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Icenian Interview – Jason

Jason CoxFormer Head of School Jason joined Langley as a Year 6 weekly boarder in 2006, leaving seven years later with A-Levels in English Literature, Biology, and Pottery/ 3-D Art, going on to read Law at the University of Sheffield. From Music to Law to Pharmaceutical Recruitment, Jason tells us all, including about his leatherworks hobby.

Did you know what career you wanted to follow when you were at Langley?
Absolutely not. I had a wide range of interests at school and was heavily involved in the music scene both internally and at a County level which, in the early years, I thought I might pursue. As I moved towards A-Levels, however, my interest in music as a career receded a little. I decided instead to push for a Law degree, leaning towards an advocacy-focused career as a Barrister, knowing that it would have transferable weight in many industries. I very much enjoyed my involvement with Langley’s debating teams, so it seemed a sensible choice.

The plethora of activities available at Langley, on top of the academic routine, are something I’d wholeheartedly recommend for any age group.

Which extra-curricular activities were you involved in at Langley?
I was a regular attendee of the Music trips with Mr. Stratford and Mr. White and went to Europe every year in which the trips were available. I was a member of the debating teams (internally and interscholastically), a member of the CCF for a short while, and was involved in the Stage Band, Dixie Band and other school ensembles as they were set up, playing music for dramatic performances, and within the guested Symphonic Orchestras on the Proms evenings, once as a soloist. Externally from a musical perspective, I was part of the Norfolk County Wind Ensemble, Norfolk County Youth Symphonic Orchestra (Senior), and participated in a number of bi-annual County level music retreats and seminars, auditions having come to my attention through School. From a sports angle (which has admittedly dwindled over the years), I was in the 1st XV Rugby team, the 1st Hockey team in Upper Sixth and competed in the athletics teams internally and externally each year. I was also a Head of School in my final year.

Do you think these extra activities have been useful within your career and given you transferable skills?
I think so. It’s inevitable that the experiences you have throughout your life are going to contribute in one way or another to where you are right now. I had great enjoyment across a variety of activities while I was at Langley, and I do feel that evinced and encouraged a persistency to always learn new things.

Since leaving school, I think I’ve acquired more hobbies than I can reasonably handle but, for day-to-day life, I think the soft skills gained from diving into as many different areas as possible has been invaluable. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with having an interest and filling that niche, but I’d recommend anyone taking the opportunity to try things at least once. I’m a firm believer that exposure to different people, opinions and mindsets should be a keystone to anyone, and having the nerve to get out of your bubble is always to be encouraged.

How did your career begin?
With a seminar at university! As I progressed through my degree, I found that my interests lied quite firmly in Criminal Law (as opposed to the well-paid Commercial setting), owing to the nature of it being a people-centric profession. That was far more exciting to me than dealing with the restitution of a breach of contract for example, or worse, Land Law *shudder*. As I looked further into an advocacy-focused career as a Barrister, the prospect of a significant bill for mandatory professional training, and the lower financial remuneration in Criminal Law – compared to hours required – didn’t really entice me, particularly with longer term plans to start a family and have a good work-life balance, as well as a career. I also didn’t like to prospect of living in a big city, which is usually where the money is.

In my final year of study, I decided to explore wider options and attend a seminar with a Headhunter from the Legal field. After listening to them talk through their role, I was interested by the unique combination of commercial and financial drive, problem solving, networking and – in many ways – advocacy in the Exec Search field. On completion of my degree, my partner who I met at university moved to Japan as a year-long secondment in her course, and I moved back to Norfolk for a year, taking the opportunity to visit her in Nagoya for a few months. On her return, I moved back up to Sheffield and shortly after, I secured employment in the Pharmaceutical Exec Search / Recruitment sector in 2017.

Where are you now in your career and what have been the highlights?
As of now I’m still up in Sheffield with a relatively small and very niche Exec Search and Recruitment firm servicing the Pharmaceutical, Biotech, Digital Health, CRO and CDMO industries. I work across the US, Switzerland, Europe and the UK, specialising in the Medical arena with exposure to most other areas of the field too. It’s my job to source connections and strike up relationships with both Big Pharma and Smaller Biotechs; to understand the nature of the Medical professional they’re looking to employ and exactly for what reason, and then find them the best fit for their company and pipeline.

The role’s an interesting one: part-researcher, part-salesman, part-headhunter (and sometimes part-counsellor) and gives a good window to developments in the Medical field through connections to both businesses and industrial medics. It is, however, also financially driven by the success and calibre of candidates you place. With that in mind, I think the highlights for me would be some of the high-level placements I’ve made, one of which in the US was one of – if not the – largest to date for the company. A particular personal benefit is the laid-back culture of the small firm I work with too, which suits me down to the ground.

Outside of the day job, I run JPC Leather, a custom Leatherwork studio, a hobby that pays for itself. I also always seem to find another instrument to try and learn.

On reflection, did your time at Langley help inform your career choices and your attitude to your career progression?
I think so. I’ve always had an interest in trying new things, and I’ve been fortunate to continue a lot of them. Leatherworking for example paid a lot of bills when I was at university, and it’s something I probably wouldn’t have tried if not for my ‘give things a go’ attitude, which was instilled in my school years.

Equally, having such a wide range of activities open to me – and enjoying most of them – has made me somewhat wary of working for a large corporation; of being pigeon-holed in a set function and on a dedicated career path, it’s just not for me. Conversely – and as part of a smaller outfit – I’m encouraged to run my day-to-day workings like it’s my own business. The weight of the brand and support is there, but the growth, sales, performance, service and reputation are all on me, and I like that.

What advice would you give to students currently considering Langley, their A Levels and career choices?
Langley was a great option for me. The plethora of activities available at Langley, on top of the academic routine, are something I’d wholeheartedly recommend for any age group. For those nearing A-Levels, I do think the career angle is the most important point in this question. You’ll be doing that long after you’ve left school. The one thing I’d stress on that point would be to break down your priorities as a person. Do you have a passion? Do you also have a plan to see it through? Are you money-motivated? Or are you not sure and open to trying new things?

There isn’t a ‘right’ approach, and I think it’s unreasonable to feel pressured along a certain path at age 16/17, unless you’ve applied that pressure yourself having nailed down who you are and what you want in life. In my experience, that’s rare, and perhaps unreasonable to expect. I speak to people every single day who started out in one area and ended up another. From Music, to Law to Pharmaceutical Recruitment, I think I’m a fairly good example of not so much a career path as a pinball.

If you have a passion, you’re one of the lucky ones; set some goals, make a plan and apply yourself. If you don’t have a passion – or if yours lie across multiple areas – that’s no bad thing and, actually, an involvement in a wider range of interests is good. I think it makes you a more rounded person, and I’m confident Langley continues to provide good options.

Published On: January 14th, 2021Categories: Icenians

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