An exec at the $1.7 billion finance startup Revolut reveals how he escaped homelessness and landed a senior job in tech
Chad West, 28, grew up in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, sharing mattresses on the floor with his sister. At the age of just 13 he was taken into care, where he was surrounded by people with alcoholism and drug addiction. After working tirelessly to get into college and gain experience at top businesses, West eventually started a career in tech. Today, he is director of communications for Revolut, the UK finance startup most recently valued at $1.7 billion. Click here for more BI Prime stories.
Business Insider: What was life like for you growing up? Chad West: I was one of six kids raised by a single mother in Torry, among the most deprived areas of Aberdeen. I shared a bedroom with my sister, where we both slept on mattresses on the floor. When I was 13, I was taken into care, where I stayed for three years. In Scotland, you qualify as an adult at 16, so at that age I was placed in homeless accommodation. I was suddenly surrounded by people much older than me, many of whom were suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism. BI: How did school go for you? West: I flunked my high-school exams, but, thanks to the help of an incredibly dedicated support worker, I enrolled at college to get the qualifications I needed to go to university. I studied business administration at Robert Gordon University, in Aberdeen, partly because I couldn't afford to move further afield. BI: How did you get your first break in tech? West: I realized early on that you need something on your CV to make you stand out. I started taking whatever internships I could, paid or unpaid, just so I could get some names on there. Then I saw a job ad for Rocket, the German tech VC firm, and I worked really hard to make myself stand out in the application. I wrote and printed out an entire interactive deck full of ideas for their PR strategy. I'm not sure I don't think I'd have got the job if I hadn't put in that extra effort. BI: Have you ever felt alienated due to your background? West: One time it really hit me. A colleague mentioned they were going on holiday with their family, and I knew everyone else at the table's parents were paying their rent while they were living in London. Meanwhile, I could just about afford to grab a drink after work. I'm still yet to meet anyone in the UK tech scene, as far as I'm aware, from the same kind of deeply poor background. BI: What advice would you give to someone from a similar background that wants to get into tech? West: Don't look on your background as a weakness but as a strength. Reflect on what you have, be grateful, but use your will and determination to move forward.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A podiatrist explains heel spurs, the medical condition Trump said earned him a medical deferment from Vietnam
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