The Stansted Express raced towards London while outside the last rays of the November sunlight twisted and turned but couldn’t escape the cloak of darkness as night descended. The scene outside mirrored my own internal thoughts; I too seemed to be speeding towards a future made dark by the endless unanswerable questions circling in my mind.
Could I successfully negotiate a move back to Northern Ireland with my wife and our three children under five? Find a house that was close to a good school and a secure a decent job? Which problem should be tackled first? What if it didn’t work out, what then? Commit to life in England with a nice house that would need sustained investment in the coming years, near a good school that was oversubscribed and a lifestyle where grandparents were regularly flown over to support with daily logistics? Too many questions and not enough answers.
Roll back 10 years and I had a comfortable life working in Belfast as an aerospace engineer but had an itch for a new challenge. The company asked me to support their transformation program; I loved the buzz of making real sustainable change and could see the potential for expanding my experience, but local opportunities were limited so I looked further afield.
On my first day the news headline was “Car industry sees biggest downturn in history”
In 2008 I secured a role in an automotive company. One of their sites had been haemorrhaging money for several years and my job was to turn it around. On my first day the news headline was “Car industry sees biggest downturn in history”, this became a career defining challenge. The next year was the greatest learning experience possible and I loved it. Within 7 months the site was able to declare a small profit and continued to grow over the coming months, but I had the itch to move again.
The itch took me to a post-crash RBS and leading transformation programs across the UK, then GSK to oversee the transfer of development products to full commercial production. Each role provided me with the rich experiences I wanted. Along the way I had got married and we had 3 children, life was good, but we had an itch to move back to Belfast.
I sent CVs, CVs with covering letters and CVs with letters and follow up calls; no response. It seemed as if we were destined to stay in England.
Our eldest had started school, and her little brother was due to follow next September, so the pressure was on to move before the children became embedded with friends, hobbies and routines that could keep us rooted.
With a CV that was rich with experience and varied in sectors, I believed there would be little trouble finding work back home, but when I sent it to recruiters in Belfast I got no response. I flew over and met them face to face, to explain I was serious about moving home and still no response. I registered for updates on jobs when they came up. I sent CVs, CVs with covering letters and CVs with letters and follow up calls; no response. It seemed as if we were destined to stay in England.
So I as I stepped off the Stansted Express in London it felt like the last throw of the dice to move home. My concentration was broken by a voice calling my name, it was a colleague from my RBS days, “Fancy meeting you here,” he said, “I have a job in Belfast if you are ever interested in going back”.
I smiled and we agreed to call the next day. I made my way to the “Belfast for Life Diaspora” event to find Abacus had plenty of opportunities and contacts. Within a few weeks I was getting regular updates, interviews and positive leads. By April our house was sold, a school was sorted, and a job was secured. We moved back in July. Each morning I sit on the train and smile, the children love their new school, we have just built our dream house, and my job in Allen and Overy is exciting and full of opportunity. I can see clearly now, it’s a bright sunshiny day!