An exec at the $1.7 billion finance startup Revolut reveals how he escaped homelessness and landed a senior job in tech

  • Chad West, 28, grew up in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, sharing mattresses on the floor with his sister.
  • At the age of just 13 he was taken into care, where he was surrounded by people with alcoholism and drug addiction.
  • After working tirelessly to get into college and gain experience at top businesses, West eventually started a career in tech.
  • Today, he is director of communications for Revolut, the UK finance startup most recently valued at $1.7 billion.
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Business Insider: What was life like for you growing up?

Chad West: I was one of six kids raised by a single mother in Torry, among the most deprived areas of Aberdeen. I shared a bedroom with my sister, where we both slept on mattresses on the floor.

When I was 13, I was taken into care, where I stayed for three years. In Scotland, you qualify as an adult at 16, so at that age I was placed in homeless accommodation. I was suddenly surrounded by people much older than me, many of whom were suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism.

BI: How did school go for you?

West: I flunked my high-school exams, but, thanks to the help of an incredibly dedicated support worker, I enrolled at college to get the qualifications I needed to go to university.

I studied business administration at Robert Gordon University, in Aberdeen, partly because I couldn't afford to move further afield.

BI: How did you get your first break in tech?

West: I realized early on that you need something on your CV to make you stand out. I started taking whatever internships I could, paid or unpaid, just so I could get some names on there.

Then I saw a job ad for Rocket, the German tech VC firm, and I worked really hard to make myself stand out in the application. I wrote and printed out an entire interactive deck full of ideas for their PR strategy. I'm not sure I don't think I'd have got the job if I hadn't put in that extra effort.

BI: Have you ever felt alienated due to your background?

West: One time it really hit me. A colleague mentioned they were going on holiday with their family, and I knew everyone else at the table's parents were paying their rent while they were living in London. Meanwhile, I could just about afford to grab a drink after work.

I'm still yet to meet anyone in the UK tech scene, as far as I'm aware, from the same kind of deeply poor background.

BI: What advice would you give to someone from a similar background that wants to get into tech?

West: Don't look on your background as a weakness but as a strength. Reflect on what you have, be grateful, but use your will and determination to move forward.

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