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10 Minutes with… De Montfort University’s Regional Business Development Manager Rob Ricketts

You can’t step foot near the city of Leicester without hearing about its famous De Montfort University, and quite right, too. Maybe it’s the vibrant history it’s steeped in, Or perhaps it’s the bustling campus lifestyle that gives the university its rip roaring reputation. There is certainly one thing at the heart of it all - the students, who have chosen to call Leicester their home. We’re excited to catch up with Rob Ricketts, Regional Business Development Manager of the University, to bag an invite to his exclusive (imaginary) celebrity dinner party, discuss the inspiring world of business and to bust those DMU myths! We even get a snippet into one of his own experiences as a student…

What’s the biggest myth about DMU that you want to put straight?

Many people I meet seem to assume that a university is run completely differently to the private sector. That really isn’t the case. Before I started at DMU, I worked in the private sector with SMEs and mid-caps and things are remarkably similar. We still have income and profit targets, and like businesses, we have non-financial targets – metrics such as reputation, league tables, getting graduates into valuable roles locally, community engagement and customer satisfaction (our students and businesses collaborators!).

In our case, customer satisfaction and financial performance are laid bare publicly – this is a bit different to much of the private sector! We are impacted by Government policy which does lead to cycles of growth and stagnation, but this is of course also true for much of the private sector, too.

What’s one thing people don’t know about your company?

We hold a special place in the UK. We are the first and still the only UK university to hold the United Nations’ SDG (Sustainability Development Goals) Hub status. We’ve held this since 2018, which feeds into our curriculum, our research and our community initiatives.

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

We recently did a team exercise led by DMU Business School tutors called Lego Serious Play. Sounds different, and it is! Part of this was to pick an animal. I ended up with a chicken. The reason for this is that what I do (like many folk at DMU) is venturing into the unknown, so the question is always… what comes first? This normally leads into lots of chicken and egg conversations!

What’s inspiring you in the world of business right now?

The ways in which businesses can recruit talent and retain talent is changing. Finding and attracting new talent is now very challenging, which is leading businesses to look differently at how they upskill new recruits and existing colleagues. Universities can contribute here, by creating shorter courses that are more accessible and more flexible that appeal to different learners. Seeing our offer change, grow and adapt will be fascinating to watch. We have some new courses about to launch – do keep an eye out, you might be surprised what’s on offer.

Three celebs invited to your dinner party?

Trip-Hop pioneer Tricky, Audrey Hepburn and Eddie Izzard – for three very different reasons! I’m not sure if they’ll get on, but I have so many questions for each of them that I wouldn’t be bothered by that.

What are you most excited about at this time in your career?

At DMU we are putting an ambitious plan together to further our local impact. We educate a lot of local people, we place many graduates into local business and we have significant community impact through DMU Local. But we want to do more! As well as pushing these initiatives further, we want to bring a step change to our engagement with local businesses, not only by delivering new talent in the form of our graduates, but also in upskilling, reskilling and introducing new ways of working to help businesses be agile for change.

Which superpower would you want?

My role is all about trying new things. This means it’s mostly a process of failure! If I had the superpower to identify the winners at the start, I’d have time to get up to all sorts of other mischief, too.

What’s the most unbelievable fact about you?

When I was studying in France I ran out of money (that’s not unbelievable!). I got a job as a barman in a cocktail bar (slightly unbelievable!). We went on to win the South East competition for best cocktail bar and got the national finals in Paris. We were a long way from winning but I reckon we had the best time of any of the entrants (that may be why we were a long way from winning…).

Best piece of career advice you’ve received?

Find the best people in the ecosystem you work in and find out what they want to achieve. When you spot opportunities that can help them, share. When you find opportunities that will benefit both of you, lead.


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