Sir Christopher Bland: If I had to start again

I had a desire to be a journalist, but I paid no attention at university to what I needed for such a career. When I left Oxford after studying modern history, the BBC quite rightly wouldn't interview me, nor would Ulster TV, and the Irish Times couldn't make up its mind. I'd been a burden to my parents for 22 years and simply wanted a job, so ended up as an assistant ad manager at Currys. I was paid £1,000 a year, which was generous back then - Shell paid £800.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I had no guiding philosophy, and my career was pretty random. I went from Currys to Singer, then to Booz Allen Hamilton as a management consultant. But I'd always wanted to be a hands-on chief executive, so I took that role at locomotive builder Beyer Peacock in 1975. They were tiny - the market cap was equivalent to a day's interest on BT's bank borrowings when I arrived.

I've been fortunate to have had five great jobs, as chairman of Hammersmith Hospital Trust, the BBC, BT, the RSC and LWT. For five months, I chaired both the BBC and BT - both national institutions, very much in the public eye. You wouldn't want to do it for five years: the daily press cuttings pile for each was an inch and a half high!

I'm still chairman of the RSC, and also Leith's School of Food and Wine, and Canongate, a small Scottish publisher run by my stepson. We published Life of Pi, the 2002 Man Booker prizewinner. I'm 68, and still walking briskly up the stairs. It's important to enjoy what you're doing. There's no point just plugging away at something just to pull in a wage. Otherwise, what are we all doing here?

As for the next thing, it would need to be something special. Working at ITV with Greg Dyke, my chief executive at LWT, would have been irresistible, but irresistible doesn't necessarily mean wise. Business is like falling in love - you don't know the right thing until you find it.

Sir Christopher Bland steps down as chairman of BT in September.

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