Ben Brading (Physics 2011) credits the problem-solving skills he learnt at Imperial for helping him to succeed in the corporate world after graduating.

During the first COVID-19 lockdown, Ben co-founded business water comparison service, AquaSwitch, which he now runs full-time with his team. The firm has grown quickly and is now one of the leading business water and energy comparison websites on the market.

We were keen to catch up with Ben and hear about how his Imperial experience has shaped his journey to date.  

What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?

My degree gave me a solid foundation across all of physics, but two specific areas stand out.

In class it was learning how to build a radio telescope. During third year my lab partner and I were tasked with building a radio telescope to detect communication signals by submarines. It took weeks of us scratching our heads trying to figure out the electronics, but it was great utilising various bits of physics we learned in the project. After the telescope was built it was proudly attached to the top of the Huxley building

Outside of class it was learning how to drive a large minibus through central London. To help in the clubs that I was a member of, I passed the test to drive the Imperial minibuses. Learning how to operate these 17-seater monsters around the narrow streets of Kensington was a memorable challenge!

Can you tell us more about your studies at Imperial?

Having come to Imperial from a rural Oxfordshire secondary school, moving to central London was a shock.

During the first couple of years the course covered many fundamentals of physics, but from a rigorous mathematical standpoint. I found this approach very different to how science is taught at secondary school, and I felt it gave me a much deeper understanding of the topics I was learning.

In my final year I chose to focus on experimental physics, so my time was split between lectures and spending time in the lab on field projects.

Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?

The biggest inspiration was getting to learn directly from academics at the cutting-edge of science. I can't say I always completely understood exactly what was being done, but it was inspiring to be so close to the action.

What is your fondest memory of your time here?

I once shared a lift with Brian May (who held an office in the Department of Physics at the time I studied there). That was pretty surreal.

Tell us a bit about the work you're doing now, and your journey to this point.

After graduating from Imperial, I decided to move into the world of business. With the reputation of Imperial on my CV I was able to secure a place at PwC on their graduate programme. 

I've spent most of the last ten years in various finance roles and have been fortunate to work on exciting projects with amazing people. In particular, I joined Cazoo (an online car retailer) when there were just ten employees and helped build it into a New York Stock Exchange listed unicorn that's now expanding across Europe.

During the first COVID-19 lockdown I then founded AquaSwitch. I noticed a gap in the digital space for commercial water comparison sites. It was initially something to keep me from boredom in my evenings and weekends but has grown to something much bigger.

In August 2021, my co-founder and I started working full-time on AquaSwitch. We successfully completed a seed funding round and are now a company of five full-time employees. We are now one of the leading business water and business energy comparison websites.

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?

It may sound cliché, but problem-solving is the skill that I've leaned on the most since leaving Imperial. In my programme, there was a specific course on solving abstract logical problems. No complex calculus involved, just thinking outside of the box using basic math. 

I've found managerial roles in business to just be a series of small problems you need to solve. Imperial taught me how to best approach these problems and find innovative solutions, that has been valuable. 

What does a typical day look like for you now?

A typical day starts with two or three coffees to get me functioning!

I work in a small office in Cobham, Surrey, with my colleagues. We're a tight-knit team and it doesn't feel too much like 'work'.

In a typical day I'll have a few meetings with some of our shareholders or other companies in the utility industry. Outside of formal meetings as a team, we spend most of the time optimising our website or processes to do a better job of attracting and helping out customers. I also do daily accounting activities for the company.

What are your plans for the future?

I am enjoying running and managing my own business full-time. We've got a fantastic team and I hope to continue working with them for the foreseeable future.

What would be your advice for current students?

Like many people, I've only had the chance to go to university once. My advice is to make the most of your time at Imperial - it'll pass by quick. 

If your experience is anything like mine, keeping up with lectures will be challenging. Just push yourself to get out there, meet lots of people, participate in clubs and get more out of the experience than just a degree certificate.

I have fond memories of being involved in RSM Hockey Club (I was Captain of the mixed team in 2010) and Karting Club. With the latter I represented Imperial in the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) championships, travelling to various far-away tracks to race!

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?

Studying at Imperial allowed me to work alongside some hugely talented individuals. I have also read the profiles of fellow alumni, and seeing what others are achieving across such a diverse range of fields is hugely inspiring. I'm proud to have my name amongst them.