Come and meet him!
1. Who are you and what do you do for the business? How long have you worked here?
I’m Chris, Engineering Manager for Orbital Gas. I originally joined in 2014 as an EC&I engineer. I did have a small break where I left in 2020 for 18 months but I’ve been back since August 2021. Over my two terms here, I’ve held many different positions, worked as an EC&I Engineer before joining the software department taking the lead software engineers position before becoming the Engineering Manager. The technical elements of my Job involve considering implementation of newer technology and how that affects how we integrate our solutions for customers. During the development of one of these projects I was led to cyber security for operational technology with piqued my interest and I have looked to expand my knowledge in this field ever since. I am still Engineering Manager for Orbital with a team of close to 20 in the department reporting to me.
2. Why do you think your role in what Orbital – and the nZero Group does – process engineering and the solutions they provide – is so important?
Engineering is at the heart of everything Orbital and Thyson do since our individual inceptions. Innovation and technological advances are something we use to steer the gas industry and Orbital has done since 1984. As Engineering Manager, I take on the of responsibility of ensuring our systems are up to standard, to customer requirements and what our customers expect – and that expectation is high thanks to our reputation.
I think being close to the gas networks as we are and being able to talk to them about their plans for the network, is going to help nZero with our overall aim to assist the UK to hit net zero. If you’re not working closely within the industry, it’s hard to understand the actual challenges we have and how that will impact our overall infrastructure. As a business now, we’re in a better position to be able to guide them towards that net zero.
3. What do you enjoy about the job?
There are two different elements. The first is the technical element, which I love; I’ve always loved it, I always like to see how things work – and see if we can do it better utilising newer technology. But there’s also the people element, which I also love. Software engineers aren’t always seen as people, people, so I kind of buck the trend a bit because I am a people person and one of my biggest thrills is developing our staff. We’ve got a lot of talented people in the company and for me, we’ve got to sit down with them and see how, together, we can grow. It’s about looking at what we need to do as a business, as a department and find out what people want to do, both in terms of their own development, and how that will help the bigger picture. If someone wants to be a chartered engineer, that’s good for them and it’s good for us. Here, we get to do our own development projects and research and often do things in our own time. People are encouraged to think about things from a strategic perspective. To conclude, it’s definitely both people and tech that I enjoy.
4. What are the next challenges you’re looking forward to?
The biggest one is definitely the limits on resource availability. Lots of people are keen to join the industry who don’t have the right experience to join. Getting the right balance of people to develop, and the people who can help now, is difficult. Change is never met with open arms and that’s another challenge. You’d think new kit would be fully embraced but if something’s worked for 40 years, it’s hard to educate people to take on something different and convince someone they could change the way they work for the better, when they’ve done it one way for so long. It’s mainly around people’s perceptions about what they need from the industry. We’re all about getting the right people through that door.
5. Why are Orbital’s values important to you?
I would like to think they align with my own. I left for a short period of time in 2020/21 and the main thing that drew me back were the people. The work/culture here is something you can only aspire to be involved with. Everyone wants to do a good job. No one is here doing 9-5, they all want to improve because they know as a company, we’re quite unique in what we do. We’re all hardworking and we’re all ambitious and to be involved in that where everyone has an ambition to strive to do better can be intoxicating, it’s attractive and it certainly rings true with me. Everyone’s got your back and we’re one team.
6. What would you like to see happen in the future for you?
Good question! I think I’d like to be involved where I feel like we’ve actually made a difference. The reason nZero Group is such an interesting business to be involved with is that it’s striving for a better future, and if I’m involved with that, I want to be there. I do want to be at the top end of the echelons too, but I’ve still got more to learn first.