From Rockstar Dreams to People Lab: My Unconventional Career Journey

Emma Bridger

9 February 2024
I don’t know about you, but I never really had a grand career plan. I chose my A levels purely based on my O level performance (yep I am that old)…. It turned out that A level French was a big step up (i.e. it was tough), so a couple of weeks in I decided to swap to psychology, based purely on the fact that my good friend Alex said it was quite interesting! And so began my love of the subject. I then chose it for my degree based on nothing more than fact that I enjoyed it – but had no idea what I might end up doing with it.
Fast forward a few years, and on graduating in 1993, there were very few  jobs around – and I still had no idea as to what I wanted to do with my life. So I decided to go straight onto a master’s in psychology to delay the decision making bit. While studying I was approached by one of my lecturers to do some part time lecturing work. I’ll be honest, initially it was a couple of 6pm-9pm slots that no one else wanted to do! And in those days a Ph.D. wasn’t required, and so began my lecturing career…

But at the same time, I was also playing bass guitar in a band. Music has always been a passion of mine, so you can imagine my dilemma when I was finally offered my first full time lecturing position on the same day as a record deal! Much to my parents dismay I went for the record deal, knowing that I might never get another chance to do this… And it was everything you’d imagine it to be for a young woman living the indie rock dream with her best mates; we got to put out singles and an album, played Reading festival a couple of times – and got to tour with some really cools bands! But as the years went by, I wanted something else, I wanted to make use of all of my years of study and research…

So I called time on my music career, and without a firm plan I fell into my first corporate career. I took a temping position with an energy company, fully intending to get back into lecturing asap. But to my delight (and surprise!) I loved working in the corporate world. It was 1998 and I somehow ended up in the world of employee engagement and employee experience –albeit I didn’t know that’s what it was called then! My job involved helping the company to become a great place to work and I loved it. I had found something that I enjoyed, I was good at, and I believe the world needed.
I spent 10 years in-house in the corporate world, until frustration with the way companies treated their people pushed me to set up People Lab. And 15 years later I’m still here, loving the work I get to do and I’m ever grateful that my career ended up being the result of a series of happy accidents! I somehow managed to end up in the right place, despite not having a masterplan.

And I still love boring my kids with stories from my band days, but maybe I’ll save those for another time…

  • How did you end up doing what you do?
  • Was there a master plan or not?
  • And do you think you’re where you want to be right now?

I love hearing people’s stories on how they ended up with their job or career, so please feel free to share your story in the community feed