In this new series, we’ll be looking at some of the people who make Control Techniques & Leroy-Somer tick. First up is an interview with Martin Dudley, a projects manager within our UK technical support centre.
Name: Martin Dudley
Position: Projects manager
Department: Technical Support
Location: Newtown, UK
I completed a modular degree with the Open University, encompassing elements of software engineering and electronics. Prior to this I had completed an HNC in electrical and electronic engineering.
I started my career testing PCBs for an industrial fire alarm specialist. This role progressed into managing repairs, managing a test team and later development work for new products. Product development, and support of that development, has always been a key part of my career path.
When did you join the business?
I joined Control Techniques in 2003, in a software and electronics support role within a team focused on software and solutions. This team later joined the technical support group we have today.
Describe your current role?
My main focus is to ensure everything is available when we launch a new product. The role predominantly incorporates coordinating product development, documentation and test teams. Part of our team’s role includes training our support engineers to become subject matter experts for a specific product, which benefits us and our customers later on when the product reaches market. This approach ensures that someone has been involved with, and learnt, the product in the early stages of development, rather than being trained on the product once it’s completed.
We firmly believe that if we want to deliver world class support, we need to know that people in our global network have a comprehensive understanding of every facet of the product, along with the knowledge and experience to be able to respond to any situation. It’s hugely important to us, and our team really do live and breathe the product, day in day out.
It’s driven right from the top of the business; we believe you can’t simply hand a support engineer a finished product and tell them to go and learn it. That’s why our teams are involved at every stage, and why we have subject matter experts for every product, so they can spread knowledge throughout the department which benefits everyone all the way through to the customer.
What are your key responsibilities?
It’s a multi-faceted role. I spend a lot of time working with Support Suite, the global support system we’ve implemented. Using this system ensures any issues or problems we come across are identified and dealt with in a structured way, with visibility for other departments in the company so everyone is aware of the issues they need to be aware of. This helps ensure we support our customers to the best of our abilities.
What is the task you do the most in your role?
Mostly my team acts as the buffer between technical support and R&D. We make sure things happen proactively, but we’re also responsible for identifying and acting quickly when required.
What do you enjoy about your role?
It’s a hugely diverse role. Often it’s difficult to predict what will happen from one day to the next, which keeps me on my toes. While it sounds really obvious, I get the most satisfaction from a happy customer. When you see that the customer has taken something you’ve put a lot of effort into and they’re using it in their business, this is really rewarding.
What are the main challenges in your role?
Making sure there’s a good understanding of the product and people understand how to use it correctly and to its fullest potential. Communication at a global level has its challenges and this is where our support systems really help.
How is success measured?
The main performance indicator in this role is accuracy and efficiency. We work to an overall project plan and have deadlines to meet. It is also important we are able to react to situations which may arise promptly to meet the customers’ needs.
Have you worked on any projects you’re particularly proud of?
Developing and launching Support Suite brought a lot of benefit to the business as it drives us away from a phone/email based system for responding to support requests to something that is more tangible and ensures continuity and visibility. This brings benefits for everyone we have direct or indirect support involvement with.
What personal characteristics are crucial to your role?
First and foremost, you need to be passionate about the product; it needs to be part of your DNA. An organised approach also helps, because at times it can feel like we’re spinning plates so we need to be able to respond to situations both proactively and reactively. Again, good communication is vital to this.
From a technical point of view, you need a good understanding of electronics, electrical theory and software. Core skills in those areas are important. Experience helps too, where you’re exposed to the products and applications in the real world. Seeing the customer paints a picture of how the product is used and provides a great learning opportunity.
Advice for anyone considering a future in engineering?
Engineering is immensely rewarding. If you think back to the 1980s when the BBC Micro came along, everyone got really fired up about programming and computing. That created a whole generation of engineers based on the enthusiasm generated during this time.
Now there is a massive interest in products like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, which is getting a whole new generation into coding and computer science. Technology is becoming “cool” again and there are so many interesting companies doing amazing things that people want to be involved in. This can only be a good thing for the future. Find open days, attend interviews and above all find something that interests you.