Forty-four-year-old Daniel Barber has had a colourful career journey. He left school in the UK without any qualifications, became the first non-graduate to work for first Ernst & Young and spent eight years trading at Lehman Brothers before moving into financial recruitment. Just as the 2008 financial crisis began to bite he emigrated to Australia with his wife, where the sudden scarcity of jobs forced him to set up his own recruitment company.
That’s more than the number of careers most people have their whole lives. But he wasn’t finished yet. Alongside the day job, he took an interest in a friend’s business, which gave him an insight into the solar industry. That interest led him to launch nu-tility in 2014, a company that creates sustainable energy solutions and recently attracted funding from investment group IIG. We chatted to him about his epic career journey.
How has your upbringing affected your professional life?
My mother was always a hard worker and had her own business. Because of that, even though I left school at 16 with no intention of further education I had big aspirations. I joined Ernst & Young but was too young to take it seriously and really appreciate the opportunity I had been given. But it did get me started on the right track.
Have you ever had a ‘eureka’ moment that changed your career?
I’ve often noticed that not many people out there really have much of an idea about what they’re doing! Which makes me feel like I can achieve great things.
What do you value most about your working life now?
When I was younger I loved the work-hard-play-hard culture of investment banking and recruitment. I enjoyed earning good money and spending it. Having kids [he has two daughters] has changed all that. Now my main priority is working out how I can juggle seeing my family with a crazy work schedule that takes me between Sydney, where I live, and Queensland, where nu-tility does much of its work.
I also really value how work can drive personal development. I always thought it was the other way around but the way you’re pushed to the limit running and growing a business really brings out your potential.
If you could go back 20 years what advice would you give yourself?
The reality is you must find your own way to truly learn. So, I would tell myself to embrace everything and just go with it.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’ve always been nice to people and it has always served me well.
Have you had any career low points and how have you overcome them?
Lots in the last few years! Getting the business to this point has been tough. I never thought it would be so hard. I’m not sure I’ve overcome them, rather found a way of living with them and working through them. I’ve often told myself to “dust yourself down, get back up and keep on fighting”. Not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel can be soul destroying, so taking it day-by-day really helped.
Who are your career role models and why?
I’ve had a couple of bosses who’ve inspired me at different times, but there’s no one in business I’d call a role model. What I do get inspiration from is hearing about people who’ve been successful against the odds.
What’s your ultimate goal?
To fulfil my potential. I want to create genuine change in the world for my daughters and look back proudly at what I’ve built.
If money was no object what would you buy?
Right now, a few weeks in Bora Bora sounds good.
What would your motto be?
Don’t let the sh*t get you down.
Ready to try something new? Read our guide to switching careers