Three hundred and forty kilometers is a long distance. To put it into perspective, that’s just about the span of Switzerland from east to west. Nearly one-tenth the width of Australia. Or a one-way trip from Boston to New York City. It’s also how far EF Education First’s Group Finance Director, Steve, ran in just one race last year.
“Five years ago, I enjoyed nothing about running,” laughs Steve, who was inspired to start up the sport when he moved to Paris for a job in 2011. “I couldn’t play football anymore because of my travel schedule, so I picked up a pair of runners.”
Two years later Steve ran his first marathon. Soon after, those 42-kilometer (or 26.2-mile) races would become a fraction of what he could achieve. Today, Steve is what’s known as an ultra-marathon runner, and he’s participated in some of the biggest races throughout Europe and around the world. It’s totally normal to find Steve running 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) in one shot. On an easy day, he blazes through rugged Alpine trails for fun.
For all he’s accomplished so far, Steve remains a very humble guy. In fact, asking him to talk about his achievements is almost impossible. Whether he’s focused on his goals as an EF team leader or as a competitive long-distance runner, he’s never one to boast. Maybe it has something to do with his upbringing in a small, Australian farm town—to which he credits his perpetually laid-back attitude. Or maybe it has something to do with a personal philosophy he’s come to apply in the office and on the trails.
“I’m not a person who looks back and celebrates,” says Steve. “I believe in looking forward rather than looking back.” It’s this attitude that has guided him from his early runs in the City of Light to mastering the trails of Lucerne, Switzerland, and from his beginnings in agricultural finance to leadership roles at large, multinational companies.
Before heading up the EF Educational Tours finance team in our Lucerne headquarters, Steve established what he describes as a “solid career path,” consulting for organizations including PwC, Toronto’s Ministry of Health, and Constellium. His career served as a means for him to settle down in some of the world’s greatest cities, from Sydney to Zurich—a much-appreciated opportunity for the self-described “horrible traveler.”
“Finance has been an avenue for security and travel,” says Steve, who confesses that he’s much better at exploring places as a resident than as a tourist. After dwelling in Lucerne for the last three-and-a-half years, he admits that this city, as well as EF, holds a special place in his heart.
Steve heard about EF from a former colleague, and he was hooked from the first interview. “From the people I met in that interview process, I just got the feeling that it was the right move,” he says.
Since joining EF, he’s established himself as a global leader, partnering with divisions and teams around the world to make crucial financial decisions that impact the future of EF. It’s a big, stressful job, but Steve tackles it with constant cool-under-pressure composure.
“The challenges are many,” says Steve, who believes managing across a company as large as EF requires a strong understanding the organization’s many evolving functions and building key stakeholder relationships. “But as cliché as it might sound, I believe the rewards are the challenges themselves.” He explains, “Learning to adapt and evolve with the various finance and business teams across the United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, China, and Canada has been hugely rewarding.”
Every day that Steve walks into EF is like crossing a starting line all over again, and for this ultra-marathoner, that’s a good thing. Knowing that there’s always something new and interesting to deliver is what keeps him going. “It’s the continuous opportunities you receive here that keep your EF career on track,” says Steve. “If you’re willing to take on the challenges put in front of you, then those opportunities will always find their way to you.”