Sainsbury Management Fellows

Interview 4: Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor (MEng, University of Durham), Stanford Graduate School of Business 

Ian’s pre-Stanford experience combined engineering, strategy, and investment. Most recently, he devised the investment strategy for the British Business Bank’s new £2.5bn venture capital fund of funds. He previously worked at OC&C Strategy Consultants and Monitor Deloitte, where he conducted commercial due diligence to shape the investment decisions of private equity firms and corporate M&A teams. This involved assessing the commercial potential of new technologies associated with big data, mobile apps, payments, drones, and augmented reality, as well as evaluating various B2C and B2B business models. This experience was complemented by his work advising start-ups as well as a secondment to HM Treasury to develop technology innovation policy.

What do you hope to achieve through your MBA experience?
My goals are: to refine my hypotheses on major trends in technology and society; to collaborate with inspiring people; and to cultivate my leadership style.

Situated in the heart of Silicon Valley and surrounded by world-class STEM institutions, Stanford Graduate School of Business is a hub for entrepreneurship. This is the place to learn how to start and scale up a world changing company. During my time here, I aim to help build a team that can solve a £1bn+ problem.

I also intend to learn from successful leaders and to form life-long friendships. Having worked in a variety of sectors globally myself, I appreciate the diverse experiences and opinions provided by my classmates and professors. On a typical day, I debate business decisions with an array of experts – entrepreneurs, scientists, political negotiators, investors, veterans, and many more – each of whom contribute a unique perspective that broadens and deepens my understanding.

Where do you see yourself, career-wise, in 5 years’ time? 
Over the next decade, I aim to establish a successful track record of helping build companies that use frontier technology to enhance important aspects of all our lives by orders of magnitude. Over the past decade, digital platforms and mobile apps have disrupted almost every industry and enabled widespread innovation of business models. I believe we have now entered a new era of innovation brought about by the convergence of frontier technologies (eg AI, robotics, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality). I intend to use my experience in investment and engineering to help transition these powerful technologies from research labs into thriving enterprises.

What are your hopes/expectations of being part of the SMF network after business school?
I have benefited from candid discussions with Sainsbury Management Fellows and look forward to deepening these relationships over the years. One conversation has already sparked an opportunity to work together. I hope to add value to the community by sharing my understanding of frontier technologies and by acting as a bridge between engineers in the UK and Silicon Valley.

How do you hope to support SMF after you graduate from business school? 
I would be delighted to mentor younger engineers and share my enthusiasm for technology. Engineering is on the cusp of an exciting new chapter and I want more people to know about it!

My achievements have come about as a result of the support of many people. I appreciate those who have wowed me with science, also those who advised me when making my toughest decisions and encouraged me to shoot for the moon. Likewise, I hope to help others, and consider it a privilege to offer guidance to others through SMF activities. 

How did you learn about the SMF scholarship?
During my time at university, a Sainsbury Management Fellow interviewed me for an Engineering Leadership Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Gaining that award was a pivotal moment that supported life-changing opportunities. I was introduced to a SMF mentor who provided valuable early career advice and inspiration. It also proved vital means through which I was able to study at UC Berkeley and undertake an internship in Switzerland.

At that time, I was given a SMF membership book containing the profiles of each Sainsbury Management Fellow. I vividly recall sitting in my room in my Welsh village as a teenager, reading through their achievements and feeling my aspirations soar.

What difference has the scholarship made to you?
Joining the SMF community of 300+ leading engineers in business has vastly enriched my network. I see it as a lifelong platform through which we can collaborate on engineering ideas and can navigate the business world together.

This scholarship has granted me the financial freedom to seize exciting yet risky opportunities associated with following a meaningful career path in frontier technology.

What did you learn by going through the scholarship application process?
The application process prompted me to reflect on my role within engineering, a process that has helped me to prioritize and communicate my ambitions concisely. It has also helped me to develop my hypotheses on nascent technology trends and identify how the UK could take a lead. This enforced clarity has already proved valuable at business school, but most importantly it has motivated me to accelerate my transition from exploration to action.

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