Engineering Leadership

March 30, 2017 9:43 am
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I met a rare breed in industry recently; an Engineering Leader in the truest sense of the word. Hopefully that has caught your attention (and hopefully not made you bristle with indignation). As an asset management consultant, I meet engineering and facilities staff on a regular basis with a whole host of lead and manager related job titles.

I fully accept that management is an intrinsic part of an engineering manager’s role. The logic, processes and practicality engineers deal in makes them most suitable for the challenges of management.

So, what is this business of engineering leadership?  Some of the greatest and most innovative individuals to impact the world of technology, the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and James Dyson, are those we count as fellow engineers. Why is it then that so many engineers lack either the will or the opportunity to make it in senior management roles?

Leadership is about influencing and empowering others to get the best from them. It requires a whole host of interpersonal skills which are essential in an engineering role. What might be lacking in our engineering training is leadership. Training and education tend to focus on the practical aspects of engineering, yet in the workplace the engineer is expected to show all the leadership attributes that their operations colleagues are expected to. Team work, communications, mentoring and development, conflict resolution, negotiating, being a visionary and thinking strategically; the list is a long one. These soft skills often aren’t taught because the focus for engineers is on specific academic training. This can mean engineers are overlooked for senior management positions in favour of those in possession of softer and more business skills training.

So the challenge for us in the engineering community is to promote our capabilities.  We provide an essential role in industry, but need not be regarded as purely supportive. Let us drive the profile of engineers, making use of our skills and honing them for senior management positions. Include engineers with leadership skills in your senior team development programmes; they will add value.

Jim Richardson is a former British Army officer who since retiring from the forces has worked in the Energy Sector and more recently as a Consultant with Coriolis UK Ltd.  He is an Engineering Leader.

International Women’s Day: Why gender is so significant in business

March 17, 2017 2:25 pm
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International Women’s Day took place on 8th March. The day marks an annual celebration of social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all over the world. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Gender is so important, and considering how female talent can be attracted and retained in your business is absolutely vital.

Women are the most powerful consumers in the world. Their impact on the economy is growing every year, with overall income set to reach $18 trillion by 2018 according to EY.

Coca-Cola’s chief executive Muhtar Kent has pledged to achieve gender equality throughout the corporation by 2020. Educating managers on how gender equality boosts the bottom line is key. “This was not just a case of us being nice to women,” explains Kathy Waller, chair of the Women’s Leadership Council at Coca-Cola. “This was all about the business case: understanding that 70% of purchasing decisions are made by women prompted the need to look like the marketplace we serve.”

Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing through a combination of their buying power and also their influence. They are a multitude of markets all rolled into one; women serve as primary caregivers to children and also to the elderly in virtually every society in the world. They buy on behalf of those in their households, as well as for extended family (such as older parents and in-laws) and also their friends.

Gender is the most powerful determinant of how we see the world and everything in it. It is more significant than age, income, ethnicity, or geography.  Gender is often a blind spot for businesses, partially because the subject is not typically addressed in most undergraduate or graduate-level business courses, or in the workplace itself. In the UK, we have a prevalent issue within our industries, particularly in STEM subjects:

  • The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe (less than 10%), while Latvia, Bulgaria, and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%.
  • Only 9% of the engineering workforce is female, and only 6% of registered engineers and technicians are women.
  • In 2013/14, women accounted for only 3.8% of Engineering apprenticeship starts, and 1.7% of Construction Skills starts.

Consider that 64% of engineering employers say a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business, along with 32% of companies across sectors currently have difficulties recruiting experienced STEM staff with 20% finding it difficult to recruit entrants.

So how can we attract and retain talented women in the workplace to fill this emerging skills gap and represent the consumers we are targeting? Silicon Valley companies are making headlines these days for their efforts to fix underrepresentation of women in tech. Many of these businesses are focused on CSR initiatives to increase the pipeline of women studying STEM in high school and college.

To retain female employees, tech giant Apple made headlines for offering to cover the costs of freezing their female employee’s eggs. While controversial (not to mention unattainable for many businesses), there are a few things within every employer’s grasp that can aid in the retention of female talent.

Remove Sexism from The Workplace

Leadership and management must excise sexism in all forms from the workplace. This means educating employees about unconscious bias and benevolent sexism, and also the consequences.

Shape Company Culture with Female Employees Input

Start-up land has become infamous for offering a fraternity-like atmosphere: beer fridges, video games, and personalised hoodies. On the other hand, traditional workplaces have been typically male-dominated and can create an intimidating and unwelcoming environment. Introducing activities and benefits beyond those that are reminiscent of college days is therefore key.

Diversify your Senior Management Team

Harvard Business Review research suggests that economic payoffs are achieved by increasing gender diversity within senior executive teams. Business policies and CSR initiatives such as better education for girls and excellent maternity leave and childcare policies are effective ways of organically diversifying your senior ranks through promoting those in middle management positions.

The evidence is compelling. More women are needed in industry to fill the skills gap and represent the consumers we actually serve. But ultimately, the best way to attract female talent is likely to also be the best way to attract male talent; an excellent array of incentives and benefits to cater to the individual’s needs. Whilst not all businesses can offer a benefits package to compete with the likes of Google and Apple, culture is key in determining how attractive a firm is to a prospective female employee.


Written by Imelda McGrath, Coriolis Ltd

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Love is in the air: Article by Clive Black, Advisor to Coriolis

March 17, 2017 12:31 pm
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The days are getting longer, the first spring lambs were bounding around the fields of Denbighshire last weekend, and the daffodils are out well ahead of Mother’s Day; ’twas ever thus, of course, in Cornwall. The love in the air has migrated from the natural world to the corporate one, well, momentarily perhaps.

