Brain Food: Mike Harris - If I had to start again ...

I would not stay as long as I did with my first big company, and perhaps not as long as an IT specialist. I joined Midland Bank in 1972 when I was only 22 and left 14 years later, by which time I'd become responsible for all systems development at the retail bank. It was much too long!

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

After that, I had to take a lot of risks to get on a fast-track business career path. The risks came off and were fun, but I wish I'd jumped earlier.

Looking back over your career, there are always things that, in hindsight, you might have done differently. Two stick out for me: driving a reinvention of Mercury Communications a little bit too aggressively in 1993-94, when a bit more patience would have been magical; and underestimating the investment required to deliver a French business of scale with Egg.

I'd also have leapt on some missed career opportunities - for instance, while I was at Mercury in the 1990s, when there was an attempt to put together a formidable competitor to BT. It was probably my scepticism that derailed that opportunity, and I wish we had gone for it. Otherwise, I have few regrets. I worked too hard in my thirties and forties, and it wasn't until I discovered a more balanced way to operate that the quality of my life and my work improved.

If I'd been a good enough golfer, I'd have loved to be a professional at a small provincial golf course. Even so, I'd be severely tempted to do what I have done all over again. My advice to anyone starting out on their career would be not to get hooked on the superiority of the scientific paradigm - embrace ambiguity and uncertainty. Be quick to admit to mistakes, and never defend a position just to prove yourself right. Be yourself, let others be themselves and have a good time!

- Mike Harris founded internet bank Egg in 1998. He stepped down as chief executive in 2001, and as executive vice chairman this month.

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