In our regular series, VIPs remember where their Vs and Is came from
Hi, Mursal! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Mursal Hedayat and I’m CEO of Chatterbox, an education technology platform that provides working opportunities for marginalised people, and transforms their linguistic talent into enterprise language learning solutions.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Working in an independent pharmacy in North London, age 16.
How did you get the job?
My older sister already worked there.
What did you have to do?
Dispense medicines and sell perfumes and cosmetics.
How long did you work there for?
About two years.
Were there any perks of the job?
I got a lot of discounted cosmetics, like make-up and perfume.
What did you spend your first paycheque on?
I saved for my first MacBook. I was on minimum wage, so it took over a year! I paid for it in cash at the Apple Store.
Did anything funny happen?
I was studying for my A Levels at the time — Maths, Biology, Chemistry and English Literature — so I would revise for exams between customers, and practice revision cards with my older colleagues.
What skills did you learn that you might still use today?
Sales skills. I was paid per hour — not on commission — but still thought it was cool to influence people to buy one thing or another. I got to know a lot about over-the-counter medicines, so I know how a pharmacy works.
Are you still in contact with any of your colleagues?
No, but if I walked in, I’m sure I’d see some familiar faces. Shout out to Jay and Cathy!
Why is alumni important to you personally?
I’m a member of a fellowship called Year Here — a social, innovation and entrepreneurship network. Many of the alumni are good friends of mine. It’s been an incredibly useful asset and source of support as I’ve scaled my business.
Why is alumni important generally?
We work in the front lines of social change, which is always changing. Through the alumna network of Year Here, and other social impact communities I’m part of, I get a real breadth of understanding and feel of what’s happening in the frontlines of social change in the UK and around the world. You can always call on alumns if you need help.
What would happen if you went back and did a shift at the pharmacy today?
They’d probably say: “Mursal, what the hell are you doing here?” I might be a bit behind on all the beauty brand names.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?
I’d say: “Well done for starting work so young. I know it’s not ideal and takes time away from other things, but you’ll have developed years of workplace skills and experience by the time you’re at uni, well before your peers, and it will be really good for you.”