Ewan McIntosh is CEO of NoTosh Limited, a startup that works with creative industries on the one hand, and then takes the processes, attitudes and research gained from working on those projects to the world of education, providing schools, districts and Governments all around the world with ideas, inspiration and research on how to better engage teens.

1. Pusher
My first job was self-employment at the age of six or seven, at home in Dunoon. I made a 150% profit selling on penny sweets to my neighbours’ children (and my friends, though I don’t know how I kept them). They were no longer branded penny sweets by the time I’d finished with them. I also avoided all taxes and national insurance. Since then I’ve cleaned up my act, and now run a highly successful (and legal) consultancy.

2. Copytaker
When I moved to Edinburgh University, and was short of cash, my brother pointed out a Saturday job he’d spotted while he was working as a sub at the Edinburgh Evening News, in the old Scotsman building. I went for my first job interview, with Margaret Turner, to become a copytaker. She sat me down and asked me how fast I could type. “60 words a minute” I said, thinking a word a second was surely manageable. She decided to test me. I sat down at the computer and, as was my typing skill, peered at the keyboard to find my letters, any letters. Except there were none to be seen. Everyone in that office was of a certain era where the longer the finger nails the better, and they had, over years, and thousands, millions of words, removed any lettering that had once graced those keyboards. I took a sharp inhale of breath and put everything to practice that I’d learned at the school of “Type As Fast As You Bloody Can”.

I was the Scotsman Group’s first ever male copywriter and, given the birth of the laptop and smartphone, probably its last, too. The job was to take in the Saturday football reports from around the country. The first calls would be the teams, the second calls goals from the first half, a busy third phone stretch as half time reports came in, and then the hectic last hour as final reports came in. One call might be from Winchburgh Juniors, the next from the cacophony of the press stand at Ibrox. I always marvelled at how the Pink was in the newsagent’s at the top of Cockburn Street by the time I left the office at 5.15pm, barely thirty minutes after full time. I was so good at this job, too, knowing all the names of this new batch of Eastern European footballers whose names had no vowels, that I was given the backshifts at the Scotland on Sunday. Triple time. Pay checks ended up being quite sizeable and led me to job number three.

3. Sports journalist (wannabe)
I ended up writing the occasional sports story for the Pink, the Evening News and eventually the Scotsman itself. When I went away on my third year abroad to study in France it was the world cup and I pitched myself to the Daily Record as Their Man In France Who Could Speak French. I did a feature for them on the hotels the teams were staying at. I got photos, text and interviews with the hotel bosses, and made enough money to pay my rent for my final year at university.

4. University lecturer
I left university despondent with covering murders and suicides in the university population for the Sun (or anyone who would pay), and took up a post as lecteur, a language assistant, in a French university. I moved unis after a year, to Paris, and ended up course organiser for economics students. I don’t know how that happened, but it was fun. I also spent 12 months training hard to become a…

5. failed Army officer
In 1999, I longed for the feeling of being part of a team. The milkround of investment bank jobs made me feel everyone was after everyone else’s lunch. It wasn’t pleasant. I wanted a group of people who looked after each other. After a walk up a few hills and mountains that summer, I got it into my mind that this would be a fun way to earn a living. And there was all that skiing to be had.

In the end, I’ve never been fitter. I ran 10kms every morning, did weights and got strong. I aced the mental tests and translation exercises. I fell off a rope in my Royal Commissioning Board exams, nearly removing every bit of skin I had on my hands. I couldn’t continue. I failed. Encouraged to come back in six months, I deferred to check out Paris a bit more, and I’d just met a girl back in France.

I’ve known that girl for 10 years, and she’s now my wife. We have two beautiful daughters. That, if I’m honest, is the best job I’ll ever have.


We’ve asked professionals in creative industries what jobs they have had in the past to get their foot through the door (or at least pay the rent). For more in the “My First 5 Jobs” series look here.