The alarm goes off at 4.00am. Urg! It’s never easy dragging myself out of bed in the morning but this is just too early. I’m off to catch the 6.00am flight from Newcastle to Heathrow for a meeting with school fire safety officers in Kent. Today I am delivering a paper on the legislation, technicalities and practical matters relating to our Geofire products. If the flights are on time I will be home just before the pub shuts.

This, thankfully, is not a normal day in my working life, but it just goes to show how varied being a Research and Development Manager at Stephenson Gobin is. Some days I may be hunched over a hot soldering iron in our development area, or 3D modelling enclosure mouldings for our next door holding product or more frequently, talking with our mechanical, electronic and software engineers about the various projects we have running. There are always plenty of projects.

Working in a relatively small company has the great advantage that you can be fast on your feet. If an exciting opportunity comes up I can quickly round up the team, get some ideas and start to make things happen.

Research and Development was not the career I originally had in mind when I left school. I was persuaded by my A level technical drawing teacher that production engineering was a good degree choice to get into engineering management, so I got a job with Marconi Radar Systems and embarked on a four year sandwich degree course at Brunel University. I carried on working in production management with Marconi and then MK Electric before getting an exciting job as Production Director in a small company making LED signs. Being the only engineer in the company, I had to design the products as well as run production and that is what got me interested in product development.

I joined Stephenson Gobin in 1995, initially to continue making LED signs, but soon got the job of developing its range fire door electro-magnets.  Twenty years later Stephenson Gobin (parent company of SG Transmission and Geofire) is now part of the British Engines Group and we design and manufacture a unique range of radio and sound actuated, microprocessor controlled fire door holders.

But back to today… while I wait for the audience to turn up I have the chance to review my emails. I receive an email from one of our electronics engineers with the results from an EMC emissions test on a new product currently in development. We will need to modify the prototype, but then I am pretty sure it will be ready for approval testing at an external test house.

We are launching the product at one of the major fire safety shows in the UK so now time to sort out the promotional literature for the launch with the marketing team. Time for another coffee, I think.