In our regular series, important people you should know about tell us about their first jobs you shouldn’t know about
Hi, Penny! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Penny and I’m an author and authority on mental toughness. I deliver keynotes and workshops for a huge number of organisations including Google, Sky, Costa, Microsoft and Coca Cola to help people to develop their confidence, commitment, focus and determination. Mental toughness can help address issues such as stress, burnout and imposter syndrome.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
A paper round, when I was 13. Then I was a World Rally Championship driver!
Blimey! Let’s start with the paper round. How did you get that?
I went to the paper shop near where we lived and asked them for the job. They said yes!
What did you have to do?
I had to get to the local shop early before school, about 6am, and fill up the pannier with as many papers as I could. Then I had to deliver them all until the whole pile had disappeared. It was very labour intensive.
How long did you work there for?
For about 6 months but it felt like 5 years!
What were the perks of the job?
None, apart from the money. I didn’t want to ask my parents for anything so this was my first taste of financial independence.
What did you spend your first pay cheque on?
What’s the funniest thing that happened?
Nothing felt funny at the time. There were lots of barking dogs. The worst bit was when I was knocked off my bike. I remember lying on the ground looking at the tyre and the car driver being very cross with me. There were some lovely, kind people, and some rude ones. There were also some scary scary dogs.
What skills did you learn that you still use now?
Don’t go anywhere near dogs that aren’t on a lead. Getting up early is good for you. Financial independence is the best. It created my strong work ethic and I appreciate the satisfaction of working hard. It taught me to have commitment in all weathers and that regardless how horrible some jobs can be, there is always a prize at the end.
Are you still in contact with any of your old colleagues?
The shopkeeper? No!
Almost forgot about the rally driving. How did you get into that?
When I was six, I saw rally driving on television and thought it was the coolest, most exciting thing I’d ever seen. I wanted to be a part of it. I left home at 14 to escape a deeply dysfunctional existence and ended up staying in hostels, then couch-surfing with friends. In my mid 20, I went to a rally driving school in Oxfordshire. I wasn’t very good, but decided that nothing was going to stop me becoming a rally champion. I spent every waking moment trying to raise money to buy a car. I borrowed money from the bank, then found a sponsor. I dedicated myself and got to the top level driving for Ford, competing in the World Rally Championship. My sponsorship deals came to an end and I was offered the job of presenting Driven on Channel 4, so I was able to forge a new career in TV.
Why is alumni so important to you?
Life is nothing without people and connections. People who were around when you’re young know you. I have a group of friends who were around in those days. They just get me and they get it.
Why is alumni important generally?
Because people matter. Creating a team of people who trust and commit and focus is what life is about. People are everything. It’s human connections that matter.
What would happen if you tried to do your paper round today?
I’d get much more efficient and plan a bit better!
And how about if you entered a rally race?
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?
Keep going. Keep doing it. As miserable as it is, it’s all building your character.