entrepreneur, he is aware of opportunities and how to take them and felt that there was lots of space for development at Brookes.

    In addition to his passion for teaching, Ross is also developing his own research and is half way through a professional doctorate with the School of Education at Brookes. Ross loves thinking strategically, and being involved in and able to influence all aspects of the University: teaching, research, commercial activity are extremely important to him.

    The opportunity to make a difference in a strategic sense is a key motivation.

    Ross has a partner with whom he has been since his music shop days. She has been extremely supportive and, coincidentally, also ended up as a university lecturer for a time. Now that she has moved into a slightly different role, working with a social enterprise, he says:

    We are able to have conversations about work without boring each other silly.

    If we can enable people to balance the varying demands of teaching, research and commercial activity, then I think we are doing an amazing job… but that’s really tough to do.

    In terms of advice for entrepreneurship he says:

    There is a great benefit in education for entrepreneurship. I think there is a notion that you are born an entrepreneur, and you might be, but I subscribe to the belief that you can learn to be entrepreneurial.