Business is not always about boardrooms, briefings and black coffee. In tribute to those who take a more unusual approach to enterprise, Deputy Business Editor Steven Hugill examines the unconventional and downright difficult careers in the North-East

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be referee

Ollie O'Brien has faced the jeers and the cheers from non-league football fans across the Northern League and Northern Premier League during his time as a football official.

The 30-year-old previously lived in Stanley, County Durham, but is now based in Scarborough, and has been involved in games featuring Middlesbrough's Jonathan Woodgate and Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi.

He reveals how he hopes to continue his ascent into the Football League.

How did you get into refereeing? The reason I started was my dad, Michael, who was a referee, and I went to watch him and got the bug.

My career began in 1998 when I passed the old style six-week course in Scarborough.

I was the youngest person at 15 to take the course in 20 years.

I started refereeing minor league fixtures and the old Scarborough centre of excellence games and did adult games in the Scarborough and District Saturday League.

I moved into adult football when I was 17 and quickly moved up the levels.

Has refereeing changed during your time in the middle? Over the years refereeing has become a lot more professional with academies now put in professional clubs.

The national FA and County FAs are also investing in referees and it's now becoming a career with clear goals and paths out there that lead to success.

A prime example of a local lad doing well is Michael Oliver, from Cramlington, Northumberland, who has looked after Premier League and Football League games.

Will we see more North-East referees making the step up after Michael Oliver and Consett's Mark Clattenburg? The region has a high quality of Football League referees and assistants and there are many good referees at my level, which is level three, so it is a real hot bed.

In my opinion, it also has the best league in the Northern League, and that helps brings on a good referee.

What has been your biggest achievement so far? Gaining my level three qualifications has been the highlight, which I got in 2010.

It should have been sooner but for personal reasons.

It means I can referee at Northern League and Evo-Stik League level and run the line at Conference games as well as reserve Premier League and Football League matches.

In the next four years, I want to get my qualification to run Football League line, but I've got just taken on a new job and we are expecting a child, so that will have to be postponed for a while.

Would you recommend a career in refereeing? Definitely. It brings so many opportunities for young people, especially nowadays.

It's not easy, since becoming a level three referee I've had to work harder on my fitness as the professional game is getting better every year.

But I would really recommend it, ex-players would be a massive help for the game but the county FAs all run courses, which are easy to get on.