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Escaping the office to become an entrepreneur

Julian used his tech skills to set up on his own

By Peter Riegler

According to Investopedia, an entrepreneur is defined as “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards”.

Yet to describe Julian Li as merely as an entrepreneur feels like a big part of his story is being left out. After all, leaving mainland China at such a tender age, Li quickly found that hard work, correctly applied, would help him achieve his life goals.

Despite all of his achievements so far, Julian is only getting started and escaping the office to start life as an entrepreneur was a nudge towards even greater possibilities.

“One day I want to be the CEO of a major company,” he told me when we met earlier this year. “If I can build my business up to a certain point and sell it, then I can use the capital to fund my next venture.”

Always thinking ahead. Just like he was when, aged only 21, Julian left Jiangsu to study in a UK university to receive a solid education and realise his family’s educational aspirations.

The culture was different, the food bland and the weather difficult to deal with, but Julian recalls many positive experiences from uni life.

“Everyone was very friendly and welcoming,” he said. “It helped that there were quite a few students over from China so we had other people to talk to – people with things in common. We all cooked together and chatted about life in China, our upbringing and whereabouts we were from.”

After securing a visa, post-studies, Julian was able to get a job in an IT firm and put his computer programming degree to good use immediately. Jon Fleck, a colleague at the company, remembers a nervous, shy young man coming into the working environment and gradually getting to grips with all that was going on.

“It’s fair to say it was a shock for him,” agreed Fleck. “Coming from another country, studying in England and getting used to things from an educational perpective is one thing, but going in to the working world was entirely different.”

While the office banter and some aspects of working culture were hard to grasp at first, Julian soon settled in.

“He became part of the team and we could see his talent straight away,” added Fleck. “His skills with coding and problem solving were excellent. That was clear to see.”

Working Monday to Friday, 9-5, was suiting Julian Li but the straightforward nature of the work might have stifled his innate creativity if he had allowed it. Always seeking out new problems to solve, Li worked on various projects in the evening and at weekends.

“One of the bosses asked me to code a new website for him and I did it in a couple of days,” said Li. “It looked great and he was really happy so he told his friend who ran a high-end fashion store and the next thing I was improving their site too.

“They paid me really good money but more importantly I enjoyed the work. It felt good creating something and adding a touch of flair to these boring sites, as well as greater usability.”

Being an entrepreneur means working for myself, learning new things every day and being responsible for my own success

Julian Li

Just a year in to office life and Julian was already getting itchy feet. Beginning to think more and more about his future and the type of legacy he wanted to create, he worked with a coach to help design his pathway.

“Getting a coach or a therapist isn’t something I would’ve considered before, but I was given a number of a guy who specialised in career guidance and money coaching so I gave him a call.

“It was a great decision from the start. He made me think about the bigger picture and what I wanted to do with my life, what made me happy. Our conversations shaped a lot of decisions for me.”

Helping Julian with investment options, as well as designing a clear route to personal success, the coach’s impact is already being felt. Starting in China, ending who knpws where? Julian is one step closer to his dream of owning a running his own business.

“I’m already happy with where I’m at but becoming a full-time entrepreneur is my next goal,” said Li. “After all, there is no risk without reward.”

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