Kyle Kirby, operations manager (South) at CooperOstlund, shares his career advice, from climbing the ladder to managing teams
How did you land your current job?
Before landing a job at CooperOstlund, I was working for another engineering company – reconditioning heavy duty cylinder heads – having joined straight from college on an apprenticeship programme. I already knew about CooperOstlund, having met both directors out in the field. I liked the company, its approach to engine maintenance and team morale, so I sent in a speculative CV and asked if it would be possible to complete my apprenticeship programme at CooperOstlund instead. Fortunately, they agreed, so I have been working as part of the team ever since!
Do you have any tips for people about to embark in your field on how to make a success out of their careers in sustainability?
This doesn’t just apply to sustainability, but I believe that you have to really love your job to have a truly successful career. Commitment, passion and dedication are all essential to quickly climbing the ladder – a much easier feat if you enjoy coming to work every day.
Who have been your role-models in your career?
Since my first day at CooperOstlund, Johan – my line manager and director of the business – has been a hugely important mentor and role model. As well as showing me the ropes, his expertise, knowledge and guidance have really helped me to progress in my career. What’s more, having someone to look up to has given me the drive to progress within the business and challenge myself to improve.
What have been the stumbling blocks along the way?
As a young professional quickly moving up the ranks, the arrogance of youth has always proven somewhat of a barrier. When you’re young, it’s easy to think very highly of yourself and become closed-minded to the help and advice of others. This holds you back in your career and prevents you from learning and improving. Recognising the difference between confidence and arrogance is essential - something which took me a while to balance.
What stages of your career have been the most challenging?
Making the transition from being a junior member of the team to stepping up in a senior capacity was a huge challenge. As a trained engineer, fixing engines was always second nature – I’ve done it for years, which makes me confident in almost any servicing or maintenance situation.
Managing a team, however, is slightly more difficult. Rather than just worrying about yourself and your own performance, you need to be responsible for other people too. Not only this, but you need to be able to mentor them, support them, motivate them and ensure that you’re all working together to hit targets.
The most rewarding?
For me, fixing a problem and knowing that your expertise has helped to get a project back online is rewarding every time.
What is key to getting the most out of your team?
I think it’s important to have a firm stance whilst providing the support they need to shine. I also like to push members of the team out of their comfort zones – that’s been key to my development and I’m keen to replicate that wherever possible. It may not feel like it at the time, but being challenged is a really important way to develop new skills and improve as a professional.
What qualifications have been necessary in your career?
At the start of my career, having a mechanical engineering qualification was hugely important – it provided excellent background knowledge to support the practical engine servicing work I was undertaking. As such, I would advise anyone looking for a job in the industry to undertake an engineering course or qualification. However, as a young professional, becoming an apprentice was the most beneficial decision I’ve made. It gives you such a head-start and throws you in at the deep end, helping you to learn ‘on the job’ – not just from books.
Have you had much ongoing professional development?
Yes, at CooperOstlund we have an excellent approach to professional development. As well as a one-to-one mentoring programme, I’ve been on a number of courses and training programmes to help push me to the next stage in my career.
Could you sum up what has changed most in the industry since you began your job?
I think the key change has been developments in technology. We’re no longer working with simple gas engines. In fact, from automated engine control and touchscreen technology, to remote monitoring and digital analysis, servicing an engine is now infinitely more complicated than when I started.