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James Culley

James culley

When James embarked on his Business Studies degree at Henley Business School he had no idea where it might lead, but less than two years after graduating he is now looking forward to his first managerial role in an ambitious tech company, and a prosperous future.

James, how has a degree at Henley Business School helped set you on your career path?

'I graduated in 2018 and my time at university was the best time of my life – it really set me up for life. But when I look back to the start of my Business and Management course at Henley Business School, I realise that all I could think about was how I could make an impact and how I could succeed. Since then, I’ve learned so much about myself and I’ve come to realise that it’s more important to be me, than to be the person I thought everyone else wanted me to be.

As part of the four-year Henley Business and Management programme, the third year is spent in industry, applying the knowledge gained over the first two years in a real commercial environment.'

How did studying at Henley and working at your internship inspire you?

'I’d particularly enjoyed the depth of learning in my first two years at Henley and was blown away by the expertise and insights of the lecturers, especially in areas such as HR and strategy. These were guys who weren’t stuffy academics – they had been in the real world and achieved spectacular success in their chosen fields, so it felt like a real privilege to hear from them and learn from them. I spent my third year as an intern at SAP [a business software company] and that gave me some inside knowledge on how a tech company worked, so I was able to bring that learning back to uni when I returned for my final year.'

After his graduation, James took up an appointment with Teach First, spending two years on a Leadership Development Programme, during which time he taught secondary school students ICT and Enterprise modules and worked on improving the school’s delivery.

How did your teaching role enhance your business skills?

'The Teach First course really appealed to me, not only because it offered the chance for an accelerated career move into a consultancy role at the end of it, but because it would give me hands-on experience in leadership, which proved to be pretty intense at times, but was very satisfying too. I also relished the chance to help the next generation of students to embrace business and technology.

And whilst at the [all boys] school, it merged with a girls’ school to create a co-ed school. The task of aligning two different cultures, whilst maintaining the right level of focus on a student’s individual pastoral and academic needs, and helping to refine the school’s operational processes was a real test, but it stood me in very good stead. I learned so much about sharing best practice and creating sustainable changes within an organisation.'

How did your experience to date help you during the graduate scheme?

'My time and workload management was a massive challenge. Juggling parents’ concerns, planning lessons and maintaining organisational discipline requires clear planning, setting milestones and focusing on priorities and, luckily, my degree work planning had given me a great grounding in all that!'

Having completed his time at Teach First, James was ready for a step up into management, and he has landed a role as Customer Success Manager with a technology firm, looking after clients and ensuring that the relationship between company and customer flourishes post sale. Since graduating from Henley Business School, James is on a great trajectory and has proved himself capable of making sound decisions and can look forward to an exciting future.

Two years on from graduation, how has your degree at Henley helped prepare you for the challenges of your new role?

'Having not worked in a small company before, there are going to be some new challenges, including growing and training a team of my own, but I feel well prepared and am excited about what I can contribute. The thing I’ve learned from my time at Henley is that you have to pace yourself to preserve your mental health; if you try to be at the top of your game 100% of the time, it will break you.

You have to learn and develop at a sustainable rate and not worry about who you might be impressing. Of course, you always try to do a good job, but sometimes it’s about knowing when to move on, knowing that you’ve done what you can, but you live to fight another day, and maybe a solution can be found tomorrow.'