50th Anniversary: Dr Mike Wright Q&A

50 Aston Greats: Mike Wright

Dr Mike Wright

Mike Wright took up the position of Executive Director, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in December 2010, and has been a member of  the JLR Executive Committee since 2003. His current focus is on developing corporate strategies to deliver the company’s growth ambitions. His direct responsibilities include global JLR leadership of Corporate and Product Strategy; Special Operations; Financial Services; Government Affairs and Corporate & Social Responsibility. 

After graduating from his BSc in Communication, Science and Linguistics at Aston in 1975, he began his career in the automotive industry at Rover Triumph. He has held a variety of senior sales and marketing positions in a number of international markets - including four years in Germany - working at different times for Rover, Land Rover, Jaguar and Jaguar Land Rover under the ownership of BAe, BMW, Ford and now Tata.

In June 2014 he published an independent review of advanced manufacturing supply chain, commissioned by the Labour Party.  Mike is Chair of CBI West Midlands Council and the Advisory Board of Aston Business School.  He is also a director of EEF Ltd, and an RSC governor.

In 2014 Aston University awarded him an Honorary DSc.

How did you first become involved with Aston University?

At school I was pretty good at maths and I was also interested in languages. Aston has got a great strength in combining things that don’t usually sit together, so that course [in Communication, Science and Linguistics] fitted perfectly. It was fascinating. We studied the philosophy of language, the psychology of language, German, and an artificial language (computing).

What do you think is Aston’s greatest achievement? 

I always liked the fact that [the University] is rooted right in the heart of Birmingham - one of Britain’s great cities - but its reputation for combining stretch learning with practicality I think is one of its great strengths. Aston has routinely been one of the best universities for finding people jobs. When I was here it was clearly quite a young university, and it’s interesting that when you establish things early on, they become part of the DNA of the institution.

What has your experience at Aston given you personally?

That question is quite thought-provoking because you don’t really think this through at the time. Looking back there are probably three things. Firstly, it was a great place to meet people of different nationalities. Even then, Aston was quite international; I remember that on our course we had somebody from Iceland, which was unusual back then. Secondly, the course itself opened up all sorts of challenging topics for me. And I think the third thing was really that Aston gave me real confidence to go out and look for a job. I didn’t do a placement year because the idea of business attracted me even then. I wasn’t part of the Business School either but I remember that it was emerging as a real flagship amongst business schools at that time.

What is your fondest Aston memory?

At the end of the day, the camaraderie. I played rugby for the University for a couple of seasons. However, I just remember the enjoyment of being at university and meeting new people from a variety of backgrounds, whether it was going to parties, getting together with friends, or even getting through the inevitable crises with new-found friends.

What is the best advice you can give to today’s graduates?

Take full advantage of what you’re being taught, and the development that you’re being offered, to build your own confidence. Because I think confidence in your own ability - and stretching yourself - is really important in the outside world. I was lucky enough to be awarded an Honorary Degree, so in my acceptance speech I also said that it’s important to put something back into the community. It’s not just about making money. In the world of iPhones and email, where people can get really introspective, just remember that there is a wider net of stakeholders out there who aren’t just the financers of your business. The community in which you’re based is also one of your key stakeholders, so think about stakeholders as well as shareholders.