Every journey begins with a single step…

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This particular journey began in late 2009. I’d been working in recruitment for 10 years. First year on an industrial desk, onsite with a client supplying HGV and forklift drivers, then a move into IT recruitment in time for the Millennium Bug (remember that?). I’d ended up a Divisional Manager with a big player, running the Scottish Technology team with occasional forays into the UK Analytics market from time to time.

However, I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t just the “little things” – a boss I didn’t see eye to eye with, a market that had bottomed out a little in the late 2000s – this was a bigger sense of unhappiness. This was “I think I’ve had enough of recruitment agency life” unhappiness….

I’d been a late arrival to the recruitment game – I’d not entered the industry until I was almost 30 – 4 years prior to that having been spent at University. I’d studied Psychology, Management Studies, Human Resource Management at Post Grad level…some fairly decent stuff on top of the work experience I’d already accrued. I’d become a recruiter through choice. I’d studied the industry before I went to University. I knew I had the skills to be good at this, and I’d focussed my university studies around areas that I knew would complement my existing knowledge and experience. However, the recruitment industry I entered wasn’t what I had expected. I found myself frustrated with so many things in the work that I was doing, the businesses that I was supplying, the market I operated in, the people I worked for and with. So many things just didn’t seem right. I was sure there was something more than what I’d experienced so far. Something better, something different…

So, with one eye on a complete “exit” from the game, I met some folks, went for some interviews, got a couple of offers, did some thinking. Internal HR appealed, Talent Acquisition had just started to be a “thing”, RPOs looked interesting. Maybe it was time to leave the agency world behind after all.

A few months earlier, I’d had an email from a competitor. A candidate had sent their CV through, after a call with me, and got my email address wrong. It had gone to this competitor, who’d mailed the CV to me. In the world I worked in, that just didn’t happen. Competitors didn’t help. They didn’t go out of their way to be nice. I’d noticed this competitor in the past. They were in Glasgow, like me, and occasionally posted adverts for Analytics roles. At that point in time, there weren’t that many agencies advertising Analytics stuff, certainly not from a base in Scotland. I’d also noticed an advert they’d written looking for Recruiters. The ad mentioned things like “being disillusioned with the corporate agency game”, “an opportunity to rip up the rule book”, etc – that kind of cheesy stuff you normally read in adverts and ignore. However, with my head in the space it was in, I decided to ping this competitor an email to see if they remembered me and if they would be interested in a chat.

A meet and a chat did follow. Along with several beers. Many several beers. I liked this guy. He got it. He spoke about how the market was changing, how the service needed to be different, how niche was the way ahead, how agencies could be business partners rather than just suppliers. He was young, clearly very intelligent and had a determination about him that I respected.

My next meeting (the serious one with billing figures and plans and references and all that stuff) happened during Movember and I rocked up with the most ridiculous moustache imaginable. It impressed him so much that he offered me a job.

He told me the business was a start-up (literally 5 blokes!), he didn’t have all the “fancy systems and stuff” that I’d been used to over the last decade, but that there was a desk and a phone for me and an opportunity to carve out my own destiny – the way I wanted to do it. He needed the experience, the knowledge of systems and processes, the ability to build a business from scratch to sizable, the niche market knowledge, the client facing focus – all the stuff I’d developed over the last 10 years or so.

It seemed like a perfect match, so I said yes. The missus asked if I knew what I was doing – joining, of all the options, a start-up agency after spending a few months talking about getting out of the game completely? Could I go back to where I’d came from all those years ago? Leave the middle manager comfort zone to get down and dirty on the front lines again? I knew I had one more good crack left in me. I told her that this bloke had something about him. There was a “soul” connection there. I think it might be worth a go.

So, I took the step.

I joined MBN Recruitment Solutions in the first week of January 2010. I walked in the door and the guy that I was supposed to be managing walked straight out. What a start.

I dug in, we got to work and the last 8 years have been an absolutely incredible experience.

A Top Ten Highlights reel would include:

·        Being part of an expert panel at Data IQ’s 2015 Summit

·        Presenting to Oxford and Cambridge University Business Schools on Data industry trends

·        Establishing an internal Learning & Development function that has produced the majority of leaders within this business, in addition to almost all our Consultants

·        Leading the Data Lab MSc. Placement Project, working with businesses and academic institutions throughout Scotland to ensure emerging graduate Data Talent has the best possible chance of securing a career in the space

·        Standing on South Beach, Miami, with my boss, watching the sun come up.

·        Becoming an established Data Talent presenter, taking the stage at various events throughout the UK

·        Helping this business become an International market leader for Data recruitment

·        Working with a huge variety of household name brands, genuinely helping them become “Analytics Employers of Choice”

·        Being interviewed for industry articles, magazines, podcasts, event videos – people caring about and asking me for my views on a whole range of topics – humbling!

·        Joining the School of Mathematics and Statistics Industrial Advisory Board at the University of Glasgow – where my studies began, all those years ago.

It’s been a blast!

So, just before I finished up for Christmas I get invited into a meeting of our Board of Directors.

Nothing unusual there, I get asked to pop in every couple of months to bring everyone up to speed with what’s going on in my space, etc. My boss tells me there’s a beer on the table for me. “I’m OK, Chief, I have a cup of tea here” (I’d just came off a call with an amazing start-up that we’re helping on both the Solutions/Recruitment side and the Academy/University placement side). With a whole set of notes to type up, the last thing I needed was a beer!!

My boss then said “The Board have unanimously approved my recommendation. As a reward for your hard work and loyalty over the last 8 years you are promoted to Director of Academy and Client Services, effective 1 Jan 2018”.

Wow. Just wow.

I sparked open the beer!

So, in an Oscar winning speech style, I’d like to thank the following:

My boss, MBN Solutions CEO Michael Young. It’s been an amazing journey, mate.

Paul Forrest and Russell Dalgleish, Directors at MBN. Your knowledge, patience and advice helped me get this “business” thing. The recruitment stuff I could already do standing on my head. The other stuff? Thanks. Appreciated.

My brother (and now MBN Managing Director), Pete Docherty. Big hugs, fella.

The awesome folks I work with at MBN Solutions every day. It’s easy to shine in a galaxy of stars.

My missus, Lorraine. With a shrug of the shoulders and a “you do what’s right for you, big man. I’ll back you up whatever way it goes” she gave me the courage to take that step all those years ago.

My mum and dad. You brought me up to be big, bold and to do “my thing”, even when it wasn’t the “done thing”.


I’m going to finish this wee blog now with a quote from a Pearl Jam song.

It’s important in life to listen to Pearl Jam. They are wise.

“Oh, if I knew where it was I would take you there

but there’s much more than this”


8 years ago, I wondered if there was “more than this” – now I know that it’s true. There is.