Darren Westall is the co-founder and CEO of Paiger, an all-in-one tool for 360 recruiters, focusing on personal branding, company branding, business development and candidate attraction.
By the age of 28, Darren had reached his ultimate career goal, becoming Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of global talent acquisition software company Broadbean. Though he had achieved this success, a feeling of emptiness and restlessness began to creep in for Darren, and an urge to pack it all in and launch his own tech start-up.
For PathFinders, we speak to him about his career path, his passion for technology, his views on AI in recruitment, as well as the catalyst that finally drove him to make that jump from a stable career to a start-up in a shed.
Talk to us about your education and early life.
Darren’s journey into the world of technology began with his love for gaming. He was an avid gamer and even hosted his own game servers. This passion for technology led him to explore the possibilities of modding games. However, traditional schooling and IT projects on Excel didn’t quite pique his interest. Darren emphasizes his “all or nothing” approach to learning, focusing intensely on subjects he found fascinating.
“I’m very much a person where if I find something interesting, I will excel at it.”
Like many, Darren found school to be a challenging time where he wasn’t entirely sure about his future. Career assessments suggested paths that didn’t align with his aspirations. A switch to a new school during secondary education complicated matters, but Darren knew he didn’t want to become a forklift truck driver.
After failing at IT college, Darren found his footing as a junior software developer at Broadbean. This role allowed him to dive deep into technology, and he voraciously consumed books about programming. He realized that his true passion lay in technology and building things that people use. He set a lofty career goal: to become the CTO of the company. It took him ten years of relentless effort, but he achieved it.
However, after reaching his career goal, Darren felt an emptiness. He realized that having a goal was essential in life. It was at this point that a video on LinkedIn served as a catalyst. It challenged him to consider leaving his job. The realization hit that he needed a new goal. Starting his own business became the logical next step, as it was a path to gain the commercial experience he lacked for a CEO role.
“I’m in control and I’m not looking for anyone else’s effing permission other than my own.”
Darren shares his thoughts on AI in the recruitment industry. While AI is a hot topic, he firmly believes that it won’t replace good recruiters. Recruitment, he emphasizes, is a people-to-people business. AI can drive efficiencies, making recruiters more productive, but it shouldn’t replace the essential human element.
Darren’s journey was not without challenges. He cites making tough decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the hardest moments in his life. It involved letting go of people who had added value to the business due to external circumstances beyond his control. Reflecting on his path, Darren has valuable advice for his teenage self. He encourages young individuals to chill out, enjoy life, and not worry too much about the distant future. Instead, they should focus on finding their passion and following it.
“The key is finding something you’re passionate about and then following your passion.”
Darren’s journey from a gamer with a passion for technology to a successful entrepreneur showcases the importance of having goals in life. His story reminds us that it’s crucial to adapt and change direction when the time is right. He encourages others to find their passion, work towards it, and not worry about what the future holds. In his case, embracing change led to the creation of Paiger and a new chapter in his career.
Every year, the month of October in the UK is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating Black History. It’s a time to reflect on the remarkable achievements and contributions of Black individuals throughout history.
In honour of Black History Month, we had the privilege of sitting down with Joyce Teifouet, a trainee solicitor at Morson Group, to discuss her background, her inspirations, and her perspective on the importance of this commemorative month.
A multicultural journey
Joyce’s journey is a unique blend of Cameroonian and French influences. She spent her early years in Cameroon, a country known for its cultural diversity. In Cameroon, communities are deeply rooted in various tribes, and Joyce proudly belongs to the Bamileke tribe. The Bamileke people are celebrated for their entrepreneurial spirit, tenacity, and courage. These qualities have left an indelible mark on Joyce’s character, making her ambitious and determined in her pursuits.
Joyce’s multicultural background also includes her proficiency in the French language. Growing up in a household where French was spoken, she has been able to maintain her French-speaking abilities, a skill that enriches her life and professional opportunities.
When asked about figures who inspire her, Joyce instantly thinks of Virgil Abloh. Virgil was a groundbreaking figure in the fashion industry, serving as the first black creative director for Louis Vuitton and the CEO of Off-White. His achievements in the predominantly exclusive world of high fashion serve as a testament to what’s possible with determination and vision.
