Entrepreneur, innovator, and Managing Director explains how he founded and grew an award winning business since graduating from Bucks New University.
Name: Paul Schelhaas
Job Title: Founder and Managing Director of Sunstone Systems
Studied: BA (Hons) Film with English and Drama Production
Who do you work for, and what is your role?
I am the founder and Managing Director of Sunstone Systems, an industry leading HD CCTV security company based in Kent and across the South East.
What is involved in your day-to-day work?
Anything and everything from liaising with our engineers, taking new orders and enquiries regarding our surveillance equipment and software to visiting our existing clients on-site or pitching our products and services to companies, councils and even private sector companies. This week alone we have had meetings and conference calls with companies based in Kazakhstan and closer to home in Kent. We are in a period of significant growth as a business and it’s fantastic that our products are appealing to companies home and abroad.
What have been your main career achievements to date?
I was named in the IFSEC Top 40 Most influential People in Security recently. This list recognises pioneers in product development in our industry so it was a great honour to be named and even better for Sunstone as a business. Also, the company has been nominated twice at the national Security Excellence Awards (SME of the Year) two years running and we’ve been nominated finalists at the Kent Community Safety Awards for innovation in security. Further Awards Information.
How has your qualification from Bucks helped your career?
My qualification really helped me improve my ability to get in front of decision makers and present my ideas (and company) to a wide audience. At Bucks I learned how to present myself and really engage with an audience, which has been incredibly valuable to the business. Also, my time at university helped or trained me to think creatively about problems, using the available evidence to really build exciting products.
Upon reflection, what skills did your qualification give you that help in your job?
Gaining my degree helped me to be seen at interviews after leaving University, and whilst my vocation now represents a departure from my degree in terms of industry, being at Bucks New University provided me with the ideal grounding in terms of organisation, time management and presentation skills. Studying drama and being on the stage also really helped with my confidence around people, especially in presentation situations.
What advice would you give to a student who is about to graduate into your role/industry?
There are two key pieces of advice:
Be persistent – sometimes good ideas need a lot of work and to take them to market means you have to be very persistent and take knock backs as a challenge rather than a failure. Also, this approach helps you learn and adapt, which is incredibly important in business.
Hard work creates luck – this might seem obvious, but the harder you work at something the more you get your name, product or brand out there. Our best opportunities have always come from clients who have known about our work and trusted our products.
Are there any misconceptions about your role/industry that you would like to address?
That we’re just nerds or male dominated. It certainly isn’t like that at Sunstone, we are a young company with a mixed workforce which has lots of ideas and innovation. Our employees are the real drivers of the business, troubleshooting ideas, sharing problems and developing incredible solutions.
What advice would you pass on to your first year self?
I would probably go to less parties! In all seriousness though, I had a fantastic time at University and I probably wouldn’t change anything.
The only advice I have is to be yourself, put the work in and try to not lose sight of your ambitions. Sometimes getting a poor grade for an assignment can feel like the end of the world, but if you give yourself time and space to succeed then anything is possible.
Please tell us anything else about you, your time at Bucks, your industry or role that will be of interest.
Over the past 18 months, I have been working with a global oil company to develop a solar powered IP CCTV system, which can operate in harsh conditions (both very cold and very hot). This patent pending system is highly innovative and provides our customers with remote surveillance to secure their sites.
I would like to say my time at Bucks has really been a building block towards the success of this project, helping achieve something transformative in the industry.
A message from Bucks New University Alumni Service:
Thank you Paul for sharing your story with us, and congratulations on the numerous awards you and your company have received.
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