Senior Engineering Manager
The course exceeded my expectations. Even the location of the IMechE building in central London is great. To be able to go into the Grand Library at lunchtime just added to it. It was a really worthwhile, brilliant experience.
Verified by an engineer
Richard Hudson, 39, is the Engineer Director at Special Vehicles, based at Millbrook, the renowned automotive proving ground in Bedfordshire. He has worked in the same location since he began as an apprentice, aged 17. “When I joined as an apprentice, the company was owned by General Motors. We designed and manufactured niche, alternative fuel vehicles, modified to run on liquefied petroleum gas or compressed natural gas. I loved it. I found it fascinating, changed my plans about going to university and stayed,” he explains.
“Following a change in government legislation, the company shifted to production of vehicles for the emergency services at relatively high volume. That company was later sold to private equity and the emergency service business transferred from Millbrook to another GM site. I was given the opportunity to stay with the business and become involved with a specialist operation, designing and producing armoured vehicles for the police, government agencies or Original Equipment Manufacturers’ vehicles. We focus on much lower volume – about 150 vehicles a year – but with much greater engineering complexity. The company has been sold twice since and we are now part of the UTAC group. This gives us a footprint in the UK, France, USA, Morocco and Finland.” In his time there, Richard has risen from Engineering Technician, to Engineer, then Senior Engineer, on to Principal Engineer and now his present position of Engineering Director.
Why the Senior Engineering Manager course?
“I am responsible for the man management of the 20-strong engineering team, as well as the project delivery. When I was promoted to principal engineer, it was the first time I’d had direct reports. My background is different to many who are in my position. A few of the principal engineers who report into me are chartered, and a few of their reports are chartered, too. I’m not.
“I always felt I had the potential to be a manager and I have completed some management training – conflict management, motivating teams and stuff of that nature. It was provided by people from this company. The training was definitely useful but there wasn’t any outside influence. I felt I needed to have a longer-term view on things.
“I’ve always been a believer in training. I am confident in my role and I think I perform well, but I know I can be better. One way to achieve that is via training. When I was looking for a course, I went straight to the IMechE because of its reputation.
“There is a strong connection between this organisation and the IMechE – we encourage our staff to become members of the IMechE and we support them by covering the cost of their fees. The IMechE was an obvious choice for this course.”
What was your experience of the course?
“When everyone introduced themselves, they said, ‘I’m Chartered’ and ‘I’m a Fellow’. My vocational background made me quite different to the other attendees. I was conscious I was not a member. However, their response was brilliant. It was no problem.
“We were asked, ‘Why are you here today?’ It was the first time I’d really thought about that question. Why was I there? I realised I tend to be in the weeds of day-to-day work. I wanted to learn skills and techniques to disengage from everyday firefighting, and focus more on planning and strategy. That’s what I wanted to get from the course.
“The style of the course was very flexible and the trainer was very good at constantly adapting the flow to our needs. I thought that was fantastic. There were lots of breakout activities; we’d go into a group or pairs and work through some of the material. At the end of each topic, there was a summary session of what we’ve covered. It was very interactive.
“There were just four other attendees which made it an intimate course. Everyone was very engaged and happy to share their experiences. They were from totally different industries: marine vessels, medical equipment, wind farms and software.
“The course exceeded my expectations. Even the location of the IMechE building in central London is great. The building is magnificent and to be able to go into the Grand library at lunchtime just added to it. It was a really worthwhile, brilliant experience.”
What are the key reasons someone should attend the Senior Engineering Manager course?
1 “There is some useful – and revealing – pre-course work, such as the emotional intelligence questionnaire and the Engineer 360 appraisal. Make sure you do them.”
2 “You will think about specific actions you can implement. For example, a mission statement for your department. That was really good.”
3 “You will speak with engineers who work in other sectors. I found that hugely beneficial. It was brilliant to be with people who had different influences and experiences.”
What’s been the impact?
“The course has given me validation of my abilities as a manager. Being among peers – who were experiencing similar issues and handling them in similar way – gave me confidence.
“The most difficult part of being a manager is when you have challenging individuals. On the course, we touched a lot on communication. People can become frustrated because they don’t feel informed about a situation. I’ve taken that on board and tried to relay information better – to let people make their own decisions and work freely.
“We learned about having different types of conversation. One of them was an asking conversation. That’s something that I’ve taken away and used. It’s a powerful tool: so instead of saying ‘That’s wrong’, you can say, ‘What could you have done differently?’ I have found that really useful.
“One thing that stood out was time management. It was suggested as a senior manager you should be splitting your time evenly three ways: one third doing tasks, one third focusing on the team and one third focusing on individuals. That resonated with me. With my background of having done the roles myself, I can fall back into getting involved in the detail. As a manager, I consciously need to pull back. I’ve been working on that since completing the course.”
Three pieces of advice you’d give future attendees
1 “When you are completing your pre-course assessment and the Engineer 360 exercise, be honest. Drop you guard. It will help during the actual course.”
2 “Go there prepared to talk about your own experiences, especially if there’s one area you want to improve on.”
3 “The more you interact with the other delegates, the more you will get out of it.”
“I’d like to do more courses. It was a very positive experience for me. I’m interested in Business Strategy for Engineering Managers, Leadership Practice and Managing Across Generations. I’m also looking at the New Engineering Manager course for my direct reports.
“I am so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had in my career, but prior to the course I thought that it was essential to have a Bachelor’s degree to become Incorporated and a Master’s degree to become Chartered. The trainer pointed out that in some instances, based on skills and experience, that wasn’t the case. I left the course thinking, ‘I really like this Institution and I want to be part of it.’ So, I’m going to see what my options are to become a member.”
Senior Engineering Manager