Ian Joesbury (Mechanical Engineering 1986) never had any doubt that he'd be an engineer. The former Captain and Ner-A-Car Driver for the Sporting Motorcycle Club at Imperial, and former VP of the City & Guilds College Union, reminisces about his time at the College and shares insights from his career in the aerospace industry.
What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?
"Imperial was a great place to study and stood me in good stead going into a career. My studies were academically challenging, especially as I had done a year in industry at Ford between my A-levels and starting at Imperial. In engineering classes the most important thing I learned, which has benefitted me throughout my career, was a methodical approach to problem-solving. Classes in fluid dynamics and thermodynamics helped me to solve problems at Imperial Chemical Industries (my first employer) by visualising what was occurring in the pipes transporting chemicals without being able to see. The knowledge and skills gained in finance and HR through business classes have been extremely valuable throughout my career.
Out of class, with my family in the Midlands, I learned to be independent."
What is your fondest memory of your time here?
"Broadly, my fondest memories are of my friendship groups and the people I was with when, for example, I had to work all night to meet a deadline.
I have lots of good memories, but if I had to choose a fondest it would be when Andy Holder, Fraser Thompson and I built (or at least extensively restored) a Ner-A-Car motorcycle and took it on the Brighton Run. We were not officially entered in the race, but Andy rode the bike onto the beachfront and into the entrant’s enclosure. We had to do some on-the-run repairs and have a motorcycle ride in front of the Ner-A-Car to ensure it made it through junctions. The bike was difficult to handle and we were incredibly proud that we made it all the way to Brighton (about a three hour trip)."
Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
"I’ve done lots of things in my career and have learnt not to be afraid to do anything. If the role presents enough of a challenge, I'll do it."
"Taking a break from formal employment, I have done some consultancy, have had time to organise my class reunion and have been able to do a lot of work with the Instution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). In the latter, I am Chair of the Management group which focuses on fostering leadership by helping technical people move into leadership roles, supporting them through training, development and mentoring. Working with IMechE, I have also been part of the Manufacturing Excellence Awards."
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
"My career and time at Imperial have taught me not to be frightened about taking anything on. The reputation of the College travels a long way – when I mention that I am an alumnus of Imperial, everyone recognises it as one of the very best places in the world to study."
What have been your career highlights and lowlights?
"Highlight: travelling to Singapore on the A380 – an aeroplane for which I had been involved in working on the secondary flight controls.
Lowlight: when I took over the Trent 500 Engine (a Rolls-Royce engine which is used in A340-500 & A340-600 aircraft) development programme at Lucas Aerospace. The programme was running late and relations between Rolls-Royce and Airbus were difficult. My team and I had to work intensely for seven days a week to get and keep the programme on track. This was a temporary lowlight, but also a highlight in a way as it enabled me to build great camaraderie with my team and a sense of reward for delivering the project on time."
What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make?
"All around people – making redundancies, flagging underperformance etc. my approach to these situations has been to take the decisions based on what’s best for the business otherwise it risks damaging the business and hence other employees. Once necessary decisions have been made, I do my best to implement them in the most compassionate way possible, being straightforward, honest and supportive."
What are your plans for the future?
"I couldn’t retire as I would get bored. I am still establishing what I would like to do, but think that I may go back into formal employment in the not too distant future. I would like to take a CEO/MD level role in a smaller company than I have previously worked for, but stay within the aerospace industry as I find it a rewarding and interesting environment to work in. However, it depends what comes up. I’ve done lots of different things during my career and have thus learnt not to be afraid to do anything. Therefore, as long as the role presents enough of a challenge, I will do it."
What would be your advice for current students?
"Work hard but enjoy and make the most of the experience of being in London and the things going on at Imperial. In careers, be brave, have a go and by default say ‘yes’ (unless it’s really silly)."
What are you most proud of in your life?
"My children (my eldest son is studying business in Newcastle, my middle son has an offer from Imperial to study Chemical Engineering, and my daughter is studying for her GCSEs with a mutual interest in arts and sciences)."
Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
"No, I am more interested in getting things done."