I thought I should make it known publicly that as of the end of 2020, I’ll be retiring and bringing to an end my 34+ year association with Ricardo, as well as with a number of other clients that I’ve worked with and for down the years.
I’ve been associated with Ricardo for most of my working life, but my first career job was in 1982 as a trainee with Ford Motor Company, during which time I saw the last examples of the Cortina roll off the production line at Dagenham, alongside pilot production of the then radically new Sierra. When I graduated the following year I joined the rolling stock division of London Underground as a graduate trainee, and subsequently worked as an engineer in a team responsible for structural and dynamic analysis. I have some very fond memories of my time at London Underground, ranging from dealing with the very practical issues of railway operations, through to writing analysis software in FORTRAN77.
In the summer of 1986 I joined Ricardo as a CAE engineer, subsequently moving to lead sales & marketing for Ricardo Software from the early 1990s, and finally working as group marketing manager before going independent in 2002. Since then, I’ve supported Ricardo in a range of communications activities, most notably – together with my colleague, Tony Lewin, as TwoTone Media – producing the Ricardo magazine, RQ, and in my own capacity under the MediaTechnical banner, running the Ricardo media service. Alongside Ricardo it’s also been my pleasure to work with a wide range of companies, small and large, in each case providing support in the communication of technology-based products and innovations.
The successful communication of STEM concepts is a significant part of the lifeblood of any successful technology or innovation-based business. By virtue of their novelty, new technologies require explanation if their potential significance is to be understood, appreciated – and used to its full potential. But it’s not just about attracting new customers – it’s as essential to be able to communicate the essence of innovation to those who will back the enterprise as investors, as well as to the talent that the company needs to attract as its future employees. Complex technical subjects need to be translated, simplified and explained for non-expert readers, but the aim must be to do so in a manner that doesn’t dumb-down the material, or patronize the intended audience.
In doing this work, I’ve learned that it’s important to try and understand why the scientific and engineering specialists are excited about their work. Being willing to ask seemingly obvious – even stupid – questions is one of the most disarming techniques available, and often provides some of the most illuminating insights. I’ve also learned that quality science and business journalism provides some excellent lessons for the marketing of technology based businesses. A good journalist will research his or her subject, ask probing questions of experts, and deliver interesting, informative, and enjoyable copy in a voice conveying an impression of objectivity. As PRs and marketers our mission is different and less objective, but we can learn much from such journalistic discipline and its use of the rhetorical arts in the measured deployment of ethos, logos and pathos. This is, if such a thing exists, the magic dust of persuasive PR and marketing copy in my view, and it is the approach that I have sought throughout to apply.
It’s been great working with Ricardo over these past 34 years, and it’s a company that will always remain close to my heart. It really was an exciting place for me to join as a young engineer, but I believe that the Ricardo of today is far more scientifically, industrially and technologically diverse – and significantly more relevant to the future needs of society and the environment – than it has been at any time in its 100+ year history. It also provides the kind of vision and breadth that will inspire the next generation of aspiring engineers, scientists and technologists, to follow rewarding and environmentally and socially useful, STEM-based careers.
So as I approach retirement, I’d like to wish all of my current and past colleagues at Ricardo, Ford and London Underground – as well as the many freelance writers and creative subcontractors that have supported my work, and the many other companies that I have served – the very best in their future endeavours. Together, by applying the best and most creative of technical and scientific skills, a more prosperous, peaceful, equitable and environmentally sustainable future is possible for humanity.