Less than two years into his career, this week’s guest was on his way to being one of dentistry’s finest.
But Tom Youngs had other callings.
At age 28, he left dentistry to pursue ski instruction and life as an unpaid intern in tech startups.
Tom now works as a website analyst while developing his own online sustainable beauty business. He shares his story, regrets, wins and words of wisdom for anyone who’s ever wondered if there is life after dentistry.
“I kind of was like, okay, I’d like to go onto the next thing.” – Tom Youngs
In This Episode
03.31 – Two degrees
07.48 – Into VT and ‘underground’ dentistry
13.38 – Aspiration and achievement
19.29 – The move from clinical
37.52 – Time for reflection
42.22 – Entrepreneurialism
48.39 – Regrets
53.53 – A day in the life
57.20 – Last day and legacy
About Tom Youngs
Former biomedical scientist Tom Youngs spent two years in dentistry before moving into tech entrepreneurship.
He now works in eCommerce and is developing Vyable Beauty – an online sustainable beauty products retailer.
He runs a successful YouTube channel and writes a monthly newsletter at www.tomyoungs.co.
Tom: … experience. Experience this world. This world is an incredibly beautiful and rich piece of rock in this universe. You have the opportunity you’ve been given to be a part of this existence, don’t waste it. Experience as much as you can. Experience it with as many people as you can. Don’t feel like you’re trapped in a bubble. Get outside your bubble and live a rich, fully experienced life.
Intro Voice: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts; Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Tom: Langroudi, Prav, man. How’s it going, mate? Good to be here.
Prav: I’m good, mate. How are you, Tom? You okay?
Tom: Oh mate, I’m stunning. Absolutely, so privileged to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. And it’s yeah, I’m actually buzzing to have a chat and speak to you boys.
Tom: How are you doing, mate? And congratulations on your weight loss, by the way.
Prav: Oh, thank you. Thank you, mate.
Payman: He’s in the middle of a 21-day fast right now.
Tom: Oh, fuck.
Payman: But I didn’t really realise, Prav-
Tom: Are you actually serious? How many days are you on?
Prav: Well, my day nine now.
Tom: Oh mate.
Payman: When you called me, Prav, when you called me and said, “Are you in a restaurant?” I forgot you were bloody fasting.
Prav: Makes no difference, mate. Makes absolutely no difference at this stage.
Tom: Oh my God, are you all right? Pay, do we have to be a bit worried that he’s going to throw a brick through our screens at some point?
Prav: No, mate. I haven’t gotten the hungries or anything, mate. I’m absolutely fine.
Tom: Mate, fair play. That is incredible. Yeah. Definitely some-
Payman: You know what, Prav? You know what happened yesterday? I gave Alex his breakfast, quite a big breakfast, yeah?
Tom: Of course, of course.
Payman: Two eggs, smoked salmon, the whole thing. And then he was going to school at one o’clock and he goes, “Should I eat again?” I said, “What do you mean? Just had a massive breakfast.” He goes, “Yeah, but I’m not going to eat till six.” I said, “Think about Prav.” And he looked at me and went, “Yeah.” [inaudible 00:02:10]. Is there a life after dentistry? I’ve got the great pleasure of inviting Tom Youngs onto the podcast. I go back a long way with Tom. I remember him … Was it pre-qualifying, Tom?
Tom: Do you know what? I actually think it was just after qualifying, just after qualifying. Obviously, I was very aware and familiar with you, but yeah, I think we only met right just after qualifying.
Payman: Yeah. So the question’s been coming up a lot in dental circles about if you do leave dentistry, what’s life like afterwards, does your dental degree get you anywhere? And I’m sure we’ll get to it, but Tom’s story is an interesting one because from my perspective, a super engaged dentist. I mean, someone had a fantastic future ahead of him in dentistry. I think you designed your own instruments. He was very, very into dentistry.
Payman: We went to AACD together in America, but then decided to leave and pursue other things. And so traditionally people would think maybe people who leave dentistry just hate teeth, but that certainly wasn’t Tom’s situation. So it;s really good to have you. Tom, give us the backstory first. I mean, dentistry was your second degree, wasn’t it?
Tom: It was my second degree. Firstly, I would just like to say it’s an absolute privilege to speak to you guys. I’ve known you for probably like five or six years. No, it is probably longer than that now. About seven years. I’ve travelled all over the world with you. I’ve got to know you extremely closely. I look towards you as probably definitely somewhat as a mentor. And I know we’ll dig into this a little bit, but probably one of my main inspirations for actually making that leap out of clinical work. So yeah-
Payman: Oh blood hell.
Tom: … preface that by saying it’s a privilege for me to be here. And I’m really looking forward to digging into some stuff and talking about kind of the backstory behind things. But I think the phrase that you were looking for, you were digging around for it. But I think if you asked my friends that knew me from dentistry, they would call me a turbo dog when it came to dentistry. I was absolutely, as a lot of the guys that have been on this podcast have been as well, complete insane … Passion isn’t even a word. It’s like an obsession, is the word. And I was there, and I was for a few years, I was seeing the crystals of enamel as being the only thing that was the light at the end of the tunnel, which now I’ve kind of had the opportunity to take a step away from things. It seems like there’s more to life than enamel, which is kind of crazy.
Payman: When you did your first degree, what made you then choose to do dentistry? What was your first degree?
Tom: So yes, my first degree, probably similar to a lot of people … Or maybe not a lot of people actually, as post-grad dentistry is now kind of difficult in this country, to get into, but it was biomedical sciences. So probably best to start from a scratch. I went into dentistry originally because my parents were both medics. They were both in the medical profession and I grew up knowing medicine as the only thing, as probably a lot of people can relate to, like the only career path possible. There was nothing out there apart from obviously you wanted to be a professional footballer until the age of six. And when I realised I just had absolutely no talent, realised that, okay, my dad seems to have a good job. My mom seems to have a good job. They both seem really happy. They’re able to provide a really fantastic life for myself and my siblings. And I was like yeah, mad keen on being a surgeon as my dad was.
