Blog: From apprentice to MD, a career fuelled by a passion for people… and manufacturing

 In Bradford Manufacturing Week 2018

Nick Garthwaite is managing director of international chemicals and detergents manufacturer Christeyns and the creator of Bradford Manufacturing Week.

Back in 1976, yes 42 years ago! I started my career as an apprentice at David Brown Gear Industries in Huddersfield. I failed all my A-levels in 1975, for which I only have myself to blame, I was too interested in climbing, walking, canoeing, potholing – anything but academic work… Well I got my just deserts!!

I started my apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer in April 1976 and for the next four years, immersed myself in the job, thoroughly enjoying every aspect and learning all the time, achieving an ONC and HNC in mechanical engineering along the way. I worked with some wonderful people at David Brown’s who were keen to pass on their knowledge and skills and in my final year, I focussed on the area that held a real passion for me – sales and selling.

After completing my apprenticeship, I went into marketing, followed by external sales as a naïve sales engineer at the tender age of 25. I thought all my birthdays had come at once – newly married in early 1982 and living in Burton-on-Trent in order to cover my sales area effectively.

If I say so myself, I thought I didn’t do a bad job as a salesman and those “rough edges” were rounded off and in 1984 I found myself being head hunted by one of David Brown’s competitors – a large German company called Flender, which became part of the Siemens group in 2005. I joined Flender and spent the next 26 years (until 2010) developing my career, moving from regional sales manager to sales manager to sales director and ultimately, becoming managing director.

During my time with Flender I travelled to many parts of the world with one of the most memorable being a little-known country called “Kyrgyzstan” where I was advising on gear transmission systems in a gold mine, on the edges of the Himalayas at 5000 metres above sea level – truly one of those work “wow” moments.

In August 2010 I joined Christeyns as UK managing director, based in Bradford. And what an experience it has been, allowing me to explore new areas and giving me new opportunities and challenges – acquiring other companies being one of them – very exciting I can tell you!

Over the last 42 years it has been my pleasure to work with some fantastic people and if I am asked about my highlight, it has to be – people – working with, developing, watching them grow in their careers. It is often said that “culture beats strategy” and this is so true. Helping people develop into a culture that they and all those around them feel very satisfied with is for me truly inspirational and something I hope to do for some years to come.

Both my daughters are now grown up and married with their own children – so I now have four grandchildren. The re-emergence of apprenticeships as a career option takes me full circle back to the start of my own career journey and fills me with real hope for the next generation of employees. In particular, apprenticeships

It’s important to me that Bradford Manufacturing Week creates a legacy which will fuel the pipeline of talent in the local and ultimately, the national manufacturing sector. I will certainly encourage my own grandchildren to consider apprenticeships as a great way of learning and developing a fulfilling career.

Just like grandad did.





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