July 2016

One of the questions I am often asked is: “What is the theme for your Presidency?” The short answer is that there are a number of issues I would wish to highlight but none of which would score as a particularly original slant on the work of the Society!

My June message made fairly clear that one of my priorities is to evangelise the benefits to individuals of active participation in the Society’s activities. There is, of course, a collective benefit from members throwing their own experience, skills and enthusiasm into the pot: because, ultimately, the Society can be no better or worse than its membership. At the Gala Banquet in May I highlighted this continuity of expertise and commitment as the Society’s main challenge for the future. However, continuity does not mean the same individuals having to carry on forever! Our recent election saw a significant refresh in Council membership and, chatting after the AGM, I was struck by how positive the unsuccessful candidates were about the credentials and the enthusiasm of those elected. A steady turnover of personnel is essential to maintain the quality, reputation and energy of the Society’s activities at all levels; but this requires new blood to put itself forward. The Society can seem like a crowded place, with numerous committees already populated with the ‘great and the good’ but there is so much more we could do with more firepower.

Of course it’s not that easy for those early in their career, or at the height of their technical output, to find time to get involved. So there is also a message for senior managers, to do more to free up their young (and not-so-young) professionals to take advantage of the development opportunities offered by the Society: contribution to the body of knowledge, by means of conferences or articles; involvement in setting and promoting standards, through mentoring or professional review; all-round shaping of a discipline through membership of a specialist group; securing the future of the profession by supporting our many outreach activities; as well as the networking opportunities offered by the 500-odd functions which are held each year around the world.

The third beneficiary of such activity is employers themselves. We can sometimes kid ourselves, in our large and diverse enterprises, that we don’t need to expose our teams to external influences to develop their knowledge and skills. This is a myth, of course, one which is exposed the minute we step outside the boundaries of our own corporate environment. We can also be lulled into leadership complacency by the modern HR mantra that responsibility lies with the individual to develop and manage his or her career: yet we all know that really successful organisations don’t operate on this basis! The Society offers us, as leaders, a means of developing our people, our businesses and our professional community. A win-win-win.

There are other issues I would like to promote, of course. As someone who has spent nearly 30 years working on technologies to reduce aircraft fuel burn, I often wonder how we can accelerate the process of getting innovation onto the aircraft. But more on this in future editions of AEROSPACE!

Professor Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS