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Chris Sturgess – international placement kickstarted a global career

Chris Sturgess

A placement year in Germany proved to be the start of a global engineering career for BU graduate Chris Sturgess.

Having spent a year with Audi during his degree in engineering design, today Chris is Vice President Advanced Technology and Intellectual Property at MANN+HUMMEL Group. Based in Germany, Chris leads teams in Europe, China, India, Singapore and the United States, working across advanced technology, intellectual property and digital strategy.

Looking back at his career since graduating in 1998, Chris reflects: “It was never my intention to live and work overseas, but that placement year proved to be pivotal in my life and career. During my placement year in Germany I met my wife, Christine, and the experience of working for a major automotive firm gave me experience and contacts that helped me to take the next steps after graduating.”

Having worked on CAD and 3D modelling with Audi, Chris was approached to join Essex-based MSX International to create body parts for Ford, before making the move back to Germany to take up a role as Lead Project Engineer with MANN+HUMMEL. In over 20 years with the company, Chris has led engineering and innovation projects for automotive clients around the world and has seen significant changes in culture and working practices. He said: “MANN+HUMMEL has its roots as a family-owned company with over eight decades of experience in filtration, but over the past 20 years we have become much more international. Our CEO is American, and we have colleagues and clients around the world. I really enjoy that cultural diversity and I have found that my strength is in building relationships; whether that is with external partners or building effective teams.”

Chris’ advice for other design and engineering graduates starting out today is to invest in your skills. He said: “Don’t underestimate the importance of technical skills and knowledge. Being able to demonstrate that you have delivered an engineering project will go a long way. If you can also combine that with digital skills, you will be an attractive prospect to employers. There is so much opportunity to gain skills and qualifications through online learning, I would encourage people to develop knowledge in areas such as data science and coding, even if it isn’t core to their degree.”

In terms of career planning, Chris believes it is more important to enjoy what you are doing than to set out with a five-year plan. He said: “If you enjoy and get energy from the work you are doing you are likely to find that you naturally progress. I didn’t set out with an ambition to become a Vice President, but I did put myself forward for projects and positions where I felt I could utilise my skills and expertise. I have also learnt that it’s important to be yourself, and not to feel as though you need to emulate the style of leaders you see around you to succeed. I believe the earlier you can get hold of that the better.”