ProfileS - Stewart Robinson

Stewart Robinson

Loughborough University

In the early 1980s I went to Lancaster University to study a degree in Mathematics, Economics and Operational Research (O.R.).  I had no idea what the last bit meant, other than I was told it had something to do with oil tankers!  On arriving at University I soon realised this was the subject for me; a chance to apply my mathematical skills to real problems.  Indeed, I enjoyed O.R. so much, that I swapped to a single honours degree in the subject.

My first job was working in the Management Services Group of a major shoe retailer as a business analyst.  I carried out projects such as: an analysis of sales per square foot (not literally!), branch profit forecasting and the introduction of a new company information system.  Following this, I joined the British Leyland O.R. group as a consultant.  The group soon became part of an independent company known as ISTEL Ltd.  My work involved developing and using visual interactive simulations for a range of manufacturing and service companies.  For example, I spent a very memorable period in Dagenham modelling Ford’s new engine assembly plant.  I also got involved in software training, and support of the international network of software distributors.  This required a certain amount of international travel.

My experience of running training courses then led me to think about an academic job.  After some time of searching for opportunities, Aston Business School in Birmingham were willing to employ me as a Teaching Fellow.  This was quite a risk on their behalf as I had no academic experience at all.

On joining Aston I soon realised that it was essential to do research and to get a PhD if I was to continue in the academic world.  For this, I returned as a part-time student at Lancaster University under the supervision of Professor Mike Pidd.  Quite naturally, I performed my research in the area of simulation and have continued to do so ever since.  I spent six enjoyable years at Aston and learnt a lot about being an academic.  Having got my PhD, I moved to Warwick Business School, taking up a lecturing post in O.R.  Since then I have worked my way through being a Senior Lecturer and a Reader, to becoming a Professor of O.R. I have now moved on the Loughborough University and am a Professor of Management Science in the School of Business and Economics.

What do I enjoy about the academic life?  The key word is ‘variety’.  I teach, carry out research, manage research projects, write papers and books, consult for a range of organisations, manage degree programmes, get to travel abroad, give conference presentations …  In other words, there is never a dull moment.  It is certainly a career that I would recommend.  The financial rewards may not be so great, but there is more to life than money.

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