I went to Nottingham University for seven years in total. Initially, I started a joint honours degree in Chemistry and Physics, but I ended up switching after my first year to study a single honours degree in Chemistry and Molecular Physics. This meant my lectures were in chemistry and physics and I got to skip much of the organic chemistry, so I was much happier!
I followed my degree with a PhD in Vibrational Spectroscopy of Thin Films and Monolayers. The team I was working with were researching the absorption of thin layers of gas on metal single crystal surfaces and then looking at them using infrared spectroscopy. The aim was to understand how catalysis works and, if you change the properties of the surface, what influence that has on the properties of the gas you’re absorbing onto the surface.
Past work experience
My first job after university was at The Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE) which eventually became QinetiQ. I started in the liquid crystal display group working on a large project for the Ford Motor Company developing a 3D display. I then moved into a role which concentrated on optical correlation and target recognition, a more defence orientated position. I was at QinetiQ for about 12 years and spent the last 4 years there working in the compound semi-conductor group on materials research.
In 2010, I moved into my first commercial role at Wafer Technology, part of IQE plc, as a Technical Sales Manager in the field of semi-conductors; an area I was very familiar on the technical side from my time at QinetiQ.
For the last three years, prior to joining Covesion, I took on a broader commercial role within IQE itself, maintaining my responsibilities at Wafer Technology but with the additional responsibility for selling and developing IQE products as well.
Both commercial roles at IQE involved global sales and managing distributors in Japan, China, North America and in some of our other territories.
Favourite part of your job
One of the most enjoyable things I find with my job is being able to build relationships, particularly with new customers. There have been a number of occasions where I’ve had the opportunity to build a relationship with a brand-new customer. I have had customer relationships which have been built over a period of 10 years; I find that really rewarding. Not only is it something I enjoy anyway but it’s great when you see that feeding directly into the company’s performance, in terms of what we are building on the factory floor and how your performance improves as a company.
People that inspire you
What I found interesting is moving from a research environment into a commercial environment. The reason I’ve probably stuck with technical sales and the more commercial side of business in general, is probably down to my boss at Wafer Technology, the General Manager, who was the person who recruited me. He is also, crucially, the reason why I enjoy this type of work.
He was very driven by being face-to-face, getting in front of the customers. He was also a very engaging person who could sell a product extremely well. Without him, I think I would have reverted back to my technical roots long ago. I learnt a lot from him, about the commercial environment and how you engage and build a relationship, how you probe, how you get information out of the customer and understand what they really need. I think that’s very important from a sales perspective, not just listening to what the customer is telling you but reading and understanding more so you can really help them. Offering people and businesses true benefits rather than just taking what they say at face value.
Outside of work
I was born in Farnborough, but my family moved when I was 4 up to a small town about seven miles south of Sheffield called Dronfield. Dronfield is actually northeast Derbyshire but I have always considered Sheffield to be my hometown. It’s where we used to go shopping and I would go out with friends as I grew up. A Yorkshireman by proxy!
Outside of work, up until recently I was involved with a Morris dancing group, I did it for more than 10 years and my family all still do. I have gone a little more mainstream now so my love at the moment is running. I joined the local Brackley and District Running Club about four years ago and ran my first marathon a couple of years ago. I also ran Hadrian’s Wall (virtually) back in May over a period of time, but I prefer to run as part of a group as I like the company.
I hope to run the London Marathon for the experience and the atmosphere. I am not sure whether I will run more road marathons beyond that. I’m really quite keen to try and do some more trail running. There’s some fantastic off-road events round the country and it’s a lovely change just getting away and running in the countryside, rather than just running down roads.
Other than running, I try to do as much cycling as I can as well. However, I’m a fair-weather cyclist, so that’s only a summer thing, whereas the running is all year round.