Education and qualifications:
BSc (Hons) Environmental Civil Engineering, Glasgow Caledonian University.
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
When I was still at high school, I went on a family holiday to the Cuban Varadero peninsula. I went on a road-trip to Havana via Blanca and crossed the Puente de Bucanayagua Bridge. At first it was nothing, just another bridge, but when the bus pulled into a car park, I saw this massive brutalist concrete bridge piercing through and towering over the thick tropical canopy below. Faced with the sharp contrast between nature and humanity’s constructs, I had the sudden realisation that any problem can be conquered by ingenuity and engineering. From that day on, I wanted to become an engineer, I wanted to connect people with bridges and conquer problems through design.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am a Technical Director at a company that produce screws and fastenings for construction, as well as custom parts and products for aerospace, defence, and motorsports industries. Our products can be found in formula one cars, nuclear submarines and infantry fighting vehicles. I have the privilege of leading a large, cross-disciplinary team of exceptionally talented engineers and technicians in our mission to meet all the quality and technical objectives of a multi-national group of construction product manufacturers. My role is to direct all technical functions of the group of companies across multiple countries, regulatory and legal frameworks, as well as regional practices and applications.
Can you describe a typical working day?
The vast majority of my time is now taken up with strategic and operational matters, with my main focus being on forming new, and maintaining existing relationships with a broad range of key stakeholders. Whether that’s with our clients and customers, our suppliers, industry and trade partners, academic institutions, professional engineering institutions, technical committees and even politicians. The days of spending all my time pounding out calculations and AutoCAD drawings are long behind me now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t constantly dip my toe into design work!
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
There are many challenges, but the overriding one that I constantly strive to address is ignorance and lack of knowledge in the field at the operator and specifier levels. This is natural given the product and topic: when people hear about screws they switch off and don’t care, but these things are critical construction elements that retain the facades, roofs and structural glazing/partitioning of almost every building in the United Kingdom. Quite simply, if they fail then it can cost lives. We have seen this tragically in swimming pool roof collapses in Uster (Switzerland, 1985), Steenwijk (Netherlands, 2001), Transvaal Park (Russia, 2004), Dolphin Complex (Russia, 2005) and Zwembad (Netherlands, 2011) where 56 people could have been potentially saved by simple changes in the specifications of fasteners. I have had articles published in the trade press, lobbied associations, and politicians, appeared on podcasts and trained hundreds of engineers on the dangers of under-specifying fasteners. That’s especially crucial when used in environments which are conducive to hydrogen embrittlement or stress-corrosion cracking. I also highlight the importance of correct installation practices, as the current industry trend of using impact-type tooling is going to cost lives in the future.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I enjoy that every day is a school day, and I am constantly expanding my knowledge. For example, I have been involved in some interesting projects, including the design and specification of nuclear reactor sarcophagi over Magnox reactors, which involved empirical testing to include analysis of performance through its’ entire working lifetime.
I think we are standing at the precipice of an explosion in complex technologies in our industry, which is only being postponed by the current economic climate. My hope is that people recognise this and see the potential for themselves in learning about new and emerging techniques and technologies through some Continued Professional Development (CPD), as we are about to live in a golden age for CPD and I would urge anyone reading this to go out and make use of it!
Expand your horizons and develop yourself; take ownership of your own learning and development requirements; accept nothing at face value, ask questions and research answers. You have infinite lateral growth potential!
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I am very proud of my work in the refinement and advancement of Fourier Transform Infra-Red (FTIR) spectrometry techniques (used to obtain an infrared spectrum of absorption or emission of a solid, liquid or gas), particularly in the quantification of contaminants in polyamides. FTIR techniques are exceptionally useful for chemical composition analysis as well as Positive Material Identification (PMI). This doesn’t just affect material compliance at a summary level, the consequences of not finding contamination can cost millions of pounds in remedial and lost opportunity costs to a business. In the worst-case scenario, this could cost lives through premature failure of the components. I was deeply honoured to recently receive the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) 2021 Nemet Award for my work in related activities, as well as the 2022 Bob Service Award. I am very grateful to BINDT as well as my peers and friends on BINDT’s Engineering Council Working Group and the Trade and Industry Executive Committee, who work hard to further the aims of the Institution and industry, and who have personally supported me on my journey.
I am also in the latter stages of my PhD. I would like to give special thanks to my Director of Studies and Academic Supervisors, Professor Nick Hytiris and Professor Slobodan Mickovski from Glasgow Caledonian University. I have been slow to action over the course due to work commitments, but they have stood behind me the entire way!
