Engineer Interview – David Wilson, MGA Controls Ltd.

This weeks Career progression interview focuses on a control and instrumentation engineer who had his sites set on becoming a Sales Director. After succeeding in this role, David embraced his entrepreneurial side and has been managing his own engineering solutions' business ever since.DW profile shot

This week we speak to David Wilson, owner and managing director of engineering solutions firm MGA Controls Ltd. David has enjoyed a   successful career in engineering, before moving sideways to Sales and Marketing director of a Global engineering firm. David talks us through the highlights of his career, how he got to where he is today, as well shedding some light on how he relaxes after a busy day in the office.


When did you first realise you wanted to become an Engineer?

I found that from an early age I was always interested in mechanical things. I had a meccano set as a young boy and used to become involved in building structures, levers, pulley systems etc. Then as a teenager I found myself interested in dismantling and rebuilding car engines. So all in all, I was fairly mechanically minded from an early age.

Did you attend College/ University? If so, where/ what did you study?

I studied for an ONC and HNC in Electrical & Electronic Eng at the University of Ulster. These were part time qualifications as I was also working in an apprenticeship for Bristish Telecom at the time.
I then went on to study fulltime for a BSc (hons) in Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology.
After this I again went into part time study to complete a MSc degree in Control & Instrumentation whilst working within the Process Industry.

Describe your first job as an Engineer? What were your responsibilities in this role?

My first job as an engineer was working for British Telecom as an apprentice telephone engineer. My responsibilities involved working up telegraph poles connecting cables to distribution points, followed by time working in a telephone exchange developing a detailed understanding of telephony system operation.

What sort of role would you recommend to someone who is at the start of their engineering career?

It is important to supplement academic knowledge with practical experience, so the advice that I would give is do not be afraid to get your hands dirty and be open to advice from older engineers who have been there and already had the experience that you are seeking to acquire. A degree qualification does not necessarily make you an engineer, it is just a ticket to equip you to move on to the next stage.

How have you progressed from your first job role? What were the stepping stones you made to get to your current role?

I spent 15 or so years working in technical design environments before moving into sales as a sales engineer. I decided that I liked that and then I looked at what skills I would need to develop to become a sales manager. Upon becoming a sales manager I then set my sites on becoming a sales director and so I focussed my attentions in understanding how to develop a sales and marketing strategy and how to implement it. I also worked hard at understanding what I needed to do to develop my man management skills. I was always prepared to take on more responsibility and left myself open to taking opportunities as they presented themselves.

What is your current role? And what are your responsibilities?

My current role is as Managing Director of my own engineering solutions business and also as Managing Director of my own online marketing business for the process industry.

What has been the most challenging engineering project you have worked on in your career?

I would say that the greatest challenge that I took on was probably to help Basf establish a new IT services business. Basf is known as probably the world’s biggest chemical company and in 2001 they decided that they wanted to create their own IT Services business. I joined the company as the European sales & marketing director at the beginning of the venture and was responsible for recruiting and setting up sales teams in several European countries. I was also jointly responsible for positioning our service offering into those territories along with the appropriate ‘go to market’ strategy for each country. I learned a lot of what not to do, as well as what to do along with an understanding of how to sell into different cultures.

What are the most satisfying parts of your current job role?

The most satisfying part of my current role probably stems from the fact that I succeed or fail based on my own endeavours. As MD and shareholder, I now get to set strategic direction and then to oversee the implementation of that strategy.

Would you do anything differently if you had the chance to change one thing in your career?

I think when I look back – I perhaps should have embraced entrepreneurship a lot earlier in my career. I was a bit afraid to take the chance for many years because of the financial risks etc. However, having done so, I have never looked back.

Do you have any patents? If so, tell me more about them? If not, is it something you are interested in pursuing?

I have no patents to my name and this is not something that I would personally have a desire to pursue. I don’t consider being a technical expert as being necessarily essential to being successful in business. The key is in knowing how to advise those people with technical expertise on how to exploit their technical potential.

What do you see happening in your industry in the next 5 years?

I see an ever increasing use of social media throughout the process industry. I think the industry is just awakening to the power of online marketing and communication. I also believe that organisations that choose to ignore this trend will fall behind in marketing terms.

Would you use the internet to try and get in touch with other industry experts?

Of course – the internet is now an essential tool for networking with other technical specialists, sharing opinions and viewpoints and also for online marketing. The industry has now moved beyond the point where it is acceptable just to have a brochure website. If you want to appear in the Google shop window for certain search terms, you must consider optimising your website for those search terms. This is not a one off exercise but must also become an ongoing activity.

How do you keep up-to-date with the latest technologies in your sector?

Hitherto, I would say that I read the industry journals. However, that approach has now become rather antiquated and outdated in the digital age. Hence, we saw an opportunity for Process Industry Forum to become a vehicle for communicating product innovation and application solutions to the wider process industry.

Finally, how do you take your mind off work when you’re at home? Hobbies/ Interests?

I enjoy playing golf and a bit of cycling. I also enjoy watching football as a season ticket holder. However, I find myself in a very rare position where running my business is almost also a hobby.

Got any questions for David? Email us at [email protected] or leave them in the comments section below. We will get them answered for you.

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