Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we profile John Scott, a mediator that owns his own business, Abune. He shares why he loves being his own boss, his favourite band, and why he’s happy didn’t take the advice of his careers teacher.
Name: John Scott
Current employer: Abune Mediation, http://www.abune.org
CV in brief:
- HR director, PwC – Middle East, 2010-2013
- HR director, Lazard, 2007-2009
- Interim HR director, Shaftesbury Young People, 2006-2007
- HR director, ThoughtWorks, 2004-2006
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation.
After 25 years in HR, I have recently retrained as a mediator. Abune in Scots means above or beyond and I wanted to capture the impact of mediation, allowing people and organisations to move on from an issue which has been troubling them for a while.
Who do you report into?
For the moment, I report to me so it’s easy to hand out positive and negative feedback without too much disquiet on the part of the recipient
Tell us about your team.
I don’t have one, which is a relief on most occasions but it can be lonely on rare occasions.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Starting another business and learning new skills in my fifties.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
The slow pace of business development and the time it takes to develop a new role. I am by nature impatient and want change to happen immediately.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t have one for the moment. There’s lots of business development, lecturing, networking, reading, writing, tweeting, blogging and generally putting myself about.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I wanted to change careers upon return from the Middle East and a friend suggested mediation which was insightful and perfectly timed. I didn’t want to return to paid employment so starting a business made sense.
Perks and downsides of your role?
The perks: freedom, responsibility, autonomy, scope to experiment and do things differently, lots of learning and intellectual stimulation. Everything that organisational life doesn’t always offer, in fact. The downsides are few and far between.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Patience, insight, capacity to facilitate a discussion, empathy, coaching negotiations, an ability to wind one’s neck in and not get too involved, well-disguised sense of urgency and drive, listening skills, stamina by the bucketload and humility.
How did you get to where you are now?
A combination of work, study and luck, along with the sponsorship of leaders who spotted stuff I couldn’t see in myself and ran cover for me when things inevitably went wrong.
What were your best subjects in school?
My best subjects at school were English and Modern History. I studied Philosophy at the University of Stirling, completed an MSc at LSE and an MBA at Cass Business School.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
After I graduated and spent a year as a student union officer, I wanted to train as a social worker. In order to do so, I needed relevant working experience. My first role was working with the unemployed in Fife in the early 80s and then in a residential children’s home.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
I never had a career path, but rather a series of things I wanted to achieve which work facilitated. Setting up my own consulting business in the late 90s allowed me time to travel and write and do interesting client stuff.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
Most of them were to do with developing constructive yet professionally challenging relationships and building good teams. I’m not sure I ever overcame them, but I did get better at dealing with them, in part with the passage of time and greater experience.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
I have done lots of crazy things, but none of them related to landing a job.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
My proudest moments have typically happened during various career breaks. The one which stands out for me was hiking the 2,160 mile Appalachian Trail in 6 months and then writing about it.
Do you have any career regrets?
I have few career regrets, but I was offered a role in Moscow in the early 90s and turned it down. The city was like the wild west, very edgy and fascinating and I would have loved it. I was far too cautious at the time.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Get on with it.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Travel and travel again.
- Coffee or tea?: Coffee from Monmouth Coffee, without which life would be a lot less enjoyable
- Jam or marmalade?: Marmalade, ideally dark and chunky
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?: Neither because the Beatles split up just as they were becoming interesting and The Rolling Stones haven’t produced a decent record since the early 70s. I choose Pere Ubu instead
- Mac or PC?: Mac by a very long way
- The Guardian or The Times?: The Guardian by a very long way
- BBC or ITV?: Neither – I haven’t owned or used a TV in over 13 years and don’t miss it
- M&S or Waitrose?: Waitrose because I like their business model and how they treat their staff
- Morning or night?: Both – we are a long time dead
- Rain or snow?: Both – I grew up in Scotland
- Sweet or savoury?: Both and on occasion together.
- App: WhatsApp because it allows me to stay in touch with friends all over the world
- TV show: See above
- Band: Pere Ubu who are constantly experimenting and improvising
- Song: Dance to the Music by Sly and the Family Stone because it’s impossible not to follow his lead and he is a genius without whom we would not have artists like Prince
- Book: The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, shining a light on a great and chaotic city and it is wonderful literature
- Sports team: I have no interest in team sports
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Live music at any number of small venues because it’s intimate and great music happens in small venues
- Place to eat: AbuJbara, Dead Sea Panorama, Haret Jdoudna or Sufra, all in Jordan. The food is great for vegetarians, minus the BBQ of course, the country is stunning and the people are welcoming
- Holiday spot: Anywhere I can run, hike or cycle
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: From my careers teacher at school, get a job in the Civil Service, Coal Board or Rosyth Dockyard. I ignored him, which was a good thing – the Coal Board is no more, the Dockyard is no longer a large employer in Fife and the Civil Service would not have hired me.