Sainsbury Management Fellows

President’s Speech – David Falzani 2013

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Fellows, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to our annual dinner. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m David Falzani, and I’m President of the Sainsbury Management Fellowship.

Last year I announced that SMF had become a registered Charity. I’m pleased to say that over the v in the formalisation of our processes, and in preparations for fund raising activities.

To this end we have carried out interviews with diverse stakeholders and authored a statement of our vision for the future and fundraising plan. We have also started a closer dialogue with individuals who wish to be involved. Thank you to those SMFs who attended a meeting earlier this evening about our future plans. Anyone here who would also like to become involved, please do come forward and speak to me this evening. Those of us who are SMFs know how much we have benefited from the Sainsbury Management Fellowship Scheme; now it is time to think about giving something back – in terms of your time and your resources.

We also announced our Hard Hat Index a year ago. Much like the whimsical Big Mac Index published by the Economist, the index is intended to make a serious point.

The engineering community has long complained of a status shortfall and a lack of understanding amongst the public of the value it creates.

The idea is simple: The SMF Hard Hat Index counts the number of hard hats in editorials and adverts in carefully selected publications.

Over the last 2 years we have had a series of dialogues with over 20 HR Directors aimed at better understanding the decisions and routes leading to board of director appointments. One of the questions often raised is “why are engineers always portrayed by people wearing hard hats?”

It’s a fair question. How do you visually portray engineering? A profession so diverse it encompasses bridges, aircraft, medical devices, and materials? How do you visually depict software? And above all, how do you convey the status and prestige of the profession, whilst holding true to 300 years of heritage?

The image of engineering has never been so important. Generation Y are far more image and brand conscious than any before. The image of engineering is important is its ability to attract, inspire, recruit and, crucially, retain bright young persons.

The index is therefore designed to highlight how the industry is representing itself. Is it open to reinvention? To innovation in persuading the public that it is an exciting, dynamic and rewarding profession? Or is it reverting to type? – whether through laziness or genuine lack of understanding of the importance of this issue.
We have also carried out a YouGov survey and focus groups with 3rd and 4th year undergraduates on the Engineering Leadership Award scheme.

Asked what images people most associate with engineers, YouGov reported that the Hard Hat came top with 63% of the votes, whereas a business suit received 25% of votes.

SMFs serve as mentors to Engineering Leadership Award Winners, or ELAs for short, who are sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering and who are the brightest and best engineering undergraduate students in the UK.

These ELAs viewed a range of editorial and advertising images from the industry’s own engineering magazines and were asked to give their opinions on the images. And their reaction? They felt that the majority of the images were deemed to be:

  • Too traditional, old-fashioned or cliched
  • Contained negative stereotyping
  • Too male orientated
  • Bland, dull, boring and uninspiring

The few creative adverts without hard hats or other stereotypical props such as visibility jackets, were seen as eye-catching and a positive representation of engineers; demonstrating teamwork, problem-solving skills, expertise, dynamism, progress, influence and success. These companies appealed to young people as prospective employers, yet these ads were in the minority.

We sincerely hope the Hard Hat Index will start a dialogue about the image of engineering and encourage companies and also the profession’s bodies to review how they portray the profession through their marketing, recruitment, publishing and reporting.

Also a year ago, I posed some difficult questions:
Given there doesn’t appear to be a suitable word or phrase for people who, like our Fellows, are engineers with a formal management qualification and business track record, how do we promote and communicate the value of this combination, and create an appropriately attractive image in the mind of our audience?

I said we would work on finding answers. In pursuing the development of our charitable structure we have explored the nature of the SMF scheme.

We have asked ourselves how do we better describe ourselves and why is it so important to have engineers and scientists gaining top MBAs?

My answer is framed by the fact that the business world has shifted. Over the last 3 decades the information revolution had transformed every aspect of life.

If, in the old world, what counted for business success was who you knew, and 30 years ago what counted was what you knew, then today the maxim would be not what you knew but how quickly you can learn. Today all companies are technology companies and all information is instantly out of date.

What’s crucially important is the ability to harness this flux of technology and information in the business context. In this interface of technology and money no one can be more at home than the engineer with a deep business understanding. This idea perhaps lies at the heart of the SMF.

As a footnote, no one can doubt the power of combining technology and finance, when Apple Inc is sat on a cash pile of $145,000,000,000 That’s 145 with 9 zeroes behind it. However, the fact that Apple appears to be unable to do anything with its $145 billion is perhaps testament to the complexity of the “make or buy” decision in this same maelstrom of technology and finance.

In closing, I would like to ask all our Fellows to consider how they can contribute to improving the UK economy by participating in some of our outward reaching programmes, such as, our mentoring scheme to young engineers, and our start-up business review panels. If you live in or near London, we are looking to expand our Executive Committee and we also need SMFs for upcoming interview panels. If you live outside of London and are too far to participate in our London-based activities, you can still contribute meaningfully by penning an article for us or writing a blog for our website. And in our new profile as a charity, we would welcome your ideas, support, and participation in helping us to go forward confidently into the future.

I would also just like to say a brief word of thanks to all of the people who made this year’s achievements happen – Our Treasurer Alpesh Amin, and our Secretary James Raby. I would also like to express our appreciation to current Committee members who have worked over the last 12 months with amazing energy, resourcefulness and creativity: Paul Dolan, Jo Hallas, Julian Morley, Serge Taborin and Phil Westcott. Also, my sincere thanks to all the Fellows who have participated in events, interview panels and who have written articles or spoken to the media on our behalf, and to our Comms Director, Cathy Breeze, who works tirelessly, often in the background and skilfully enables everything else.

My thanks also to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and our friends from the Royal Academy of Engineering, and other institutions for their continued support and encouragement. Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Lord Sainsbury, without whom none of this would have been possible.
I am delighted to introduce Lord Sainsbury, who has graciously agreed to say a few words before dinner is served.


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The Sainsbury Management Fellows is registered as a charity: Engineers in Business Fellowship, charity number 1147203 and is a company limited by guarantee : 07807250