Robert Leigo
Alumni

Robert Leigo

Postgraduate Research Student

Undergraduate
Bachelor of Arts

Subject Area: Politics & International Relations / Philosophy
Current Position: CEO SelfPOS

Rob, tell us about your current role....

I run a tech startup called SelfPOS, and we work with NFC technology and fast food quick service restaurants and payment companies to basically allow consumers to walk in and tap their phone to order and pay at point of sale.

NFC technology??

Oh, that’s Near Field Communication. 'NFC is a short-range wireless technology. You are probably already using it when you tap your credit card to make a payment, or similar to your opal at the train station.'

What does your typical day look like?

Lots of coffee. Anything from communicating with clients, chasing potential new clients, working with our development team on how we are going to build particular technology. There will be some coding, some admin, there will be some running around, and meeting with people. I like to be in the office by 10 and try to get out by 7ish.

What is one thing you love about your job?

I love working with new technology that people aren’t playing with yet. A cool thing is when you get an amazing product that no one has seen or heard anything about, and it is in a consumer’s hand and we can say ‘we built that’.

What is it like to be your own boss?

It’s fun being your own boss! It’s daunting, but it’s fun. It’s great getting to meet interesting people doing interesting things and working across different industries as well.

Did you imagine this would be your career? What would a 17-year-old Rob think of what you are doing now?

I don’t think he would be surprised at all with where I am now and what I’m doing. I love what I’m doing. I think in our business if you don’t like what you are doing it is really hard to get up in the morning and come to work.

Why did you decide to do an Arts degree at UNSW?

I had originally planned to study Archaeology at another uni but a friend advised me that I should consider a degree that would help me to find a job. UNSW had the best undergraduate political science department in the country, so I picked UNSW.

What is your best memory from your Arts degree?

Well, this is my funniest memory, it is about my lecturer in our first year Politics class. I think it was a Tuesday morning and he wanted to talk to us about Machiavelli’s distinction between the lion and the fox. In that very dry, British humour kind of way, he brought in a fox stole that he wore around his neck for the whole lecture. It was the single funniest lecture I can remember.

How do you feel that your UNSW Arts degree shaped your career?

I did a lot of stuff at uni. I was on the Faculty Board for a while, I sat on some other boards, I was quite heavily involved in clubs and societies. Purely being able to talk to university administration and academics, without that experience I don’t think I could have done what I did. I always knew I wanted to do techy, entrepreneurial kinds of things. I was one of the people that used to go and read the degree outline and map out every subject for the next three years. I always thought politics and philosophy worked hand in hand so they were quite a good mix, along with economics.

What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW?

Realising that you really can do anything that you want to do. But the proviso is that you have to go and do it. In an Arts degree you get to follow ideas, activities and subjects that interest you, and no one is going to chase you up, and no one is going to say ‘why haven’t you done this?’ But you are given the skills and techniques in how to think for yourself and how to go out and actually achieve something.

What advice would you give to someone trying to decide if they should sign up for an Arts degree?

Build a degree that you can do something with, where you can gain practical skills that you can demonstrate to a potential employer, and skills that will also give you what you need to go into the career that you want. You will come out with a broad skill set and way of thinking. Sometimes lawyers tend to think a particular way, accountants tend to think a particular way, but Arts students are quite creative and think in many different ways. I think that multi-disciplinary thinking allows them to think across different types of problems to solve them. They have a different way of approaching life, and think more laterally.

Do you have any advice for current Arts & Social Sciences students?

Do everything that you can think of to get involved at uni. You may not know exactly what you want to do when you are in your first year, so use that time to go and try everything, get involved in stuff on campus, if someone offers you the opportunity to get involved in something, go and do it. You’re not going to lose anything out of it and you are probably going to gain a whole lot.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Seeing the last Steve Jobs keynote, that was pretty special. I’m also really pleased with some of our recent successes. We’ve been building up this technology, it came from a really simple idea and we worked hard on the tech, and about 12 months ago we got to show it at a high level meeting with one of the credit card companies. What was cool was that they said, ‘how the hell did you think of that?’

What's next for you?

For us the US market is pretty big so that will be interesting. I have three companies all at the same stage of growth which is keeping me very busy for the moment!

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