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Interview with Dr. Ian McAndrew

by | Apr 23, 2020 | Interviews, ,

Ian McAndrew

Ian McAndrew

Dean of Doctoral Programs at Capitol Technology University

Key Topics:Engineering, Aeronautics, Automotive, Education

I am a Mechanical Engineer by background, my qualifications are a Bachelor's, Master's and a PhD as a chartered engineer. Then I also did another degree and qualified as an electrical engineer. I carried on and did some more research at Doctorate level and became a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. I’ve probably become an over educated person who is best left in academia rather than the real world.

I worked for the car industry initially, I used to design car engines. Then I worked at the University of Hertfordshire in England where I spent 15-20 years. I then started to work for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University worldwide where I spent 10 years. After that I transferred to Capital Technology University in America. I used to work for the current president of the University I'm at now, and when he transferred, he asked me to come and work for him at his university. Now although it’s an American University with a campus, I am based in Europe and live in Europe but I travel there lot. I tend to chair about a dozen conferences all over the world each year as an academic expert and a professor. Now I dedicate my time to working with doctoral students and I'm the Dean of doctoral programs at the university.

How did you become an expert in your key topics?

Well, it was never planned it just sort of happened. I think a lot of it was just committed work, research and carrying on and eventually you find yourself in a position of valedictory in that you’re almost there without thinking about it. I went to work at a University, involved in thermodynamics, and then I took over the aerodynamic area, and then got more and more involved in aviation. It never really became a plan, it was life drifting me along. You get to a stage in academia where you’ve been there for quite a few years and I suppose you automatically inherit the title “expert”. I have over 80 successful PhD students in my life in my career of supervising them. I have more than I’m currently supervising, and it’s the main focus of what I do and it’s a delight working with people at that particular level.

What topic areas are you most passionate about?

Numerical problem solving is really something that I enjoy, that’s what I find a nice mental challenge. Where there’s a problem this lends itself to research, solving numerical problems coming up with answers for unknown areas. Then I would tag on to that, working with students and helping them achieve their goals and becoming educated and successful in their chosen areas. I have had over 80 PhD successes and I get just as much of a thrill out of my current PhD students’ passing as I did the very first person passing. That is something which stays with me and it’s a wonderful part of my job that I’m helping people achieve what is really for most people a very, very high level that often they don’t expect to achieve, because it’s a sort of the plateau in academia. It’s delightful to see that and when someone’s completed it you can say congratulations Doctor.

Which influencers influence you within those key topics?

Well, I have to say, I go back, and this is probably giving my age away now. Sir Barnes Wallace to me was the greatest engineer of the 20th century. As a very young boy, I managed to meet him once with my Grandfather that knew him. Barnes Wallace, for those who are not familiar, is probably most famous for designed the bouncing bomb for the Dambusters raid. If you look at his history however, he was also the person that came up with the material science for swing wing aircraft, he designed the R101 Airships. He designed the Wellington bomber. He designed the largest non-nuclear bomb that existed up until a couple of years ago when the Americans dropped that super bomb in Afghanistan. It’s amazing the legacy of what that man did technically in the face of adversity. People didn’t believe some of his innovative ideas, but he followed them all the way through. The bouncing bomb is an example of an engineer with an innovation that, if they are committed, they can achieve what they want. He had a quote in life, and I like this so much that I put this on the cover page of my first doctorate which was “The whole joy of life is in battle – not winning” and I think that’s very true. If your follow that through to reading a book for example, if you find a good book that you are reading, it’s a disappointment when you get to the end, and you think now I’ve got to find another good book. We can apply that to so much of our life. It’s about enjoying what we’re doing and not necessarily getting to the endpoint but enjoying the route as you’re getting there. So he is the person who is most influential in my area.

Outside of your key topics who else influences you?

I have to say it’s my grandfather, what an amazing man. He used to say “you have to look back to enjoy where you’re going, because you have to see how far you’ve come”. If you’re trying to learn something, if you’re trying to solve something, you can look at it and you can think to yourself, I’m nowhere near the end. With my career, you look back and you realize I’ve come a long way and I’ve done all that. My grandfather was influential like that, you should be satisfied with what you’ve got. For those of us that are in education we are very, very lucky as we get to disseminate information and help the next generation. Just as we have been successful in our generations, we’ve done that because we’ve had people mentoring us, believing in us and supporting us to achieve those ends. What a wonderful legacy at the end of your life that you say you’ve put back more than you’ve taken out, and you’ve helped a lot of people achieve their goals. There are people that I’ve worked with that have gone on to have very successful careers and achievements because of their qualifications, and they’re making the world better through science, technology and their manipulation of how organisations work to make the world better and that’s a great thing.

How would you describe your offline influence?