Tom: So initially, my path towards that was actually to do medicine. And I did my GCSCs, did absolutely shite. There was no opportunity to get into medicine, first off. So went into biomedical sciences. And during the process doing biomed in Dundee in Scotland, my dad was like, “Look, I don’t know if medicine is the right path for you to go down.”
Tom: All of my dentist mates, who had a few dentists mates, seemed to have a better lifestyle, much more balanced, less stressful, which is kind of ironic as I expect we’ll talk about that. I think both medics and dentists look at each other and they think, “Oh my God, you guys have got the most stressful job ever,” or. “We’ve got a more stressful job.” I think at different times of the day, that probably comes and goes.
Tom: But yeah, it was biomedical sciences. And my dad was like, “Look, consider this.” So I went and shadowed my dentist, my dentist back at home. And was like yeah, cool. Let’s do this. This seems like a much more logical path to where I wanted to get to, which is using my hands. Like I always wanted to do the surgery side of things. I was like, so medicine, it seemed to be, if you’re going to be a surgeon, good luck. You’re going to have to wait 10 years before you can be a surgeon. Dentist, you’re a surgeon from day one, mate.
Tom: So yeah. I was like, okay, yeah. Let’s do this. Applied, was very lucky to get into a few places. And I can’t say enough about the experience that I had at Peninsula down in [Ecsta] and Plymouth. And the experience I had that was phenomenal. The facilitator they have, the professors, everything about that course I thought was A-star. Had a fantastic time there. I felt so well equipped when I went into VT.
Prav: And then where did you go from there, Tom? So you went into VT. Tell us about your VT experience. And I’ll just go a couple of steps ahead of that, because when speaking to Payman before about this and actually speaking to Payman about you before, he said to me, “Look, there was a time in dentistry where there was some leading lights, some young up and coming amazing dentists.” And always turned to Payman, I know dentistry in terms of, I can look at a set of teeth that a dentist has done and say, “Wow, that looks really good.” And I can tell good from bad, right? I think Payman’s got a better eye and he can tell good from great or great from excellent.
Prav: And one of the things he said to me is, “This guy’s dentistry is on a completely … He is amazing. He’s excellent.” Right? So just talk me through your journey from VT to becoming this dentist in the short space of time that was able to deliver what someone like Payman would consider to be an excellent standard of dentistry? And then obviously from there onwards, we can talk about what happened next.
Tom: Yeah, cheers. Yeah. I really appreciate that. Yeah, I think that probably stems from within the first year or so of dental school, I really felt like for the first time in my life that I found something that I felt like I could excel in. I really felt like this is something that you got out what you put in. And I seemed to be doing well within the actual course. And I was at a course with people that graduated from Oxford, Cambridge, and I was somehow doing better than them. And I was like, shit. Okay. Well, I’ve probably got a chance here. I’ve got a chance to be good.
Tom: That’s something that’s probably stayed with me my whole life, is that I’ve always wanted to be the best at what I’m doing. Like no matter what it was. So when I left dental school, kind of graduated towards the top of our class and felt like I’d laid a pretty good foundation. And during dental school, I started to kind of dig into the underground scene of the dental world, which Payman will know is the OG dental town where it was … I kind of have to, and this guy will come up because probably my biggest inspiration whilst I was doing it, it was seeing Jason Smithson’s work online, was the real like inspirator to me to be like, this is a guy who works an hour down the road from me, and he is churning out what is quite obviously the best in the world of what he’s doing.
Tom: And as soon as I saw that, I was like, I want to see this guy. I want to see this guy, I want to meet this guy. I want to be as good as that. The attention to detail was artistic. He took the scientific side, mixed it with the artistic side. And I just thought that it was amazing.
Payman: Did he teach you as well in Peninsula?
Tom: Never teach me, no. Watched loads of his courses. When I shadowed him, he was very, very kind to let me shadow him a number of times. So went down and shadowed him. I was also very kind of like an art collector, very proud to have a number of fillings with Jason’s initials etched into my own mouth, which is quite unique. Kind of … Yeah, a weird form of art collection. But yeah, he was the one who really inspired me. And so, give complete credit to that.
Tom: And coming out of dental school, I started to get really into this underground scene. What felt like underground, because none of my mates had any clue existed, was this online scene of international dentists who were just showing off their best work. And I was like, this is where I want to be. This is my crowd that I want to be known within. And that’s how Payman popped up, because Payman was also within that crowd. He was like firmly seated within that crowd, the online community. And from then on, just probably to provide some context for people that … Obviously, I don’t imagine really anyone knows about me or my story, but I left dentistry after exactly two years of clinical work.
Tom: So I did VT, I did half a year of DF2. So I went into DF2 and then I completed half a year of that in Cardiff. And then I did half a year at Ahmad Nounu’s practise in the Black Swan Dental Spa, which I’m sure some of you will be familiar with. So two years was my kind of the length of time I practised for.
Tom: But in that first year, once I qualified, I was like, okay, I have no interest in working for the NHS. The reason was it was becoming really clear to me that there was this equation where you were only going to make money if you churned out a lot of volume. And when I was getting inspired by guys like Jason, who was turning out work which was of incredible quality and finesse, I was like, that’s what I want to aim to. So how do I get to that position?
Tom: So in VT, doing DF1, I made it my plan to … I set out a really clear plan. I was like highlighted maybe five to 10 of the biggest names within the British scene of dentistry. All of the guys that you’ve had on your podcast. So the James Goolniks, and so forth. Again, guys that let me shadow them; James, Zacky, all of these guys that let me into their surgeries, let me sit by their side in the corner and watch them work at their world renowned practises. So that’s what I did in VT, which no one else seemed to be doing.
Prav: Quick question, Tom.
Prav: What did you do, just pitch to them, I want to come in … It doesn’t seem-
Prav: … like the sort of thing that any dentist would do, any old dentist, anyways. Obviously, you cherry picked these guys and said, “Look, I’m inspired by these guys. They’re at the top of their game.” And you reached out, email pitch or-
Tom: Yeah, it’s quite simple. It’s business development, isn’t it? It’s networking. I highlighted these guys as the pioneers within the industry, within the BACD, within British dentistry, within international dentistry. And probably emailed them, messaged them. I have no idea how I did it, but I probably prefaced it by saying that I was inspired by you. And most of them, if not all of the ones … I mean, just to paint a bit of a picture here. So in my surgery in DF1, I was in this tiny little town in just south of Merthyr Tydfil, in the Welsh valleys. So a small town as it gets. And on my wall next to my surgery desk, I had a whiteboard, a little tiny whiteboard. And on it, I had a list of 10 things that I wanted to get done during that year that would allow me to put me in a position in year two to potentially work in a fully private practise.
