Engineering. A World of Opportunity

Name: Kelly Jones

Title: Chief Executive Officer of Rotary Power

How did you get into engineering?

I’ve always been interested in engineering, when I started school I really wanted to be an astronaut. I researched the background of an astronaut at the time and found out most of them studied engineering and were also air force pilots. By the time I was 12, I was very near sighted and definitely wasn’t going to make it as a pilot (vision correcting surgery didn’t exist) but, my uncle was an electrical engineer designing software for F-16 and F-18 fighter jets and that seemed like a pretty cool job to me. So, I decided to pursue engineering and see where it took me.

Where and what did you study?

I went to the University of Illinois to study electrical engineering; it was one of the top programmes in the US.

What qualifications do you have?

I got my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois. Later while I was working, I got my MBA by attending the University of Indiana evenings and weekends for three years.

Where was your first job?

When I was 14 I started helping a neighbour selling t-shirts at local markets at the weekends. I had various jobs; my favourite was working in an old fashioned candy store. When I finished university, I got my first engineering job and started working as a controls engineer at Rolls Royce, I was writing software requirement documents for helicopters.

What progression have you achieved?

I really enjoyed my job but I was always looking for ways to take on extra responsibility and get involved with new projects. During my MBA, I enjoyed my finance modules the most, so I started introducing myself to colleagues in the finance department and looking for an opportunity to try a new job. I found a job in the aircraft financing team; they were responsible for helping to arrange financing for customers that were not able to get loans to buy aeroplanes.

I gradually received new roles and promotions over the next few years and in 2008, I was given the chance to work in China for three years. This meant I was working with colleagues from all over the world that needed to trade. It gave me the opportunity to learn about so many new things involving almost every area of a company’s operations. In 2011, I was promoted to senior management and returned to the UK to join a team that developed strategies for the company’s headquarters. In 2014, I became the chief executive officer of Rotary Power, I now oversee the running of the business from product development to customer relations.

What opportunities has the engineering world provided you?

Engineering has given me the opportunity to have a deep understanding of a company’s products in a way that no other discipline can do. It has provided me with a structured way of thinking that allows me to process information in a way that I could not otherwise do. It has given me multiple opportunities to travel and meet new colleagues. It has opened doors in my career that I didn’t even know existed.

Where have you travelled?

Travel is my passion, and holiday allowances are never enough. Throughout my engineering career I have been fortunate enough to have always had jobs that allow me to see new places and experience new things. I have been to six continents (only missing Antarctica, but I’m in no hurry to get there). Some of my favourite places have been right here in the UK, but I love the new experiences that have come from visiting India, China, Brazil, the Cook Islands, Australia, South Africa and countless cities across Europe.

What are your future ambitions?

I believe that business provides a chance for people to realise their potential and make a difference not only to customers, but more importantly to employees and their families. This is what drives me. When I was growing up on a farm in Illinois, I could never have been able to predict where opportunities could have led me, so I won’t even try to do that now. But to answer your question, my ambition is to improve the opportunities for the people that work around me and help them to do the same for the people that work around them.

What advice would you give other women starting/looking for a job in engineering?

Only listen to your instincts, never listen to anyone that tells you, you shouldn’t or you can’t!

What is your favourite thing about being here at British Engines?

The supportive culture, it is so different from the corporate culture I have previously worked in, where people often advance at someone else’s expense. Here, it has been clear to me from day one that we succeed as a team, as a group. The rest of my senior team are all there to help me succeed so that I can do the same for my employees.