I worked in the City for 5 years as a commodities trader and then in business risk management until I decided that I needed to do something about my work-life balance! So I left to do another Masters, become a professional triathlete and started up my own sustainability consultancy (http://www.rareearthconsulting.com/">Rare Earth Consulting)
I'm a professional long course triathlete, racing for the Timex Multisport Team, and after a few years as a freelance sustainability consultant, I have set up my own firm - Rare Earth Consulting.
My background is in natural sciences, with a Masters degree in Sustainable Development. I started work at a sustainability NGO but was under-whelmed by the management style, so moved to a commodities firm to try to get a grasp of corporate management (which turned out to be not much better!) and get the inside scoop on global trade.
I worked as a trader in all kinds of commodities - from coffee to oil - and then as a risk manager for 5 years. The sector is very interesting, but I always knew it was not for me long term. In hindsight 5 years was perhaps too long, but I felt de-skilled for any job that I might want to move back into - in the sustainability sector - and had little to show for what I had actually learnt.
To transition, and to make sure I had something to show for my time in the City, I did a Masters in Financial Economics, to balance out my otherwise Ecology-dominant educational CV.
I knew that my City career had a finite life span. I was never very motivated by the salary and started to value my time outside of work (which quite often was minimal) more highly than the remuneration gained from being at work.
I would spend every morning before work and most evenings after work at the gym or running to try to balance the stress of work - which mainly stemmed from the frustration of not wanting to be working there any more.
I remember pretty much cancelling one Christmas to stay at home alone trying to work out why I had become so frustrated with work and what I would do if I left. That was when I realised that I was going to leave even if I didn't have another job to go to. In the back of my mind I had the inkling that I might want to spend some time just training and racing triathlon, but the cultural difference from what I had been doing and not really having anyone in a similar position made it very hard to talk about the concept.
I'd started a part time Masters in Financial Economics while I had been at work to try to keep me interested. While that hadn't made me want to stay at work, I did like the course and finishing it after leaving the City gave me an opportunity to spend the winter abroad studying (aka training and racing) to see if I might want to become a full-time athlete without having to justify the time out to any critics.
I had saved enough to see me through a couple of frugal years, and started to pick up some work freelancing in sustainability.
Hardest thing: The resistance to change experienced when you want to leave the City is huge - not just external, but from yourself as well. You're invested in the culture, accustomed to the salary, you believe that the only place for you is in that set of institutions. Making a break is a massive financial, social and mental upheaval.
Best things: For me, the most liberating part was realising that I would leave no matter what the financial repercussions, heading out into an uncertain future and taking a risk. I've never looked back. I love my sport, my work and the quality of life that I've achieved - I earn a fraction of what I used to but I enjoy every minute of it!
I couldn't have come this far without the support of my sponsors, including Timex, Quintana Roo, Shimano, Native eyewear, Challenge tyres, Blue Seventy, Neovite and PowerBar, among others!
"Find out what sustainability means to you, and what you’re passionate about, and use that as your tool to face the world."