The Switch: from corporate life to entrepreneurship

Former Fortune 500 doyenne Marianne Abib-Pech begins a new fortnightly column on the new challenge in her life - guiding young entrepreneurs from rags to riches
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The Independent Online

Change, as Heraclitus said, is the only constant thing in life. Well, you have to trust the Greeks to know a few things about life - and mine has definitely been turned upside down and inside out in the last nine months.

Who would have thought that, as I sat facing the London Eye in my corner office at a respectable, century-old company just last spring, I would be where I am now?

How could I have dreamt, as I ploughed that corporate furrow, moving from spreadsheet to strategic pitch, from team meetings to business trips to Greece or Russia, that I would be here today, ready to embark on a totally different experience?

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Marianne. I am 38 years of age, and a Frenchwoman. I studied in London and have lived here for the last twelve years, which almost makes me one of you. Or, at least, as I like to think, well assimilated!

I’m a product of corporate professional upbringing, and from the purest breed no less, corporate America! For about 15 years, I worked for various Fortune 500 American companies, jumping from a role at one of the “Big Six”, via a telecoms pioneer and the most admired company in the world – according to the FT at least – General Electric, eventually to an oil company.

I moved up from a job as a junior auditor, through senior analyst to finance manager to becoming the general finance manager of a global business unit. In the meantime, I lived in five different countries, worked with people of at least 35 different nationalities, and managed to adjust to five different corporate cultures; often while working 70 to 80 hours a week.

Along the way, I learned many lessons and I gave a great deal of myself. I’ve succeeded and I’ve failed, I’ve created massive value and, it has to be said, at times destroyed it.

Then one day I decided to start on a new journey, a new career. I pivoted and made “The Switch” – from corporate life to a totally different world: entrepreneurship. It is this journey that I want to tell you about.

Over the coming six months, I am going to talk about The Switch – about how it happens and what it means. I‘m going to tell you stories about fear and risk-taking, about doubts, inspiration and courage – all experiences central to the world of entrepreneurship.

We’ll find out about luck and, more importantly, how to provoke it. We’ll discuss skill sets and what are must-haves as opposed to nice-to-haves. We’ll talk about business myths and reality, about talent management and corporate culture, about timing, innovation and brain technology. In fact, we’ll explore anything you like in order to compare and contrast corporate life with entrepreneurship!

What has been my biggest lesson so far? That no one should ever be afraid of change. In the end, everything is a question of perspective. Having the ability to adjust perspective is the one skill I wish I had mastered a long time ago.

I am excited and honoured to be able to spend the coming six months with you, and share my change with you; I hope to give you some pointers, references and some practical tips; to get you thinking about the future, your future!

I am certainly looking to challenge you to grow and be more, and I also need you to share, react, debate, let me learn to know you, understand you, and be challenged by you! All in good spirit.

So, nice to meet you.



Marianne Abib-Pech is an advisor at Find Invest Grow UK and the Idea Engineering Agency