Paul Hughes (Engagement Manager, London)
Paul is a family man, sports fan and a major movie buff. He can hold his own on the football field, or during an intrepid long-distance cycle. At the same time, he’s quick to take you up on a conversation about anything from politics right down to organic products.
What brought you to this point in your career?
I moved in this direction having worked on a software vendor’s customer service desk. There, I had to make a choice – go down either the technical or sales route. I swayed to the technical side, and eventually ended up in a planning role, which expanded into project planning and management.
I’ve always enjoyed unblocking problems and helping customers to find practical, useful solutions. Part of that is understanding who you are speaking to, their needs and their technical level. You don’t want people to feel talked down to, but you also need to be the expert. I like that balancing act in a customer facing role.
Any big life stories you would like to share?
That’s probably moving to the town we live in. The arrival of our second child got my wife and I thinking about life in London. With small kids, were we really going to jump into a cab and go out in central London? Maybe, but a lot less. We ended up in a place that couldn’t be more different, a tiny village of 650 people. It’s a far cry from London, and sometimes I miss that hustle and bustle, but I would do it all again. The community here is amazing. We have close friends, a great quality of life, and the kids love it.
Do you have any claim to fame?
Early on in my football years, I got involved at coaching level with some professional footballers. I mixed with some of the biggest professional names in the sport, even met the wives and girlfriends. That was a real eye-opener into a world where everything revolves around the sport you do for a living. I love sport but stood back and wondered if I could live that life, where one thing is such a strong focus. I have lots of other interests: learning, reading, discussions, things like that. I like to have deep conversations on different topics. That could be sport, but also politics or literature. I’m very big on world politics actually. I’ve got the history bug too and encourage that interest in my kids. I’ll watch movies, read books and listen to podcasts on the subject.
What things do you like to do in your spare time?
I’ve played and coached football for years, including coaching kids for a local authority in London. Naturally, I found myself getting involved in the local club where my son plays. Eventually, I was asked to help out on a more formal basis. Ten years later, it’s been amazing to see the team grow up from really small kids. Most of the players have stayed with us over the years, including a few of the girls. Actually, some of the girls ended up playing at youth level, for teams like Tottenham and Arsenal. I’m really proud of that.
I’ve also taken on a child welfare role in recent years, things like helping to implement the club’s bullying and inclusion policies. For me, it’s all about developing the children, especially when they are small. The balancing of people’s needs works here too. Some parents are concerned about the team winning, others about their child getting to play. It’s interesting.
Helping kids via sport, is that something constant for you?
I don’t know really. In school, I was quite lucky as I had some great gym teachers. All the team sports were on my radar: basketball, cricket, football, you name it. The ethics, mutual support and sharing, especially with football, has been a very positive force in my life. I try to bring that into my work. I know that if we all pull in the same direction, the end goal is more achievable. It’s nice to learn that at a young age, and sport’s a great way to do so.
Any other hobbies or passions?
My wife will say I’ll watch any team sport possible. I also like professional cycling, which is actually a team sport too. Cyclists make quite a few hidden sacrifices for a team win. I’m in a cycling group myself and we’ve done some trips in places such as Spain. We help each other, it could be sharing water, or giving morale support. If you’re out there for hours it can get tough, but the team ethic helps us through.
What’s your favorite movie?
On that topic we could be here for the rest of the day! I’ve got lots of top 5 or top 10 lists, depending on the genre. My favorite film is ‘Singing in the Rain’. Apart from the fact that I’m a musicals fan, I love movies that depict how films are, or were made. ‘Singing in the Rain’ is actually about moving from silent movies to talkies.
When it comes to actors, I’ve liked Al Pacino for example, but I also appreciate people like Jack Lemmon. Over time, my taste has changed, and I got more interested in directors, like the Cohen Brothers. I also admire actors who’ve evolved in that field, like George Clooney.
If you had another job for a day, what would it be?
Oddly enough, before joining FintechOS, I’d spent some time selling organic produce at a farmer’s market. The other sellers were quite a collection of characters, people like an art dealer, whose son was doing a dissertation on American literature. That experience brought me back to dealing with customers, explaining how food was grown, or qualifies as organic. I heard people’s concerns about food production and other topics.
I would recommend working with the public to anyone, not just in a customer facing role. You can spend time in other people’s shoes and appreciate the common ground so many of us share.
Any advice for people starting at FintechOS?
It’s a company that’s expanding very quickly, so there will be process gaps and problem solving. You need to appreciate the reasons you joined, it’s exciting, new and fast. If you come from a bigger company it’s easy to assume processes are in place, but you may need to ask for things. We talk and tackle things together, and I’ve found everyone to be really responsive.
What’s in your future, workwise and personally?
I’ll definitely keep in with sports, there’s still a season or two left with the football team. I’ll also be supporting the coaches and encouraging them to stick around. That continuity is great for the kids, they get to trust the coach, who understands their personality and individual needs.
I generally let life happen, but if there was a plan for the next decade, it could be preparing for life when the kids leave home. What will my wife and I do with that spare time, until grandkids come along? Kids keep you very busy, so that will be new. Who knows, but I’m interested to see what the next chapter will be.