50th Anniversary: Peter Casey Q&A

50 Aston Greats banner - Peter Casey

Peter Casey

Having graduated from Aston in 1979 with a BSc degree in Political Economics and Philosophy, Peter has established successful businesses in three different continents and was named by Irish America Magazine as one the leading Irish American businessmen for 2007. 

Peter is Founder and Executive Chairman of Claddagh Resources, a global recruitment and search business that places high level executives with some of the world’s largest and most influential consulting and IT firms. 

Having established business interests in Australia and Ireland, in 1995 Peter set up Claddagh Resources in Atlanta, USA where he is now based. Claddagh currently operates from six locations worldwide including their European base in Ireland. Clients have included Tata Consulting Services, Ernst & Young, Oracle, AVG Software, SAP and many other household names. 

How did you first become involved with Aston University?

Coming from Derry in Ireland, back in the 1970s, I had no idea where Birmingham was at the time.  My father was involved in education and did a bit of research for me - he was looking for universities he thought were up and coming and that I could get in to!  

Aston was a new technology university at the time following the Robbins report that had come out ten years earlier. Aston seemed to be progressing better than other universities and technology colleges that converted to universities at the time. I made Aston my first choice and I was delighted to get in.

What do you think are Aston’s greatest achievements?

Being able to transform from a technology college to a university and now as a university that people talk about. Aston has survived and thrived. If you look at the technology colleges that converted back in the 1960s, Aston stands out. I obviously wouldn’t have qualified to get into the Aston University of today, but I would certainly be recruiting Aston graduates!

What has your experience at Aston given you personally?

A lesson that I learnt early on in life at Aston was to get a mentor - someone who wants to invest in you, cares for you and has a personal interest. I scraped in with a gentlemen’s 2:2. No matter how hard I tried to do quantum mathematics and statistics, I just could not; it wasn’t my strength or my passion. But, I was doing very well in Political Economics and Philosophy because the lecturers were like mentors and they invested in me.  

Another lesson is one that I learnt from my girlfriend at the time that I think every entrepreneur should have as a message on their desk. Now the story behind it is probably one to save for when we meet in a bar, but the line is one that stays with me today, and that is: "You’d worry less about how other people think of you if you realised how seldom they do". And it’s so true and something that I remember that frees me and enables me to give things a go.

What is your fondest Aston memory?

Coming from Derry in the 1960s where there was so much trouble over religion, the energy and diversity of Birmingham blew me away. I don’t sleep a lot and the energy that I found there suited me. I founded the Irish Society with two other students which gave us a grant that enabled us to drink! When I left it was a society of about 200 members - we gave other students a temporary Irish identity and they became members of the Irish society and were then able to get into our events and parties.

What is the best advice you can give to today’s graduates?

From a young age I was fascinated by Philosophy. From about 13 I was reading things such as existentialism, which wasn’t normal at that age! In Derry at the time I was growing up in the midst of The Troubles where I lost two of my close friends and so I didn’t have any expectancy of longevity, so even to this day I still have the philosophy that every day could be your last... one day you will be right. I do have a longer term plan, but I do try to treat everybody that I meet with respect so that, if it is my last day, then they’ll say nice things about me!

I’d also say, find something you love, find your passion - if you find this, then it’s not work. Get a mentor, someone to support you and to bounce ideas off. If you find yourself looking at your watch then look for a new job. Be entrepreneurial, jump off the cliff - go for it. Be ethical, do the right thing, keep your energy high - in life discipline is the horse you ride. The key to being successful is finding something that is not work to you.