Ketan Dattani, alumnus, Environmental Biotechnology
Ketan heads up Buckingham Futures, a specialist consultancy supplying Environmental personnel across the Private and Public sectors on a nationwide basis
From an early age, I have had an avid interest in environmental matters. I feel that they are often overlooked and that humanity's entire life support system depends on the well-being of environmental factors. The Environmental Biology degree at LSBU encompassed the fundamental teachings of all of the above and much more.
LSBU a place that inspires
Everyone I encountered at LSBU inspired me in some way. All of my lecturers demonstrated expert knowledge and often included material not readily accessible in textbooks. The student community was incredibly diverse, comprising a vast range of identities, backgrounds and life experiences. We all supported each other in challenges both academic and otherwise, and as a result, I have made some lifelong friendships.
To make ends meet while I studied I had a weekend retail job, and often took on overtime depending on my availability. I always knew my timetable in advance so I would book weekends off before exams or before certain assignments.
I was lucky to find employment in a laboratory very quickly after graduation. However, it only took a few weeks for me to realise that working in a laboratory full time was nothing like I'd imagined. Rather than applying the analytical skills, I had learned at university, I was asked to undertake very basic, mundane, and repetitive tasks. A year later, I left that job and returned to education to pursue a Master’s in Environmental Planning and Management, I struggled to find a role within the environmental sector after this and so began my career in recruitment as a Locum Co-ordinator in 1998. I was promoted to Principal Medical Recruiter after 8 months.
In 2000 I moved to another recruitment business and help set up a new division placing Environmental Protection Officers within Pollution, Sustainability, Carbon Reduction, Landfill and, Air Quality roles. In 2007 I was head-hunted by another recruitment business and was offered the position of Head of Division. Then in 2013, I set up Buckingham Futures, a specialist consultancy supplying Environmental personnel across the Private and Public sectors on a nationwide basis.
Starting a business
My advice to anyone wanting to start their own business is to be resilient and stay focused. Be prepared for regular comments like “that’s not possible” or “that can’t be done”. These should be treated as a challenge rather than a deterrent.
Starting a business can be exhilarating, rewarding and fun, but also exhausting, relentless and stressful in equal measures. Just like any endeavour, taking advice from those who have already made mistakes and achieved their own successes despite setbacks is a sure fire way to minimise the risks of lessons being learnt the hard way. Plus, nothing beats the freedom of being your own boss and spending quality time with your family.
I started Buckingham Futures for personal and professional fulfilment. I love to accomplish goals and to feel as if I’m contributing to something important - an overarching vision for what I can create and am motivated by change, challenge, and diverse problems to solve.
Owning and running a business can be very stressful at times, but I never let this hold me back. If I feel particularly stressed I go to the gym, as for me it immediately reduces emotional intensity, clears my thoughts, and allows me to deal with any issues more calmly.
As a child, seeing my parents daily struggle as Ugandan refugees has contributed to my development and where I am today. My mother is a close friend and confidante, I rely on her judgement and approval to keep me grounded and maintain my self-esteem.
If I’m really honest I’ve spent most of my childhood years doubting myself. I really lacked confidence due to daily racist taunts and often violence as well. I found myself constantly looking for the approval of others, and desperately wanting to be accepted and fit in. As I reached adolescence, my fears manifested as a series of failures. My unshakeable belief in my ineptitude stopped me from truly trying to succeed. Unwittingly, I was conforming to a self-fulfilling prophecy I’d set for myself.
Today, I’m a very confident man who stands tall and is comfortable in his own skin. We all have our own vulnerable inner child that feels overwhelmed. But over time, I learned to embrace that inner child, acknowledge his fears, and then make a conscious choice not to get overwhelmed.
Giving back is important to me. I have been heavily involved with LSBU, from the hugely successful clearing campaign to talking about my experiences at an Open Day. Besides feeling good about yourself for doing something for others, giving back is also good for your physical health and greater personal empowerment.
I want to be remembered as somebody who made a difference. My advice to current students is to always strive to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and learn to thrive in that uneasiness. I am not afraid of new challenges, but sometimes I am a little afraid of the results of those challenges.
It’s 2019, and while the effort to adopt New Year’s resolutions shows a wonderful sense of positive intent, I personally feel a better alternative is to develop new goals on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis as it helps me to work toward them as a more gradual process rather than expecting to change immediately. For me, goals are a better plan than resolutions.