Tom: So on the top five things, the top five, it was shadows Zachy Cannon, shadow James Skolnick, shadow Jason Smithson. All of these names that I highlighted. I was very lucky to have already chatted with Jason. But probably at that point, our relationship was a little bit more … Yeah. Well, relatively advanced. But yeah, literally laid out a plan. Met those guys, ended up going to the conferences, met Payman. And probably jumping ahead a bit, but within that year, Payman had invited me to get involved with his courses.
Prav: Tom, just going back there, because shortly after that, as you’ve alluded to, you exited from dentistry, but you were mapping out your roadmap, your future on the whiteboard. And you were sort of saying, “Right, if I want to be a good private dentist, these are the people I want to shadow.” Did you have a plan for the next five years or 10 years, or sort of think to yourself, “One day, this is the type of dentist I want to be?”
Prav: Beyond becoming a good private dentist, was it teaching? Was it being that inspirational, Jason Smith-esque character for the younger generation, or was it actually practising a level of dentistry that was world-renowned and people would travel miles to come and … Do you see what I mean?
Prav: You must’ve had some kind of idea of this is who I want to be. Because the type of guy who writes this down on the white board is not every dentist that I speak to, that’s for sure. It’s like you have a clear vision ahead of you.
Tom: And I’ll say this without hoping to not sound like a dick, but my aim at the time was to be the best in the world. So the pathway that I plotted out was to aim to be that person. At the time, I definitely considered Jason to be up there, top five in the world with all of the other top names that would typically go to any of the conferences. You’ll see guys that I was very fortunate to meet. But yeah, it was quite clear. I was like, I want to be the best in the world.
Tom: It was at a time when social media was kind of taking off but really hadn’t, really it was 2013. So dentistry in Instagram wasn’t a huge thing, but I was definitely seeing the likes of people like Max and Belgrade who were starting to pump out content, high quality content, inspirational content. And I was like, that’s who I want to be.
Tom: So yeah, absolutely teaching was probably the end game. But before then, the step to get there was I need to get myself into a private seat-
Payman: Of course.
Tom: … as soon as possible. And looking around and looking at my peers and being like, okay, well, how long is this going to take me? Realistically, I was like, yes, this might take me five years to get there. But by putting myself in the same room as people like Ahmad, who ended up giving me a job, guys like Payman, all of these guys that I networked and met within the first year, I would go to conferences, regional conferences, there’s local conferences, national conferences, I networked so that I could get me my seat as soon as possible. And I was extremely fortunate that Ahmad gave me that opportunity a year and a half after graduating.
Payman: So look, we’re mapping out this sort of beautiful thing. When was the first time that you started to have doubts?
Tom: So this is the irony, in that I assumed it would take me five years to get to that position. Right? And I thought it would take me like five years to put myself in a position where I’m seeing as many patients as I want to see a day. I’m only doing the procedures that I want to do. I can use the materials that I want. I can do whatever the hell I want.
Tom: The reality was is that I reached that within 15 months of graduating. I had my perfect life. And I just had a day where I was like, oh my God, this is it, isn’t it? And it was then. It was then when I had my perfect set up, I had an incredible team I was working with, I had all the materials [inaudible 00:19:07], if it was two patients a day, whatever it was. And I was creating content for teaching. I was starting to teach. And then I was like, oh, this is it, isn’t it? And it was probably after a bit of a stressful day. And yeah, that was probably the seat.
Tom: And I’ll be honest, Payman, it was spending a significant amount of time with you over the course of the next kind of year. And it gave me some insight into a nonclinical direction.
Payman: I didn’t realise that. But look … I mean Depeche and Richard Fields were spending a significant amount of time with me as well, but they decided to carry on.
Tom: With me as well, mate. It was three of us. We spent a lot of time together.
Payman: No. My point is, how come they decided to carry on and continue? I mean, a year and a half in is not very long. I mean, you must’ve had something in your head that said, you need to stick at something a bit longer. Or why was it so clear that you wanted to leave? I mean, that’s the key question. Was it being hired by me to leave? [crosstalk 00:20:27].
Tom: No, it was a multitude of things. So I think as I was growing older, I’ve kind of done seven years of university straight. I’d never taken an opportunity to really reflect on what I’d done, what I’d accomplished, where my direction was going. It was just bang, next thing. Bang, next thing. Plan next thing. It was just a constant road that I never got the opportunity to pause and reflect.
Tom: At that time when I started to like question, okay, is this what my lifestyle is going to be like? Working three days a week in a practise I’ve … A few things started to really pain me. I’ve never felt like I could be myself around a patient, like never. I never felt like I could let my true personality, the fact that I let out quite a few swear words, the fact that I have quite a dark sense of humour, the fact that I’m a bit of a weirdo. I really struggled. I really, really struggled feeling like I was containing that character. And that probably, it was around the same time when I was like, ah, yeah. I’ve got this ideal lifestyle right now and there’s something within me just doesn’t feel like this is me. This isn’t-
Payman: So you think you like teeth more than you like people?
Tom: Probably at the time, yeah. At the time, I was probably like teeth more than I like people. Because teeth, I could focus on and I could forget the rest. And I really felt like I couldn’t be myself.
Payman: Because for me, it was the exact opposite. I like people. I didn’t like teeth as much as I like people. And what I miss is the people, not the teeth. So then, okay. You decided, you had a moment and yet you thought, “Right. I’m thinking of stopping. And Payman stopped and he’s all right.”
Payman: You said it to yourself.
Tom: So yeah.
Payman: Did you talk to anyone? Do you talk to your parents?
Tom: Oh yeah, yeah. Of course. Of course. Of course. [crosstalk 00:22:24].
