From Large Corporate to Start-up

“I kept thinking, ‘I can do better than this.’”

Image of Ajit Matthew
From Large Corporate to Start-up

Redundancy presented Ajit Matthew with a golden opportunity to focus on his ideal career. But after 15 years at the same company, he was lacking in courage and confidence. Here he shares how overcoming his fears led him to brand-new connections, and work he loves.

What work were you doing previously?

I worked in IT security and compliance for a large international company.

What are you doing now?

I’m still working in IT security, but for a smaller creative start-up.

Why did you change?

I’d been working in my previous company for over 15 years.

I started in a relatively junior operations role, before moving up to senior-level IT security and compliance.

Outwardly, I’d built a successful management career, in which I got to travel all over the world. But my actual day-to-day work was what I can only describe as process-driven drudgery. It didn’t seem to matter very much to anyone.

There were also a lot of pointless company politics to contend with. For example, although I was good at my job, I didn’t get on particularly well with my boss. The result was that potentially interesting tasks were often given to someone else, which felt demeaning.

I’d come home from work every evening and think, “I can do better than this”.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

The company was restructuring, and I was offered a new role that didn’t interest me at all.

So, I decided to turn it down, and accept a redundancy package instead.

How did you choose your new career?

At first, I tried applying for roles in companies that were similar to the one I’d just left.

I had years of direct experience to draw upon, so that seemed like the most logical approach.

But I would either not get called for an interview, or I’d get one, then reject the company myself, because something just didn’t feel right about it.

I’d spent so long feeling unhappy at work that it felt important not to compromise anymore. I wanted the next stage of my career to matter, and to feel that my work was going to make a positive difference in some way.

I did some soul-searching and analysis about what had made me successful in my career so far. I realised that I’ve got a precise eye for the big picture, and that one of my main strengths is aligning people and processes, so work can be completed quickly and more efficiently. I’m very good at getting things done!

I worked with a coach, who helped me recognise that it wasn’t necessarily about finding different work, but a more laid-back, flexible work environment that appreciated everything I had to offer.

I also signed up to Careershifters' Career Change Launch Pad, which helped me structure the actions I needed to take for my shift and get support from like-minded others.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes.

I love working in a creative, fluid and flexible environment, and in a smaller company my achievements are noticed a lot more – even if that means I have to pull the occasional all-nighter to get important work done!

The start-up is new and growing, which means I’m getting involved in lots of different and interesting tasks, such as evaluating overseas expansion initiatives, and devising a company-wide code of conduct.

What do you miss, and what don’t you miss? 

I sometimes miss the excitement of travelling around the world in my previous job.

I’m grateful that I got to visit so many interesting places.

But to my surprise, I found that I didn’t really miss any of my old colleagues, although I’d been working with some of them for a long time. That’s sad, but I suppose it’s also a clear sign that a change was needed.

How did you go about making the shift?

It was a process of trial and error!

Alongside job hunting, I did some consulting work out of necessity, as my redundancy money had started to run out.

I’m an introvert, so ‘selling myself’ doesn’t come naturally to me, and I kept putting it off. But I made myself go along to some networking events, and I started building a series of strong professional relationships, which was what eventually led me to the role I’m in now.

I’d worked on a consulting project for an energetic start-up company, and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t scope for me to join permanently at that time, but I got some great feedback about my work, which I appreciated.

I stayed in touch with that company, and a few months later they offered me a job.

Because we’d already worked together, there were no surprises, and everybody was friendly and welcoming. I felt relaxed and comfortable from the start, and I haven’t looked back since.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

Aside from my redundancy money, I had some savings to draw upon at the start of my shift.

I was lucky in that my wife was very supportive – we were both prepared to make cutbacks if we had to. We drew up a financial plan to stick to, and that helped us navigate the changes brought by my new job search.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

I worked hard to overcome my initial fear of approaching new people and making connections, but I’m so glad I did.

Aside from landing me my new job, it’s increased my confidence so much that I’ve also been trying out some side-projects, including helping a friend to buy a specialist high-end car, and completing a complex land deal for a relative.

I really enjoy in-depth tasks like these, but at the moment I can’t see how I would make regular money from them. Maybe one day!

What help did you get?

Aside from working with my coach and taking part in the Launch Pad, I read a fantastic book, 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck by Ashwin Sanghi.

From that, I realised that luck is something I can control. It’s all about harvesting opportunities.

What have you learnt in the process?

When it comes to making a change, other people matter much more than I’d thought.

Building strong relationships has been the key to my progress, and I wish I’d started doing it sooner!

I’m also a lot less ‘failure-averse’ these days. Success is all about trying – sometimes your ideas work, and sometimes they don’t. But it’s important to investigate them anyway, and just keep going.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I think I could have pushed myself a bit harder at the beginning.

I was a bit of a ‘stick-in-the-mud’, and it took me almost two years to build up the right momentum for my career search.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

It’s important to understand what you’re good at, and what you’re really looking for from a career.

That’s the ideal starting point, because then you'll have a clearer idea about the help you need.

But more importantly, don’t wait around in hope for good things to happen.

Start talking to people, seek out opportunities, and make your own luck. It’s likely that you’ll have to deal with feeling uncomfortable as things fall into place, but the rewards will be worth it.

Ajit took part in our Career Change Launch Pad. If you're ready to join a group of bright, motivated career changers on a structured programme to help you find more fulfilling work, you can find out more here.

What lessons could you take from Ajit's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org. and you could win a £25 / $35 Amazon voucher in our monthly draw.