Mark Sobey (1981 BSc Physics, 1986 PhD Engineering). Mark is currently the Senior Vice President of the SLS Business Group within Coherent Inc.
“Since leaving university, I have worked my entire career in the commercial laser, optics & telecommunications industry for US based companies. Currently, I am responsible for approx 2/3rds of Coherent business across 4 sites (1 in US, 2 in Germany & 1 in Scotland) but I started out in sales, selling complex laser products to customers that ranged from university professors and industrial R&D engineers to laser light show entrepreneurs. I was fortunate enough to be promoted after a few years into a significant sales management role that took me to live in Germany, then subsequently to California, where I’ve lived ever since. At various stages of my career I have also been involved in product management, marketing and general management. My current job involves the tactical & strategic management of multiple business units, each specializing in a specific laser technology. Each unit is responsible for generating its own strategic technology, market and product roadmaps as well as tactically delivering on quarterly sales & profits targets. My job means that I travel extensivelyand meet thousands of good people all over the world trying to make a difference in their work. Being part of the Silicon Valley culture, experiencing first hand, as well as through good friends, some insane booms & busts (fiber-optics telecommunications, web 1.0 and recently solar) has been particularly exciting.
At the minute, I’m particularly excited about the opportunities for lasers in the manufacturing of solar cells, driving lower costs, higher manufacturing yields and increased conversion efficiency, making them viable at the GW Power Plant level for large parts of the world with regular sunshine. I enjoy being able to weave together the technology advances of our R&D groups, with an understanding of our customers application drivers, then design an innovative & unique product that enables something new and get it to market with strong commercial success for us and our customers.
I liked Physics as a subject and always felt that it would give me career options. To this day, I’ve never met a Physicist that does not have pride in their choice of degree. I have been in management since my late 20s, but I have a technical knowledge that has given me an edge in sales, marketing and general management. I thought the physics course work at Strathclyde was particularly well organized, in such a way that it all came together in our final year. The maths tools, electricity & magnetism, classical optics, quantum mechanics, laser classes etc all built a strong foundation for the industry I chose. I particularly enjoyed the lab work, develops first hand experience of the rigor of good R&D process.
In the future, I hope to be able to maintain the level of pleasure I get from my job today, I work for a company with a great work culture both in terms of content and work / life balance. (I’ve worked for bad ones too and really appreciate the difference). Away from the office, spending time with my family beats everything – I have a wonderful wife of 19 years, a daughter 12 & son 14. I like to keep fit, enjoy skiing, cycling and golf.”