Interview 2: Gordon Irving

Gordon Irving (MEng, University of Strathclyde), London Business School

2020 SMF Scholarship Winner, Gordon Irving

Gordon is a chartered engineer and member of the IMechE.  Prior to starting his MBA Gordon spent eight years working in the energy sector. The first four of these were as a subsea engineer based in  Aberdeen where he generated innovative concepts and performed complex analyses on high pressure high temperature (HP/HT) subsea pipeline systems. During this time, he also organised national learning and development events for graduates. Gordon then moved to the Middle East working in project engineering and business development roles. He created process improvement and implementation management systems for the construction of major energy infrastructure and led the growth of the offshore engineering business, securing millions of pounds of new engineering work.

Why did you decide to do an MBA?
It’s a very important question because the MBA is a huge commitment not just in terms of finances but also in terms of time and effort.  Despite having had an interesting and challenging career, I was left frustrated witnessing short term thinking and a general lack of vision.

I want to have the ability to make positive changes. However, to do this:

  • I need to gain greater business and commercial knowledge
  • I need to be viewed as credible for senior leadership roles
  • I need to develop the right network and opportunities

I am undertaking the MBA as I believe it is the best way for me to overcome these barriers and push my career in the right direction faster.

What stage in your career were you at when you decided to do the MBA?
Prior to undertaking the MBA, I spent eight years working in the energy sector.  I started as a subsea engineer in the UK then moved to the Middle East working in project engineering and business development roles.  I was fortunate enough to have worked on projects all over the world, everything from niche innovative subsea designs to managing giant implementation projects in the desert.  It was when I started to gain more commercial exposure in the Middle East that I decided it was the right time for me to do an MBA.

How will you use what you learned on your MBA  to further your career?
Post-MBA, I aim to build upon my career in the energy sector and become a leader focused on solving critical energy challenges.  I am keen to explore alternative ways of meeting energy needs, and I aspire to become a key decision-maker who drives innovation and creates positive long-term impacts. The combination of cutting-edge business insights, a structured leadership development programme, an incredible peer group and the career support and network I will develop will allow me to positively transition my career post-MBA on the path to my long term goal.

What is the most important or surprising thing you have learned from your business school experience?
The huge variety of people I have met from all over the world and just about every sector and function has been fantastic.  It was surprising, but great, to see other people from technical careers.  It really affirms that people from engineering and STEM careers, while they may not have a ‘traditional’ business background, do have excellent transferable skills and experiences that are of benefit not only to themselves but also to their fellow students.

What are your expectations of being part of the SMF network after business school?
Having access to the SMFs’ impressive network will be extremely advantageous as I build my career post-MBA. To achieve my long-term goals, I must understand different market drivers and constraints. To date, my career has largely been in the oil and gas industry and joining the SMF network will allow me to engage with a wide variety of UK industry leaders who can offer new perspectives.

I am also looking forward to the opportunity to receive mentoring and career support from the SMF network. To learn directly from such an accomplished group and receive advice at key points in my professional development will be invaluable.

How do you hope to support SMF after you graduate from business school? 
The SMF and Royal Academy of Engineering are involved in so many initiatives that help inspire young engineers to develop professionally, I look forward to getting directly involved with as many of these as I can. I have previously mentored graduate engineers, and I am particularly eager to provide improved support as a member of the SMF network and help champion the next generation of engineers.

How was your experience of applying for the scholarship?
The application process for the scholarship has a lot of similarities to the MBA application process. They both require considerable self-reflection and the ability to clearly articulate your motivations and long-term goals. This can be quite challenging but it’s a really important part not only of the application process but also the decision-making process you must go through before you decide to undertake an MBA.

What difference has the scholarship made to you?
This award has given me the freedom to make the most of my MBA. The LBS MBA programme is highly customisable, with multiple exit points and a wide array of electives and international learning opportunities including treks, exchanges and the Global Business Experience. The SMFs’ financial support will allow me to take full advantage of the LBS MBA programme’s flexible structure, thus maximising my opportunities to learn and develop.

What tip would you give to someone seeking financial support to do an MBA?
Make sure you research your options thoroughly. Depending on your circumstances, there may be multiple avenues of funding available to you.  It is important that you review all these as early as possible as most will have strict deadlines, and if they include significant funding, they will almost certainly have a very competitive assessment process.

Find out how to apply for a scholarship.

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