Colin Blackburn, Intern Europe Managing Director, speaks in today’s Irish News about his career. Colin and his team at Intern Europe have just celebrated their first year in business in Belfast.
What’s your job?
I’m the Managing Director of Intern Europe, a global organisation based in Belfast that provides short term work placements for European participants.
How did you get there?
I became a shop manager at the age of 18, and after that, I travelled the country as a sales rep for different companies before moving into outdoor advertising. I then joined a small company to help expand its sales outside the UK.
Three years ago, I sold my share of the business and started a new company to offer European interns the chance to gain UK experience. That business, European Student Placement Agency, led us to purchase a similar business in Belfast called Intern Europe.
Do you have a typical working day?
I work between the business in Bath and our office in Belfast, so no two days are the same.
What qualifications do you have?
Experience has been the big driver in my career and I’ve learned so much during all of my roles – that’s where my qualifications have come from, although I do also have some O Levels!
What other skills do you need in your role?
Fiscal skills. You’ve got to have a good head for numbers. If you’re not comfortable with numbers and finance, I think it’s important to have someone guide you.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The people that I work with – they really give me a buzz. Bringing people into our business and seeing them develop – that’s what I enjoy.
And the worst?
The emotion that goes with tough decisions. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to address issues that are either financially related or people management and that can be tough.
What do you think are the greatest challenges and pressures of your role?
Marrying our clients expectations with the expectations of participants and making sure all parties have a great and beneficial experience with Intern Europe.
What did you want to be when you were at school?
An accountant. Maths is one of my strong points, but after I did work experience in the shop at 15, I decided against it and pursued other career paths.
What advice would you give to someone starting a career in your profession?
My advice to anyone starting out would be embrace it’- it’s a fantastic journey, no two days are the same.
What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?
If anyone ever asks, I usually tell them it’s like a boring pub subject and they’ll not be interested in knowing. I like to find out what other people do for a living, rather than talk about what I do myself.
How do you like to relax outside work?
I’m blessed with two fantastic kids, and spending time with them is brilliant. They demand all of my attention, which helps switch me off from work!