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Gavin McMahon

BEng(Hons) Mechanical Engineering (1988)

A degree in Mechanical Engineering from UCLan set Gavin on the road to co-founding his own business consultancy advising Fortune-100 companies.

“To be honest, I backed into coming to university. I was 17 and had no clear career goals. However my Father was an engineer and I liked the sound of building things. By default, the Mechanical Engineering course offered at the then Lancashire Polytechnic sounded good,” recalled Gavin.

“I enjoyed my time on the course, leaving with memories of great classmates whilst spending a fair amount of time in the timeshare computer lab and badminton hall. I also remember how helpful and dedicated the lecturers and professors were.”

Gavin McMahon

Upon graduation, Gavin started working at Vickers Shipbuilding in Barrow-in-Furness. “Having worked at TVR Sports Cars during my placement year, I decided I wanted to work for a big, prominent company. I also knew I would be working for the rest of my life, so wanted a job that really interested me. The thought of building nuclear submarines at Vickers sounded exciting and fit the bill. Whilst I loved it at first, the long cycle of design and build got eventually got dull.”

Gavin left Vickers and spent the next four years working in Central and Eastern Africa, developing two new steel recycling plants, then managing their first nine months in operation. “After a great time in Africa, I was fortunate to be sponsored by the Royal Society of Engineers to come back to Europe and complete my MBA in France. After this, I worked my way through the dotcom boom - firstly at McGraw-Hill before moving to work for Gartner. They eventually moved me to America, where I now live and work.”

After spending three years managing Gartner’s move to e-business, in 2001 Gavin co-founded fassforward Consulting Group, where he is a senior partner. “Founding and building this company up from the ground over the last ten years has been my greatest professional achievement. We are a boutique transformation firm working across three areas: Customer Experience, Leadership and Change and Messaging and Communication and over the past 12 years, we’ve advised clients such as MasterCard, Microsoft and Estee Lauder, in addition to smaller start-ups,” he remarked.

Whilst Gavin’s career path has taken him from being a student of engineering at Lancashire Polytechnic, to becoming a business strategy guru, he believes his engineering background has been of great value.

“Being trained as an engineer taught me how to think. The skill of identifying problems, understanding systems and building solutions has been invaluable, not only when I was working in engineering, but in my current role, where I have to critically analyse situations and find new solutions.”

TOP TIP FOR UNDERGRADUATES: If you have to choose between what interests you, and something that you think might be more financially rewarding, always choose what interests you.