Career-Changer Series: From Tech Growth to Start-Up Co-Founder
As part of my ongoing Career-Changer series, I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Unplugged co-founder, Hector Hughes. Serendipitously, I kept hearing clients mention Unplugged in various different contexts, and I was intrigued as to how the business started. When I discovered it was co-founded by a couple of career changers, I reached out to Hector. He kindly agreed to answer the below questions, giving us an insight into where the idea came from, and what motivated him to step away from his previous career working in the tech sector.
These career changer interviews seek to share wisdom and advice from those who have taken the brave step of changing career, in the hope of inspiring, encouraging, and supporting those contemplating a career change to do the same.
1. What work were you doing before?
Before Unplugged, I was the Growth Lead at a hospitality tech startup. I was an early employee and helped the company grow to 70 people before we faltered and shrank again. As the growth person, I was not faultless for this...
2. How did you know a change was required?
I'd lost my joy for life. I had a gnawing dissatisfaction with my life up until that point. I knew I wanted more out of life but did not know what exactly. I addressed this by becoming busier and busier. I threw myself into socialising and activities, such as public speaking classes, but this only led to more dissatisfaction.
3. What helped you make the decision to finally do something about your situation?
In September 2019, at the recommendation of a friend, I went to a silent retreat in the Himalayas. It truly was life changing- I cared so much what people thought of me until that point, but it completely freed me of that concern. A week after returning to the UK, I quit my job to start Unplugged.
4. How did you go about deciding what you wanted to do next/instead? What helped you make that decision?
I've always been impulsive. All it took was a drink with my now-cofounder, Ben, during which I told him about the retreat, and he confessed to racking up 14 hours a day screen time. We decided there should be a way to switch off that didn't involve flying halfway around the world. Off the back of that, I spent three hours on a Friday night googling cabins, and made the decision to quit my job the following Monday.
5. What new career path have you chosen and why?
Ben and I launched Unplugged, a startup helping busy city folk switch off by providing beautiful cabins an hour from city life. We launched in July 2020 and now have 9 cabins just outside of London.
6. How are you going about or how did you go about changing careers? How are you, or how did you manage it financially?
I went full time from the start, but Ben kept working in the job he had at the time, and, very kindly, paid me a portion of his salary until he also came into the business full time. That money, coupled with some savings, saw me through. The financial pressure is probably the most gruelling part of starting something. The more that can be done to alleviate this, the better.
7. What’s been the hardest, most difficult, or unexpected thing you’ve encountered about changing career?
Probably the life changes required to facilitate it. I have always been a people pleaser, and prided myself on being there for friends, etc. Running Unplugged, I simply have not been there for many friends. There are tradeoffs that must be made.
8. What’s been the best part about changing career?
It's been incredibly empowering. We all tend to take life rather seriously, and I find making a change a good way of seeing through that. When a job is such a big part of your identity one minute, and the next you have nothing to do with it, that really changes your perspective.
9. What advice would you give to others considering a career change?
Do it. The first step is the hardest, but it's always so obvious in hindsight. You only have one life. Don't settle.
10. What support, help, or resources would you recommend?
If you're not happy, talk to people about how you're feeling - friends, family, etc. Being vulnerable about these things really helps.
If you’re considering a career change of your own, and Hector's story has inspired you to finally take action, get in touch to discuss how working with Alice could help you figure out what you want to do instead, and how you can make it a reality.
Nick, Finance (in his 40s)
Alice was positive and constructive throughout, and supported me very effectively by encouraging me to analyse and consider different career options. By the end, I had a much clearer and well-defined sense of what I wanted – and didn’t want – out of my career. I’d definitely recommend Alice to anyone looking for the same.