14 August 2012
WM's Shop Talk gets under the skin of the men and women on the frontline of UK factories. Here, Siemens Mobility's supply chain director Gary Winstanley reveals his dreams of stardom
I landed in this job almost by accident. I'd been in project management ever since my engineering degree but I'd just finished a big one, the western extension to the London congestion charge system. It was 2007 – a time of disasters for big, publicly-funded IT projects – so it was quite cool to lead one that met the deadline, finished on budget and actually worked. It was a real career milestone and afterwards everything felt a bit flat. Shortly after, Gordon, our MD,
casually asked: "Have I spoken to you about the operations director's job?" He'd meant to get my view of someone else, but before he'd even finished the sentence, I said: "I'd really like to do that." He looked startled but the next day he rang me and said: "It's yours."
It made sense though: project management calls for interaction with everybody and a good feel for the business end-to-end. In fact, it was good preparation for helping to make a lean business, not just a lean facility.
There was nothing in my background for all this. My dad was the first person in his family who wasn't a Wigan miner. I grew up in a mining terrace that had been his dad's home before him. We were all very close. As a kid, I was going to be a footballer – I played for Wigan Athletic's youth team. Then at 22 it was obvious I was going to be a rock star. Our band even had a three-album contract. We'd recorded some tracks and were lined up for a video, then it went quiet. When we found out the company had gone bankrupt, I was a bit relieved. It had gone to some of the guys' heads and things were getting fractious. I'd play my guitar every spare moment, whether I was rehearsing or not. I'm in love with the instrument and its possibilities, and the band was just a consequence of that. So when it stopped being enjoyable, I still had the important thing – the guitar.
I still go to an open mike session every week and the band I play with now, Headstock (www.headstocklive.com), has just played 12 gigs in 10 weeks. Thankfully, my kids love it. My son messes around on my guitar and my wife is learning to play the drums. If the band was rubbish, they'd be embarrassed but we are quite good. The mix helps: we do older stuff like 'All Right Now', but we also do more modern stuff like The Killers. People in work know because we play here on Christmas Eve for charity. But I am a different person at work: here I really like structure; out of work I don't like it at all.
Wherever I am, I hate selfishness. You see people who are just looking after themselves and not part of what we are all trying to achieve here. I don't go sky high but I do point it out.
The weird thing is that I never really consider myself successful. I tend to wake up and say 'I'm getting away with this'. You still remember being a kid and think: 'How did I get into this position of responsibility? Someone is going to find me out.' But you just do the best you can, try to treat everyone the right way, and be as firm and clear as you can about what you need to happen.
I get really frustrated when people – and kids in particular – don't seem to appreciate the value of what they have. Our sacrifices are nothing to those my parents had to make. I think I am really defined by the strong values they passed on. However old I get, I suppose I'll always be trying not to disappoint them.
Heroes? Richard Branson – an entrepreneurial spirit with the gift of personalising every thing he does. Morrissey, because he always did things his own way. And The Clash, because they stuck by their principles and never went on Top of the Pops.
Best advice you've received? Challenge yourself but don't be afraid to ask. And when you ask someone to do something, always explain why.
On your iPod? A real mix: The Smiths, The Fratellis, BB King, Black Crowes, The Pogues, Jimmy Hendrix and Ice Cube.
Last meal before the firing squad? Pasta – probably carbonara which I often cook for the kids. And Portuguese custard tarts.
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