Forget Oxford or Cambridge, the founder of Sheffield’s fastest growing company - employing 350 people - is a graduate of the ‘University of Parson Cross.’
Lee Hallam was a teenage tearaway who roamed the notorious estate, got into trouble with the police and left school with no qualifications.
But after turning himself around, today, aged just 43, he is the boss of telecoms, power and signalling company Linbrooke Services, with clients including Network Rail and Northern Powergrid.
Companies House figures show it has grown 246 per cent in the last two years - to £40m annual turnover - the highest rate in Sheffield, according to the Rapid Growth table on page 4 of The Star Business Weekly today.
Lee, who was raised by his grandmother after his parents split, said growing up in Parson Cross was “essential” to his success.
He added: “I don’t have an education, no GCSEs and no degree, but I went to the University of Parson Cross. Coming off that estate, it gives you spirit, character and a quest for survival.
“Some of my peers have degrees from Harvard and I used to feel nervous meeting them, but we all do the same thing on the toilet.
“An education will get you so far, but drive and determination will take you all the way.
“Success is also due to the hard work of staff over many years. I’m a big believer in sharing financial success - who shares wins.”
Lee went to Southey Green and Herries schools, but left at 16 to join the Marines.
It “saved” him, instilling discipline and a love of travel. In 1996, after seven years, he left, got married and joined the police. Based at Attercliffe, he now enforced the law on the very patch where he had once run wild.
He said: “I grew out of the Marines and wanted to return to my home town. I came into contact with a lot of lads I grew up with, but on the other side. It was quite strange.”
But three years in, and after a divorce, he left, penniless and yearning to travel. He signed up with a firm laying undersea cables across the Pacific.
It gave him the skills to set up a company, with business partner Andy Wilson, when the work eventually dried up.
Founded in 2002, Linbrooke Services specialises in telecoms, signalling and power in the rail, utilities and subsea sectors. Based in Chapeltown, it has six offices in the UK.
In 2004 Linbrooke established an academy which has trained more than 1,000 engineers, including injured and ex-service personnel and recruits from Chaucer School in Parson Cross.
“Our trainees from Parson Cross come to us with a hunger to better themselves.
“I had a juvenile criminal record aged 13 for stealing a motorbike. I was no different to my mates until I was 15.
“I would tell any kid, ‘your life is not defined by circumstances, but by the decisions you make’.”