But there is no linear way to achieve your goals, and many different routes are available to become successful in your career. This could be through attending higher education, gaining work experience in various industries, or starting your own business in something you are passionate about.
Just take it from our xDesigners.
In the midst of exam result season, our team shared their personal stories on how they got to where they are now as part of the #NoWrongPath campaign. From excelling in school, feeling lost in higher education, to trying out different professions, our team has travelled many different roads that led to their version of a successful and happy career.
We caught up with some of them to hear more about their career journey since leaving school. Check out what Gerry, Babita, Jeff, and Sevda had to say.
Gerry Waterston, QA engineer:
“School wasn’t a good experience for me, so I left at 16 with nothing to show for it. After a stint as an office junior, I worked in a college for 18 years as a printer, senior AV technician and administrator. I got offered voluntary redundancy and took it! I ended up in a law firm as an asset management admin. My daily use of spreadsheet work was the only thing holding my interest there.
I’d done a few Open University courses before and decided to do a coding one. I then took that a step further and quit my job after seven years to do a coding course at CodeClan. This course got me into the industry and I’m now a QA engineer. It took 30 years, but I don’t consider it a waste as all the skills I gained along the way has consolidated into the perfect job for me.”
Babita Wakelin, delivery manager:
“I'm a first-generation immigrant so my parents had one topic of conversation - education, education, and more education. Failing exams wasn't an option for me and it was expected that I’d go to university, so at school, I always worked hard because the consequences of not doing well were too terrifying. I was lucky that I spoke English when I came over to England so that was never a barrier at the inner city comprehensive I went to. I found school easy and as a consequence I enjoyed it. My mum would make me do my homework every evening, and in the summer holidays she'd pick a daily passage from a Charles Dickens short story book we had and make me memorise it. Fun days!
So unsurprisingly with a mum who would be intolerable if I failed, I sailed through school life and passed my GCSEs, A Levels and then my degree at uni. I'd like to say I had some grand plan in life but that stopped at 13 when my dream of being an RAF pilot was shattered because I was a girl. Who in their right mind would want to be in the forces anyway, right?
There are those who have a path that's well defined, and then those like me who roll with the dice life throws at them. There was no big plan in my working life, it was a case of sticking around while I enjoyed it and moving on when it was no longer fun. Most of my roles have been around sales, marketing, and journalism in the music, tech, and finance industries. The first ten years of working life were a blur of holding jobs until I’d saved enough to go travelling, and then coming back and looking for work when I ran out of money. I have learned far more away from school than I ever did at school, but having a degree did make it much easier for me to walk into jobs.
I'd say it doesn't matter what you're doing or how you get to it as long as you wake up wanting to learn more and do better. Don't ever stop asking why, how, or what, work hard with a positive attitude, and don't let anyone tell you you can't do it because if you really want to do it, you will. It won’t always be easy and there’ll be times that you want to feel like it’s not going the way you want it to, but it always works out in the end.”
Jeff Watkins, chief product and technology officer:
“I went to an underperforming high school in a deprived area and ended up with terrible GCSEs. I just managed to get into college by the skin of my teeth to do a BTEC rather than A-Levels. I was never particularly academic minded and I found higher education a struggle at first.
I found tech to be a great leveller, and worked my way through graduate developer, to lead, architect, principal architect then onto Chief for Technology, and finally CPTO. It took time, but I was doing what I loved, and that's what mattered to me.
Now, later in life, I've returned to education to do an MSc in Computer Science, specialising in CyberSecurity. It took me a while, but the tech journey was a delight every step of the way.”
Sevda Shukrieva, junior software engineer:
“I have always been interested in arts, cultures and high-quality products, as a respect to craftsmanship, and so I decided the best way to evolve in this context was to study fashion. The path wasn't that easy as the fashion education was costly to what my family would support.
After a bit of research, I got myself prepared for state uni exams and enrolled in Textile Engineering then two years after I dropped out. I thought it was a rigid and limiting educational system.
I decided to stick to what I earlier wanted and enrolled in fashion design while supporting myself through gig economy jobs and I loved it! In my year of graduation, I started working in the high-end fashion market for niche brands and worked within the industry for almost seven years. As mass production gained momentum, I started losing interest more and more. Quantity took over quality!
With that, I also developed an interest in environmental issues the world was facing, so a decision was made. It was time to shift to something creative, analytical and challenging. I taught myself how to code, got accepted to the bootcamp and since then never looked back. I love what I do, and the challenges that come through as well everyday!”
We are proud to work with a team of experts who bring a range of experience and knowledge to xDesign. We’d like to thank all of the xDesigners who shared their stories which we hope will reassure and encourage young people that there is no one route to success.
Hear more about the team’s career journeys here.