Andrew McFetrich

Head of Recruitment Marketing & Outreach, Defra

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

It’s hard to isolate a single moment, but we used to have the most amazing family holidays in Canada. My mum was Canadian, so we’d go and stay with my grandparents for a month every year and it was the most amazing time. My dad used to work very long hours and my mum ran the house, so these were times that we would spend together, and we’d just have fun. We’d visit the same places and do similar things each year, but I guess there’s something there about how kids just want to spend time with the people they love rather than have expensive things.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

There are so many decisions we make every day that have huge implications for the rest of your life that, when you think about it, it can become overwhelming. I dropped out of uni and started my second year again, and when I was out I was working in a pub, doing about 80 hours a week. One night at about 3am my best mate phoned me (it was the 90’s) and asked if I wanted to go to Australia. I’d been saving up so figured “why not”. We spent a few months bumming around Indonesia and Australia and it was an absolute highlight in my life. So many small decisions had to converge to make that happen – the choice of uni, the random allocation into a halls of residence where I met my mate, the pub needing a barman, a course that uninspired me to drop out… All of those decisions could have been seen as inconsequential at the time but ended up shaping my life. Chance is a huge factor that we don’t think about enough.

3. What is a ted talk that changed your life?

It was a ted Interview, where Chris Anderson gets into more detail with one of the speakers. It was 5 years ago and I had just lost my mum after a very short illness, and I was going through an incredibly dark chapter. Grief is something that we will all experience and it seems that we are all woefully unprepared for what it will do to us. It can knock you to the floor and pin you there and one of the worst parts of it is you feel so utterly alone, despite how many people you have around you. The Ted Interview was with someone who had lost her wife and she describes grief in the most powerful way and it just floored me. She draws the comparison between grief and love and how we are powerless to stand up against either emotion and it really helped me make sense of something that just seemed senseless and cruel. (As an aside, I am always open to talk to anyone who is going through this as it’s brutally difficult).

4. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

I suppose it’s a reverse habit, but I’m in the middle of a breakup with Social Media at the moment. I used to love Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook, but lately they all just feel like a monumental waste of time and energy. I’ve noticed that I’m feeling calmer without the doom scrolling in my life, but like any breakup it’s complicated, messy and not always easy.

5. What do you think is true that most people think is false? What do you think is false, that most people think is true?

We aren’t in control of what happens to us, and that we have almost no free will at all. We’re the victims of our environment and our genes. The hustle that you showed to achieve everything is mostly down to luck rather than what you did. It’s actually an incredibly logical position and I can get frustrated that people can truly believe that they were able to weld the cosmos into achieving what they want. I get that this will be a very unpopular opinion on LinkedIn!

6. What is the number one thing you would recommend every person in the world to practice from now on in order to increase their happiness and wellbeing?

Forgiveness.

Specifically, giving people the benefit of the doubt. We all know that life can be hard and that everyone we know is likely to be struggling with something. If they’re short with you, or don’t reply to your text, just go easy on them. It’s easier said than done, especially if you’re short on confidence yourself, but if you can come up with a reason, any reason at all, as to why they might have done what they’ve done, then assume good intent. Hanlon’s Razor says “Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to ignorance” and it makes life a little bit more peaceful.

7. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

I think we’re on the cusp of huge changes in society and work that will make a lot of what we do today seem ridiculous to future generations. The best-case scenarios involve spending a lot less time at work (thanks to automation, quantum computing et al), We could even be witnessing the end of globalisation and a return to more of a regional world, so jumping on a plane to fly around the world could seem crazy. If the cost of synthetic meats continues to fall we could see wholesale changes in what we eat. (This is when ‘real’ meat is produced from a single cell of an animal). In theory, you could be eating Wild Mountain Gorilla steaks, Blue Whale sashimi, Panda Pho and it would have no impact on the actual animal population. It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying…

8. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

Not so much political, but I’ve always had an unwavering belief in fairness. There’s a fascinating thought experiment called the Veil of Ignorance. It goes that if you were behind a veil and were duty bound to organise society – distributing wealth, status, opportunity, characteristics etc – but didn’t know which role you would be allocated in that society, how would it look. I doubt most people would design a society that has as much inequality as we see today and would choose something where the baseline is a lot higher.

9. What would be the perfect gift that someone could buy you right now?

A couple of years ago I bought a record player and have been building up my vinyl collection. Yes, it’s hipster as hell, but the tactile experience of playing a record and focussing on the music is a real pleasure. So, the gift would be an original 1997 pressing of “Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” by Spiritualized. An amazing album.

10. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?

A picture of the Houses of Parliament. I was in London for work and I become such a tourist. I spent my 20’s with a northern chip on my shoulder about London-centricism and only recently realised what a cool city it is.

11. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

I am bereft of any practical skills whatsoever, so I’d be there trying to make post apocalyptic life worth living. There’s a book called Station 11 where a Shakespearean acting troupe travel the wasteland making the struggle to survive slightly more bearable. That would be me but with nob jokes instead of acting…

12. If you could witness one moment in history which one would it be and why?

I’d go back to when the pyramids were built so I could see how the aliens did it.

13. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?

Pretty recently, actually. I worked in the gambling industry and quickly realised what a monumental waste of professional energy it was. I learnt I really need a strong purpose for my work, and getting more people to play Bingo wasn’t it.

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Taking the piss. I tend not to take things too seriously. I’d probably be more successful if I furrowed my brow more, but I’m a firm believer in trying to enjoy ourselves whilst we’re here. It has definitely helped me build some relationships at work, though. There’s a great story that Kurt Vonnegut wrote about buying stamps about having fun in the mundane things. I’d love to think of myself as a pound shop Vonnegut….

15. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

Loads of times! If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. You figure out what your role is and how you maximise your impact, and you learn from those that know more than you.

16. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

I can’t stand awkward silences, so I’m that guy that starts chatting rubbish trying to get things going. You’ve got to know the people you’re working with so I tend to take the conversation away from just work. (I get this can be annoying for some people!)

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

The fact that our entire industry has the potential to be automated should worry every one of us. I don’t think it necessarily will happen in the next 10 years, but we’re sitting ducks when it does happen.

18. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

The mantra of “success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal” is yet to be proved untrue. Don’t get giddy when things are going well, and don’t give up when they’re not.

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

If you could pass one law, what would it be and why.

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

James Lord, TA Manager at Sage. Thoughtful guy and I’d like to see how many Bloomberg quotes he gets in….

Thank you to Andrew McFetrich or taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Andrew on LinkedIn

 

 

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