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University Experience: Derek Way

6th November 2018

Derek Way, Managing Director of Able Systems, graduated in 1984 with a BSc in Business Studies. In our latest Blog he talks about his experience with the University's Alumni Group

"Since graduating back in the eighties from the University of Bradford, I’ve pursued a career in sales and marketing and am now the Managing Director for a leading electronics company. 

After University, I was lucky enough to land my first sales role at an insurance broker in Birmingham. The role was intense, but it taught me a lot about sales and how to react to pressures in the workplace.

I soon left to move towards something a bit more marketing focused, with my next role at a much larger company. Working on a multinational level, I rose through the ranks from project manager up to a role in marketing. Finally, I felt like I was where I wanted to be and I had a great boss that taught me an awful lot about the marketing sector.

After a couple of years I decided to change jobs again and began working at a young technology start-up called Able Systems that employed a handful of people and had a modest turnover. I came in as marketing services manager, entered into sales, worked through many other positions. Now, 33 years later, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I’m the managing director.

This journey has really given me the opportunity to make an impact by investing so much into making it the success it is today, and that is thanks to some of the skills I learnt at the University of Bradford.

Before choosing to specialise in marketing and international business in my degree, I learnt about a wide range of topics, including, accountancy and law to name a couple. They have all come together to provide me with skills I still use on a day-to-day basis. Marketing principles haven’t really changed over the years and so the lessons learnt at University are as relevant now as they always have been. 

I never imagined myself as the managing director of a company that works around the world. I have to ensure on a day-to-day basis that the business has the resources to thrive, and this has to manifest in the staff and their attitudes. I have to plan for years down the line, always be forward-thinking, whilst still considering today. Put simply, my skills and knowledge learnt at a young age in University has helped with this mentality – reacting to the pressure of deadlines, and adjusting to life on your own etc.

I had a lecturer - his name escapes me - that ran his own publishing business as well as teaching at the University. I remember clearly that he drove a Rolls Royce and was obviously a success, but he still wanted to pass on his knowledge to others. He taught a lot about internationalisation, and with Able Systems’ involvement in exports making up two thirds of its turnover, the lessons from that lecturer have been invaluable. My focus and view of international business came from him; he has been instrumental in my career. I knew that I wanted to be a success like him, although I’m yet to own a Rolls Royce."