Reflections of a former academic

Reflections of a former academic

This week it is two years since I left academia. So, I thought it is the right time to reflect on the past year and the lessons I have learned.

As you probably know, I left my full time academic post in September 2013 in order to pursuit a life of freedom. This may sound improbable, since universities supposedly guard intellectual freedom. Unfortunately, my experience in European institutions taught me that you can exercise this freedom only within the tight limits of the brand under which you operate.

Since I am not the type to follow guidelines, obey orders, or comply to the dubious decisions of departmental hierarchies, I decided to create my own brand. For the past two year, I built a reputation online and in traditional media. I even wrote an ebook in an attempt to become better known to an entirely new public! Now I operate under my own banners. I am running two companies: 1) Startdoms (, a growth accelerator for startups, and 2) Ekonomia (, a growth accelerator for established businesses.

So, what changed in my life during this time? Some areas certainly changed radically, while others remained unaltered, as it is to be expected.

My main aim when I entered academia as well as the reason I left was Freedom. The freedom to define my own career, the freedom to follow my own program, the freedom to live in any country I want, the freedom to take care of my loved ones, the freedom to write what I want when I want it, the freedom to adhere to my own principles. Have I achieved all of the above? YES!

I am now in the position to make my own choices regarding my career. I have the luxury to chose my clients and let go of the ones I am not happy with. In fact, I do not even consider them clients. They are my partners in business. We move together towards a common goal and I am more than happy to help them achieve it. I am the one who helps them set the strategy of the company, keeps them accountable to our targets and makes sure there is always ample funding to keep the growth on an upward trajectory. They rely on me for my knowledge and I rely on them for the implementation.

I do not have to rely to just one customer, e.g. the university or the State for handouts. As I am creating multiple sources of income, if one of them does not work, I will always have the rest. This is not some neoliberal statement. It is the only way to survive during the digital revolution, where the means of production have changed and permanent employment is largely fictitious.

I am also in command of my time. If one day I feel bored, if one of my kids is sick, if I want to spend my time throwing rocks at the sea, I can do it. I can decrease or increase my working hours at will. I can work from the UK or from Greece. In fact, I am still spending 3-4 months a year abroad. I can spend my time on twitter (which I love) or on writing my next book. The impact on my income is minimal, if not existent.

While I was outside the ivory tower, I became aware also for grants I can use to get back into research. I may have not chosen to go down that route yet, but the potential is still there. I am currently looking for opportunities on a project I am interested in, innovation in business. As it happened in academia, I would not undertake such a commitment without adequate funding to cover for my time. Nothing changed there.

There are, of course, self constraints in the life I am constructing. The constraints stem from the principles I set according to which I have to work and live. Now that I am running my own organisation I have increased responsibilities towards customers, partners, volunteers and employees. I will not shy away from these responsibilities. In fact, I relish the opportunity to be a true leader in an organisation whose values I truly believe in. They give meaning to my life and guidance to the people I work with.

Although teaching is extremely important, altering the lives of the people around you in a hands-on manner feels much more rewarding. They acknowledge it in the most loving manner that could become more important than the financial rewards. It is also extremely fulfilling to feel appreciated for what you offer to the community. I realised that only recently when I was nominated and became a finalist for The Business Woman of the Year Award in Leicester!

As I am developing a ‘career’ in business, I cannot claim that I left my university career completely behind. In fact, I am using what I have learned almost on a daily basis. All the years I spent in servitude serve me well in the life I am trying to build. I will not babble about critical thinking and learning how to read and write. I had these skills after I finished my BA, if not before.

The first and most important skill is my knowledge of macroeconomics. I spent almost two decades in academia studying the history of macroeconomics. I have learned how to analyse and synthesise the big picture of politics and economics across time and space. I have delved into the study of the theory of macroeconomics and its significance in modern and ancient societies. And now I have the chance to implement this type knowledge. Businesses benefit from my perspective as I reconstruct for them the Big Picture within which they should be operating. I have the opportunity to breath new life into their Strategy and reform it through a global perspective. As I study an economic sector, I am able to analyse it in depth and position the company within it. Moreover, I can anticipate changes in governmental policies based on socioeconomic changes.

I also use my connections with universities across Europe. Over the years I developed excellent relationships with several institutions. Even though, initially, I thought I should sever my ties with academia, I found out that my collaboration with academics and administrators is both profitable and rewarding. I rely on existing relationships to further my aims and help even more people in the process. While I was making radical changes in my life, I noticed that there are pockets of innovation within academia that would be stifled without outside help. So, I turned my focus towards them. My relationship with the university certainly changed but my aims of furthering knowledge remain unaltered after all.

Last but not least, academia gave me some of the best lessons in personal growth. Throughout the years I have learned how to be patient and show exceptional tenacity in front of adversities. Let us not forget that the publication process is long, arduous and with uncertain results. Furthermore, the students taught me how to be more empathic and understand the needs of the people. This is an invaluable lesson in the life of the CEO, as the relationship with customers and partners should be neither cold nor distant. In addition, after I have witnessed the terrible management practices in academia, I made a conscientious effort never to repeat these mistakes. I trained myself to become an enlightened leader as opposed to ending up a petty manager. Whether I achieved it or not remains to be seen.

I am not sure anyone will be reading this reflective piece. In fact, I probably have written it for myself as well as for others. Just in case, you are looking into leaving academia for a better life, I hope you will find it helpful.

Economic historian and numismatic consultant

1 Comment

  1. I found this very motivating. I just left a comment on ‘What Jobs can you do with an Ancient History or Classics Degree?’ about how I need some direction of my next steps. Considering your own academic background, outlook and entrepreneurial achievements I feel as though we have a lot in common and I only wish I had known you whilst I was running my company!!! I need a bit of direction and am feeling slightly lost right now in which way I should go.

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