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UEL alumnus Dr Steven Armstrong advises students on the route to success

Successful automotive executive invited students to talk to him about their future careers

New graduates must keep their passion and energies up after completing their studies –– and maintain that level of focus as they enter a new work environment, Dr Steven Armstrong, group vice president and president of Ford Motor Company for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), advised a group of students at the University of East London (UEL).

Dr Armstrong (third from the left), a UEL alumnus who was also awarded an honorary doctorate of business by the University in 2018, visited his alma mater this week.

He was welcomed to the university by Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor and president, and Mr Geoff Thompson, chair of the UEL board of governors. He toured some of UEL’s laboratories and met with engineering students, who talked to Dr Armstrong about his work and their prospective careers.

Dr Armstrong, who earned an undergraduate degree in business studies from UEL, was awarded an honorary doctorate for his outstanding career achievements in the automotive industry. 

He said, “I was lucky to work for an employer who gave me lots of opportunities to travel. It’s important to motivate yourself. I’ve always wanted to learn to do something more. You don’t always have a goal but I took opportunities that were offered. You have to be open to things. You may not be on the path that you started out, but looking back over my 35 years I could never have planned my life.”

Dr Armstrong stressed that “being an engineer is a wonderful thing,” and remarked that he had spent more than 30 years improving something that had already existed, cars. Cars are more complicated now with new methods and new requirements to make them cleaner, faster, safer, and more, he said.

Dr Armstrong invited students to pose questions to him about his experiences and their own personal challenges.

Asked about climate change, Dr Armstrong assured them that, “climate change is very important to my company. Our chairman is a committed environmentalist and for more than twenty years he has been lobbying and telling people about the consequences of climate change.”

The students also quizzed him about electric cars, industry in India and the implications of Brexit.

Student Roxanne Veleta Williams Gooden raised the importance of apprenticeship degrees being recognised as just as important a traditional university degrees. Dovile Azukiene, also a student, echoed Dr Armstrong’s comments that after someone finishes university, they may still not have a clear understanding of their future. Dovile recently returned to UEL to take additional courses after qualifying as a civil engineer and working on the railways.

During a career that has spanned more than 25 years, Mr Armstrong has worked in a variety of senior management and purchasing positions for Jaguar, Volvo and Ford of Europe, including serving as chief operating officer of Getrag-Ford Transmissions. His career has taken him to the United States, Sweden and Germany.