In 2015, the Association of Accounting Technicians commissioned a study into working lives which showed that 46% of their sample (around 2000 workers) would quit their jobs and occupations and retrain completely. There is no shortage of reasons a person might do this: more job satisfaction, financial opportunity, the fear of being made redundant to automation, a better work-life-health balance, exciting new sectors being created. In our Career Changers series, we look at individual stories of people who have made that switch.
Meet Dominic Atkinson
Dom has spent the last two decades leading organisations, coaching individuals and building software applications to make business better. Following training as an occupational psychologist, he extended study into Learning and Development with CIPD, and formed Stay Nimble in response to changes to employment due to rapid technological change, in the belief that each of us have unique abilities that can be directed to navigate whatever comes next. He’s also a Fellow of the RSA.
Name: Dominic Atkinson
Current position: Founder & Director
Previous job: Many different jobs
When did you make the change? I’ve been continually changing throughout my life
What prompted you to stop what you were doing?
My first job was working on the tills in Safeway, and this was before the introduction of barcode scanners. I then worked in a warehouse, picking stationery for retail stores. I worked in a sports shop, selling trainers (sneakers for my US brethren). I worked as a supervisor in a record store. I worked as a manager at Blockbuster, at the first store in the UK to rent out DVDs. I worked in distribution of lingerie for a fashion retailer. I worked in film distribution and was part of the team that sold more than a million copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I worked in the commercial team at Universal that sold more than $1bn of film globally. I worked with a small consultancy selling software solutions to major brands like Coca Cola. I helped a friend grow his web analytics agency. I worked with one of the fastest growing hospitality technology companies in the UK, helping them scale to more than 2,000 restaurants in the UK in 2 years
I guess I never really stopped what I was doing, because what I was doing was changing. Reinventing. Learning.
And in 2016, I was thinking carefully about what I could put my energy into that would best help people. Being so involved with technology throughout my life, and closely following the development of autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, I could see that we were approaching a period of significant disruption to the nature of work, and wanted to make sure I was contributing in some way to address inequality and improve social mobility. So I started Stay Nimble.
Did you know what you wanted to move into? Did it require retraining?
I had no idea what form it would take. I initially thought about starting a charity, but was well counselled by @HenryWarren that there were alternatives, and that a commercial entity could just as easily do great work for society. That took the shape, in the end, of defining the company as a social enterprise which means we trade for a social purpose and are committed to reinvesting or donating over half their profits to further this social mission., and I worked with the UnLtd tools to embed the principles of social enterprise in the constitution of the company.
I guess I’m continually learning, albeit not with a recognised or accredited body.
Did you face any obstacles along the way?
Every day. Setting up a company by yourself isn’t for everyone. But I felt that the mission is too big to be dissuaded. I talked about the future with so many people. I described what I thought we could do. And people joined in. People helped me. And still people help.
I’ve found financing tough. I’ve worked multiple contracts in order to finance the early stages of Stay Nimble, and this is now beginning to pay off as we have a product which people are using. Our crowdfunding campaign, Career Equity, just launched and we have 40 investors considering backing us after just a few days. None of this is easy. But it’s definitely easier than the lives that many face; those who have no hope and see no future for themselves in a world that is being shaped around them.
Do you feel like you made the right decision?
Always. I couldn’t stand by and watch from the sidelines at this critical time for humanity. I wanted to stand up and be counted. To create a business dedicated for good. That uses technology to return balance and help people on the fringes to see that as the world changes, they are valued. That they have ongoing potential to take part. To see they can navigate rapid change and, with a bit of support, that they are wanted by a society that is sometimes seemingly ambivalent to one another.
Have you changed as a person since you changed career?
I have wrestled with anxiety and depression throughout my life, and continue to do so today. But I have learnt ways to manage this and I feel equipped to take it on, head on. It’s not to say it is easy, but I have more acceptance that sometimes it will be really shit. Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive has been a massive support in developing stronger coping strategies. I have a clearly defined purpose and I feel that with the help of others, we can make a massive difference to society.
Since starting Stay Nimble, I’ve been reminded regularly of the power of networks. I hadn’t always been coherent on how to talk with people who I had a loose connection with. I think the mission has meant that my social anxiety has had to be better managed, and I’ve been so humbled in the responses from people as I asked them for help, inspiration and ideas. With online discourse being so polarised, and often aggressive, it is heartening that actually most people are kind, thoughtful and collaborative. Don’t be fooled by trolls, they are a tiny minority in a massive human wave of collective endeavour.
Are you using any of the same abilities for both careers?
Everything is governed by ability. The key has been a continual openness to learning, and accepting the impermanence of things. This has spanned my career from working the tills at Safeway, to launching a start up. Knowing my abilities, my strengths, mean I know how to get the best performance out of myself. We’re integrating the best tools we can find into the Stay Nimble platform, and just beginning to look at Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Finder for our customers to also use for self-discovery. These are my top five strengths, according to StrengthsFinder.
I also know what I’m not great at, but rather than trying to plug all the gaps, I work with others who are stronger in those areas. I trust others and let them bring their strengths to whatever we do.
Do you have further career goals?
Help millions to understand their strengths, empower people by giving access to expertise previously unavailable to them, and support society through this rapid technological revolution.
Stay Nimble brings direction, focus and purpose to your career. Grab your free profile.
Author: Katherine Stephen
Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.