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
We are defined by our own identity, and I wanted to identify as a Chartered Engineer (CEng). In the days of the Roman Empire, the highest possible achievement any Roman could attain wasn’t a triumph, land, gold, or anything that could be taken. It was something that could only be given; it was the corona graminea: the Grass Crown. The Grass Crown was an award given to a commander from their soldiers if they were deemed worthy, made from collected vegetation and grass from the battlefield. It was an award based on peer review and recognition. To my eyes, being registered as a CEng is recognition from your peers that after reviewing and appraising your career, they have deemed that you are working at the highest level in the field of engineering. This is more valuable to me as professional recognition than any academic degree could ever be. Where the Grass Crown was the ultimate form of recognition a Roman commander could receive, becoming a CEng is the ultimate form of recognition that an engineer can achieve.
At the end of the day, I believe that we are defined by our identity, and I am proud of my identity as a CEng and a European Engineer (EUR ING).
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
The main benefit is in mutual recognition. It is simply a matter of fact that a CEng’s opinion is respected among their fellow engineers - mutual recognition and respect go a long way to ease collaboration issues and reservations. Furthermore, it gives key stakeholders who recognise the process required to become a CEng, confidence in my abilities. In addition to becoming a CEng, I am also a EUR ING. I feel that this has benefited me greatly in enabling cross-border work and recognition in the post-Brexit geopolitical landscape.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
In many ways, the benefits to the employer are the same as that to the employee. Registration instils greater confidence in the ability of their personnel both internally and externally. It proves engineering competence of the employer and the employee. It brings gravitas to all parties involved.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Do it now and if you can’t do it, work towards it! It is worth the effort and will pay yourself back several times over in raw economic terms as well as in boosting your own self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem.
I would also encourage you to seek registration as a EUR ING. The modern world we live in is very small and very diverse, I wholeheartedly believe that more things bind us than separate us. To that end, registration as a EUR ING is one step towards increasing international working and bringing yourself closer to your colleagues and counterparts throughout Europe.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I am dedicated to the mission of my current company, so I cannot see myself moving from here. I am very happy to work alongside my fellow directors in expanding and growing the group of companies until the day I retire. The only thing I can possibly see changing is if the group was bought out at some point and the new majority shareholder didn’t see me in their future. In that case, I could see myself moving into a lecturing role in academia where I could give students and engineers the benefit of my insights into the industry and practices. If not there, then I really enjoy making new connections and lobbying so perhaps a career in the political landscape would not be off the table.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am very keen on being active in the industry through several means, the first of which is through working on various technical committees at British Standards Institute (BSI), International Federation for the Promotion of Mechanism and Machine Science (IFToMM) and United Kingdom Committee on Machine and Mechanism Science (UKMMS).
I am a member of the Engineering Council Working Group at BINDT, where I have the pleasure of assessing CEng and Incorporated Engineer (IEng) candidates’ applications and undertaking Professional Review Interviews (PRI). I see this as a great benefit to myself, as I get to hear first-hand how prospective CEngs are pushing the boundaries and how prospective IEng candidates are finding innovative ways to manage current processes. I am also a member of the Trade and Industry Executive Committee (T&IEC) at BINDT.
I am a member of the Scholarships and Awards Committee of the Worshipful Company of Constructor, who oversee the awarding and subsequent administration of scholarships and awards made by the Company and sponsoring organisations (such as the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)). I would encourage all readers to consider applying for the Scholarships as they are a great platform from which to learn and then educate others from.
I am also a STEM ambassador, I am very keen on educating children on the excitement and satisfaction that can be found in STEM careers.
I am also keen on pursuing charitable activities in the City of London through my involvement in the Livery Companies and personal fundraising activities for various other charities in the UK including Autism Scotland and With Kids. I count myself as very privileged and I want to give back what I can even if it’s just in my own small ways. I would encourage members of professional engineering institutions to consider giving to their institution’s benevolent fund, as even a small gesture can make a big difference!
Do you identify as disabled, or as a member of a minority or under-represented group? Would you like to comment on what impact or influence you feel this has had upon your career?
I am diagnosed with a neurodivergence, and I believe myself to be extremely lucky and fortunate that it has not severely impacted my social or professional life. My only comment here is that I wish people would be more mindful that not all disabilities are visible, and that people should always approach each other from a place of respect, consideration, and empathy. In the past 18 years of my career, I have seen some incredible advancements in inclusion, particularly towards those suffering from mental health issues and other neurodivergence's. My sincere hope is that the trend continues.