Payman: I remember me saying, “Stick at it.” That’s what I said.
Payman: Did you speak to your mentor, Jason?
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I spoke to everyone. I did that. Probably jumping ahead, but one of the biggest things I’d always been obsessed with was entrepreneurial-ism. That’s something that I read The 4-Hour Workweek. That was probably what spoiled it, was I read The 4-Hour Workweek in my second year of university, so …
Tom: And already, I’m thinking, “Okay. Well …” So now, and I’m sure a lot of you who’s listening has read this book and it’s my favourite book. It’s my favourite book for one reason. The reason is, is that it’s … And the real beauty in that book is that for anyone that hasn’t read it, it’s Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek, and at the beginning of the book, he explains how we really have only a couple of really precious commodities in life. Most precious one is time. Time is all of our most precious things that we need to hold on to. And the second thing, and in my opinion, I can’t remember if you said this, but the second thing is health. Health, I hold that as the most important thing in my life. Health is the most important thing.
Tom: And I really started to question like, okay, well is being a clinician the best way I’m going to have wealth in time? So kind of look at it from a commodity perspective in time and also health. And I was seeing cracks. I received my first complaint towards the end of when I ended my career there. And that was one of the things which was like, oh my God, you’re doing the right thing. All the steps were very close to when I ended, like within weeks. And it was a case where-
Payman: Did you think it was unfair, the complaint?
Tom: Absolutely. It was a gold standard case. I’d been referred a 16-year-old boy from a friend, for the hospital, to help treat some white lesions on his front teeth. Treated it with the classic … So it was icon at the time, so kind of bonding, whitening and bonding. Got rid of it. The kid was getting bullied at school. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the billing. So the mum didn’t want to pay basically. And she made a complaint to the GDC. So I had to go through that whole process. I was very fortunate that at that time I had already made the decision that I was going to leave. And I had the time. It was within the next few weeks so I wasn’t as stressed about it as I probably would have been, but it was probably the moment that made me feel vindicated with my choice. I felt like I was making the right choice because I had absolutely no kind of … I didn’t want to have to go through that process of feeling that way, knowing that my livelihood was on the line, depending on other people’s experiences.
Tom: So at that point, I was like done. Absolutely done. So yeah, I was kind of lucky to have that moment. But my heart goes out to anyone that has been through those processes. They’re gut-wrenching. So yeah. [crosstalk 00:25:41].
Prav: Were you nervous about speaking to, let’s say your dad, who advised you-
Tom: Yeah, of course.
Prav: … [crosstalk] dentist? And obviously, he must’ve been very proud of you when you qualified and whatnot. What was that conversation like?
Tom: It was tough, obviously. It was very tough. But I’m extremely fortunate to have a wonderful parents. Very enlightened, extremely hardworking. I do think I’ve kind of been lucky in that I’ve received my work ethic from both of my parents, my mum and my dad, are the most hard working people I know. And yeah, I feel like they saw the pain that I was going through. Yeah, I think it was tough for them, but they supported me. And you know what? It’s still taken a few years. Even a year or so ago, I think my mum like, you wouldn’t go back?
Tom: And I think now they understand and they see how happy I am. Yeah. But yeah. I think it was challenging for them, really challenging because you don’t want to see your children go through that, I suppose.
Prav: Then Tom, I left dentistry, but I kind of stayed in dentistry. Right? But you made a complete break and went towards … What was your next thing you did? What were you thinking? So you said, “All right, I’m not working, I’m not going to be paid now.” So was that when you went to ski instructor?
Tom: Yeah. And a little bit before then. So when I was in VT, I was like inspired by The 4-Hour Workweek. And I was like, I want to make my own tools. So obsessed with like these tools, I want to make my own. So I also in parallel to when I was in my VT years, I was kind of going through the process of getting a set of tools, sample created in Bangladesh, paying for that to come over to me and really enjoyed that process. And that to me was keeping the kind of inspirational juices flowing, the thought of that. And then it came down to like, I was towards the end of VT and I was like, okay, maybe time to … It was at that time I was thinking about moving on.
Tom: And I was like, the guy, the business I was working with in Bangladesh were like, okay, for us to progress this, you’re going to need to place an order. And the order is going to have to be 1,000 units. And as you can imagine, 1,000 units of an instrument that costs a couple of quid each, it starts to add up when you were taking into account all of the risk involved with that. So I was like, I’m not really keen on this now. I would progress this project if I was going to stay within dentistry. But at that point, I had made the decision on what next. And it was the technology industry. So the technology industry was the next area that I had an interest in.
Tom: I felt it was a growing area. Lots of opportunity, lots of different pathways that I could go down. So I laid out a bit of a plan, kind of like how I did in VT. And so, yeah. My plan was I’m going to have to do some internships. So at the same time that I was very fortunate to work at Ahmad’s space. Black Swan, I’d work there on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays each week. I would then drive back to London, and I worked at two internships within tech companies in London. One, they were both in what are called accelerator funds, so for small seed startups. Worked one within the Google campus. And I worked one within the [inaudible] within London as well. So I was working six days a week, three days a week doing internships unpaid, and then three days a week working still with Ahmad in … Yeah, the Black Swan.
Payman: How did you feel you were equipped to handle those internships in the tech companies? Did you feel like you were as good as the other interns there and …
Tom: Really great question, because I think that … Yeah, that this opens up the sad reality … No, it wasn’t sad, but the reality was that I offered nothing. Yeah. I turned up to these guys. I had a biomedical science degree. I had a dentist degree and these guys who when I applied for these unpaid internships were probably looking at each other thinking, “Who the hell is this bloke?” He’s just two years out from being a dentist and you’re saying that you don’t want to do it anymore and you want to be an unpaid intern? But yeah, I think that’s the only thing that got me those jobs, was the fact that I could kind of prove that I was hardworking.
Payman: Did you literally Google, ‘internship tech company’ is that what happened or did you [crosstalk 00:30:45]?
Tom: Yeah. Do you know what? Probably. Yeah, probably.
Payman: Didn’t know someone?
