In the first of a series of personal profiles on members of our Corporate Board, we hear from Group Chief Executive, Simon Lebus, about hassle at airports, the best Szechuan Chinese food in Cambridge and why there’s never enough time to read.
1. When did you join Cambridge Assessment?
In 2002, which seems a long time ago now as there has been so much as change since.
2. What do you enjoy most about your job?
The large variety of both people and issues with which I have to deal keeps me on my toes! Also, the sense that we are generally contributing to the sum content of human happiness by supporting educational excellence around the world.
3. What single thing would most improve your life?
Fewer meetings and less hassle at airports!
4. What is your favourite restaurant?
In the centre of town, definitely Mr Tasty in Regent Street where they serve the best Szechuan Chinese food in Cambridge. I have also eaten with my family for many years at the Peking Restaurant, which used to be in Burleigh Street and has now re-located to Homerton Place, and which also serves excellent Szechuan Chinese cuisine.
5. What objects do you always carry with you?
My mobile phone, compass and wallet.
6. What is your favourite building and why?
The Triangle, not least because it is still at the concept stage! It should be a landmark building for everybody to see and enjoy when coming into Cambridge by train, and it should provide a great working environment.
7. What was your first job?
I was a shop assistant in a delicatessen in London, an experience that proved valuable when I ended up working in the food industry many years later.
8. How do you ensure you have a good work/life balance?
I have a triage system and try to classify tasks as belonging to four categories to be dealt with accordingly: important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important and neither important nor urgent. I also try to delegate as much as possible.
9. What achievement at Cambridge Assessment are you most proud of?
The fact that the organisation has successfully trebled in size since I joined 13 years ago and has stayed true to its mission in doing so. I also take pride in our consistently good record of making sure that we get the right results to our candidates in a timely fashion year after year to very high standards of accuracy. Given the scale and complexity of what we do, that is a great achievement.
10. What do you do to relax?
I eat Chinese food and listen to classical music.
11. What is the best gift you have ever received?
I've been lucky enough during my travels to receive many gifts and it would be invidious to single any of them out.
12. How do you like to keep fit?
Bicycling. As well as providing good exercise, it’s also a great way to get to and from work without getting stuck in the notorious Cambridge traffic.
13. What is your favourite book and why?
I am a voracious but undisciplined reader and normally have several books on the go at once; a habit that has become worse now that I have a Kindle and which also makes it very easy to abandon books half way through. I also find as I get older that I have less time for reading. All of this makes it difficult to choose a favourite book as there are many that've given me great pleasure. However, I do regularly read 12 in the whole sequence of Anthony Powell's 'Dance to the Music of Time’. A less high-minded and also enjoyable read is Simon Raven's 'Alms for Oblivion' series.
14. Where do you like to go on holiday and why?
As a family, we have been sailing in a gullet off the Lycian coast of Turkey four or five times which is an ideal holiday as there's nothing to do except swim, eat, read and look at ancient monuments. It’s the perfect way to relax.
15. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
My first trip to Asia was 12 years ago just after I started working for Cambridge Assessment and I now really regret not having gone there many years earlier.
Group Chief Executive, Cambridge Assessment