AlumniGary Aitkenhead

Course studied: BEng (Hons) Electronic & Electrical Engineering, 1989

Position at time of writing: Chief Executive, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)

Interesting fact: Gary hosted the Queen and Duke of Cambridge in October 2020 to open a brand new world-class laboratory at Dstl Porton Down – the coverage made Hello Magazine!

Tell us about your background?

I grew up in the Glasgow area, graduating with a First Class Honours Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Strathclyde. This led to a career firstly in Research and Development with Racal Research (now Thales) and Motorola, and then broadening into Operations, Business Development and ultimately a senior global business leader in the mission-critical Communications sector serving emergency services, utilities and transportation users.

I joined the Ministry of Defence as Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, playing a leading role in the transformation of Defence into the Information age through advanced technology research and its application.

I have authored more than 20 patents, held P&L responsibility for up to £1B and led teams up of to 4500 people, working across all regions of the world.

I’m a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. I’m married, with three daughters and live in Hampshire. I enjoy cooking, the outdoors and mountain biking.

How did the course and department prepare you for life beyond graduation?

My time at Strathclyde both in terms of the life experience and what I learned, I would say, gave me the foundational skills that have served me well in all of the roles I have had in my career.

Engineering gave me the analytical skills to solve complex problems and the ability to learn new things, both of which served me well in not only the technical but also the business roles I have taken on.

What one piece of advice would you give to current students?

Truly believe that there are no limits to what you can experience and achieve; discover and use your talents to the full. I had no idea that I could have had the career and life experience I have had when I graduated.

What has been your most memorable moment from your career so far?

There have been many, but hosting the Queen and Duke of Cambridge in October 2020 to open a brand new world-class laboratory at Dstl Porton Down was a real highlight – the coverage even made ‘Hello’ Magazine.

Any final points or words of wisdom?

Always seek to be a learner and a teacher throughout your life and commit to be a team player, as teams achieve way beyond what any one individual can by themselves.