Jonny Jacobs, founder and managing partner of Longevity Development

In our regular #MyFirstMcJob series, graceful swans remember when they were still learning to swim


Hi, Jonny! Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Jonny and I’m founder and managing partner of Longevity Development, a specialist investment group that looks at food, water, renewable energy and urbanization, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. 

What was your #MyFirstMcJob?

Stacking shelves at Asda in Bournemouth, age 15, 16, at weekends and a couple of nights after school.

How did you get the job?

We were living with my grandparents, and my grandma came back from shopping and said something to the effect of: “You should consider getting a part-time job. I think they're hiring at Asda down the road.” It was that, rather than responding to an advert.

How long did you work there for? 

About six months.

What were the perks of the job? 

It was incredible to be earning money, even if it was tiny money. I  stacked shells in the frozen and refrigerated sections, so it was always cold. You had to spend a lot of time out back in the warehouse, which always smelt of off-milk.

Did anything memorable happen?

I wasn’t aware that you’re not allowed to eat or drink on the shop floor. You had to wait until your break and go to the cafeteria. I’d brought a packet of crisps from home and got in huge trouble. I was called to the equivalent of the principal's office, given a real dressing down and told it was a sackable offense. I remember being horrified that I'd let everyone down!  

What skills did you learn stacking shelves that you still use today? 

It was my first experience of what we would now refer to as: managing up. There was obviously discipline at school, but it was the first time I was around people who were my superiors on multiple levels. You had to get used to expressing your view in a respectful and professional way. If you’re stacking shelves and someone asks you do to something else, you can’t just say: “Yeah, I’ll do it in a minute, get off my case,” even if you are just going to do it in a minute. You had to get used to speaking to people of authority in a different way than you did at school. 

Are in contact with anybody you worked with?

No. But it was 35 years ago. I can’t believe I’m saying that!

Why is alumni important?

One of my life goals is to get back in touch with my old school friends. I’ve gotten back in touch with some people from when I worked as a lawyer for 15 years before moving to Africa. It’s been great rekindling past relationships. Alumni helps maintain your network of relationships, skills and competencies.

What would happen if you went back and did a shift in Asda today?

I think I could still do the job. And I’d be better prepared for the cold.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Definitely listen more to people. And don’t eat crisps on the shop floor!





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