20 years ago today...
20 years ago I was working as a senior engineer in the aerospace industry for a sub-contract engineering firm that worked on major industry programs and process streams of next generation aircraft in Stroud. I’d been there since 1988 and had worked on several cutting-edge airbus aircraft and others such as the Tornado, Harrier and Hawk.
The dot-com bubble was on the horizon, and, with the internet in its primitive form, numerous internet start-ups and mobile businesses were coming onto the scene – with varying levels of success.
From an engineering standpoint, we were working at the cutting edge of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining, using multi-axis machining methods in a temperature controlled environment, for incredibly tight tolerances. These parts were extremely intricate and we were often dealing with variables at micron level – this meant co-efficient linear expansion took effect and even if you picked things up, components would literally go out of tolerance in your hand. This was fascinating to work with, in our field at least!
Outside of work, I was and still am, very into my rugby. Twenty years ago, I was a 38-year-old country boy that drove a Land Rover and was coming towards to end of my playing career. One particular memory of that year that sticks out (no pun intended) was when I detached a retina, I woke up one morning and not being able to see out of one eye so I was sent straight to the hospital – which wasn’t particularly pleasant.
I was playing for Painswick Rugby Club at the time, in what was then called the ‘Premier League’, and because of my retina issue, I was advised not to play again. It was quite soul destroying for me to come to terms with.
Laser welding technology in eye surgery was just becoming available and because of this, I decided to give it a go. I was a bit nervous, obviously, as it was so new at the time, but during the operation they put my head securely into a frame and used the laser to weld the tear and eventually fix it – amazing stuff really.
After the elation of a successful surgery, I decided to become a rugby coach in my spare time, keeping myself in the game but off the field. I obtained my coaching qualifications (level 2 RFU) and joined Minchinhampton, a local team in Stroud. I became player-coach for almost two years after that and helped the team get two promotions, back-to-back and won all the cups as well. It wasn’t easy to do, dragging those guys together to form a team!
Generally, my time in those days was taken up by work, rugby and my other love, northern soul music. I used to go to Wigan Casino, the mecca for this sort of music. I was a bit of a dancer so went most weekends - there’s a quite a few documentaries on the Casino on YouTube, if you’re interested.
My love for northern soul music originated in the 70s, when I used to run a local record store for a friend called Gloucester Disco Centre and DJ’d on Severn Sound. For those of you that live locally, you may remember the station.
It was a couple of years later, in 2000, that my career and in many ways, life, took a change of direction as I met my future wife and took my first steps into the world of construction – ironically moving into Architectural Deconstruction.
It was a risky manoeuvre when I moved away from the engineering profession and many people thought I was crazy, but I found it to be a particularly wonderful job that entailed taking down buildings across the country for resale or demolishment. These developments ranged from projects on the Dorchester Hotel – Annexe, Renaissance Department of the Victoria Albert Museum and the Westminster Bridge Balustrade (which was 350m in length).
I loved the reactive nature and number of surprises that kept me on my toes day-to-day. In one instance, for example, we found a 400-year-old burial chamber after discovering a crack in the stonework at a Church in Bisley. The initial job was to renovate a stone pathway and align it as it was causing issues for visitors. Each of these flag stones weighed about 1.5 tonnes so it was by no means a small job.
When we went to investigate, with a torch in hand, we found out the chamber contained a number of skeletons, corroded coffins and beautiful Cotswold stone walls. Not something you come across every day!
It was through this job that I actually met a key member from a local construction company. Those conversations turned out to have a big effect on the next venture of my career, as I consequently moved to his business as their Head of Business Services in 2011.
Many, many things have changed in the years since and now, here I am, at Bamboo Technology Group looking to the future of smart cities and buildings amongst many other exciting developments. It’s amazing when you think about the ways in which we communicate, manufacture and work have taken huge strides thanks to new technologies over the past 20 years.
My passion for problem solving hasn’t ceased and I’m still up-to-date with my rugby, going over to see Gloucester at Kingsholm every now and then. I was able to get a few of my old records out over Christmas too actually, although they’re only at home these days, not on the radio.
There’s definitely something quite magical about opening an original vinyl, I put on my copy of Northern Soul Classics and brought out a few of my dance moves around the house when we had Christmas dinner. My children often have something to say about the dancing these days though!
Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, I’m not one for shouting about my future aspirations as such, as I feel it fixes you to something. As you may be able to tell from reading this, I quite like living in the moment, meeting new people and experiencing new things. I’ve been very lucky in that respect in my career so far and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings.
Happy 20-year anniversary to Bamboo!