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Alumni profile: Working towards a more sustainable world

Monday 09 December 2019

Nick is currently Vice President Business Strategy at aerospace giant Airbus in Toulouse, where he has lived and worked for the last 15 years. But briefly rewind to the early 1990s and Nick is quick to recall his fond memories of university in Sheffield, remembering it as a reviving city at the time.

Studying business at Hallam, Nick fell into finance while on his year in industry at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. It was here that he learnt some valuable life lessons that would serve him well.

He said: “Personal life and career can often be a trade-off and working at the Children’s Hospital taught me that money can only buy certain things in life, and as you get older you realise what the really valuable things in life are.”

After graduating, Nick worked as a graduate trainee in the defence sector for British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) and, once qualified, became the chief accountant for a Defence Division. Since then, Nick has held executive operational roles at Airbus for over 10 years, including being head of finance for the multi billion A350 programme and has seen the company grow from delivering 300 aircraft a year to more than 800.

Perhaps surprisingly, Nick and his wife have a small farm at his home in France, where they keep rescue animals, including horses, donkeys and dogs. He is also a keen outdoors person, regularly running, cycling and spending time in the mountains.

Given his love for nature and the outdoors, it’s perhaps unsurprising that, after six years on the A350 programme which he describes as both a rewarding and consuming experience, Nick recently took a sabbatical year to focus on this strong personal interest in protecting the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet.

During this time he supported the Airbus Foundation, which aims to help address the challenge’s of today’s society, sponsored a humanitarian project for the UN’s World Food Programme, and even spent a month volunteering on an animal monitoring and research programme in Africa.

And now, Nick is merging his love of wildlife and biodiversity into his professional life. Returning to Airbus in a strategy role, he is working on the company’s environmental and sustainability strategy, with a vision of fundamental business change and bringing a truly sustainable mode of travel to the world.

Having worked through aircraft development from paper to production and final customer delivery, he is well-placed to help bring about a more sustainable future both in terms of company culture and product.

Nick is also keen to promote the benefits of international collaboration in a time of political uncertainty and, earlier this year, he invited eleven students studying for an MSc in International Business to visit Airbus headquarters in Toulouse.

“Success comes through international collaboration. Whatever your background, we are all personally and professionally richer for working together, and I wanted the students to see how international collaboration looks on the front line,” he said.

“If I could give one piece of advice to today’s students it would simply be to follow what you believe in. Not everyone will agree with you, and you may not always be in the right place at the right time, but stay true to your values, be consistent and calm, and you’ll give yourself the best chance to make a difference.”

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