With Chief executive, Katie Cresswell-Maynard now on maternity leave, we are pleased to announce the appointment of our interim Chief executive, Donald Campbell-Brown. With over 35 years of industry experience, we are excited to be gaining his invaluable insights and leadership skills as we develop our new strategy, launching spring of this year.

At the age of just 17, whilst on a work placement in a steel castings company, it dawned on Donald how the laws of physics could be leveraged for the benefit of people- realising the true potential of engineering. He began his career as an Instrument and Control Engineer at a National Nuclear Corporation and then rose through the ranks at BP over 32 years, from Control Systems Engineer to his most recent role as Vice President of Engineering for Downstream Safety and Operational Risk.

In his new role as interim Chief executive, Donald hopes to utilise his experience to further grow the impact of the Engineers Without Borders UK movement. He is particularly looking forward to helping steer the organisation through the development and roll-out of our new strategy, continuing to highlight the role of engineering in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

When asked about his prior involvement with our movement, Donald is transparent in his response, stressing that although he has supported engineering charities in the past, including working as the lead at BP in its relationship with RedR, he had only recently become aware of Engineers Without Borders UK. Leading us to ask the question, why is this? As Donald suggests, this single case study could prove a great opportunity to understand how to engage new audiences as we develop our strategy, and crucially challenge preconceived notions of who wants to see fundamental and lasting change across the engineering sector.

But what attracted him to the role? Fundamentally, Donald is personally and professionally aligned and driven by the principles and aims of our organisation. These shared values, with a particular commitment to inclusion, is not only demonstrated through his ongoing work as a Trustee in the Scout movement, but also as an active ally, holding the role of co-chair in the women’s advocacy group at BP, helping to increase awareness of the value of inclusion and the gender-based hurdles that still remain.

When asked what he is particularly excited about, Donald described his enthusiasm over the potential of our global influence, as a result of being part of an international movement of over 60 Engineers Without Borders organisations. He is keen to continue fostering those ongoing and new relationships. Not only does Donald value our international reach as a central component of our movement, but also our approach that targets the breadth of engineering subdisciplines, saying;

“… to achieve the UN SDGs we will need the engagement of the whole engineering community. We can no longer afford to wait for those with whom we engage with during their academic training to progress into positions of influence in their engineering careers. We need to broaden our reach among established professional engineers as well.”

When asked about the biggest challenges to ensuring engineering serves all people and the planet, Donald suggested distraction as a significant roadblock. While it is entirely appropriate that we focus engineering efforts on urgent and life-threatening emergencies such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the climate crisis, we must not neglect the impact of our actions in relation to other threats that affect people and the planet. He also rejected the idea of completely scrapping systems that are currently in place and instead encourages the idea of repurposing. For instance, Donald recognises how lenses such as the Doughnut Economics model can help inform decisions in the current business framework in a way that encourages and sustains the achievement of the UN SDGs.

Donald remains optimistic about the influence of engineers on the future of our planet, but encourages them to go beyond designing solutions and play a key role in assessing what and how problems are tackled. But as the old adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and he is quick to recognise the importance of accountability beyond an engineer’s employer, professional institution and wider society, but for the future of our planet;

“Your day-to-day engineering choices will have an impact, so hold yourself to account for these. In previous roles, I had decision rights over situations that, had they gone wrong, could have resulted in fatalities and environmental damage.  In making those decisions I held myself to account to be able to justify my reasoning to the child of the parent who might never come home if the decision was the wrong one. Today, what I would say to my former self was that it is also important to look beyond safety and environment to the full set of impacts that we can have on people and the planet.”

We are really pleased to welcome Donald to our team during a very exciting time for the organisation. We look forward to seeing how we work together to drive the movement forward, rolling out our new strategy and supporting us to reach our ambitious goals.

Donald Campbell-Brown
Picture © Chris Watt