Ten questions with...Niels de Vos (1985)
In 2007 Niels de Vos was appointed Chief Executive of UK Athletics, the governing board for athletics in the UK. Previous to that, he was Commercial Director of the 2002 Commonwealth Games before becoming Chief Executive of Sale Sharks rugby union club. He is also an Executive Board Member of the British Olympic Association.
Niels left King Edward's in 1985 and went on to study history at Oxford University.
In 2010 he was guest speaker at the 39th Old Edwardians Biennial Dinner, which took place at King Edward's School on Saturday 18th September.
1. What is your favourite memory from your time at King Edward's?
My A Level years - great form group, great friends (many of whom I am still in touch with) as we made the transition from teenagers to young men.
2. Who was your most influential teacher?
It is very hard to pick one. In sport it would have to be Stuart ‘Basher' Birch for inspiring my love of athletics, academically it would be Mr Butress who gave me the belief and the ability to secure a place to read history at Oxford.
3. Did you ever get up to any mischief at King Edward's?
I am not going to say anything that might be used in evidence against me. I rather suspect any readers who knew me will be able to fill in this bit for themselves because I was neither a quiet nor a shy boy and I was no great respecter of authority.
4. What were your career aspirations when you were at school?
I honestly didn't have any beyond what I then regarded as the romantic notion of travelling the world before dying, young but happy, on a beach somewhere exotic. The whole KES concept of preparing for a life as a captain of industry rather passed me by I'm afraid.
5. How did you reach the position you are in today?
A combination of luck, strong self belief, hard work and a willingness to take calculated risks at key moments. My professional life has taken some odd turns through both the public and private sectors and has been characterised by taking on challenging time limited projects with no long term career structure.
6. What is the highlight of your career to date?
I have been lucky to have worked on major national projects (the Millennium Dome, 2002 Commonwealth Games) and latterly elite sport (professional rugby, football and now athletics) during which time I have been involved in some incredible moments and worked with some inspirational people. Perhaps the professional highlight was transforming Sale Sharks from bankrupt also-rans to Guinness Premiership Champions in 2006. The personal highlight was probably being in the Bird's Nest Stadium to see Usain Bolt destroy the World and Olympic 100m record in 2008.
7. What achievement in your life are you proudest of?
Persuading my wife to marry me and going on to have three happy and healthy children. I was also pretty chuffed when I made it into Who's Who a few years ago.
8. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Don't be afraid to take big risks with your career in the early years - there is always time to correct mistakes and if necessary to reinvent yourself, especially in a world that is changing as fast as the one we now live in.
9. What advice would you give to the boys at King Edward's today?
Don't feel compelled to travel the road most trodden - I fear that too many individually brilliant boys set out their career and life aspirations and then seek to meet those goals through very traditional routes. I would urge all boys to resist the lure of the establishment and to expose themselves to the culture of the entrepreneur - to find environments where their minds can be sharpened by the responsibility of making decisions that have immediate and visible impact. Above all, to ensure that they enjoy themselves whatever they do.
10. If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
People wiser than me say that we should never meet our heroes in case we are disappointed and I am happy to go with that advice. I would like to meet my dear mum again though (she died when I was at university) if only so she could meet my family. I hope she would be proud.