After taking off 'diamond-encrusted handcuffs' attached to a corporate career, Billy Schofield went back to university and started his own business. Billy tells The Industry Leaders why he did it and how he managed it while dealing with a serious family crisis.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
After spending 32 years working for large American corporates, I decided that I needed a new challenge. At age 54, I left my secure, well-paid corporate job and returned to university to study for an MSc. I enjoyed studying for the MSc; I found it intellectually stimulating, and it awoke a passion in me for learning. Soon after completing the masters, my wife fell seriously ill with Leukaemia. With three small children and my wife in hospital, returning to full-time work was not an option for me. So I decided to start my training business.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Developing, designing, selling and delivering practical, enjoyable, and thought-provoking classes on Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, operations management, the semiconductor industry and personal productivity.
All my classes are based on learnings from my experience in industry. I launched my business during the COVID pandemic, meaning face to face classes were out, so I had to learn a new skill of delivering fun and interactive classes over online mediums such as Zoom and Teams.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Training is a fantastic job. I find it really exciting to research and design training material then deliver it in an interactive style with people. People love training and taking time out of their everyday jobs to discuss essential topics affecting them and their industry.
I love data, so I am always looking for insightful thought-provoking data to share with my classes. As a trainer, I am passing on my knowledge and helping people improve, which is a wonderful feeling.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
That money does not make you happy. For years I was a slave to the corporate culture of bonuses, stock options, pay rises, and pension contributions. These financial incentives felt like handcuffs, and not just ordinary handcuffs but diamond-encrusted solid gold handcuffs.
When I was given the advice that all this money would not make me happy in life, it was an epiphany for me.
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
I always try to pay it forward and pass on my knowledge to other people in my field. I participate in regular mastermind groups with other trainers to share ideas, goals, difficulties and knowledge.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
By following people and companies that I admire on LinkedIn and having Google Scholar alerts on critical topics. I get sent weekly links to newly published papers and articles on the subjects I am following. The Google Scholar alerts help keep my information up to date and relevant.
I also take training classes and read books in the areas I am interested in, and I attend as many webinars and online conferences as possible.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
On a personal level, my most challenging time was when my wife was ill with Leukemia. She spent 6 months in hospital and was very seriously ill; we had three young children at that time, aged 2, 3 and 6. I learnt a lot about parenting and myself during that period. I learned to ask for help. The help I was given by friends, family, neighbours and the community was tremendous. Either at home or work, you do not need to do it alone; ask for help.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Well, it is not my ticket, so I would hand it back to the lottery office.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
If I am not working, I spend time nurturing my relationships with my family, mainly my wife and three young children. I read, write, meditate, follow soccer, and do some light exercise in my self-time. I make sure that my time is distributed across the three domains of work, relationships and self.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
That more people realise what a fantastic job being a self-employed trainer is. It takes bravery to get started. Self-employed trainers offer a diversity of experience and flexibility that corporates and higher education institutes cannot match.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I do not listen to podcasts; I prefer to read, where I control the pace.
My must-reads are
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, Mark Graban
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker
How should people connect with you?
Email me at Billy@BillySchofield.ie
Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/williambilllyschofield/,
or visit my website https://billyschofield.ie/
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