Mel Courtney

Operations Director, Kingspan Renewables

Degree subjectMEng Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Queen's University, Belfast (2005)
Job title Operations Director
Employer KIngspan Renewables

Manufacturing processes have fascinated me from an early age and I was really keen on science and technology at school. My industrial sandwich year at college gave me an insight into a variety of engineering roles within a manufacturing environment and confirmed for me that this was the direction I wanted to take.

I was on the final year of my degree studying in Sweden on an Erasmus placement when I applied for Kingspan's inaugural graduate management development programme. I had a first-round interview in Belfast followed by an assessment day in Dublin. This involved being interviewed by a number of senior managers and it was during this selection process that I realised Kingspan was exactly the type of place I wanted to work. Luckily I was offered a position and I've now been here six years.

I joined the graduate programme in 2005 as a process engineer for the technical team in Northern Ireland. The programme introduced me to the commercial and financial aspect of projects and taught me to assess the economic benefit of a project outcome.

Today I'm primarily based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, but I'm responsible for four manufacturing sites across England. I oversee a management team that’s accountable for all operational functions, including purchasing, production, quality, health and safety, supply chain and R&D.

Operations management is extremely varied. My team is responsible for 240 employees and in any given week I'll meet with key team members to review how we are performing against our operational targets and key performance indicators (KPIs). I'll also be working on a number of other projects, including new product development, continuous improvement and new machinery specification.

Project work here is varied and absorbing and the experience you get from it is invaluable. At the moment we are developing a plan to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations and we aim to achieve Net Zero energy by 2020. This will involve assessing our current and forecasted energy demand, making improvements to reduce that demand and introducing renewable generating sources, such as wind and combined heat and power (CHP).

Advice for graduates

Employers seek people who can add value to their businesses and deliver results – you need to be able to communicate how you have done so in the past to companies you want to work for.

Mel Courtney was interviewed for gradireland Engineering 2012.