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Meet the Fellows - Philip Clayson FIET

When approached for IET Fellowship, Philip was sceptical about having the time or necessary experience for the step up so early in his career. Nevertheless, submitting his CV for pre-assessment, he got the nod, achieving Fellowship very early in his career, in his late 30s.

Introduction

Image of Philip Clayson FIET

Philip Clayson joined the IET at Plymouth University, as an associate (student) member. Graduating with an Electronics degree in 1994, he began working for National Transcommunications, the privatised Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), later NDS part of News Corporation and now a Cisco company.

Philip’s role was to research and develop leading edge digital video technologies, today found in every TV and Set Top Box worldwide. His line manager was a Chartered IET Member who was supportive of his desire to also become Chartered. Four years of professional development for Philip led to achieving Chartered Engineer status (CEng), just past his mid 20s - progress of the fast-track kind.

Philip had progressed to leading pre-sales technical activity on multimillion pound sales bids worldwide in broadcast digital video transmission. Here, a career highlight was being part of the team that designed the video architecture of Freeview in just a few weeks, an architecture that remains in Freeview and now YouView to this day.

Onwards with professional development

Keen to keep his professional development going, Philip also began an MBA in 1998, specialising in Strategy, International Operations and Technology while working with Oracle. Philip spent much of his study time on flights across the Atlantic, doing most of his Open University MBA studying at 30,000 feet.

When approached for IET Fellowship, Philip was sceptical about having the time or necessary experience for the step up so early in his career. Nevertheless, submitting his CV for pre-assessment, he got the nod, achieving Fellowship very early in his career, in his late 30s.

Extending his telecoms experience, Philip spent 6 years with Arqiva, owner operator of the UK’s TV & Radio transmission infrastructure. Responsible for extensive operational and technology strategy, Philip had to take teams through operational and technology transformation initiatives, including one of the UK’s largest technology acquisitions at that time, with a value of £2.5bn. Philip liked this new people-focused restructuring work, finding himself using people skills from his MBA, but now overlaid into a technical and operational environment. He may have begun his working life as a ‘research tecchie’, yet soon found his career moving much more towards people and managerial skills. Here, then, was the future.

Double Chartered

So, when approached by the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) to become a Chartered Manager in 2008, it seemed a natural step. Still time-poor, Philip saw the sense in going through the CMI fast-track route – a more expensive, interview-based process. Ahead of the game, after just 6 weeks Philip added CMgr to complement his CEng. It was only very recently that the IET began offering CMgr status to members, under a strategic partnership with the CMI.

Based on his Arqiva role, Philip was approached to join BT and head up a 2-year operational transformation programme at BT Tower for BT’s TV, Media and Broadcast team - a multi-disciplined operational technology business, with multi-million pound revenue. Then came a further strategic technology and people transformation role as Level 3 acquired Global Crossing, requiring Philip to create a Strategy and Investment plan within a multi-functional product and technology team. Philip’s responsibility was to assure the future of a critical VOIP and unified communications platform for UK Government customers.

People skills in engineering

While engineers are very good at the technology, or the operational aspects of their roles, they can often overlook badly needed business, strategic and people-related skills - which can totally undermine a project and have huge financial implications. With his combination of technological, operational and people roles across some of the industry’s largest companies and regular professional development - from ‘tecchie’ with MBA and business skills to people and HR - Philip had built up unique layers of experience to become quite specialised. Certainly, far from the stereotypical role that many people associate with engineers and their qualifications. 

Having developed all these roles up to 2012 in-house, Philip now had the opportunity to enter consultancy, working with major blue chip brands looking to transform teams, products, or services, sometimes organically and other times by acquisition, strategic change or divestment. He’s worked in Telecoms, Software, Energy, Broadcast and IT, transforming restructuring and enabling growth with the UK’s biggest technology brands.

Helping out The IET

Since 2008, Philip has been a Fellow of the CMI as well as the IET – twin peaks of achievement, reflecting the fact that engineers are moving away from operational and engineering on a day-to-day basis, towards managerial, leadership and roles demanding people skills. 

Achieving Fellowship is one thing. It’s how you bring it to life that counts. Quickly grasping that the IET cannot operate without committees and volunteers, Philip became a Committee Member on the Multi Media Communications Network. When the existing Chair stepped down, Philip stepped up – a post he held until very recently, when he too stepped down due to workload. In 2012, personifying the importance of engineering in our culture, Philip contributed to the publication Delivering London 2012: ICT enabling the Games, through the IET, and was fortunate to interview the world’s most prominent father of MPEG, Dr Leonardo Chiariglione.

Future thinking

Today, Philip helps senior executive teams across Europe with operational strategy, growth planning, mergers and acquisitions and he supports the C-suite when they look to optimise or develop new operational and technological opportunities.

As for the future, where is the market going? 

Philip is passionate about getting organisations in the right shape, operationally and with their people. His technical background, strategy and ever more crucial people skills are opening into new opportunities. Philip notes that much people transformation is still done very manually, in an unstructured and time-consuming way. The use of technology to deliver the people aspects of such complex company transformation is almost non-existent. Philip is working with industry luminaries to develop thinking in this area that will help companies with the people aspect of organisational and operational transformation - whether through mergers, acquisitions, in and out sourcing or divestments. He’s looking to enable a new way of performing people restructuring and optimisation. There’s untapped technology thinking here. Philip remains guarded on this new thinking, but says, “Watch this space”.