Shaun Gregory learned the value of hard work at the tender age of 15 when his school refused to enter him for O levels because he was unsuitable.
His parents paid for him to enter, the teenager got his head down and passed nine, reinforcing an early lesson that hard work pays.
Now the 45-year-old is the global chief executive for Telefonica Digital, which operates in 26 countires with a turnover of £80bn.
He is also the man helping to pioneer mobile phone advertising across the planet.
He said: “We are at the cutting edge of a technology which is changing advertising from a dark art into a science.”
But if that sounds a bit Big Brother, bear in mind you have to ‘opt-in’ in the first place, says Shaun.
And data is used anonymously – so they target adverts at you based on your usage without knowing precisely who you are.
Some 96 per cent of texts are read within the first five minutes, it is claimed.
Telefonica Digital also works in internet television, video, outdoor advertising, social networks, loyalty, payments and analytics – with global revenues on target to pass £5bn by 2015.
Not everyone is comfortable with this level of personalisation - and the privacy that must be surrendered, but many large companies have long since made up their minds.
The former newspaper ad rep - who won Salesman of the Month 16 times on the trot - reels off a list of global firms he works with, including Visa, Fifa, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Land Rover, The Co-op.
He moved to the Daily Telegraph, then moved to O2 and built O2 Media “from scratch” before joining Telefonica.
Shaun, whose family are from Gleadless, looks back on his early days and says:“I wasn’t naturally academic. But if I get a knock I come straight back. I was determined to prove it to myself,”
Read all about Shaun’s rise to the top - and other local sucess stories - in December’s edition of The Business, the premier business magazine for the SSeffield City Region, which is out now.