14/09/2016, by CLAS
Alexandra Depledge, MBE, reflects on how an American and Canadian Studies degree shaped her future success
Alexandra Depledge graduated with a degree in American Studies and History (with International Study) from Nottingham in 2003. Alex has since gone on to be the founder-CEO of Hassle.com, was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by TechCity Insider for 2014, and has recently been interviewed in a series on “Trailblazing Women” at the Huffington Post. Here Alex reflects on why she chose her degree at Nottingham, the importance of her year of study abroad, and how American Studies has helped to shape her attitude, her skill-set and her career.
I believe it is always difficult to look back on your past and explain how you ended up where you are or what contributed to your success, but I do think it is possible to point to crossroads and outsized decisions that clearly steered you down one road rather than another. Choosing the University of Nottingham and the American Studies and History degree was definitely one of them.
I credit the year abroad in North America as possibly one of my most defining in terms of personal growth – being away from home, adapting to a new culture (they may speak English but that’s about it), and living through 9/11 – and professional growth – navigating a whole new set of academic norms, different intellectual expectations, and hardcore research.
In the US I found my spiritual home. I learnt that it was OK to have an opinion and speak out. Why raise your hand when you can just start talking? I discovered it wasn’t uncouth to tell someone you were really good at something. That was just the done thing. Competitiveness wasn’t viewed as arrogance or aggression; it was encouraged. All these things might seem small to you the reader, but to me they were enormous. They also happen to be the bedrock of soft skills needed in business, especially for a woman. I finally felt like I belonged and grew in confidence.
It’s that confidence that has allowed me to be OK with standing out when I had always felt I should learn how to blend in more. It helped me to rise quickly in the professional services company Accenture, as clients liked and trusted my ‘no nonsense’ approach. It pushed me to quit the corporate world and strike out in a tech start up, when doing so was not heard of, sexy or the norm. People thought the three of us who did so were crazy, but we didn’t care. And finally it made me the CEO of Hassle.com, a company I recently sold after building it up for two and a half years. I am still not 100% on what a CEO does really, but that’s the point. My time spent in American and Canadian Studies allowed me the confidence not to know absolutely everything but to go ahead and do it anyway.
Alex Depledge, Founder and former CEO of Hassle.com
Follow Alex on Twitter – https://twitter.com/adepledge