Fast on the surprise hook up between ‘Chas & Dave’ of Tesco and Booker fame, we financially pumped up Kraft-Heinz making a somewhat premature move, as it turned out, for Euro-sassy Unilever. The approach was a little unfortunate for the Americans as their smooching was brought into the public eye a lot earlier than they would have reasonably wanted. Once the news was out, Unilever firmly closed the door, not even asking the parents what they thought…

…it turned out that the parents weren’t as chuffed at Unilever’s singledom as management first thought. Many balked at the oil and water nature of the respective corporate combinations from a cultural perspective. The premature approach took the lid off some realities of the Unilever machine. It highlighted less than stellar progress in improving the group’s return on sales in recent years. Perhaps also putting the spotlight on whether the business has been as focused as it should have been.

Lo and behold, after two days of highly emotional shenanigans, Unilever revealed that it was embarking on a strategic review just after 1pm, and by 1:45pm it will hit the higher end of FY2017 margin guidance. A catalyst for change had been sown by Kraft-Heinz’s amorousness, one that could have profound implications for the future of Unilever, not to mention its CEO, Paul Polman; characterised in some quarters as a business saint in more ways than one.

The Unilever/Kraft-Heinz debacle may have broader ramifications for businesses and dealmakers too to our minds.

Firstly, the UK government may have intervened in industrial policy terms under Theresa May, signalling a longer haul with this proposed deal than Kraft-Heinz first thought. We sense Dutch politicians may have come alive too. As such, Unilever may have been protected by a negative reaction to globalisation.

Secondly, bankers are never slow to seize on an opportunity, and all sorts of files of future corporate combinations will now be dusted off. Some could potentially involve Unilever, be that acquiring to defend from future insertions, i.e. Colgate-Palmolive, selling selective food brands to Kraft-Heinz, or breaking up and demerging the group entirely. Time will tell what transpires, although shareholders may like to reflect on the fact that most deals tend to benefit the vendor and advisor over the acquirer in the long run.

After the whirlwind pace of geopolitical developments in 2016, the New Year sees how the world of business corporations react to the emerging orders, new opportunities and barriers. Enjoy the brightening days and may the love touch you too.


Written by Dr. Clive Black, Advisor to Coriolis

Paid to Play: The Age of Futuristic Sport

March 2, 2017 12:22 pm
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When we look back on our formative years, we of a certain generation remember those awkward and anti-social kids from high school who loved gaming. What you might not know is that they are now the ones making bank.

The skills they honed over endless hours in front of a computer monitor under an online alias are now comparable to the skills of a professional athlete. Not to mention they’re eligible for sponsorship by the likes of Red Bull or Coca-Cola.

How did this happen, I hear you ask…?

For those of us who don’t know about ‘eSports’, the pastime has seen a surge in popularity in recent years and has been described as competitive online gaming or professional electronic sports. It is dominated by games such as League of Legends and DOTA 2. While some debate calling it a ‘sport’, what it does require is skill, strategy, mental focus and quick reaction times like other athletic competitions. The players are dedicated and serious eSport athletes, partaking in extensive physical training prior to competing. eSports is even recognized by the US government and equates eSport gamers to professional athletes for immigration and visa sponsorships. In 2013, Canadian player Danny Le became the first pro gamer to receive a United States P-1A visa, a category designated for “Internationally Recognized Athletes”. Universities in the US are also beginning to give out scholarships for online gamers to better promote the university, with their sphere of influence reaching hundreds of thousands of fans and followers on their social media networks.

The world of professional gaming will soon hit the mainstream circuit of radio, TV and live events.  The sport is growing exponentially each year, Hollywood are taking an interest and Will Ferrell is in discussions to make a movie about it. With a 43% rise in audience numbers in just two years, the industry is projected to be worth in excess of $427 million dollars by 2019.

Big business

As the audience grows, so do opportunities for advertising and sponsorship. Companies are fighting to stay on the pulse and remain relevant. Major household brands like Visa and Audi have recognised the popularity of eSports and the marketing potential to this male-dominated millennial demographic. While major technology companies would be the obvious choice for sponsorship opportunities, it is the FMCG brands who are really capitalising on the action. Coca Cola runs a dedicated eSports Twitter channel, while Mountain Dew and Red Bull have thrown their hats into the eSports sponsorship ring. Newzoo reports that eSports brand sponsorships are set to reach roughly $128.2 million at the end of 2016.

With an increase in popularity comes an increase in investment. Twitch is an online streaming service for watching professional tutorials and games, and was bought by Amazon in 2014 for almost $1 billion dollars. Twitch built a platform to bring together tens of millions of people watching billions of minutes of games each month with vast amounts of advertising opportunity.

It’s not just online services that are capitalising on the growing eSports ecosystem. ESPN has been broadcasting tournaments for some time, and the UK recently launched its first 24-hour eSports TV channel Ginx eSports TV, in partnership with ITV and Sky. Premier league football teams are even starting to sign e-gamers to their clubs, with players representing the club in international tournaments on FIFA and promoting them in online gaming communities. Tournaments have been known to attract more viewers than NBA games, and there’s upwards of $18m in prize money up for grabs for some of the biggest competitions.

Selling out stadiums

Athletes competing in the X-games during the 1990’s in sports such as snowboarding initially received criticism. However they’ve since battled their way to Olympic standings, therefore the notion of eSports becoming mainstream isn’t as far-fetched as one might think. Will eSports move from an online phenomenon and become a fully-fledged spectator sport filling stadiums and arenas? Whatever the future, eSports appears to be here to stay.


Written by Arron Virgo, Coriolis Ltd