World of Work - CEO
As part of our new ‘World of Work’ series, our in-house writer Holly Pigache interviews members of the Picaro World and EdTech Lobby community to find out about different professional pathways. Here, she interviews the CEO of Build Something Different Education, Chris Geary.
What was the path to you becoming CEO of BSD?
I have been an entrepreneur all my life and have run businesses in the US, Europe and Asia. The financial crisis took me back to Asia, moving my research company there. In 2011 I set up a non-profit that focused on educational programmes for at-risk communities, particularly the youth and refugees. At the same time, I met my co-Founder of BSD, Nickey, and had really begun to realise the impact that digital skills were having on business. They were becoming, in many cases, the make-or-break for growth. Nickey and I realised that something so critical was completely absent from education and so in 2013 we invested in and started, BSD. In 2015 it was clear to me that making digital skills learning accessible was the thing I would dedicate myself to full time, I exited my other businesses and from the beginning of 2016, I have been full time as the CEO of BSD.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I have to divide this internally and externally. Inside our business, our team is amazing and incredibly high performing. It’s a hugely consuming challenge to constantly reflect and improve myself to be at the level to be worthy of the responsibility of leading our people every day.
Externally, as a CEO you are constantly asking yourself about the relationship between what and how your business does what it does. How it fits with your customers now and can grow to delight them tomorrow. When thought processes come together and you see the next step in front of you there is little more exciting.
What is something that surprises you about your work?
There is a lot of pressure as a leader in a company to feel like you always need to have the answer or you need to figure things out for yourself. But when you trust the team around you, and it doesn’t matter how supposedly “senior” or “junior” someone is in the business, there is never weakness in seeking the counsel of others. The way people support each other and respond to good and bad news always surprises me and makes life in leadership a less lonely journey.
Have there been any key turning points in determining your career progression?
The single decisive time in my career was the financial crisis. I had always wanted to pursue a career with a social focus, however until 2008 I had the antiquated mindset that you earned first and gave later in your career. Going through the financial crisis and seeing so many things fall down in an instant made me pause to reflect and I realised that there was no time to wait. The path for me, of integrity in my eyes, was that my career had to be financially successful and socially game-changing at the same time and that the two must be in balance with each other throughout my career, intrinsic to everything that I do.
Describe your career journey in three words.
Endeavour, adapt, grow.
Do you have an ultimate career goal? If so, what is it?
My goal is to be an entrepreneur driving socially focused businesses for the rest of my life.
Would you do anything differently if you could start your career again?
I would study languages intensely rather than law.
If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
I’m an Entrepreneur, I have chosen my path and I love and appreciate the incredible privilege of what I get to do.
What’s the main piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to reach CEO level in business?
You are not the pinnacle of your business, nor are you the point of the arrow. You are the pivot, to support and balance everyone else to deliver their best. You are the fletching on the arrow.