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United Kingdom / Transportation / Professor of future mobility

Glenn Lyons

Glen's youngest daughter's drawing

"The people at Mott MacDonald are professional and engaging – they really know their stuff."

What attracted you to apply for a role with us?

I’ve spent most of my career in academia and most recently I’ve been a senior manager overseeing research in a faculty of some 400 staff. Throughout, my love of transport has remained central. There are strong winds of change affecting our sector at the moment. I was looking for a role and an opportunity to help respond to the new uncertainties we face. Mott MacDonald had the vision to pursue an innovative approach to bridging between academia and practice by setting up a chair in future mobility, which I now hold. I’m still based at the University of the West of England, Bristol but I am seconded for half of my time into Mott MacDonald.

How did you find the recruitment process?

My appointment was unconventional. Mott MacDonald knew it wanted to extend its thought leadership regarding future mobility and the related technological innovations, such as autonomous vehicles and ‘mobility as a service’. After I pitched an offer to address this to senior staff, we found we were on the same page with a shared excitement at the prospect of joining forces.

What are the three things that make you look forward to coming into work each day?

Stimulating and important challenges; inspiring people; and a chance to make a difference. The world is changing. The rear-view mirror is no longer a reliable guide to our future – we have some wicked problems to get to grips with. The people at Mott MacDonald are professional and engaging – they really know their stuff. It’s a great source of motivation for working collaboratively. Your role must count for something, and Mott MacDonald provides huge opportunity for this to happen through its client base and professional engagement across the globe.

What’s your team like?

I’m based in the integrated transport division that consists of several hundred people across multiple offices. My role is about a networked existence – linking up with different people for different purposes across the company. This can be challenging, but it’s also refreshing and inspiring – no week is ever the same.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Having the chance to constructively challenge and stretch orthodox thinking. As is said, ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’. I have the privilege of being able to examine the changing nature of transport and society, and question how we are responding to our transport analysis and decision making. It’s about bringing fresh perspective to difficult issues, but always with an interest in how we can improve our profession’s role in providing better stewardship of the future.

Where do you see yourself in a year?

I hope to be even more immersed into the company’s collaborative environment. I want to be involved in client work in ways that can help deliver the most appropriate outcomes. I want to be contributing to thought leadership within the organisation and promote Mott MacDonald’s capabilities externally.

What makes us stand out from other companies?

You can judge the calibre of a company by the sort of people who work in it. I’ve realised just how many people I know and respect in the transport sector are also in Mott MacDonald. Perhaps it’s being employee-owned that gives the company a different sort of DNA. It’s clearly about more than just profit. It’s about professional excellence and an appetite for continuous improvement. Some would say Mott MacDonald is a gentle giant – it concentrates on doing high quality work for its clients and providing the best advice that it can.

How has digital technology aided you in your day-to-day role?

To put quite simply, I’m not sure my role could be fulfilled without Mott MacDonald’s digital platform. I was instantly impressed by how connected I feel in a large organisation operating across many offices and different continents. I can quickly look people up, gauge their profile and where they fit in the organisation. This links across to the internal social networking platform used for professional debate. I work flexibly – in Mott MacDonald offices, on trains, at third party sites and at home; but digital technology means I can easily ‘plug in’ wherever I am. The ease of setting up and participating in multi-way Skype calls also means I can act global and (sometimes) live local!

What excites you most about the digital technologies being developed?

It’s the ability to make the concept of connected thinking a reality. One of the early activities I helped set up was an internal debate on the prospective future of connected, autonomous vehicles and what issues this poses for our clients. Through the company’s social networking platform, we can engage a large number of colleagues from across the business. Being able to crowd source thinking from so many professionals, ultimately in support of our client-facing priorities, is tremendous – especially where the topic of concern is live and continuously changing.

Are you involved with any charities or do any voluntary work?

Since 2016 I’ve been a trustee of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT). I suppose this might be seen as a ‘busman’s holiday’. I’m enthusiastic about helping ensure the continued health and standing of our profession and believe that we help unite and support transport professionals in a changing world. I’ve taken a particularly close interest in how the identity of our institution may need to evolve. I’ve also been working closely with the professionalisation of transport planning through the ‘Transport Planning Professional’ qualification.

If you could have lunch with any three people who would they be and why?

My dad. He died when I was 15 and I only ever really knew him as a father not as a person. I’d love to hear his views on where life has taken me and where the world is heading.

Sir Colin Buchanan. What on earth has he made of how the motor car has changed society since his seminal 1960s report? What words of wisdom would he now offer us regarding the prospect of a future full of autonomous vehicles?

Angus Young. My all-time favourite band is AC/DC. Has he loved every minute of his schoolboy antics and guitar wizardry on stage? I’d be thunderstruck!

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