Today, we interview Martin Wallace, Head of Engineering and Service here at Veolia Water Technologies UK about his varied career to date, his current role and the key areas he is looking to focus on in 2021.
Hi Martin, tell us a bit about your career history, prior to joining VWT UK.
I left school at 16 and started my vocational education as an apprentice electrical engineer - this was where my interest in engineering really kicked off. At 20, I decided to join the Royal Air Force and became an avionics technician working on fighter jets. This was a really crucial stage in my learning. I developed my core technical skills here and took training courses that wouldn’t usually be available via the academic route.
From there I moved into the medical service field, joining Olympus, the market leader in endoscopy, in 2004. As the medical field is highly regulated, I really thrived in the environment and found it to be an easy transition from military life. I eventually worked my way up to Business Unit Manager of Electronics and Field Support Services, where I looked after business in the UK and supported the distributor network in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META).
Over the last four or five years, I have worked for a number of other global, well-known companies in the sector such as GE Healthcare, Getinge and lately at Spacelabs Healthcare, as their EMEA Service Director, before joining the VWT UK team in July.
Tell us about your new role at VWT UK?
I am very excited to be working with VWT. Everyone here is constantly looking at how they can better apply their knowledge, technologies and research in order to benefit the customer, and I am enjoying being a part of that.
My current responsibilities cover the field and technology services for England and Wales. I have been brought in to aid the strategic direction of VWT’s current goals and will be working closely with the operational managers, who look after the field service teams. While I am not involved with the customer calls on a day-to-day basis, I do actively support the teams and will be committed to the continued improvement of our service operations.
How has your previous experience prepared you for this role?
I am very familiar with managing large remote field-based teams – having done so for many years and in different countries. I also believe that my previous experience as a field engineer has given me an understanding of what our own team are doing, as well as the challenges that they face, because I have been in their position. I understand that I am not just here to look after the business side but also to look after the team and their well-being, making their job easier.
What are you looking to achieve over the next year at VWT UK?
I want us to question how and why we do things. This will not only create a better team ethic but help us to continuously improve the service to our customer. We are also looking to strengthen our service engineering support team, so that they are better equipped to assist our sales colleagues, our engineers and customers at a moment’s notice.
Another area I want us to consider is bringing technology like augmented reality (AR) into our work. For example, the wider Veolia company has been utilising an AR solution called Fieldbit to provide remote assistance for construction commissioning, troubleshooting, maintenance services and emergency support. Utilising this technology ourselves would allow us to conduct virtual visits for inspections or visual verification of equipment. I believe that combined with our Hubgrade solution, we will be able to operate with a very strong proactive model.
There is so much for us to do, but I believe that by taking small steps, we can look back, reflect and see what we have achieved.
How is the current climate affecting the engineers you look after and the way they work? Are they in greater need of support than before?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the only element that has changed for our engineers is the greater use of PPE equipment. I have got a highly capable team who have carried on as usual. I think that given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, they should feel proud of how they have played their part in keeping some of the vital industries like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage going. We had key customers who continued to work throughout the pandemic, and we made sure they received the necessary service and support required. Our engineers should have immense self-pride in the work they have done.
Lastly, what is your favourite football team?
My favourite team is Port Vale, based in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. Unfortunately, they are in the fourth tier of the English football league and they aren’t very good, but I have supported them since I was a child. I still buy their shirts and I will continue to support them no matter what!
For more information on Veolia Water Technologies UK, please visit www.veoliawatertechnologies.co.uk
About the Author
Martin was appointed Head of Engineering and Service at VWT UK in 2020. Having a strong background in a number of global, well-known companies, Martin has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry. He works closely with the operational managers, who in turn look after the field sales team and is instrumental in the development of VWT's strategic direction plans.