Like many entrepreneurs, my work life has been far from ordinary. When I saw #FirstFiveJobs shared on Twitter, I couldn't even get to the magic number. Sure, I had done a couple of small jobs at school, like a paper round for a few years, and then a Saturday job, in a local computer shop, earning less than minimum wage (I was under the age for it to apply).
After school, I spent a massive eight and a half years at university - our of those years on a combined Chemistry with Pharmacology Masters degree, followed by another four and a half years on my Computational Chemistry PhD. During my third year of my "fully-funded" PhD I discovered from my supervisor, (as if it wasn't a big deal,) that although you get funding for three years (this paid any fees and payment for living costs), no-one ever finishes a PhD in 3 years. So, I was to work for another year, maybe longer with no income, and a PhD in Computational Chemistry (running simulations to discover the 3D structures of chemical compounds, using Newtonian and Quantum Mechanics) is pretty time-consuming!
I suppose I could have got a job in a bar, or in a shop, but it is hard to fit a shift pattern around scientific research. Calculations took days to run, sometimes longer, and you had to be ready to start the next calculations, on the results of the ones that had just finished. Missing eight hours because you are in a job was not going to work.
So, I did what any ridiculously busy person would do, right? Start my first business. In this business, I eventually met a client who was that impressed with my work, we are now business partners at SwiftCase. I brought my clients from my previous business into our new business, and here we are twelve years later. More on this later. So, you could say my #FirstFiveJobs were:
However, any entrepreneur will understand, that is how other people see it, not the reality of running your own business. If you count the jobs I have had in my business; then we can get this list completed many times over. From admin assistant to the accountant, from tech support to business development, from drilling holes to install networks to marketing, from HR manager to making the tea, I have done every job in the average tech business environment. For the first five years, this was all done by myself, from a home office, or the boot of my car. In the beginning, there were a lot of late nights (and even some all-nighters). I drank much caffeine. I even bought coffee by the caffeine content, not the taste. What had I got myself into? I was fixing computers, installing networks, creating websites and writing software, all while trying to complete a PhD. How was I going to get all of this done, without the quality of work suffering?
I needed a way to get things done when I was asleep, and when I was out on a computer job. So, I changed the focus of my PhD from just getting the answers, to improving the process to get the solutions. I made tools that could set up the calculations from a folder of chemical structures. I built tools that could run the calculations across multiple computers at the same time, and that would run them in a queue, adding and restarting calculations, when resources became available. I made tools that could automatically analyse the results by comparing two 3D shapes, instead of manually measuring the distances between pairs of atoms. I created a formal workflow for my research tasks. Then I automated as much as possible. I had freed up enough time to complete my PhD, (I graduated in 2009,) and grew an IT support business at the same time.
Once, I had automated the world of my research, and the next step was to apply the results of my study to automate all those jobs that come with running your own business. After a few iterations of solutions for my IT support clients, as I mentioned, I went into business with one of my delighted clients, and SwiftCase was born in 2015. SwiftCase is based on the idea that all the boring and repetitive work should be automated, so, that you can focus on what matters. Free your time to follow your passion, whatever that may be. If you are in business, if you want your time back, then give us a shout.