Tom: No. No. No. No. I knew absolutely no one. There are a couple of websites that I used back then. So one was called Escape The City, which was … Yeah, kind of ironic. It’s a website for people who were within previously in like the financial industry within the city of London who didn’t like the corporate life and wanted to work for young, interesting startups. So Escape The City was one website that I used. And that was actually yeah, that was the one. And then there was Work In … We work in startups, so Work In Startups, which is the other one I used. And applied for a bunch, got very lucky and then worked there. Worked to those kind of concurrently with working at Black Swan for about … It must’ve been about four or five months.
Tom: The aim was always to be able to build myself something on my CV that showed that I had an intent to work in the tech industry. And after a few months, I kept on applying for some full-time jobs. And eventually, managed to get a job at an incredible startup called Technology Will Save Us. They’re essentially a toy company of the future. And I ended up getting a job there as a business development manager and ended up looking after their UK retail operations for two years.
Payman: So what was that? You were going into retailers and online retailers trying to sell more of their stuff?
Tom: Absolutely. Yeah. So the business that I worked for had a range of toy kits, and my job was to find businesses within the UK and Europe to sell those into. And I kind of again, wrote down a list. I was like, great. I want to be in all of these stores. And a year later, I was running in between on Oxford street at Christmas time, I was running into John Lewis going and checking our stock. I was going next door into Urban Outfitters, next door into Top Shop. In and out of these stores, making sure that our stuff looked good. So it was a big shift from, well doing a class two cavity on an upper left six.
Payman: How many people were these companies? I mean, was it very early startup or how would you …
Tom: This company, so Tech Will Save Us was a slightly larger startup. So would be just, they’re seed funded, but they had about 30 people working for them at the time in Hackney in London. And my role was as one of two people within the sales team to yeah, to sell those products into all the businesses in the UK.
Payman: So what happened next?
Tom: Yeah. That’s kind of when I, again, two years working for them. And I realised that yet again, I’d still not had a chance to take a step back and reflect.
Payman: Now Prav, are you seeing a pattern?
Tom: [crosstalk 00:33:32]. Prav, you seeing a pattern? Yeah. So-
Prav: Tell you what I’m seeing, the first time I realised you’d left dentistry is I saw a video on social media and you were cracking eggs into a bowl. And I think you might’ve been chopping some avocado or something like that [crosstalk 00:33:50].
Tom: Yeah. Yeah.
Prav: And I thought, “I swear this guy’s a dentist. What the hell is he making videos about making scrambled eggs?” And then I rang Payman, he’s like, “Mate, this guy is one of the most talented dentists I know, and just left.” So that’s when I realised you’d left.
Payman: Tom, what happened next? Go on.
Tom: So yeah-
Payman: You put your feet up, you didn’t want to be a salesman anymore?
Tom: That job was so, so good. It was epic. I was going-
Payman: Did you get an insight into the management side, the [crosstalk] side? All of the …
Tom: Everything, because it was such a small company. We were working like living and breathing it. It was intense. It was fast paced. I was visiting businesses all over the country. I was kind of like yeah, going to talks with the Maplin head office and negotiating these big deals. It was just perfect. It really was. Absolutely phenomenal job. The people that I worked with were great, the job itself was just so fun. And I felt like I actually did a pretty good job as well. I managed to get our products in the likes of Selfridges and Harrods and like nationwide, and John Lewis. I felt like I’d done really good there.
Tom: Unfortunately, along with that intensity and speed was a fair bit of stress. I won’t go into details, but it was difficult seeing that, being so close to management owned by a wife and husband team where their livelihood depended on the success of that business, and they’d invested so much into. So yeah, it was at that stage where I kind of was like, okay, I’d like to go onto the next thing. But at that stage when things were probably getting a little bit high-pressured, I was like, maybe it’s time for me to do a gap year. And I was 28, and I decided to have my gap year at the age of 28. So yeah, that was kind of where my next step was. So I decided that yeah, for two years, I’m going to act like a slightly older teenager.
Payman: What did you do?
Tom: Yeah. What did I do? What didn’t I do? So I lived a very fast, wild and loose lifestyle, living in the French and Austrian Alps for two years, to put it shortly. But yeah. Within those two years, I saw a lot, I experienced a lot and had the very, very best days of my life and-
Payman: And you were a very keen skier, I seem to remember.
Tom: Yeah. I love skiing. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to do it originally. I wanted to do a ski instructor course, but those costs 10 grand and I didn’t have 10k lying about. So yeah. I was like, I’m going to go and I’m going to be a driver for a chalet company in Val d’Isère. And I spent six months of my life … Most of the time I was drunk driving around the French Alps, with poor customers in the back of my van scraping off ice. And yeah, so it was a loose lifestyle, but that’s the way it was. And I met some amazing friends for life that I see regularly. And I have a wonderful girlfriend that I met three years to this day in Austria. And it’s been … Yeah, it was the best years of my life for sure, were those two years when I had the opportunity to just let loose.
Prav: And then during that time, is that when you got the time to reflect on the future or …
Tom: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. It was the time when I really … I didn’t have that whiteboard, so I had the opportunity to be like okay, things probably didn’t go as you expected your 20s to go, but damn, you’ve had the best two years of your life, so I was-
Payman: Tom, do you reckon that this white board … I’m sure Prav relates to this more than I do because I’ve never had a whiteboard myself, but do you reckon that you were one of these guys who is quite hard on yourself as far as … Or was quite hard on yourself as far as what you need to achieve by when and so on, even as a kid? And then there was a degree of burnout of that kind of behaviour, and you needed these two years to just be yourself and not be ambitious and all that.
Payman: Because your ambition was on a par with some of the most ambitious people I’ve come across. And yet, you chopped and changed a lot. And I get a feeling, yeah? That those two years where your time to be yourself and not have to always strive towards something. I’m expecting Prav to take two years out to be the promoter soon, because he’s got the same problem.
Tom: You know what? You nailed it. It was exactly that. It was a two-year period where I had the chance to meet people outside of this medical field bubble. So just people that had completely different perspectives to life than me. And it was amazing. And I think the fact that I was in my late 20s and I’d experienced that … Yeah, exactly like that. That I need to achieve this. I need to do this, and just live this 100% lifestyle for so long. And I kind of missed the big picture of like actually, life is not about that. Life is about who you meet, who you spend time with. The experiences you have. And those two years, funnily enough, went to Ibiza, had one of the best times ever. I did get to experience things that I probably had missed out on in my years where that whiteboard was set up there with that list of things.
