Russ joined GKN in 2013 as VP Chief Engineering and assumed the role of Senior Vice President Engineering, Technology & Quality in December 2014. Prior to joining GKN, he spent 17 years at Airbus in a variety of technical leadership roles most recently VP Head of A350 XWB Wing Engineering responsible for wing structures, movables and systems installation for all A350 XWB derivatives. For the A350 XWB-900, he led the development from early concept development through detailed design, manufacture and assembly through to successful flight test. He has a BEng in Aeronautical Engineering and German from Bath University.
Balance your attention between the things which excite you, the things that need to be done, and the things which sustain you.
What attracted you to the aerospace sector?
I was always the type of child who wanted to know how everything worked, taking apart cameras and video players, and anything that I could get my hands on. My grandad was in the RAF, and an aircraft appeared the ultimate mystery. I simply wanted to understand how on earth they got off the ground!
What is your vision for the UK aerospace sector in the next 15 – 20 years?
The Aerospace industry contributes massively to the society we live in, but we also owe it to that society to absolutely minimise our environmental impact. Over many decades, we have developed more efficient products using advancements in digital capabilities. Those capabilities have continued to develop at an unbelievable pace, and offer us the opportunity to totally re-think the way we develop products. The UK has a fantastic aerospace infrastructure which can enable us to embrace and lead in the integration and application of those technologies, to make quality in design and manufacturing a global differentiator.
If you could change one element of technology, or a particular type of technology in the sector, what would that be?
I would want to break down the boundaries between design and manufacture, and develop engineers with a broad digital skillset. This will enable our engineers to fully exploit the rapidly developing digital capabilities, to explore the science of manufacture and the science of product design in equal balance.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To water your garden. To balance your attention between the things which excite you, the things that need to be done, and the things which sustain you (like your family).
What are your key successes to date?
During my time at Airbus, I led the development of the A350 Wings from initial concept through to successful flight test. It was 6 years of obsession, attempting to achieve challenging targets on performance, quality, schedule, process… ultimately leading to the delivery of a fantastic aircraft.
Within GKN, I have been given the opportunity to transform the technical organisation, putting in place processes and developing technologies which position us for the future.
Describe your ideal day away from work?
It would start with an early morning run or bike ride, followed by breakfast with my kids and perhaps a couple of games of FIFA with them. Then watch my son play rugby for his club, followed by meeting my wife and daughter for lunch. A game of golf with friends, with at least 1 shot I can talk about afterwards, before returning home and getting ready to go out for food and drinks with friends. That sounds pretty much perfect to me.
Who inspires you the most?
My wife, who as well as being massively clever and kind, is also the most effective person I know. She seems to be able to work full-time, get 100 things done an hour and still have time to think about her family and friends and what she can do to make their lives easier or happier.
What is your golden rule?
I am not sure I have one. I have lots of things I care about, and I try to act in line with my principles, but I wouldn’t describe any of them as a golden rule, more a developing understanding of what is important to me.
Russ will be one of our keynote speakers at ATI Conference 2017: Realising Ambition, and will be speaking on Day One.