Over his 18-year journey within our organisation, Mike Gibb, our head of engineering and operations – Africa, has assumed various roles. However, his enthusiasm for engineering and the intricacies of mechanisms has deep roots that trace back to his early years, "Since childhood, I've had a fascination with machines and the process of creating things. I was the kind of kid who, played with Lego and Meccano sets, would construct a model, disassemble it, and then create something entirely new," he remembered.
Armed with a BEng (Hons) Engineering from the University of Aberdeen, he joined us in 2005 as a graduate engineer. After a few years, Mike immersed himself in various Cable and Pipe Laying Systems (CPLS) projects. In 2009, he assumed the role of engineering manager, overseeing fluid power alongside CPLS from an engineering perspective. “And I still receive occasional enquiries about Pipe Laying Systems until today,” he noted.
Curious to discover the rest of Mike's career journey and glean important insights from him? Dive into the interview below!
Could you share some information about your educational background and an overview of your professional journey with us?
I completed my standard and higher grades at Dyce Academy in Aberdeen and earned a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) degree in Integrated Engineering at the University of Aberdeen.
I joined Altrad Sparrows in 2005 as a graduate engineer, initially focusing on crane maintenance projects. After the acquisition of Baricon Systems, my involvement expanded to Cable and Pipe Lay Systems (CPLS). I later became an engineering manager, overseeing fluid power and CPLS.
In 2010, I transitioned to the role of account manager, managing tensioner rentals and new build projects. By 2015, I assumed the role of business manager for CPLS, leading the team and expanding responsibilities to include fluid power, engineering, marine and drilling, training and inspection, renewables, and industrial sectors. In 2019, I served as the general manager for the EU Ad-hoc business.
In 2021, I became the head of engineering & operations for the Africa team, embarking on a new chapter that presents me with unique challenges. My experience with Altrad Sparrows has been both diverse and captivating, offering me a multitude of opportunities for which I am deeply thankful. I have had the privilege of extensive travel, contributing to projects across various countries globally, such as Norwich, the Netherlands, Sweden, Brazil, Singapore, France, Angola, and Spain.
What aspects of engineering do you find most appealing, and what motivated you to pursue a career in this field?
Since my early years, I've had a fascination with machines and the art of creating things. The curiosity to understand how they function led me to a childhood filled with Lego and Meccano, constructing models only to dismantle them and craft something new!
My initial academic trajectory veered towards science, and I considered pursuing a degree in chemistry, driven by my passion for the subject. However, uncertain about the practical applications of a chemistry degree, I found myself at a crossroads when my part-time job employer extended a full-time position. Opting for practical experience and a steady income, I worked there for two years. During this period, I gained clarity about my true interests and decided that engineering was my calling. Consequently, I applied to university to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering but ended up enrolling in an integrated engineering program covering mechanical, electrical, and electronic engineering.
My interest spans multiple facets of equipment and machinery. Understanding the entire system, from its intricacies to its functionality, has always intrigued me. The real comprehension comes not just from theoretical knowledge but from building or troubleshooting when things go awry. While my current role involves more people and operations management than technical problem-solving and manufacturing, I cherish the early days of my career.
Can you outline some of the key responsibilities that shaped your daily routine as our head of engineering and operations for Africa?
In this role, my primary focus is ensuring the safety of our operations and making informed engineering decisions within budget. Effective communication is crucial due to our global operations, involving interactions with our Angolan office, UK-based engineering team, and clients in Africa. My routine centres on collaborating with the Africa team, reviewing project documentation, participating in safety meetings, supporting financial forecasting, and leading initiatives for continuous improvement.
Last but not least, how would you sum up your expertise?
Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working across diverse departments within the business, gaining valuable experience in crane maintenance, mechanical systems, cable and pipelay solutions, fluid power, electrical and automation, control systems, inspection, fabrication, training services, and operations. Rather than focusing on a specific area, I have engaged with all support services within Altrad Sparrows, leveraging the extensive knowledge of subject matter experts (SMEs) within the company. In my view, expertise lies in recognising one's limitations and proactively seeking assistance from the right people, involving them early in the process.