What stands out to Joyce is not only Virgil’s accomplishments but also his desire to uplift others. He chose to share his knowledge by writing a book that imparts wisdom on how to start a fashion brand, especially for those with limited capital or industry knowledge. Joyce believes in the importance of opening doors for the generations that follow, and Virgil Abloh’s legacy encapsulates this spirit.
Stephanie Boyce is another influential figure who has left a deep impression on Joyce. Stephanie made history as the first black female president of the Law Society. Her achievement in the legal field is a powerful example of breaking barriers and paving the way for underrepresented individuals. For someone like Joyce, who is pursuing a career in law, Stephanie’s journey is a beacon of hope and a reminder that there’s always a place for those who dare to pursue their dreams.
Black History Month: A time for celebration and action
For Joyce, Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honour the great leaders and figures of the past and present. It’s an opportunity to recognize the activists and inspirational individuals who continue to make a difference in the world. But for her, celebration goes hand in hand with taking action.
Joyce actively participates in diversity and inclusion initiatives, including being a part of an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) panel that focuses on progressing in the legal field as a diverse employee. She believes that no matter where you are in your career, you can have a positive impact on someone’s life by sharing your experiences and insights.
“In life you always must open the door for others because there’s always a generation that’s coming after you. And that’s what resonates with me and that’s what I try to do in everything that I do in my life.”
Joyce Teifouet, Trainee Solicitor at Morson Group
Educating and accountability
Joyce believes that education and accountability are key to creating a more inclusive and equitable society. She encourages people to take the time to learn about different cultures, histories, and why they matter. One practical way to achieve this is by engaging with colleagues and getting to know their backgrounds and experiences.
For organisations, Joyce emphasizes the importance of tracking and quantifying diversity and inclusion efforts. Data-driven insights can provide a clear picture of where gaps and issues exist. By publishing this data and outlining future plans, organisations can hold themselves accountable and work towards meaningful change.
“Capture that data, see where it aligns with policy, see where it doesn’t. And I think to be accountable, publish that data and publish what you’re proposing to do in the future, to change, to act. That is the only way to close gaps, to resolve issues and to play a part is to act. You can only do that if it’s quantifiable.”
Joyce Teifouet, Trainee Solicitor at Morson Group
Joyce’s words reflect the essence of Black History Month. It’s a time for celebration, education, and action. As we look back on the achievements of remarkable individuals like Virgil Abloh and Stephanie Boyce, we’re reminded that progress is possible when we open doors for others and work together to create a more inclusive world. Black History Month is not just a time to reflect; it’s a call to action, an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of those who follow in our footsteps.
At Morson we’re placing inclusion at the heart of the conversation. True ED&I has real impact, not just on the lives of people from all walks of life, but in creating stronger cultures and broader empathy in workplaces across the country.
We understand the complexities and opportunities of widening participation and take our commitment to this very seriously. Our ED&I consultancy services are designed to help clients attract diverse talent into their organisation, improve/create inclusive cultures and help identify barriers to inclusion in the recruitment process.
Filling Carol Vorderman’s shoes on TV’s long-running Countdown would always be a big challenge, but for one Oxford graduate maths enthusiast, it proved to be a surprisingly natural, if unplanned, fit.
Rachel Riley had always been good with numbers from a young age, and after gaining a Master’s degree in maths from the prestigious Oxford University, in 2009 she took her first steps onto the sound stage at Channel 4 to become a household name.
In September 2023, Morson hosted its inaugural STEM Changemakers Summit at the Morson Maker Space at the University of Salford. A keynote speaker at the event, Rachel sat down with PathFinders to discuss the story of her life, her career, her aspirations for the future, how she’s using her platform on Channel 4’s long-running daytime game show to inspire and encourage girls into STEM, and much more.
Talk to us about your education and early life.
“I was good at school. I was good at maths from an early age, and I think the positive reinforcement encouraged me to do more maths and the more maths I did the better I got at it and the faster I succeeded. I went from school to doing maths, further maths and physics at A-level, then I got into Oxford University, having never met anyone who went to Oxford before. I studied maths and then studied for a Master’s for four years before getting my very strange job in television.
