A Working Day for Jonathan Quaife

USE* Managing Director

Jon will tell you that at (ahem) 41 years of age he has a lengthy career history.

He left school at 16 to join a mechanical engineering apprenticeship, followed by a year’s engagement as a design engineer for an aeronautical company called Rediffusion Simulation. Then he took off for a year of back packing in Guatemala and other Central American states.

Returning led him through a series of engineering roles in construction, until in 1992 he decided to go to university where he read an undergraduate degree in Classical Hebrew. Graduating in 1996, he began work with small consultancy companies in automotive, specialising in the application of CAD and other software tools to manufacturing definition and processes. In 2006 he founded USE* (from 2006 to 2009 called UK Service Evolution) with its co-owner and his fellow director, Nick Cook.

I see my responsibilities as Managing Director in terms of ensuring the well-being of the company. As well as a business function, it’s a nurturing function. To my mind the wellbeing of the company has three aspects:

  • Looking ahead. I am constantly focused on where we want to be and what we are aiming for
  • Taking stock of what’s going on now. As well as looking towards the future, I need to ensure that as a team we’ve got what it takes to excel at what we need to do today
  • Understanding how what’s going on now will impact upon our future. Today shapes tomorrow

Today I am with our teams based with a client in the English South-East, at the client’s Engineering and Research Centre. I will be based in the English South-East region for two weeks, so today has been focused on prioritising what needs to be achieved in my time here, and on scheduling time so that what can’t be addressed while I’m here will be attended to soon after my return to the English Midlands. Today is a short day at the client site because later I will travel to an evening meeting with Nick in Central London.

Prior to arriving I had a number of telephone conversations: with Marcus around USE*IT development schedules and delivery times; with Dan, one of our Operations Managers, around his team’s status at Aston Martin; and with Emma Eccles, our Business Support Coordinator, with regard to training for some of the team. These kinds of calls (and similar e-mails) are characteristic events throughout most working days… fortunately I can usually deal with these matters from my Windows Mobile phone.

My initial meeting today was with Simon Eames, who leads our team of technical authors for the client. This gave me an understanding of how he feels my time would be best spent. Then I got into the nub of it: scheduling time and meetings for the next three weeks. So, at the time of writing, this is how my schedule is now planned for the rest of this week:

Tomorrow (Wednesday) will focus on analysing our management metrics for some of this client’s projects. I’ll be working with Simon and a second of our team leaders here, John Sleeman. The metrics in question provide a snapshot of our services to the cleint - they allow the client’s managers to see how we’re spending the money they trust us with. We track various aspects of our work: how long it takes an author (or our team as whole) to create a procedure or schematic; our completion status against a given vehicle or project; how our team’s time is spent; or where and how much time can be lost due to late changes or infrastructural issues.

This data allows us to structure our work better, to present more granular and flexible cost models to our customers, and to improve our processes or propose improvements for our customers’ processes. In my meetings with Simon and John tomorrow we will review how we report this information to our client currently, and identify refinements. I’ll spend the rest of the day working to amend our monthly report formats as drafts that we will present for approval from the client next week.

On Thursday I plan to review aspects of our USE* branding with Simon, we need new web content to reflect some of our projects, and Simon will contribute to this.

The early afternoon will be spent in a meeting with our client’s management - another of our customers has asked us to liaise with this client’s Powertrain Engineering activity on their behalf, relating to the possible deployment of an engine designed and built by our South-Eastern client into one or more of our other customer’s future vehicles. Our role is to try and ensure that the development actions for the new engine meet our other customer’s engineering standards for serviceable design. This is a complex process to be engaged in, and a number of our team based in both our clients’ engineering environments will be involved.

In the late afternoon I have a one-to-one meeting with one of our serviceability engineers based at the client. I am keen to see that he is happy in his work, and that he feels he is working towards his longer term aspirations. I am also keen to review a presentation about innovative approaches towards car designs that facilitate more cost- and energy-effective remanufacture and recycling, which is being developed by him. Next year we hope to share this with senior executives from a number of our customers. Then at 17:30 I have a routine telephone conference and on-screen meeting (via Citrix) with Nick, Annie and our Financial Controller, Dave Drake, for Dave to report out on our USE* financial status. My last appointment in the evening is to meet an old colleague now retired from Ford, a work colleague and friend for many years.

Then, to wrap up the week… central to my day on Friday is a sales meeting with our client’s management that will be supported by myself and Nick. This meeting will follow up on a quote for new business that we submitted earlier in September. The meeting is in the early afternoon, but I will need to spend some time preparing for this (as well as for another sales meeting next week) ahead of time. First thing in the morning I also have a telephone meeting with some of our team to map next steps for our participation in the powertrain project discussed above, and at lunch time I will call into a telephone conference open forum with anybody from our USE* team who cares to join it: these forums are scheduled routinely to ensure that everybody in USE* can be kept abreast of developments in the company as a whole - in this case we’ll be reviewing a software tool that USE*IT have delivered to another of our clients.

Wrapping up today, before leaving for London, I will now send some e-mails to our team at Ford (scheduling short workshop meetings to ensure that they get to talk to me and ask questions they might have while I’m on hand), and to their client-employed managers so that our customer has visibility of the on-site time that these slots will take up.

I do feel that I am lucky and privileged to enjoy my role in USE*. What makes it amazing is the enthusiasm and dedication of our staff, and the great results we deliver for our customers. We have a team that we rightfully feel proud of.

Meet Our Team

Jonathan Quaife

Jonathan Quaife

USE* Managing Director
Nick Cook

Nick Cook

USE* Technical and Operations Director

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