Brain food: Sir John Egan - If I had to start again

Brain food: Sir John Egan - If I had to start again - I still believe a good degree is the best possible start to a career in business. Nowadays I would go for a degree perhaps in engineering, as I did, or in something like microbiology. I found my first

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I still believe a good degree is the best possible start to a career in business. Nowadays I would go for a degree perhaps in engineering, as I did, or in something like microbiology. I found my first degree in engineering gave me a clear understanding of processes and provided a good discipline for the future. I also recommend taking an MBA.

After university, I went straight into the oil industry, where I was given a great deal of responsibility very early on. I got used to so much responsibility when I was young that I was never overwhelmed later on by the challenges I faced in more senior jobs - running Jaguar and BAA.

So I strongly recommend looking for a start in business with a high degree of responsibility. The fundamental change in business since my first job is in the economic climate. The tax regime was so harsh and the economic climate so variable that entrepreneurs had very little incentive to take the risk of setting up a new business. It made more sense to work for a large organisation. Now the political situation has stabilised and both major parties agree that control of inflation and the health of the economy must come first. The result is that we now have a political and economic climate that encourages people to go into business on their own account.

With political stability and inflation under control and the economy in good shape, what better time to start a business? There have never been more opportunities in IT, e-commerce, media, biotechnology and marketing.

That's what I would do if I were graduating today. Sir John Egan was chief executive of BAA 1990-99.

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