Tom: But it’s funny because just before we got on the call with you today, I opened up my notebook and it was actually, it’s opened up to my page from just about a year ago, where I’d laid out all of my 2020 goals and habits. Quite funny, because I kind of quickly was like, oh that’s quite cute. Reading through them, things like 10-minute morning mobility routine, daily journaling, 100 pushups a day, no two days off. And I’m like, oh damn, I’ve literally done none of these. I’ve done none of these.
Tom: And then in the middle of the page, there’s five words. And it’s; health, wealth, happiness, relationships and career. And I’m like okay. Well, I’ve got all these tactics that I have not done any … Well, I haven’t done consistently any of these, yet when I look at each of those main things like my health, am I happy with my health? Absolutely. Am I happy with my wealth? Absolutely. Like my ability to manage money this year has gone to another level. My happiness, I had a time in the middle of this summer when I was the most … I was laying in bed, it was the most content I’ve ever felt in my life, and I have no idea why. And I think it was part of that was just … Yeah, I don’t know. It was weird. And yeah, relationships, absolutely. Career. Yeah. Pretty damn happy. Yeah, it’s kind of weird. But [crosstalk 00:41:06]-
Payman: What are you doing now? What are you doing now? You have this wonderful time, which sounds to me wonderful. And then you decided, enough of that lifestyle, time to get back to work.
Tom: Yeah, sure. It was-
Payman: The back in tech, right?
Tom: Yeah. I must have been … Yeah. 29. Unfortunately, that two years actually put a bit of a … Yeah, it wasn’t as easy to get a job again after basically just being permanently drunk for two years. It was very difficult for me to get a job. So I started from scratch again. Managed to get a job working at this kind of software startup, which was again, fantastic. Had a great experience there, working there for a year. And for the last year, I’ve now been working for a fantastic startup called Contentsquare, who are a user experience analytics platform for websites, with the hopes of going public within the next 12 to 18 months.
Tom: So a very exciting time. And that’s probably where I see my … If someone would say what I do now, my role is as a website analytics expert. And yeah, recently just launched my own company, which I’m quite excited about.
Prav: Tell us more.
Tom: Yeah. So about a year ago or a year and a half ago, I met up with one of my colleagues at the time. Lovely girl called Claudia. And we worked within the retail space. So we worked with clients from a software perspective. We work with online clients, like Feelunique, like beauty brands, Space NK, all these big beauty retailers. And I was like pitched this to her. I asked her, “Do you think that there’s an online space for sustainable beauty products?” She said no. So since then, we’ve been on the hunt to find some of the best sustainable beauty products within the world and put them all in one place on a platform online which we have called Vyable Beauty. So we have a fledgling business, which has been … I cannot tell you how fun it’s been like growing this.
Payman: And Tom, I remember, I asked you about this. And I said, “Well, you’ve been in this startup world with a seed round, round A, round B. Is that what you’re going to do now, you’re going to raise funds?” And you said to me, if I remember, that you’ve seen the stress that that causes.
Payman: Tell us more about that. I mean, first is the company you’re at, at the moment, that must be quite a huge place now, right? If it’s going public.
Tom: Absolutely. So it’s a business that I think it has … I can’t remember the numbers, but it’s around $140 million of revenue annually. About seven to 800 people in the business [crosstalk 00:43:49]-
Payman: So you’ve seen these startups from sort of the very fledging ones and the 30-people. And now we’ve got this one with $140 million of turnover looking at listing. And you’re saying that journey’s not for you or not yet?
Tom: Yeah. So it depends on the type of business, right? So that business is a software business. It is they’re selling a service to other biggest businesses within the world. So some of my clients are the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Rolex, those guys. So they’re my clients that I look after. The platform that I’m building, that’s definitely going to be designed as being more of a slow burner. The reality, we’ll never go public. It’s not going to be that type of company. So the investment requirements for that type of company are different.
Tom: But yeah, absolutely. The answer to that is, I don’t know how we’re going to fund things indefinitely. We’re open to any and every option. And I think that’s just part of the process. As you guys know in your own businesses, you have to take what you can see in front of you, make decisions based on that. Perhaps you’ll pivot, as I know that you are, Pay. You’re going to be slightly pivoting, or at least making branches to your business.
Tom: So yeah. I don’t know is the answer. At the moment, we’re just trying to set the foundation for the company. So making sure all of our sales channels, marketing channels are set up correctly and working well. Getting that foundation set so that hopefully over the next few years we can scale.
Prav: And Tom, you’re essentially at the moment, an employee at one company.
Prav: Earlier on in the conversation, you mentioned entrepreneurial-ism or however you say that, right?
Prav: And that’s something that sort of fuels you, right? It drives you. And then you’ve got this, what I’ve considered to be a side hustle. And so what’s going on in your mind right now? Is where you’re working at the moment almost like a stepping stone to the bigger picture where you see yourself maybe having multiple side hustles to the point where you think, “Do you know what? The income level on the side hustle is enough to sustain me, and then I’ll go 100% in,” or are you at some time going to say, “Do you know what? I’m just going to take this risk and jump and go 100% into [crosstalk 00:46:11], or whatever it is.”
Prav: And there’s always that tipping point, isn’t there? Where you think, “Right, I’m going to go all in now.” Have you thought about that?
Tom: I don’t know. I flip that question to you guys, because that is something … Yeah, I’ll be honest, I battle with that daily. I ask myself that question daily. I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that yeah, I’ll be completely frank. My venture is something that I would love to spend 100% of my time on as soon as possible. Reality is, as you said, this is a side hustle for me at the moment. It is just trying to make things work, trying to make sure I perform at my job. And hopefully like maybe this resonates with people, like trying to do multiple projects on the side. It is just a balancing act. I’m just trying my hardest to make sure that I perform my full-time job and also spending nights, evenings, and weekends doing my side hustle.
