Business Profile: Former BYPY winner Anthony McCourt
Apr 23 2010 By Sonya Bell
In the latest in our series about previous winners of Birmingham Young Professional of the Year, Sonya Bell spoke to Anthony McCourt.
It’s January, there’s a thick layer of snow on the ground and while a long line of suits order cappuccinos and lattes in CafÈ Gusto in the Mailbox, Anthony McCourt is sipping a hot chocolate appreciatively. He seems content, happy with the direction his career is moving in, unaware that in little more than two months his employer, Birmingham Development Company (BDC), will fall into administration.
In 2008 Anthony made a lasting impression on Birmingham’s business community when aged just 25, he became the youngest winner of Birmingham Young Professional of the Year (BYPY).
At the time he was well on his way to a high-flying legal career as a solicitor with Wragge & Co but just a few months after winning the coveted title he decided he wanted to take his career in a different direction and after 13 weeks of interviews, introductions and deliberations, he joined BDC, the developers behind iconic projects such as The Mailbox and The Cube.
When asked about his role at BDC, he says without hesitation: “I love my job and I love what we do – changing places.
“It’s brilliant to be able to commute from Edgbaston each morning into the city centre and I love the fact that when I look out of my window at home I can see The Cube.”
Anthony, who is the youngest of five children, came to Birmingham in 2001 from Portadown in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. He arrived in Edgbaston, ready to look at the Birmingham University campus before checking out Liverpool later the same day, but he was so enamoured with Edgbaston that he failed to look any further.
“I’d flown over to England using my dad’s air-miles because we didn’t have much spare cash to pay for flights,” he says.
“I was supposed to be looking at Birmingham and Liverpool but I never got on the train to Liverpool because I had already decided Birmingham was more than good enough for me.
“I decided to go to Birmingham University without even seeing the city centre. I still love Edgbaston because it’s both urban and rural and it’s typical of many of Birmingham’s suburban gems.”
Most of Anthony’s peers had chosen to go to university in either Dublin or Belfast, but always ready for a challenge and determined to do things his own way, he wanted to study in England, so he moved to Birmingham alone.
“I had an interesting education,” he says, with a hint of lingering resentment.
“I failed the 11-plus and I didn’t just fail it, I got a D, the lowest grade possible. Some of my primary school teachers suggested I would be better off going into a trade.
“I’ll always remember those words because they stuck in my gut and as a result of the 11-plus a grammar school education was never open to me. I wasn’t smart enough to cut it.