From high school drop-out to MBA Graduate: Persistence is the key to success

Levi Silcox | MBA | Business and Hospitality Graduate Speaker | Melbourne June 2022

From dropping out of high school, to international industry success, when Levi Silcox's career suddenly derailed, he realised he wanted to be more than just his job. His choice to study an MBA transformed his sense of self and empowered him with global career opportunities.

“My name is Levi Silcox, and I am a high school drop-out.”

It took Levi Silcox many years to accept his own story as being slightly ‘unconventional’.

When Levi addressed his peers at Melbourne’s Business & Hospitality graduation ceremony in June 2022, he reflected on how every step in his journey led him to where he is today.

Throughout his childhood, Levi was encouraged to expand his horizons, to never stop his quest for knowledge and exploration.

“Coming from a loving family, full of academics and educators, I understood the importance of education and the role it plays in life, how it helps you grow, develop innovative ideas, inspire creativity and prepare to face the world,” he said.

However, for Levi, that spirit of curiosity and adventure didn’t lead him down the traditional path of pursuing education.

“It was this same desire to test boundaries that saw me choose to leave the family home, thinking like most teenagers, that I already had the world figured out.”

“So, there I was, mid-year 2001, a teenager who’d officially called an end to my high-school education,” he said.

Self-worth defined by a job

In the early years after high school, Levi jumped through multiple jobs in various roles and industries until he eventually found something that stuck in 2007.

“Over the next 12-years, I had risen through the ranks, having started in technical sales, eventually becoming the Technical Director of South-East Asia, managing territory spanning 14 countries, and consulting with some of the largest mining and logistics companies in the world.”

Despite this success, something continued to nag at Levi. He began to feel that his entire sense of self-worth was attached to his job. And yet he did not have a single formal qualification.

He didn’t realise how much this weighed on him until suddenly in December 2018 his overseas placement ended abruptly.

The impact on his identity was heavy.

“Like so many others, my identity was intertwined with my career. I was my job, my job was me,” he said.

“I knew then that I had to make a change.”

Levi reluctantly packed his bags, boxed up his life and returned to Australia – having had his career derailed, and long with it his sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

MBA opening the pathway to a new career

Feeling lost and disheartened, Levi credits the support of his family and friends with encouraging him to take his next step: applying to pursue his Master of Business Administration with Torrens University Australia.

“I updated my CV, and I wrote the cover letter of a lifetime to Torrens University, seeking an opportunity, a chance, to build my way out,” he said.

“It was my choice. It has been for me, and only me. It was to prove to myself that I could. It was to give myself something that could not be taken away.

“It was to open new career paths and remove the risk of having it all reduced once more to nothing but a dream.”

Torrens University Australia’s flexible entry options take into account professional experience, so the fact that Levi didn't have formal qualifications wasn’t a barrier. His application was successful.

For Levi, not only did it open those new career paths, but it eased a burden he had been carrying since his teenage years.

“[Studying my MBA enabled me] to forgive my younger self for a choice made in haste.”

Taking charge of his own identity

Levi believes there are many layers to our self-identity, which open one by one in their own time.

“Self-identify is a funny thing. Just when you think life has defined you, there is always another chapter, another challenge. Another chance to prove not to the world but to yourself, that you were wrong.”

Levi believes good things happen when you leave your comfort zone and let the unexpected happen.

“You never truly know what you are capable of, until you’re out of your comfort zone.”  

“I stand here today, in this room surrounded by peers, friends, family and mentors, as a man who used to think of himself as nothing more than a high-school dropout. But today I leave here as Levi Silcox, MBA,he said.

Levi used to look back at the time he left high school in 2001 and wonder what his life would have been if he had chosen the other option. But not anymore.

“My path is my story, and I am proud of each chapter. Each of us here has a story – embrace it, own it, be proud of it.”

Congratulations to all our recent graduates. 

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