In our regular series, very important people remember their first very not important jobs
Hi, Alex! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Alex Depledge, the founder and CEO of Resi, the largest architectural platform in the UK. We do about 2,000 extensions and renovations across the UK every year.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Working in the Midland Hotel in Bradford when I was 13. It was a high-end hotel, so I laid the tablecloths, candelabras and glasses for weddings and events.
How did you get the job?
The landlady who owned the local pub bought the hotel and did it up. I wanted some money, and my mum said: “Why don’t you get a job?” I said: “Where am I going to get a job?”, she said “Why don’t you ring and see if she’ll give you one?” and she did!
What were the perks?
I used to eat the food in the kitchen. They’d put all the roast potatoes into a tub to reuse again, which is a bit gross when you think about it. So we’d just help ourselves.
How much did you get paid?
I think £2.50 an hour.
How long did you work there for?
For eight years, through university. I went from laying tables for banquets to working in the kitchen and plating desserts. I got promoted to a waitress, then I worked behind the bar. The pinnacle was when I got made assistant restaurant manager.
Did anything particularly funny happen?
I once spilt red wine all over all over a bride, which wasn’t great! She shrieked and we had to play the cleaning bill.
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
I think the number one skill I’m forever grateful for, which lots of people don’t learn now, is how to talk to people. As it was a hotel, you had to be able to tailor the conversation with everyone from cleaning staff to VIPs. That can lead you to become quite charming if you get it right. It’s stood me in good stead for my career ever since.
Why is alumni important?
Everyone finds jobs through their network. You can apply and get jobs off your own back, but a lot of time, you find out about opportunities because of the people you know. Now my network is even more important, because as a CEO, there isn’t anywhere else to go and ask how to do stuff. Normally you can go to your manager and say: “I’m stuck. How do I do this?” As a CEO, you’re left to figure it out yourself. I get a lot of assistance from my peer network, because there’s always someone who has faced the same challenges. That’s why alumni networks are really important.
What would happen if you went back and did a shift laying tables?
I’m a great waitress, so I would have no issues! Sometimes I’d quite like to go back and just do that.
If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
I think we spend a lot of time in our teens and our 20s trying to fit in. When you get older, you realise that standing out is the thing that gets you ahead. So I’d say: care less about fitting in. And maybe be a bit more hygienic with the bowls of roast potatoes.