Each episode is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. In season 3 we talk to graduates about going back. But is it back to the beginning or back to the future? In this episode we meet 1980s Biology graduate Laurence Heron and chat nostalgic desire, evaluating life, and a series of chance events.
Laurence Heron is a business coach and mentor who is dedicated to helping Edinburgh businesses grow and prosper. Utilising 30 years successful experience within the corporate sector and running his own businesses worldwide he enjoys helping others achieve business excellence.
Whether it is returning home after graduation, returning to Edinburgh after adventures elsewhere, or just returning to a place that felt like the past but turned out to be the future, season 3 of Multi Story Edinburgh explores how going back is never life in reverse.
All opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Edinburgh.
Multi Story Edinburgh has been created and produced by the Alumni Relations team at the University of Edinburgh. If you are interested in telling your story, please get in touch and let's talk.
Music: Since When by Mise Darling from freemusicarchive.org
Artwork: Vector created by vectorjuice / Freepik
Voiceover 00:09 This is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. This is season three, back to the beginning or back to the future?
Laurence 00:22 I'm in a little office in South Gyle, which is on a number 22 bus route which is to the east of Edinburgh centre and near to the airport.
Voiceover 00:37 Laurence Heron. 1980's Biology graduate.
Laurence 00:41 I was brought up in a little town called Stranraer, on the southwest coast of Scotland, and I left at 17 to go to Edinburgh University and then went down to London for seven years. Then, Eastern Europe, just a couple of years after the wall had come down, and then across to Australia as a backpacker, except that I ended up staying 25 years, got married, had two kids, got divorced, got married again. And then went over to Boston, USA, spent about three years, also spent almost a year in China in Beijing, which was very interesting.
I've always regarded myself as a citizen of the world. I was quite heartbroken when Brexit occurred, because I enjoyed being part of the European community. I believe, wherever you rest your hat, that is home. So when I was in Australia, I felt Australian. When I was in Beijing, I felt kinship with the Chinese. And when I was in Boston, I am strived to be American.
When I was 17, I could not wait to get away to the big city, to Edinburgh, to university. Yeah, it was almost chalking marks down the wall. But I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder. And when I came back, I just felt, I just realised what a beautiful place that area was. It's very rural, and very quiet. And to Scotland in general, I felt an affinity with and a nostalgic desire to return.
I think I really do, I strongly feel I will settle now. I've been very fortunate - I've travelled to and visited a huge number of different countries around the world. And that's been a wonderful experience, for which I'm eternally grateful that I've had the opportunity to do that. And so I'm happy to slow down a little bit.
My career, in fact, involves travelling all the time. So when I was living in Australia, I was travelling internationally, about three weeks out of every four. So I used to joke I just came back to vacuum the carpets and go away again. Often fortunately, my wife was able to travel with me, so at least we were able to maintain our relationship. But I've always travelled a lot.
I guess, with the pandemic, it made me think, do I want to really continue doing that, because I actually came across to Scotland to set up the European operation for the company I was with, which is a medical technologies company. And-- and then shortly after I arrived, the pandemic broke. And I was suddenly left twiddling my thumbs to some extent, but it also gave me time to think and evaluate my life and ask myself if that is what I wanted to continue doing. Being in the corporate world is-- it can be very rewarding, as can-- running your own business can also be very rewarding. But there comes a time when you want to perhaps evaluate what the things are that really are important to you in life. And I decided during that thought process that perhaps I spent too much time building my career, and not enough time looking after myself. And that's what led me to change my mode of working.
What I'm doing at the moment is I spend my weekends in my local town area. And I during the week I work up in Edinburgh, and that's just naturally working well. I'm really enjoying it and I'm loving networking. I'm doing a lot of networking with different people, different small businesses and helping them to grow their businesses. So I really do want to help all of those entrepreneurs out there who have ideas and are trying to build their businesses and who might benefit from my experience. Because I really want Scotland as a nation to do well and prosper and the-- any part I can play in that.
When I was at school, Stranraer Academy, there kind of was the assumption that if you were going to go to university, you had it all worked out. And therefore you didn't need advice as to what you were going to do, because you were going to university. That's it. Great. So I wish I'd had some better advice at that age about, you know, thinking about what I really wanted to get out of life, what I wanted my pathway to be, what my values were, what would make me happy and fulfilled. And that's not to say I haven't had a great life, I really have a great life and career. But I may have done something differently if I really thought it through.
When I went to university, I had absolutely no idea why I was there, apart from to get a degree, quite honestly. And that actually made it quite difficult because it's difficult to stay motivated academically. If you don't really know why you're doing this study apart from to get a piece of paper at the end of it.
Almost my entire career has been based around a series of chance events. For example, when I went to London, I only went to London for the weekend to visit somebody I met on the BUNAC in North America, you know, the kids camps that you can do. And I'd hadn't been able to find a job in the mid 80s up in Edinburgh to do anything. And the person I was visiting said, 'Well, why don't you phone up British Telecom? They've got lots of part time jobs.' And they said, 'Yeah, can you start Monday', I said 'What? Don't you want to interview me?' - 'No, that's all right, just turn up'. So that was one chance event that started to guide my way, but not-- not through any great thought on my part, I have to confess.
Here's another chance event - set up my own company in Australia, because I had just left one company because I didn't feel the job suited me, called up a friend to say I've just left my job. And he said, 'amazing, so have I. I've actually just got the distribution rights for a product, shall we do it together?' I said 'Oh -alright'. Then after a month, my friend decided he couldn't stand not having a guaranteed income and expense account and went back to the corporate world and left me with the business which I ran for 10 years. So yeah, all chance really <laughs>.
We also ask our guests to tell us about place. Somewhere local, somewhere that kind of captures everything.
Truly tricky. I can't just give one answer, though. So the first answer is going to be The Grapes, which is an old traditional pub. The walls of the pub are still nicotine stained. There's nothing mo-- modern in it. It's just a wonderful community place for locals to meet and have a talk and drink together. But then the other thing I'd mention is the the wildlife and the-- I can walk outside from my cottage, I can just walk up into the hills. And I like wild camping actually. So I can go up there. Just straight out from my cottage, walk straight up into the hills and I can spend three days up there without meeting a single soul. So it's-- that's beautiful. It's beautiful.
Thank you for listening. Join us next time for another graduate and another story.