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We interviewed James Black

Curiosity and the call of the mountains | we interviewed James Black, Innovation Manager

James Black tells us the origins of his expertise in supply chain and his love of high places. Interviewed by Charlie Ward, Marketing and Communications Executive.
  1. What do you consider to be your specialism?

The short answer is supply chain management and innovation. However, if you look back over my career I’d say my skillset is in decision making where you have imperfect or incomplete information.

  1. How did you end up doing that?

It actually feels a little weird to be back at Warwick as I did my theatre degree at Warwick University. I even used to work in the library as a student; when I was studying, most of WMG was fields!

I suppose I’m naturally curious, get excited by new things and throw myself into them. Manufacturing grabbed me by accident. I came out of finance after feeling uncomfortable in the environment, forever sitting in front of screen and not feeling like I was offering society anything of value. I joined a manufacturing company which fed into existing concerns about the provenance of the things I consume. Seeing raw materials transform into finished goods is just really exciting to me. Perhaps because I’m not from an engineering background, but it often still seems like magic!

  1. What’s been your favourite job role – apart from this one?

I’ve had some good jobs. My first ever job was in a second-hand record shop, I was a ghost at Warwick Castle as a student, a professional poker player... I think what jumps out was when I worked for a start-up and was their first employee. They made cycling packs for ultra-endurance athletes. Being the first employee, I got to see the culture develop, play a key part in that and seeing the whole business grow with so much energy and drive was extremely rewarding.

  1. What hobbies do you have that tie into your role?

Not sure it counts as a hobby but I am currently filling any free time studying for my MBA at Warwick Business School.

  1. At work, when are you happiest, and what keeps you at WMG?

My colleagues are great and play a big role in keeping me at WMG. I am probably happiest in that moment when I first visit a business and don’t know a lot about them. I get to walk around the factory and look at how we can collaborate. You get to feel the culture of business and their vision for the next few years. It feels like a privilege to get to understand the ways of the business, see their unique characteristics, meet the passionate people and getting to work with them.

  1. Finally, can you show us a photo in your natural habitat?

Sure – here I am at Col de Tramassel in the Pyrenees. Whether hiking, cycling or climbing, I love the peace and feeling you get from being on top of the world. John Muir said it best: “The mountains are calling & I must go & I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.”