Payman: One thing I would say, bud, is anything worthwhile tends to take three, four years to sort of really [crosstalk 00:47:16].
Payman: I mean, we have to say, we lost money for three years at Enlighten. Even when you look at overnight successes, there was three or four years before that moment that they were working … Of course, you could be super lucky and the right celebrity or whatever it is, but there is that sticking with something for a bit longer-
Payman: … question.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. So I think realistically, I’m looking forward and I’m thinking minimum, a couple of years before I’m going to be able to take the full dive into it. So yeah, I’m well aware of that. I’ll do everything within my power to make that jump soon as possible. I’m very fortunate that my full-time role, it feeds directly into what my business and myself. It’s understanding how to optimise performance of websites, which is exactly what I’m trying to do that with my own business, as well as my founder, who I work with as well.
Tom: So yeah, they feed in with each other. They are very complimentary. Frankly, I love my job at the moment. So my full-time job again, is I’m very lucky. I’ve got a great job. Yeah. It’s extremely complimentary to what I’m doing with my own business and-
Payman: Tom, Tom.
Payman: You’re not the kind of guy to regret stuff. Yeah?
Payman: But, I want to dig into that a little bit. If there was a regret regarding leaving dentistry, what is that regret? Because I regret it, I regret you left. I think you could have made a contribution for sure, or you already had even as a VT. So by the way, it would take 10 years to really become the dentist you wanted to become. But regret-wise, do you regret it? Do you at all regret it, if there was a regret, what would it be? And for someone thinking of leaving dentistry now, maybe people haven’t got that sort of … You’d seem to be very, very, very comfortable jumping about, doing things. And not everyone’s got that. I mean-
Tom: Yeah. Of course. Of course. Of course. So-
Payman: What’s your advice? What’s your advice about that? And tell me about regrets.
Tom: Yeah. Let’s start with regrets. I want to be careful with this because I obviously know the audience that you guys have and-
Prav: Just speak your mind, mate. [crosstalk 00:49:48].
Payman: Yeah, yeah. [crosstalk 00:49:50].
Tom: So yeah. I don’t have any regrets. I’ve had the best five years of my life without completely objectively, I can look at that and I’ve had the best times of my life. I feel like I’m in a position where my career is now taking off in the direction that I kind of probably was more aligned to me, what I should have done originally. I went down a path of being a dentist based on the experiences that I had with my family. That was what pushed me down that route.
Tom: I think these days, social media has meant that the prospects of entrepreneurial-ism is more accessible to people at a younger age, whereas our generation probably just, we didn’t have that. So it took me reading a book by Tim Ferriss to kind of have my eyes, perhaps, the blinders pulled back a little bit.
Tom: So do I have any regrets? I don’t. Sadly, I’m still on WhatsApp groups with my good mates from university who are still dentists. And every time a message comes through … Well, not every time. We obviously have a lot of banter and stuff, but there’s a lot of times where I’m like, I count myself extremely lucky I’m not in that position anymore. I will always say this, I’ve done dozens of jobs, dentistry was by far the most stressful.
Tom: By a long, long, long way. I’ve had some really … What people consider some stressful jobs. I’ve worked in hospitality, a lot in hospitality. Yeah, I’ve worked in technology. And dentistry, nothing will ever touch the stress that-
Payman: How does it go down when you tell someone from a recruitment perspective that you were a dentist, how does that go down?
Tom: I mean, usually back maybe a couple of years ago, it’s a bit more of a different conversation because I think then people were asking me the same questions that you guys are like would you … Well, they were like, are you never going to go back? And I’d have to be like, no. That ship sailed. It was a chapter of my life. I’m proud of that chapter. I feel like I contributed.
Tom: It’s funny, I have one of the most viewed videos on YouTube for class one composite. It’s over half a million views on YouTube and I’m proud of that, I’m proud of that. And I feel like I left a contribution there, but it was a chapter in my life that I have absolutely no regrets. I do think that there’s a lot of people within dentistry that wish they could make that jump. I figured when I was very early on that it was something that I needed to make sooner rather than later.
Payman: Yeah. But look, someone wants to leave, they’ve got all the sort of standard options. They could go into dental public health, or they could go into the medico-legal. But if you go into something completely separate, when you say I was a dentist, does that kind of go down well?
Tom: I think I had some assumptions when I first made the jump, that it was going to be a really important factor in helping me get to where I wanted to get to next. It wasn’t. And that was because I did the full leap out of dentistry. So I cut chords and therefore, there was no ties. It was like okay, great. You got a dentist’s degree. You can-
Payman: Like any degree.
Tom: … do a filing. Yeah, exactly. So perhaps there’s a little bit, the fact that it’s a medical degree, there’s a little bit more prestige with that. It’s a really interesting thing for people … We have a conversation about, whether it’s employees, they do like it, people do like it. One think about it, it’s definitely not cool. It never will be cool being a dentist or an ex-dentist, sadly, as we all know. We all think that we’re these … Yeah, cool, cool people. But no, the medics got that one. So there’s nothing cool about that, but it is interesting. It’s a good topic that, it’s a good discussion topic. It’s always people, brings a smile to their face [crosstalk 00:53:53].
Prav: And take us through either a day in the life or a week in the life, or whatever paints the better picture of somebody who has got a full-time role at another place, running your side hustle, the passion that you’ve got for that, and what that entails from morning routine, right from you race home from work, you’re on this next bit where maybe there’s a switch of mindset and then where does your other half fit into the picture as well?
Tom: Yeah. So I think obviously, at the moment in time, so we’re going through this pandemic where that has been a huge … It’s given me back like 15 hours or so of my life every week, where I’ve been able to invest that time in my business. So instead of spending an hour and a half commuting every morning and every evening, I’ve now got three hours in a day where I can now actually invest that in my business, in the evening for example. So yeah, the full working day, 9:00 to 6:00. And then in the evenings, I’ll do a couple of hours of work, a couple of hours of work. And then weekends, again, we’ve kind of been in this kind of weird pandemic time where everything’s been locked down-
Payman: What does that working day look like? What do you do?
