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An Audience with Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE, CEO MITIE - Young Engineers event reviewJanuary 2013

Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE, CEO of MITIE

On Tuesday 18th December 2012 BSRIA's Young Engineers Network came together at the Royal Opera House for the second 'an audience with…' event. This event welcomed Ruby McGregor-Smith, Chief Executive of the FTSE 250 Company MITIE. Jayne Sunley, BSRIA Information Assistant, reports back.

The event was held in the fantastic Crush Room with a great turnout of young engineers, many faces coming from MITIE itself. Andrew Eastwell, BSRIA Chief Executive, opened the event with an introduction focused on the future of the industry and the realistic prospect that in our steps to reduce our carbon footprint, we are in actual fact increasing it, a theme that tied in with Ruby's own discussion.

Ruby McGregor-Smith started out as an Economics graduate who went on to become a chartered accountant. Although this ultimately was not the career path that she chose to continue on, Ruby stated that her experience and skills she developed gave her the groundings for what she wanted to do. Proof of this can be seen from Ruby's major role in the industry which was as Finance Manager of Defence Projects at SERCO, which grew during 1991-2000 from an £80m turnover to a £1b turnover. Ruby stated that 'joining a young industry made me successful'; encouraging for any young engineer.

In 2002 after a break from her career to look after her children, Ruby was offered a position as Group Finance Director at MITIE, a position given as the Chief Executive David Telling wanted someone with a passion for building a great company, a passion Ruby had shown in her time at SERCO. Ruby's success continued at MITIE eventually becoming the Chief Executive and one of few female executives in the FTSE 250. Ruby puts her success down to standing by core principles, simply 'be what you want to be' and 'talent is key'.

Ruby's success was clearly evident and inspiring for all the engineers at the event. It gave them the opportunity to see that they are the future of the industry and therefore they should utilise their skills to push the industry forward. That was one of the key themes throughout the talk; change is the key in any industry and should be embraced. Ruby maintained that reinvention is a necessary step for any company to move forward, evidence of this is MITIE doubling in scale throughout the recession implying that change has fully been embraced. Ruby's advice to the young engineers was that they should not be afraid to take risks or change to suit client's needs.

The young engineers were given some fantastic tips. Emphasis was put on young engineers doing what they are passionate about, expressing their views in the simplest of terms to gain maximum understanding, enjoy their work and most importantly learn from their mistakes. Ruby couldn't have been any clearer about education, to be a success you need to keep up to date and learn from previous mistakes.

Finally the session ended with time for the engineers to ask questions. The Young Engineers certainly didn't hesitate as brilliant and innovative questions were asked. They varied from the importance of apprenticeships which Ruby believes are seriously undervalued in Britain as well as the belief that education at GCSE level needs to be more business focused with practical subjects brought in. A focus on where the industry is going also occurred with the response arguing that the term Facilities Management is too small a term for what people in the industry create. She also emphasised that there will be a prominent move away from construction projects and more of a focus on energy conservation.

Ultimately Ruby presented the young engineers with the engaging concept that the industry has a great future for new talent but there needs to be better partnerships that enable the youth of the industry to fulfil their potential even if it involves taking risks. Ruby is a firm believer that the more responsibility a young engineer is given the more they will give back. As Ruby argued, innovation is not made by money but rather the thinking of how you can improve which in this industry is maximising the potential of employees.

BSRIA would like to thank MITIE and the Royal Opera House for enabling the event to be a success. Thank you to the young engineers for attending and getting involved and of course thanks to Ruby McGregor-Smith and her team for giving an excellent insight into the future of the industry and the importance of young talent.

The next Young Engineers Network event will take place the morning of 24th April 2013 at BSRIA and will focus on Building Information Modelling and Soft Landings.


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