Costa attended Truro School from 1999-2001 and now works as Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for the BSc Business programme at the University of Exeter in Penryn.
Did you enjoy your time at Truro School?
Coming to Truro School was no less than a life-changing experience. It was my first time living away from home, first time living in a foreign country, first taste of freedom as a boarder, first concert performance in the Chapel.
Our band (shout-out to Mike Reed CO01 – bass/vocals and Pete Green CO01 – drums/vocals), The Sound, tore the place apart and the crowd chanted our names for hours after the show. However, I suspect other people’s recollection of the event may vary.
Do you have any special or specific memories of your time at Truro school?
Truro School is a very special place, to me and to many. The fact that my best friends to this day are fellow boarders – Dave Paull CO01, Howard Shallard-Brown CO01 and Andrew, aka Mr Barnett (Geography Department at Truro School) is as strong a testimony to the School’s formative impact on my life.
I am supposed to presenting a professional image for the sake of my students so, I am afraid, I don’t remember bringing the beach to the boarding house courtyard on muck-up day. Nor do I recall having Dave Paull introduce himself as my ‘Dad’ to Mr Hardwick (Head of Maths at the time) at my first parents’ evening at the School. Or flooding the corridor above the Dining Hall by leaving the bath tap running and then going to watch TV in the Common Room.
I do however remember the breath-taking trip to the Cairngorms, which Mr Jack Triggs (TS Teacher 1980-2003) organised (shout-out to Bennet, Arthur and Kingsbury), and Mr Guy Dodd’s (TS Head 1993-2001) Current Affairs sessions.
Incidentally, Mr Dodd was instrumental for my coming to Truro School in the first place. I met him back in Sofia, Bulgaria in the distant 1999 as part of the George Soros Open Society assessment programme and he was on the interviewing panel, which offered me the scholarship.
Did you have any specific career dreams or aspirations?
My career path has been as winding as a Ludo board, and possibly as reliant on chance. Education is a big thing in Bulgaria, so my first step was to secure funding and get my degree. Here Mr Dodd opened doors once again. He connected me with the Adams Youth Trust, who offered me a merit scholarship to complete my undergraduate degree. I did this with the Open University part-time, so I could work and avoid having to secure a loan.
At the time I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to stay close to Cornwall. I had no idea what subject to choose, so went for the broadest degree possible: Politics, Philosophy and Economics. After this I did a postgraduate certificate in research (because… why not) and then started an MA in Human Resource Management because by then I was working in HR. This became another turning point, as Plymouth University (where I was doing the MA) invited me to apply for one of their funded PhD programmes and this is how I settled into business and management.
What did you do immediately after leaving Truro School?
Worked and studied – clearly living the ‘lifelong learning’ dream before it was a thing (and before the Government started considering the provision of loans for mature learners).
I finished my A Levels at Truro School in 2001. Bulgaria wasn’t part of the EU at the time so, to fulfil the requirements for my visa, I had to become self-employed. I set-up my own business which offered gardening and demolition services. Hard-hat by day and hardcore philosophy studies by night and at the weekend. Almost like Batman but without the looks, the gadgets, the charisma and… well, not like Batman at all. After I received my settled status, I worked in a digital IT consultancy, then for a number of Cornwall Council directorates.
Throughout all this I never gave on the dream of being a rockstar but this is starting to slip as I am about to turn 40.
Where do you live now?
I live in Camborne, in the Cornish mining heartlands.
Where do you work now and where is your employment based?
I joined the University of Exeter in 2018, where I am a programme director for BSc Business. I am based in the Business School, at the university’s Penryn campus.
What does your current role entail?
I look after the student experience, which is equal parts fulfilling, exciting and challenging. I teach on a number of undergraduate modules covering content on work, migration and the darker side of organisations: topics like bullying and harassment.
My role is also externally-facing and I have the pleasure of working with regional organisations on addressing skills-gaps in the so-called smart specialisation industries: space; agri-food; marine; health; digital technology.
I am completing a research project funded by the British Academy of Management, which looks at migrant experiences of work in the UK, pre-, during and post Brexit.
Is there anything that you are especially proud of relating to your life or career?
My parents taught me that a good life is one driven by duty and spent in service to others – society, but also my neighbours and my own family. I am proud of not letting this hunger for self-improvement and contribution subside. More than this, I am learning to be thankful for the presence of good people in my life and the opportunity to learn from them also.
Did you consider any other career?
I feel that I never actively chose academia – it very much chose me, while I was busy trying to figure out who I am.
Is there any advice you could offer anyone considering a similar life or career path?
Academia is a vocation. The PhD itself can be a relentless journey. Despite my passion for the subject and determination to cross the finish line, I almost gave up twice, the second time just before I submitted the thesis. My incredible supervisors – Professor Duncan Lewis and Professor Richard Saundry didn’t let me and were there to pick me up.
The PhD is a journey and like any journey it is full of surprises, wrong turns, coffee breaks and even road rage. Keeping the final destination in mind, enjoying the time on the ‘road’ and making time to meet and connect with others is what helps you stay sane.
Please tell us a little about your family life
I am a husband to Laura, who agreed to take a chance on me and marry me in 2005 and a dad to twins – George and Evie who are now 11 years old.
I am the embarrassing dad who rolls the window down and ‘sings’ (wanna-be rockstar, remember) to Spotify playlists as I do school drop-offs and pick-ups. I am sure my kids love it, especially when their friends are around. All good character building, I say.
What are your hobbies or how is your leisure time spent?
When you enter adulthood, work is your hobby, and there is no such thing as leisure. I do my best to ‘entertain’ my family (and neighbours!) with the odd song or two in the evening, and I keep my trusted acoustic guitar close by at all times. Just in case Metallica, or the Foo Fighters call. Heck, I’d even settle for that young chap, what’s his name? Ed Sheeran.
Are you still in touch with anyone from your time at Truro School?
Indeed I am and plan to continue to pester them!
Do you feel your time at School, or anything about your time here, helped you to progress in later life?
My time at Truro School shaped me as a person in every single way. It brought me in contact with incredible staff, who showed me what it meant to be a grown-up, to own your mistakes and be responsible for your actions. Some of them are sadly no longer with us, but I think of them often.
After I became a dad, my respect for house masters (Mr Austin and Mr Phillips among them) grew even more. It allowed me to meet incredible individuals – bright, confident and scholarly but also very real. They taught me what being, rather than seeming to be, meant in practice.
Many of my peers have gone on to achieve incredible things and I am proud to have been part of the same community.
What are your immediate or long-term plans for the future?
Apart from joining Metallica in the next few years, I hope to finish my Term 3 marking and to continue to be useful to others in some small way.