In the summer of 2008, I just finished doing the Master’s and I was looking into what I was going to do with my life. After that, I was applying for grad jobs all over the place, I was looking into doing a Master’s in concrete, and one of the random things I saw was an advert for Countdown to do the numbers game. I’d watched Countdown since I was a little kid, I had never been near a television studio but instead of the pages and reams of detail ‘when have you worked in a team and all sorts for normal jobs’ [usual job application process] Countdown wanted 50 words and a photo. I applied expecting never to hear back from them, they had 3,000 applications and interviewed 100 of us and took 6 of us up to the Leeds studio for a screen test. I got the job and I’ve been doing it for 15 years now.
Did you ever experience any discrimination as a woman in the world of STEM?
I was fortunate growing up that I never witnessed or came across the idea that girls and boys were different, one was better or worse than the other in maths and I think that really benefitted me not to have that idea implanted. I know now when trying to encourage girls and doing work with them in STEM that actually this idea gets implanted from the age of 6. And this has negative effects. I’m lucky that I never encountered that, I was at an all-girls school, I had a feminist, brilliant headmistress, and it wasn’t till I got to university and some boys had the idea they were better than girls. And it really confused me where they got this from as it’s something I’d never experienced in my life.
At Oxford, there were six of us studying maths. I was the only girl but the boys on the course didn’t treat me any differently, there was always one boy who would always make the tea when we did work together. And I think it’s more internal pressure that I put on myself I didn’t think I was good enough. I thought when I got the Oxford admission letter that it was wrong, and I remember crying before going back for my second term, with my first exams with some of the stuff I had done, because it was just so alien and so difficult. And then I actually got a prize on it and I think that’s probably more of a female trait, we don’t necessarily believe in ourselves, whereas a lot of the boys would give all the bravado say how brilliant they were and then not do as well. So that’s one thing I learned pretty quickly. But I’m really fortunate that with the group of people around me, there didn’t feel like any discrimination. And even though the girls were the minority, we obviously held our own, because we got there on our abilities.
Unfortunately, research shows that for a lot of young people, the girls, they can be put off from doing maths and science because they are told from a young age it’s not for them. The amount of times I’ve been told I’m not good at maths ‘I’ve got a creative brain’ ‘I don’t have a maths brain’. I think it’s time we just rubbish this notion that there’s something such as a maths brain, that doesn’t exist, anyone who finds the right way to approach a problem can do maths, they can get better if they want to and I think the stereotypes that science is for men and women prefer helping people, I think they need to be ditched, they need to be seen for what they are, and I think with a lot of reframing the way we change language, they way we pitch things. I think we can encourage more women and more girls into subjects they would really enjoy if they knew they could be suited for it and that there are fulfilling and profitable jobs.
What is it about STEM, particularly maths, that excites you?
I’m of the view that there are two types of mathematicians, there are people who like pure maths and people who like applied maths. The pure mathematicians love the beauty of an equation they love the patterns in numbers they admire and adore and wonder at patterns and all kinds of things. I’m an applied mathematician, I love getting into the meat of a puzzle and getting the answer, that’s the satisfaction I draw from maths and from science. There’s nothing better, for me, than getting a puzzle, finding it really difficult and then solving it and getting the answer out. That’s my satisfaction in maths and it’s different from the wonders and beauty of things.
Talk to us about your career on Countdown.
Quite often on Countdown I can tell it’s going to be a different one before I’ve started. But people ask me, how do you see the numbers? I do have a way of seeing it on Countdown that it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, and instead of working with base 10, I work with base 25 because with we have 25-100 as the big tiles. And I know what you must times the big numbers by to get close. And then the bits that you add on or take away to get the target are like the nubs or the holes in the jigsaw puzzle. And I just know what they are.
When I was applying for my job I got the Countdown puzzle books, I had a graduate job in the meantime I was only there about a month, but I bought these puzzle books so when I was commuting, I’d go up and down and you’d spot the patterns and spot how to solve certain things. I kind of did immersion therapy by playing the Countdown theme over and over while I was doing the puzzles because otherwise your brain kind of gets nerfed and even when the comedians come on and do 8 Out of 10 Cats now they get terrified when the clock comes on. I used to practice all of the time but now it’s just like riding a bike, and even having babies and being sleep deprived and being ill I can still do the numbers game, it’s just brain training it’s just what I can sort of do.
