When I was 11 years old, my sister and I would run laps around the kitchen table at home picking up individual sheets with course details on them, collate them and put them into branded folders.
We would then read the letters written by my parents to potential clients, see how many folders should be included in each packet and stuff them all into huge envelopes, ready to be sent all over the world – some to countries I’d never even heard of.
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in an industry that gave me an amazing outlook on the world with an array of interesting characters and opportunities to visit countries that most people in Ireland have never even imagined seeing.
I’ve always been the type that learns best by doing; I’ve never been the type of student who enjoyed the confines of formal education so the irony of spending all of my adult life since then in the educational world is not lost on me.
Over the years I’ve done almost everything including: polishing the grimy letterbox on the front door before we opened; bluffing my way through walking tours of Dublin as a young teenager; early morning airport pickups and drop-offs; running the teenagers summer centres; heading off on silly o’clock early morning flights for marketing trips to far flung parts of the world; to meeting my wife almost 20 years ago…
At this stage, I have so many stories to tell of things that have happened over the years that if I wrote a book of short stories, no one would believe me and it would have to be put in the fiction section!
The only thing I haven’t actually done in Alpha College of English is teach English…
So, after all these years and amazing experiences, why am I leaving?
Spending a year in Madrid three years ago gave me a great opportunity to get some headspace out of the day to day bustle of being in the office or planning a trip. With that mental space I started to have a look at what I wanted to spend the next 5-10 years doing and I realised that the English Language Industry was headed for big changes that I didn’t feel I wanted to navigate through… I felt – and still feel – that the schools of our size with one centre and a dedicated team of professionals, is going to feel a big pinch over the coming years.
While one possible avenue to grow the business would be to expand into other markets and start opening up schools in new destinations around the world with new teams and new offerings – I know myself this is not what I’m built for and not what I would enjoy doing.
The other obvious option is to find a like minded group of schools already in existence and join forces to have economies of scale and still have a student centric point of view with a focus on quality. This was always the preferred route for us and while it took us quite a while to find the right fit (18 months of talks with different parties) we are delighted we found the right partners.
So, the team who I am so proud of and with whom I have been privileged to work for most of my adult life – some for over 20 years – will continue with the security of knowing that there is a much larger international sales team working around the world than we would have been able to fund ourselves, were we to keep plugging along on our own…
It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later…
I’ve had some bittersweet conversations with colleagues, clients and friends over the last few weeks since the news of the sale broke. Some were surprised with the move, others claiming I’ll be back and I’ll miss everyone.
I can’t deny that there is a huge number of people that I’m going to miss seeing on a regular basis – and maybe one or two I’ll miss a little less!
The international education industry has given me a lot, from personal growth and learning to exploring new cultures and seeing different points of view – I am immensely grateful for all of it (even the silly o’clock flights).
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that the world can actually be very small, so I’m sure our paths will cross again.
I hope they do.