In our regular #MyFirstMcJob series, industry top dogs remember when they will still industry puppies
Hi Ros! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Ros Singleton and I’ve been in telecoms for over 30 years. I'm currently the CEO of Spring Fibre. We dig holes, put fibre in them, and then sell that to the people who sell it to customers. I'm chair of the Telecom Supply Chain Diversity Advisory Council, a government body set up to help diversification. I’m a non-exec for some listed tech businesses and an Angel Investor.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Working in my dad's factory that made heavy engineering, doing his filing as soon as I could spell, around age seven, for 2p an hour.
How did you get the job?
Pure nepotism! There wasn't a minimum wage in the 70s, but even back then, you couldn't pay somebody 2p an hour, except a small child.
What did you have to do?
File things according to the alphabet, like invoices and memos, then move them around the building in internal mail envelopes. And I used to help sort nuts and bolts.
How long did you work there?
On and off for about six years, until I got old enough to volunteer in Oxfam to get some proper retail experience.
Did you get a pay rise in six years?
I ended up at like 10p an hour, on top of my pocket money that was 25p a week.
What could you buy for 10p back in the 70s?
You could buy a chocolate bar, or a copy of The Beano for 4p in 1975. Sweets were often 1/2p so you could buy 20. As I got older, most of it went straight into my piggy bank as I was always saving up for something or other.
Were there any perks of the job?
I would say nepotism isn't always great, because they have to prove they're not being favourable to you. But I was only a small child, so most people were very nice and would sometimes bring me food and spend time explaining to me how to do things.
Did anything funny happen?
There was a crane that ran the length of the factory. If you had to move something, you'd attach it to this massive hook. I used to love hanging onto the hook while somebody moved the crane forwards. I’m sure health and safety wouldn’t let you do that these days!
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
Alphabetised filing, although I’m still terrible at writing neatly on forms. I learned that everybody is interesting, valuable and can teach you something.
Are you still in contact with anyone you used to work with?
Not really. Quite a lot of the guys that used to work with my dad are dead now, sadly.
Why is alumni important?
I have a substantial portion of people working for me now that I've worked with before. There's something about having a known quantity who also knows what you're like that is inherently valuable. It also gives you access to networks of people, warm rather than cold. That's really valuable rather than just randomly approaching somebody on LinkedIn. If I want to be introduced to someone, it’s easy to reach out and say: “Hi, I see you know so and so, can you introduce me please?” That’s always going to get you a better reaction than a random cold call.
What would happen if you went back and did a shift working in the factory for 2p an hour?
I always quite enjoy doing jobs that are different to my current jobs. I used to sometimes cover reception in the last business I ran and I can sit behind a computer anywhere. I've dipped back into temp work because I sometimes it's nice to have a job you don't take home.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Negotiate harder. Know your worth. I would say actually even now to to quite a lot of people: know your worth.