Business Insurance

Interview Series for Business Students: Q&A with Henry Pattinson from University of Sussex

Education is one of the most influential factors in determining a young person's future, and we want to share experiences of the up-and-coming generation of professionals. Our team at NimbleFins is conducting a series of Q&A interviews featuring top students at different universities across the UK. This interview is with Henry Pattinson, who is studying Economics and Politics at the University of Sussex.

Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.

Back in 2019 before the world turned into chaos, when borders were open and free, and toilet roll wasn’t worth its weight in gold, me and two amigos took part in the mother of all adventures – The Mongol Rally.

What are the rules? Find a 1L banger and get it to Mongolia…and back, as you do…This adventure saw us traverse 10,000 miles through Europe, across the Caspian Sea and over the Pamir (the tallest) highway into the Far East!

Our courageous little Vauxhall Agila could never have dreamt of traversing 21 countries from Sussex to Siberia and returning in one piece.

What has your experience been like at the University of Sussex?

Before studying I found myself stagnating, University was the opportunity I needed to grow! With an open mind and a drive to put myself out there, I fully embraced the University experience, forming lifelong relationships, taking part in various sports societies and setting up my own business. For me, University has been an all-round experience from answering my curiosity related to course modules to developing my skill set and confidence.

What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose the University of Sussex?

It was largely luck that placed me at Sussex, but after 3 years of studying here, I have never been happier! Initially, I was sceptical of Uni due to the cost of tuition, but the personal growth I have experienced as a result has made it worth the investment.

What influenced you to pursue the BA Economics and Politics degree course?

I wanted to study a well-rounded and topical degree which opened many doors into a variety of careers.

What has your experience been like with the programme? What did you find especially valuable about your degree course?

Being exposed to different ideas and opinions allowed me to develop my critical analysis of topics.

What was your favourite class/module and why?

Environmental Economics has been especially interesting as it teaches you to apply innovative policies for correcting pollution. This is a topical subject this century as we learn how our actions influence the climate around us. It is important to be mindful of ways in which we can seek to correct the negative impact we have on our natural world.

What has been most challenging about studying BA Economics and Politics? Is there anything you wish you had known ahead of time?

Developing my in-depth research and analytical skills to form a robust argument.

Have you participated in any relevant internships? If so, where were they and can you tell us about your experience?

I created my own entertainment business geared towards providing Covid-safe Drive-In Cinema and Live Music events. It has been an incredibly useful and fulfilling experience building a business in a pandemic. The process has been character building, I have needed to be extremely adaptable under pressure. Within these uncertain times it has been especially interesting to forecast consumer behaviour and form strategy accordingly. Overall, the experiences, contacts and confidence I have gained so far from this journey will propel me forward.

What are your future career plans and aspirations?

I will continue to pursue the events business by providing Covid-safe entertainment for the new normal. Eventually post-Covid, we will aim to diversify into larger scale events like festivals, whilst creating a variety of entertainment showcasing the arts. Given our resilience during a pandemic, we believe in time we are capable of this.

What do you think are the challenges that young entrepreneurs face?

Getting used to failure and seeing it as an important part of the developmental process, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, having standards but not being too hard on yourself considering the peaks and troughs of the journey.

Have you overcome any challenges as an entrepreneur yourself? If so, can you give us an example?

There are many instances of challenges I have faced within the last few months related to setting up a business during a pandemic, but the story that stands out the most (among many) was on my travels during the Mongol Rally last year.

We had arrived at the Kazakh-Russia border heading towards Ulan Bataar, Mongolia. After being delayed getting through Europe and the Middle East, meant we had two weeks to get across Mongolia and back through Russia and return to Europe, all before our visa expired.

A long way from home and with the looming pressure of the Russian visa violation, we knew it would be a race against time! Within a few hours of arriving in Russia I burst two tyres with one pot hole…not a good start. After a long, dusty but seemingly successful journey across the awe-inspiring Mongolian Steppe, we were 100kms out from Ulan Bataar (the original end point of the Rally). It all seemed a little too easy. Things can go from great to very bad quickly on a trip like this. Next thing we knew it, we had broken down in the middle of nowhere as a storm came in. The coolant pump had sheared off, meaning the engine was overheating, we rushed to pour all the water we had left into the car. Just as all the water had evaporated before our very eyes, it hit me - we were stuck in the middle of nowhere at night, in a storm, a long way from home and unable to speak the local tongue.

We quickly divided up tasks, Will to see if the car could be repaired and me to hail down help. After 1.5 hours of failing to communicate in Russian/Mongolian and the realisation the car could not be fixed without adequate tools, we were in a bad spot. Finally, I managed to persuade some kind locals to help us - two unassuming Mongolian women who happened to be passing by. One of them checked the car over and then produced a handbag that resembled a fully-fledged toolkit. They proceeded to tow us for 4 hours to a garage in Ulan Bataar.

With the car fixed we entered into Russia to arrive at the finish line in Ulan Ude. From there we had 5 days to cross 5,500kms to the Russian-Latvian border. Driving round the clock as a team we reached the border in time with the added bonus of a pitstop in Moscow.

What is the best entrepreneurship advice you have received?

Where there are problems, there are solutions to match.

What advice would you give someone interested in your study programme or the University of Sussex?

The University experience is all encompassing, if you put yourself out there you will develop hugely as a person, socially and intellectually. More importantly, it broadens your horizons to the availability of opportunities out there, by meeting new people and sharing ideas.

Do you have any favourite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in your field of study?

Do your all the reading on offer, I know it’s a pain, but I promise you, your seminars will be so much more enlightening!

Anything else you’d like to share?

As Covid-19 causes so much disruption to the normal functioning of society, it will be very interesting to see the new trends that emerge.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.