International clients often express surprise and admiration at the extent of Ian Pretty's knowledge of their country's political system and culture, which he acknowledges was inspired during his student days at Lancaster University.
As global Head of tax and welfare for Capgemini – the French-based international consultancy, technology and outsourcing company with revenues of over €9 billion per year – Ian finds himself calling on this kind of insight on a regular basis, since his responsibility is to expand business in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Rarely a week passes without him taking a plane away from the UK.
"Even now I impress clients around the globe when I talk about their political systems and current political climate," he says. "In my job, you have to adjust to different cultures and think on your feet. That can be traced back to my days at Lancaster University.
"The teaching was part of it, but also the chance to acquire knowledge, the environment and the involvement in the Students' Union, that gave me such a good set of skills, that had an impact for the rest of my life."
He chose to come to Lancaster because of the strength of the Political Science department. He came straight from school, having lived in a politically-active family in a the Midlands town of Lichfield.
Having overcome his shock at the climate of North West England and adapted to looking after himself, he soon became immersed in his studies, taking particular delight in courses in French and German history and in comparative politics. These he says continue to help him understand why current foreign clients work in the way they do.
Following his graduation, he did an MA in American History at Manchester University, before becoming a civil servant. At the Inland Revenue, he trained to become a Tax Inspector and had the opportunity for further study at Imperial College, London where he graduated with an MBA.
During his time in the Civil Service he spent two years, on secondment to the Cabinet Office from 1998, at the start of the Blair government, which he describes as an 'interesting experience, but one he did not regret' because he was working at a time when Labour was new to office (having been in opposition for nearly two decades) and because it provided him with an opportunity to work with a number of Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and 10 Downing Street.
He joined Capgemini in 2006, and finds the job continues to call on a range of different skills from one moment to another, in a way he finds very exciting. He finds himself relying on skills developed at Lancaster University of balancing a range of different demands, all at the same time.
"I owe Lancaster University a lot," he admits."It gave me knowledge and skills in structured thinking. It helped to me to learn how to analyse quickly and gave me perspectives I had never thought about before. These are all assets I am still using now."