I’ve had the fortune to travel a lot, I’ve been to over 85 countries in my life and I think travel is educational, it’s enlightening and it gives you reason and logic. If you look at various continents, cultures and styles of work and how they work, this gives you an understanding of how people work, and indeed what is important to them. I would have to say my influences are the people in the world. It’s always a pleasure to meet people and most people have something you can learn from them. They have an experience, a story, knowledge or something that they’ve done which they want to share with you that you wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat, because it didn’t work. Lots of people have used the phrase “history repeats itself”, if we don’t learn from mistakes then we’re not improving. Other people can help you learn from their mistakes if you listen. I think there are two types of silences in the world, when people are listening to the words you’re saying, and when they’re waiting for you to stop talking so they may talk again. The less you say the more you see and you listen to people around you and there is a wealth of information to be gained on various different levels. Then again being able to disseminate to other people is great.

If a brand wanted to work with you, what activities would you be most interested in partnering with them on?

What I’m really interested in is numerical problem solving. I like solving problems. I like finding a solution to something. I like having a problem to solve and whether it takes minutes, hours or even years. That’s what I really enjoy doing. Working with a big brand for the sake of it I’d find rather boring. I’m not interested in the glory and the fun side of it, I’m interested in the detail side of it, the innovation side and thinking up novel ways of working with things. If I had a chance to work with any brand on innovation and new ways of doing things, that is something that I would find fascinating.

What’s your best source of information for getting ahead of a story?

I think by spending your life reading, gathering information and being observant gives you a wonderful foundation. Sometimes a little bit of information based on what you already know, gives you a catapult to get to the next level. We’re often working in pigeonholes now. You’re a mechanical engineer, you’re a marketing expert, you’re finance expert, you’re a medical person. We don’t integrate those disciplines enough. and I think that is where we can push forward. The best source of information is where we share information. There’s a phrase that we use in engineering called “technology transfer”, how do we take that knowledge that I have and give it to other people? We have universities, education and qualifications, but how do we capture that knowledge in industry? If someone said what would you pass on to your children? You’d come up with a list, and if you looked at it a week later, you’d come up with more information then you constantly add to it. You can never truly disseminate that information. If we think about what the best source of information is, it’s the world, it’s the people around us, it’s collecting all that information and integrating it together. We talk about this as analytics now, and we talk about analytics as a new science that is emerging and that never existed before. It exists in a way now that it’s never existed before because technology allows us to process things faster, but we don’t always know what processing.

There’s a lovely clip in the movie Jurassic Park with Dr. Ian Malcolm, the chaos theory expert where he came up with this phrase “Instead of asking, can we do it? We should ask first of all, should we do it?” I think that’s what we have to ask with technology now, with analytics and with everything else. Should we be doing this? First thinking about the ethical side of some of these things we are doing and then considering how can we do this?

What brands have you worked with?

I’ve worked with some several major brands in the aviation industry, some big airline carriers like BA, Virgin, Iceland Air and Lufthansa at different stages. I’ve also worked with various militaries such as the US Air Force and the RAF and other things at times in my life. I’ve worked for a lot of companies that wouldn’t be identified immediately with brands because they’re very specialist small companies that do very small work for bigger companies.

Which non-paid activities would you be keen to take part in if the opportunity raised your profile or delivered value to your audience?

I have to say I wouldn’t really take part in a non-paid activity to raise my profile, I think if you do non-paid activity it should be for the benefit of society. We should be doing things to help the community without any payback. I’m a Director and Chair on several UK charities that sponsor students to be able to go to university, and I’m involved with a couple of other little educational charities. I don’t get paid for it. I don’t do it for money, I don’t do it for fame or fortune, I do it because I think in this busy overcrowded world we should put back things into society. Even little things like putting in a pound coin in a collection box for a worthy cause, to actually giving up time. Even walking down the street and picking up a piece of litter and putting it in the bin. If we all put something into society, if we all put something into where we work and live without taking any credit for it, then we’re all going to live and work in a better world. We can go back to John F. Kennedy’s quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” and that’s an important thing that is as relevant today as ever, and perhaps even more so, at this particular time. People going out and panic buying, it doesn’t help everyone. We are all in one big society and should be coming together.

What are your passions outside of work?

I like reading about history, and I like to travel. Every country you visit you can learn from. You can learn about their history and how it all fits in together. You can understand how people see different things as more important compared to others. On top of that, I have to say cricket. For me, cricket is wonderful. If I had a magic tree or wish that I could make, it would probably be to retire with enough money to be part of England’s barmy army. I think I think cricket is fascinating as a numerical problem-solving sport. It’s logic, its strength, its skill, its psychology, and there is no minute of watching cricket that I find boring.

What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?

If you wanted to get in touch with me the best way would be to send me a message on LinkedIn.