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Engagement matters: Reconnecting with SBS

By Paul Taylor - Posted on 5 June 2019

After graduating 19 years ago, Paul Taylor was keen to reconnect with Strathclyde. Here, he explains his initial motive and why he’s so glad he got back in touch.

It has been nineteen years since I left Strathclyde University. To put that into context, I’d been away so long that many of the Strathclyde students I met when I came back weren’t born when I was last at the university.

When I graduated from International Business and Modern Languages in June 2000, Bill Clinton was still president of the United States; the euro had only become legal tender the year before; Y2K was fresh in the memory and Tiger Woods had yet to win his first Grand Slam. On graduating, I followed the well-trodden path straight to the graduate scheme at the management consulting arm of Deloitte, in London. Over the course of those nineteen years, I found myself working in a variety of roles up to, and including, my current role at the global investment bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

I got back in touch with the University because it had slowly dawned on me that, despite having worked in London for nineteen years, I almost never found myself working with somebody who had been to Strathclyde. Of the colleagues I met, ranging from recently arrived graduates to managing directors, there were countless Oxfords, Cambridges, LSEs, Inseads, HBSs, but no-one from Strathclyde. Feeling particularly fired up one morning, I called the university to bemoan the fact that my choice of university didn’t seem to have any currency with my colleagues, if their recruitment was any barometer. More fool me because they, surprisingly to me, were incredibly receptive and totally ready for me.

Their first suggestion was a “guest lecture”. The thought of a guest lecture was mildly terrifying (and that was before I realised that they were selling tickets to the general public). I couldn’t say no because having complained, I didn’t think I would get a better opportunity to talk straight to their students. So, I came back to the Business School and spoke, at their suggestion, about the future of banking.

Now, you’ve got to remember that in my nineteen years away, I’ve been to pretty much every major business school in the UK as part of my then employer’s milk round efforts. In my various roles, I’ve hired graduates from the best schools all over the world. So, putting my conscious bias right out there and trying to ignore it as best I can, please believe me when I tell you that I was overwhelmed by the calibre of the people I met at Strathclyde. Overwhelmed. Every student I met was motivated. Motivated. Bright. Eager. Enthusiastic. Energetic. Inquisitive. Approachable. Friendly. They seemed genuinely interested. They had done their homework on me and my profession. They asked great questions. They followed up excitedly via email and LinkedIn. Contrast that with some of the other schools I’ve been to where you’re made to feel that they deign to talk to you and they might consider applying for a job. My experience with Strathclyde could not have been more different.

And it didn’t stop there. I was then invited back to join a panel on “the future of work”. Then I was invited back to give a talk on networking, which, in itself, ended up becoming the basis for a TEDx talk that they invited me to give. When I was looking for good causes for the charity that I had set up - the Great Scots Foundation - the University put me in touch with Stephanie McKendry and her amazing Widening Access programme which gives university access to some of the most under-privileged in our society.

The university hasn’t paid me to write this article - I’m not on commission! Having called them on a whim, I found myself warmly enveloped by the university. Maybe I should have expected it. It’s just that having reached out in hope more than expectation, I am still so surprised at the willingness of the university to reconnect. I have loved my reconnection with the staff and the students. In these sessions, you’re dealing with brilliant minds; folks who, nineteen years from now, will themselves be CEOs and leaders of world-leading mega companies that don’t even exist yet. And in engaging with these students, and in taking their earnest questions, I will confess that I’ve probably learned more about what I do for a living and why things work the way they do in my professional life than I knew before I met these students.

If you’re a former student, I can only say, “Do it”. Even if you don’t think you’ve got anything interesting to share or that they would be interested, do it anyway. Reach out. Share what you’ve got. Take their questions. Enjoy their enthusiasm. They will drink it all up. It will be the best day of your year, I promise. And you’ll end up reminding yourself how far you’ve come and what a great place you started out from.

To get back in touch with Strathclyde please click here 

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