Tom: So my working day usually, it involves two things. So I’m either on calls with our clients. So the businesses that we work with, like I said, the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, whoever they may be. Last week, for example, I was working with the Oliver Bonas team. And so working a couple of hours a day with them, teaching them how to analyse their own website. And then the rest of the day will be working on actually doing analysis of people’s websites. So understanding how users behave on the websites. So that’s my day. So my day is either client facing. My role is a client facing role. Obviously, under these circumstances, we’re doing everything via Zoom. Typically, I’d be expected to be travelling around Europe, going to these businesses’ offices.
Payman: So it’s a bit of software that tracks mouse movements and all of that.
Tom: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. So we know exactly what … And anonymously, we know what users do when they come to a website, where they’re clicking, where they’re hovering. I’m not going to lie, when I did my interview and they kind of explained that this was what the product did, I was like, “What the hell? Are you kidding me?” So yeah, I was very naive to how advanced technology is these days.
Payman: All right. [inaudible 00:56:28].
Tom: Yeah. So that’s what a day in the life looks like. A week in the life is work 9:00 to 6:00. Since not having to commute to work, that’s given me back 15 hours of time, which I’ve been intent on making sure I invest into my business. But yeah, I’m not going to lie, like we’re going through a time where there’s nowhere near enough hours in the day for me to be able to do what I would like to do. So I’m really having to make sure I prioritise, I’m thinking very strategically about my time is going to be going towards the business and learning stuff all the time. That’s the one thing that has never left me. I just love learning new stuff.
Payman: Well, it’s lovely to hear you’re happy and you’re doing so well. Prav likes to end it on his particular question.
Prav: I don’t think it’s relevant, mate.
Payman: I think it is.
Prav: You do?
Tom: Hey, mate. Say it, say it, say it.
Prav: You do? Okay. And the reason I said that is, I think there’s just so much more in Tom’s future and so much more experience for him to gain. But Tom, one of the questions that I ask all of our guests is imagine it was your last day on the planet and you had your loved ones around you, whoever they are, and you had to leave them with three pieces of advice, what would they be?
Tom: Great question. Yeah, it’s funny because I listened to your podcast with Dominic O’hooley a couple of weeks ago. And the question you asked him was what would you do outside if you weren’t a dentist? And he said, “I’d be a philosopher.” It’s funny because I never got to meet Dominic. Always swam him on all of the forums and all the threads and very inflammatory bloke, but a very interesting bloke as well. So yeah, shout out to Dominic who I never got to meet.
Tom: What three things would I tell them now? There’s a few things that I think that I’ve kind of seen to be consistent with my life and what I think leads to my happiness. One of them is gaining some sort of control, a feeling of control over your life. Whether that’s directionally, health-wise, whatever it may be.
Tom: So one of that is figure out what makes you feel like you’re in control. That’s something that I feel has been able to directly help my happiness, directly prevent anxiety, is feeling what that is and understanding what that is. And that’s a process that takes years to understand. I feel like I’m kind of getting there, but understand what helps you feel like … Feels like you’re in control of yourself, your situation, your direction.
Tom: The other thing will be to work hard. I really do believe that working hard is one of the meanings of life. You’re put on this planet. You are given … If you’re an able-bodied, if you are … I recognise that I’m very privileged. I’ve come up in a very privileged position and that’s probably the one thing that drives me the most, is feeling that I have privilege and really wanting to make sure that I give back to this life that I feel extremely blessed to have been given. So work hard would be my second thing.
Tom: Third thing would be, it’s kind of probably along the lines of experience, experience this world. This world is an incredibly beautiful and rich piece of rock in this universe. You have the opportunity you’ve been given to be a part of this existence, don’t waste it. Experience as much as you can, experience it with as many people as you can. Don’t feel like you’re trapped in a bubble, get outside of your bubble and live a rich, fully experienced life.
Prav: Lovely, Tom. Lovely. And one final question. What would you like your legacy to be? I.e. how would you like to be remembered above and beyond the YouTube video?
Tom: Mate, I’m pretty happy with that, to be honest. My legacy, I would like people to look back and say, “He worked hard. He had fun. He laughed.”
Payman: Good. Good.
Tom: That’s all I can … Yeah.
Payman: I think Prav, it was the right question to ask.
Prav: Yeah, I agree. With hindsight.
Payman: But it’s lovely having you on. And I know you didn’t need to do this, so it’s lovely that you agreed to do this.
Prav: [crosstalk 01:01:08]. Thank you so much.
Tom: Yeah. No, thank you so much for having me. I do you think like it’s … Like I said, Payman, you’ve been an inspiration to me over the years and continue to. And yeah, likewise to you, Prav. I think the stuff that you were interested in is there’s definitely a lot of crossover with the things that I’m interested in at the moment. And hopefully yeah, to those people, I do get people messaging me quite frequently from seeing my videos. And I’m just trying to understand why am I not a clinician?
Tom: For anyone that might be questioning things, I’m always open there to have a cover chat, have a conversation about either how I did it, why I did it? It’s a huge thing, so please do feel free to reach out-
Payman: What’s your Instagram, buddy?
Tom: So it’s Tom_Youngs_. So Tom Youngs. Just search for with Tom Youngs on Instagram, find me, messaged me on Instagram. And I’m more than welcome to have a chat to you. Yeah. Not an easy thing to come to terms with, so …
Payman: There’s actually a Facebook group for people looking to leave dentistry.
Tom: Is there?
Payman: I’m going to post it. Things have changed a bit from your time.
Tom: Yeah. Well, okay. Well, yeah. So maybe the support is there already, so you don’t need to have a chat. But anyway-
Payman: No. No. No. I’m saying you might get a bunch of calls.
Tom: Yeah. I know it’s a big thing. So please do use me to ask any questions that you might.
Payman: All right, buddy. Well, lovely to have you and see you soon.
Tom: Thank you so much. Yeah.
Prav: Really [crosstalk 01:02:38].
Tom: Love seeing you guys. Bye, guys.
Prav: Take care.
Outro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts; Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Prav: Thanks for listening guys. If you’ve got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing. And just a huge thank you both for me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we’ve had to say and what our guest has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.
Payman: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. And if you would, share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.
Prav: And don’t forget our six-star rating.