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Owen McFarlane

Career Path: Non-Executive Chairman, Okkulo Limited
Location: Hexham, UK

I completed an Apprenticeship with NEI Nuclear Systems, progressing to a senior management role leaving to join a small company TKS Aircraft De-icing at the age of 27. I liked the idea of working in a smaller SME which offered more variety and scope. NEI a great start, good experience and paid for 10 years of part-time education, OND, HNC, Control Engineering Degree and a DMS. Subsequently I added an MBA and became a Chartered Engineering and a Chartered Director. I am not really an academic, I built my education around the need to build my theoretical knowledge along with practical experience to make me more effective in the workplace.

In 1990, I was in the Operations part of a start-up team, starting up an aerospace structures organisation, AS&T. AS&T subsequently acquired the TKS organisation from Kilfrost. It gave me a taste for business as well as the opportunity to continue working in Aerospace, it was a very interesting industry sector, lots of Technology and Travel. After four years, I took some time out in the Brewing and Automotive Sector with Alumasc Plc, but decided to go back to Aerospace and re-joined AS&T as MD in 1996. AS&T morphed into the CAV Group, by 2014 through a combination of organic and acquisitive growth the business grew to around to £90m, employing 750+ people with nine sites spread across the UK, US, Mexico and Poland. I stayed with the technology businesses, Advanced Technologies and Ice protection, with the businesses being sold in June 2017, whereby after a transition period I retired at the end of May 2018.

What are you doing now?Owen McFarlane

After entering semi-retirement, the prospect of me being around the house 24/7 did not really appeal to my better half. I had accumulated a lot of stakeholder experience, predominantly in SME organisations and worked with investors from the UK, Germany, US and Japan, both trade and private equity, raising funds from a variety of sources - banks, discounters, government funds and asset finance companies. I had also developed complex customer relationships with large organisations such Boeing and Airbus, as well as smaller start-up companies, bringing new technologies to the market. Part of that is growing the senior leadership teams and employees to support the business, including tough periods of staff reduction, off shoring and tough market conditions as well as growth. I decided to put that experience to some use by helping young entrepreneurs and start-up businesses navigate the difficult path from concept to revenue generation with a focus on technology lead start-ups in the North East.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

Northumbria offered part-time courses of a high standard.

What was it like studying at Northumbria? 

The MBA was really challenging and featured strong lectures coupled with residentials. At the time the course was accredited by Strathclyde and involved working with students from Groningen and Hamburg universities. The students came from a wide range of industries, jobs and experience. This led to some great learning dynamics.

How connected was your course with industry?

It was part-time so a lot of the work could be woven into the activities you were involved with at work.

What was the best thing about your course?

The people, students and lecturers.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

It helped me develop my skills in the areas outside my core operational and engineering skill set, and made me more rounded which helped me take on more senior leadership roles.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Basic Finance and how to treat people.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

The people.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Do it!

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Challenging, enlightening and beneficial.

For more information about me visit: 

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