My Way: Kal Samra. UK Managing Director of price comparison site comparethemarket.com
'It's attitude and drive that are most important'
Thursday 10 September 2009
What did you want to be as a child?
Anything from a beautician to a diplomat.
What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?
Work in a bank. I had a work placement at 14 and really enjoyed it. But my mum wanted me to stay at school and do A-levels, which I don't regret at all.
You studied international business and Spanish at Sheffield Hallam University, was it worth it?
Yes. I thought I didn't have the confidence to do a degree, but a tutor thought I was capable. Doing Spanish meant I had a work placement in Madrid, and that year abroad really gave me confidence.
What did you do after graduation?
I worked for Derbyshire Chamber of Commerce, helping to reinvigorate the city. I had responsibility, but the local government bureaucracy was frustrating. I then worked for the marketing department of the Nottingham Evening Post, and for Dial Direct. Eventually I became MD of Bennetts, the motorcycle insurance provider. It was a niche brand but it was in decline and I turned it around.
How did you work your way up?
Ambition and a desire to succeed.
Who are your heroes?
My grandmother, who was born in India, She was very strong and always made the best of things.
Have you ever been fired from a job?
No. As a teenager I worked for Marks and Spencer in the summer. They said they wouldn't take me on again because I didn't smile enough. I'm quite a happy person and like to laugh a lot, but it was difficult to smile on the till.
What are your interview tips?
I want to know what someone has done, for example if they have improved sales, and how they've worked as part of a team. Appearance is important and I hate waffle. If I ask a question, I want a specific answer.
And your CV tips?
The way a CV is structured gives a good sense of a person and whether they think clearly. It should tell a concise story. I hate sloppiness, like spelling or grammar mistakes, and I'm not a big fan of photographs.
Do you consider yourself successful?
I'm quite proud of what I've achieved, but I never take anything for granted.
How do I get to be where you are?
That depends on you. A degree isn't the be all and end all. It helped me with confidence, but it's attitude and drive that are most important.
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