What would you like to see your two small children grow up to be?
I want two bring up my two little girls so that they can do absolutely anything they want to do, I don’t want them to have a notion that things are for girls or for boys. If they enjoy it they can go and do it. When I was a girl I played football, my three-year-old likes dancing so she’s following her father’s footsteps. But whatever she’s open to I hope she has the opportunity to try, she doesn’t have any notion it’s not for girls, it’s just for boys anything along those lines. That is banned in my house. It would be nice if she followed in my footsteps, she likes numbers so far which is a good thing, but careers are a long way off because they’re only one and three.”
Find out more about the Morson Changemakers STEM Summit here, andvisit our PathFinders hub for more inspirational stories.
Jessica Gagen made history in 2022 when she became the first redhead woman in history to be crowned Miss England in the annual beauty contest.
Aside from her exploits in the fashion and modelling world, Jess has the distinction of having a passion for STEM, receiving a BEng in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Liverpool in 2023. Encouraged into STEM from an early age by her toolmaker father, Jess was initially reluctant to pursue this route due to the perception of it being a male-dominated world, something that she’s keen to use her newfound platform to dispel.
In September 2023, Morson hosted its inaugural STEM Changemakers Summit at the Morson Maker Space at the University of Salford. A keynote speaker at the event, Jess sat down with PathFinders to discuss the story of her life, her career, her aspirations for the future, how she’s using her platform during the Miss World contest in December to inspire and encourage girls into STEM, and much more.
“I was very much into my STEM subjects at school and I picked STEM A-levels as well, but I was very conflicted as to what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a little bit of everything and potentially I could say I still fit within that category now. But my interest in engineering only really came to surface when I left school.
So when I was 19 or 20 I thought about different pathways and opportunities and my background before that had been in fashion modelling.
So I identified what I liked about that industry, being the variety and what subjects would encompass that and engineering was what I picked.
I was told from a young age that I would be good in engineering by my dad. My dad was a tool maker by trade so he always used to say ‘Jess you would be a good engineer’. It was years down the line until I was interested, I always had an interest in aerospace because he used to take me to airshows so every year I’d go to Southport airshow.
It later down the line when I decided I needed to do a subject which is going to give me a lot of different options. Which was going to be interesting, challenging, have a lot of variety and tick the same box as modelling, so, essentially working with different people every day on different projects and, and so aerospace engineering was subject to go for.
I was scouted for the Miss Lancashire competition. I was very apprehensive to begin with because I didn’t really know what the contest stood for and there was a lot of stereotypes surrounding it, which I hadn’t been educated about.
And when I got to learn that the contest was all about empowering women and standing up for a cause that, you’re genuinely passionate about.
I realised I could use that platform for change and I could potentially take that regionally or nationally. Now luckily enough because I’ve now won the national contest, I can take this internationally. I’ve got a platform where I can speak about engineering to young girls and diminish stereotypes surrounding the idea that femininity and engineering are mutually exclusive.
Jess Gagen on inspiring girls into STEM.
So that’s why I went back to then win the Miss England competition. That’s what it was about because I came second in my first year and I thought, I need to do this.
I was picked on when I was at school for having red hair. So then to win a national contest, which historically was based on beauty – not so much anymore but everybody connects those two ideas – it really was a fantastic moment because I really felt it resonated within the redhead community.
I had so many messages of support and so many messages from parents, and children who told me that they had been through the same things, which I’d gone through. So to be able to stand up and, represent us on a world stage. I mean, at the moment, unless they crown any new girls, I’m the only redhead that’s going to be in the Miss World contest this year so I am so immensely proud to get to represent England.
I think it’s really important to encourage young people into STEM careers because STEM is the future. Engineering is the backbone, I believe, of the country, and typically it takes a village. A lot of people, assume for me an aerospace engineer, oh, she builds aircraft. Although that might be the case in some instances, typically it’s an umbrella over a lot of different fields. So whether that’s chemistry, biology, obviously different types of science being physics, then subsections of those subjects as well. I mean we’re talking thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, material science. There are so many avenues to go down in engineering and I think it’s really important, even not focusing on a job profile as such but focusing on the skills that our young people can gain through studying STEM because they can lead them into many different avenues in different industries as a whole as well.
