Mike - Biog
In his formative years of secondary school, Mike had a flair for the arts and was toying with journalism as a career. So naturally, when it came to choosing subjects to study at ‘O’ Level (GCSEs for old people) he panicked and went for things he thought he should be doing instead.
“I’m really not sure how that happened to be honest (he recalls laughing)…I knew I wanted to base my working life on writing but between that very firm notion to actually scribbling on the options form I went for the subjects someone trying to get into engineering or similar in the forces would go for. Physics, Metalwork, Technology and German. Still baffles me”
Whether it was the poor choice in subjects or simply being a typical teenage boy of the mid 80’s he didn’t exactly excel, so there were no real surprises come results time. Still, unfazed, he wandered into sixth form at the same school, having promised to do the necessary re-takes, to be allowed to step over the threshold.
Sixth form was a different story though. He knuckled down, got great results and set off on his journey into journalism via a text book time at uni. Oh, wait. That’s someone else’s biography. The reality was he continued to be a typical teenage boy of the late 80’s (moving with the times at least) and left with not a lot to show for his time and zero idea of what to do next.
At this point Mike fell into insurance. This was well before the ‘where there’s blame there is a claim’ culture so it wasn’t even that lucrative. His spell at Crown Financial Management in Woking (a long since defunct company) did set a few things rolling though. He lived (and still does, via a few places) in Salisbury so, whilst his friends walked or got the bus to work, he took the train. Adding a good two and a half hours to his day. Long days have been a recurring theme ever since. It also kick started a life long obsession with people watching.
From there he joined a software company as a Tester, progressing through Business Analyst and Consultant roles, working long days, mainly on-site, for big insurance clients.
“I can’t take the credit for joining them (Capsco Europe Ltd). Sue, my then fiancée (and still wife!), saw an ad and encouraged me to go for it. So glad I did, I had the chance to finally use some writing skills producing business cases and specifications.”
During his five years with the company he had stints in Switzerland and Norway as well as all corners of the UK. At the same time Sue had worked her way up to Branch Manager at a building society. They had talked about kids but decided to put things on hold. So naturally, they fell pregnant, with Liam. Luke came along within two years. Just after Liam was born, Mike turned to contracting as a, what was intended to be, short term solution to losing Sue’s salary. A couple of short soirees into permanent employment aside he has remained contracting for the best part of twenty five years!
In his contracting life (he refuses to call it a career) he has worked on large scale IT and Business Transformation projects for numerous UK based insurance companies, helping bring complex solutions to life. In that time he has undertaken a myriad of roles, focussing more on Project and Programme management in recent years. He has also worked, successfully, in governmental departments as well as Healthcare, Telecomms (where he and Maddie met) and Automotive industries. The common thread throughout has been his ability to take ideas and notions, shake them up, and disseminate back to get people pulling in the same direction.
“It’s only when I met Maddie and we chatted about our lives and work did it truly dawn on me that my story telling gene was front and centre of my successes in, often, very technical projects. Understanding people, bringing disparate views together and articulating, in a story, is how I operate.”
It was in the April of 2015 that Maddie and Mike first met. Mike and a colleague interviewing Maddie for a Business Analyst / Technical Author role.
“We clicked from the off. Maddie casually mentioned she did some creative stuff like games development and novel writing. I was more keen to talk about this but kept to the matter in hand. Anyway, I may have lost the battle (Maddie joined the programme but working with the other interviewer) but I won the war!”
During one run of the mill lunchtime Mike and Maddie talked more about their creative urges and found they had much in common. Something ignited that day and although it took a while to fully get going the seeds were well and truly sown on collaboration.
“We bounced ideas off each other from that first lunchtime. The riffing gave me a real buzz, even encouraging me to pick up pencil and paper and start doodling again. A long since abandoned hobby. The creative bug had bitten.”
After a few false starts Mike and Maddie have been collaborating under the L’eau Co banner in earnest for getting on for three years. A body of works is forming nicely and Mike is working hard building a network of industry contacts. The pair decided to really go for things in late Spring 2018. Since then, Maddie has gone ‘all in’ and Mike has stepped down from high pressure Project management into a more doable contract role.
“Maddie going ‘all in’, illnesses in my family, and a few other factors made me reconsider what’s important. I want to write. I’ve always wanted to write. By making some changes I have freed up time and headspace, in amongst all of life’s other demands, to do just that. Sure my salary has dropped considerably but I’ve never been happier.”
What does the future hold? Mike sums it up thus:
“Simple. To join Maddie going ‘all in’. I have many things to say, both individually and collaborating under the L’eau Co umbrella. Let’s see what happens.”