Michael has recently been promoted to Project Manager and our Marketing Manager caught up with him to find out more about his career path, how he has developed at the company and his new role.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Michael Berry and I have recently moved into the role of Project Manager with Online Electronics and am based at the Head Office in Aberdeen. I have been with the company for seven years and have gained experience working in different departments, starting as a technician in the Workshop.
In 2015, I decided to take six months off to work as a ski chalet host with my girlfriend in the French Alps which was a huge change. We really enjoyed it, obviously the skiing was the main reason for being there, but the job was enjoyable too and six months turned into three years! We finished up with some travelling all over the world before returning to the UK and after a short spell with another company I returned to Online taking on the role of Production Supervisor before joining the Projects Team as a Project Engineer
Outside of work, I like to try and exercise regularly whether that is running, going to the gym, racquet sports, walking or skiing as I already mentioned – getting outside and exercising is a big part of my life.
Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into the industry.
I started with Online in 2010 straight out of school and I also started at Aberdeen College around the same time. I studied for an HNC in Mechanical Engineering followed by an HND which the company was happy to put me through. It is now in my Project Management role that I am really starting to see the benefits of this time spent studying and the understanding and general principles I learnt are being applied into the work we carry out.
Can you talk about some of the other roles you have had at the company?
As a technician, I was primarily involved in building our pig tracking and signalling range of products, gaining additional responsibilities as the years went on and eventually becoming a senior technician before I went travelling.
When I returned to the company as Production Supervisor, I really started to see all aspects of the business from point of sale to product build and test and packing and shipping. The synergy between the departments was interesting and working slightly closer with people like John Fraser, our Production Manager was great, I was able to learn a lot.
The opportunity to join the Projects department then arose and it was something I was really interested in. I was getting to the point of my career where I was wanting to move towards more of an office-based job and Projects is something that I have been interested in for some time.
I know that our Technicians quite often carry out field work. Have you had the opportunity to travel at all during your time with the company?
Yes, I have been on quite a lot of field projects whether that is training our clients on how to use the products or being hired by the client to operate the equipment for them – that was a big part of my job in the early stages of my career with the company.
Often it was offshore UK but also globally such as Vietnam, Egypt, and Trinidad & Tobago. Every job was a new challenge – sometimes it was an onshore pipeline in the desert, other times a platform in the North Sea. It gave me a huge understanding of how our equipment works which is ideal in our department now. It allows me to talk to the customers and visualize what the equipment is there to do and what the client needs.
Tell me a bit more about your new role. What are your responsibilities and who are you working with daily?
The goal of the Projects department is to manage some of the more complex orders the company receives – any project where we must work very closely with the customer from point of sale to shipment to ensure their requirements are met. This usually starts with the issuing of the relevant documentation and we stay in contact with the customer during manufacturing, testing and finally shipping.
I am now managing the department and I am trying to streamline the way that we work so that it is more efficient. We are constantly working on policies and procedures to make sure that everything is as easy for us and our clients as it can be.
What I really like about the job is dealing with a regular client and feeling like you get to know them and building up a good relationship. It helps us to deliver our product as we know what they are looking for and the questions they will have. By providing a good service, it encourages them to keep coming back to us and we often have clients placing another order with us almost as soon as we have delivered on a project.
In terms of who we work with, part of our role is to tie every department together. We discuss technical information with Production at the start of a job, we check that we have all the required parts, we liaise with Procurement & Logistics to ensure we can deliver on time. We communicate as a group and ensure we have all the tools to deliver the job.
Are there any projects you have worked on that standout for you?
Each project has its own unique challenges but there was one job in China that was quite interesting. We were delivering our 4001D Magnetic Pig Signalers and one of the requirements was for a weatherproof and waterproof enclosure for the signaller. We had to go through the client specifications to ensure that we selected the correct ingress protected box and get it all approved by the client, the dimensions, the certification etc.
We ended up working with the client to establish where the signallers should be mounted as they were to be installed close to the shore where there was the added challenge of the waves and ensuring the boxes weren’t going to degrade due to saltwater and there wasn’t going to be any water ingress. That was an example of working collaboratively with the client - we received positive feedback and they came back to us for their next job.
It is clear you have developed and made strides in your career during your time with Online. How do you see yourself progressing in the next ten years?
I’m always trying to better myself and the company has allowed me to do that. Five years ago, we didn’t have a Projects department and now we have three people and I imagine the department will continue to grow. I’m very thankful that the company has given me the opportunities they have and at the moment I’m really just focused on growing with the company, learning as much as I can. I’m also really interested in people management and I’m now getting to do that on a daily basis, and I think I have a lot to offer the company in that respect.
Finally, what do you think are the biggest challenges the company is facing at the moment?
The obvious one just now is the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on the industry, but we maybe don’t have time to go into that right now! I think every day is a challenge really but in a healthy way. We must make sure that what we do is fulfilling the needs of our clients, adapt where necessary to retain our customers and win new business. That sometimes means saying “Yes” to difficult and complex projects and working with the client to ensure they are happy with the products and solutions we provide so that we can work with them again in the future.