3 Questions with Mike Haigh, Executive Chair, Mott MacDonald

Kye Parkin
Communications Executive | Business West
3rd November 2021

The University of the West of England (UWE), in partnership with Business West, runs an annual lecture series that brings top business leaders to Bristol. We caught up with Mike Haigh, Executive Chair, Mott MacDonald before his address.

1. What would your advice be to students graduating in the aftermath of this pandemic?

If you’re graduating now or shortly, I definitely think [graduates] should embrace getting back to normal a little bit.

I know we’ve all got used to homeworking; we’ve all got used to agile ways of communicating with each other, but just don’t forget – especially as you start your career – that face-to-face time with people is really important.

You’re going to have mentors, you’re going to have coaches, people that steer your career and you will learn so much more from them by being face-to-face.

Our new world will be a hybrid between homeworking and office working depending on what you do in your careers.

Just embrace the personal contact that you’ll have the chance to have.

2. The importance of resilience in recovering from the pandemic: how can students demonstrate this as they enter the world of work?

I think that’s an interesting question. How do individuals play their part in terms of resilience?

I definitely think from a business point of view that businesses are going to have to behave differently, act differently as a response to COVID.

There are certain trends that are really important for businesses and the planet generally.

Climate change and sustainability. Digitalisation that we’re seeing in businesses and beyond. The response to the various social issues that we’re seeing more of. In the UK we talk about the levelling up agenda and so on.

I think in terms of resilience as you enter the marketplace, as you start your career, I think [you should] think about those things. Think about how you can play your part.

Digitalisation might be an easy one. No matter what you’re doing in your careers whether you’re a lawyer, an accountant or whatever, data and information are going to play a big part in your future, so embrace it. Make sure that you’re developing your skills in that area.

Climate, sustainability, the same thing. Whatever you’re doing in your careers, you’re going to be doing it in an atmosphere of decarbonisation, resilience and circularity.

Make sure you understand what those mean and try and prepare yourself around them.

Whatever business you enter into you’re going to find that there is a drive from all of the stakeholders around you – customers or whoever – to create equality and make sure that you’re doing things for the communities around you.

3. What inspires you the most about your role?

I’m the Executive Chair of a large engineering consultancy and we do some amazing projects around the world.

Whether its large metro schemes, airports, the thing that really inspires me is the next generation. Seeing the new generation of engineers and planners coming into our business.

It’s a new world, a much more digital world, a world that is much more attuned to social outcomes and the communities which we serve, a world in which decarbonisation is important.

I think its massively exciting for them and I love the fact that I’ve got a part to play in steering them through the first stages of their careers.

This series of free public lectures brings top level business leaders to Bristol. You can discuss these events on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures and view further content from Mike Haigh’s lecture here. For more information please contact events@uwe.ac.uk.

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