So my plan at the moment, is I’m going to put absolutely everything into my STEM campaign leading up to the Miss World final, which is going to be in December this year. I’ll be competing to potentially be the first aerospace engineer to win Miss World, so that would be really cool.
If was able to gain that platform because I think that would be fantastic for the world of STEM because it really would diminish stereotypes surrounding both STEM as an industry and also the beauty pageant industry. So I’m really hoping I can combine them both. But then aside from that, obviously there’s every chance that I won’t win that contest. And my passion is still within STEM.
I still plan to carry on working with schools, going into schools, advertising opportunities in STEM and different careers. And then because of my career, I have a very potentially ambitious dream. I’d love to work in TV and educate young kids about engineering through TV.
Aside from that, I’m interested in working in new technology, so we’ll see where that leads.”
Find out more about the Morson Changemakers STEM Summit here, andvisit our PathFinders hub for more inspirational stories.
Luke Ambler is the founder of the men’s suicide prevention charity ANDYSMANCLUB. They offer free-to-attend, peer-to-peer support groups across the United Kingdom and online, with the aim of ending the stigma surrounding men’s mental health.
For PathFinders, we spoke to Luke about the family tragedy that spurred him into action to set up Andy’s Man Club. From an idea borne out of grief, the club now has over 120 free support groups across the country, serving almost 3,000 men a week through 900+ volunteers.
Has mental health always been important to you?
My own personal journey with mental health started way before ANDYSMANCLUB. It started when my eight years old. Without going into a sob story, my parents separated, quite a normal thing to do for a lot of people. But my way of dealing with it was comfort eating and I put on a lot of weight and got big, had a bit of a hard time at school for it. I found rugby which was my crutch, a place where I could go and express myself.
Being a big kid in rugby helps. Mom ends up having a car crash which led to some brain damage, and she developed a mental illness, non-epileptic attack disorder which basically means mum will drop, she’ll fall, you name it, she’s done it.
They moved my mum to where she lives now in a little disabled bungalow., because otherwise she could fall down the stairs and die.
And a result of her illness she developed quite poor mental health, so she developed anxiety where she won’t leave her house for four years at one point just won’t leave on leave for the fear of people judging her having these falls, because it was so stigmatised then, even more so than it is now. That was difficult and the bouts of depression out of that. It was hard to manage and learn and understand it. As a young man, I probably didn’t understand or maybe didn’t believe it.
How did you come to found ANDYSMANCLUB?
On 5th April 2016, my brother-in-law, my partner’s little brother, died by suicide and it came completely out of the blue. Just to give you a backstory, we were out on the Sunday laughing and joking, talking about buying a house. He’d just got promoted at work or they were looking at a promotion at work, everything was going well in his life from what he’d had in the past, he’d completely changed his life around.
On the Sunday morning, he gets up to play football and then he goes to the Palladium with my missus, his daughter and the kids.
And then that night I meet him as I usually would, all of us around my mother in laws for Sunday dinner and then next morning he gets up, goes to work and then doesn’t come home that night. Next morning my mother-in-law gets a knock on the door by a policeman, to say that they’d found her son dead. I’m about to go to a rugby camp with my little boy Alfie, who was so tight with his uncle Andy.
My phone rang, it was my mother-in-law. I said hello and she just said, our Andrew’s dead. And I said, I’m on my way. I dropped Alfie off and shot up to the house. And I remember like it was yesterday, the atmosphere you could have cut with a knife.
Later I had to tell Alfie that his uncle Andy had gone up to heaven, and to hear the scream let out by a six-year-old boy will live with me forever. It absolutely crippled me and was the catalyst for this movement. No family should have to go through what this family’s going through.
Watch the video above to hear the full exclusive interview.
ANDYSMANCLUB has over 120 free support groups nationwide, running every Monday from 7PM except bank holidays. In these groups, men can open up about the storms affecting their lives in a safe, judgement-free and non-clinical environment. Our clubs are designed to be free of pressure, there is no obligation for men to speak, they can simply listen if they wish. Click here to learn more.