Music, shoes and tech: A look inside my lifelong passions

Photo credit: Magali Girardin

Books on the shelf, trophies in the cabinet, and paintings on the wall — they all tell a story.

In the past year, business has moved from the boardroom to the spare room, and video calls have reminded us that everyone has passions outside of work.

It’s easy to forget in regular face-to-face meetings, but video calls have shown us a little more of the person behind the persona.

Whether you build model trains, run marathons, or collect wine; watch birds, bake cakes, or ride bikes, these passions define you almost as much as your work does. At times, they even give you new insights into your work (who would’ve thought music would have so much in common with digital transformation?)

Well, after much encouragement over the years, I decided now was the time to pull back the veil and share a little more about my own passions, with the hope that maybe you’ll also feel inspired to share yours.

“Hi, I’m Andre, and I love shoes”

The first pair were black Church’s loafers, size 9.5UK.

I was 17 and had just gotten my first job, my first suit, and my first shoes to match. In time, I realised that I couldn’t wear the same shoes every day, so I bought another pair, and another, and another.

Something about shoes fascinated me.

The leather, the design, the construction, the distinctive look and feel — a shoe is an expression of the shoemaker, but also an expression of the person wearing them.

Boots, brogues, loafers, oxfords, boat shoes, sneakers, moccasins, I’m fascinated by the differences and details; how different regions and shoemakers have their own distinctive style.

From the fashionable nature of Italian shoes, to the durability of the English, each has their own character. Which is why I love to pick up new pairs of shoes during my travels. While my colleagues would seek out the top restaurants, I’d always find myself in the best shoe stores (I’ve passed away a lot of time in Jermyn Street in London!)

I love the artisanal craftsmanship of shoemaking, and my interest has led me to connect with shoemakers across the world, many who have become good friends along the way.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes — but what does it say when you have more than 300 pairs?

All photos credit: Magali Girardin

Collecting shoes is one of my passions, but my other passion is a little… louder.

Music, Memphis and memories

I was 12 or 13 when I first picked up a guitar. I stumbled across the fretboard trying to entertain kids at summer camp and while I didn’t know what I was doing, I knew I liked it.

One year later, I played my first gig… for the head of police and a table of senior politicians.

From then on, music took a central role in my life. I played guitar and bass, and fully embraced the musician lifestyle. Tight pants, tight shirts, and long curly hair.

The Blues Alley in 1980. Photo by Mike Freeman via Flickr.

At 18, I moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Ostensibly to attend Murdoch’s Cotton School, I spent most nights working at Blues Alley, the hippest place in Memphis. I was surrounded by artists, earning money and playing music daily. A truly memorable time for young Andre.

After returning from Memphis, my musical journey continued, and in my 20s I came close to pursuing a career in music. Most of my friends were musicians, I was constantly at gigs and immersed in the lifestyle. But as drawn as I was to the excitement of it, I could not dive in fully.

It takes absolute commitment. You have to be willing to be broke, to sacrifice comforts, and must be a little crazy.

Me and various band mates back in the 1980s…

While I never became a full-time musician, music has been part of my life ever since. To this day I still play bass in bands and find inspiration from music in my work in shipping.

There are, in fact, more similarities between music and digital transformation than you might imagine.

Playing in the right key

“It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.”
– Dizzy Gillespie (an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer)

Now, it might sound a little geeky, but I often think of the shipping industry as a global band. While we all play different instruments, if we are to play well together, we have to all be playing in the same key.

Just as standards in music (keys, scales, time signatures etc) lay a foundation for playing a great song , standards in shipping lay the foundations for better communication.

If we get the basics out of the way, we can focus on the fun stuff!

Whatever your passion is, I urge you to share it with me in the comments below!

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Andre Simha

Andre Simha

Husband, father, bass player, shoeaholic. CDIO at MSC and chairman of DCSA. I mostly write about the digitalisation of container shipping.