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Meet Professor Jan Godsell

Jan Godsell is Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy. She joined WMG in October 2013 from her prior position of Senior Lecturer at Cranfield University School of Management. She has also developed a successful career within industry, beginning at ICI/Zeneca Pharmaceuticals and at Dyson, in both Supply Chain and Operations Management functions. Professor Godsell is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the IMechE; she has recently been appointed to advise the UK government on manufacturing policy as a member of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills' Manufacturing Advisory Group.

From the age of 15 I knew I wanted to be involved in manufacturing. I was brought up in the Maggie Thatcher era, and my parents led me to believe I could be whatever I wanted to be regardless of my gender. I spent my summer holidays on my father’s building site either outside on the cherry pickers or inside the office colouring in plans. I liked ‘making things’ and was, even from a young age fascinated by Japanese manufacturing.

After I left school I was awarded a sponsorship with ICI/Zeneca Pharmaceuticals. This included a pre university year which proved invaluable. We were a team of eight with just two women, and as well workshop learning basic skills, we work-shadowed core tradesmen and designed and made a special needs playground. I also had guaranteed three-month summer placements which gave me the opportunity to apply what I had learnt in practice. At Birmingham University I studied Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing and Management with Japanese, which afforded me some time working in Japanese industry. I had two internships in Japan where I certainly had to prove myself as the management teams in both companies had never seen a female engineer!

I’ve never encountered any issues in the UK, my colleagues have always been very open minded. As a Professor at WMG it is great to get the chance to influence policy as well as well as practice. In January 2015 we presented an All Parliamentary Party Manufacturing Group (APMG) term paper on supply chain in the House of Commons.

The fact that we are influencing the UK government to think differently about manufacturing issues and get behind the global supply chain speaks volumes to me. I’ve also been working on the mychainreaction.co.uk project, in conjunction with Ruth Leary from the Centre for Cultural Policy studies. We are trying to ‘crowd source’ from the UK population at large their supply chain experiences. The results will be turned into artistic commissions and presented in November as part of our first Global Supply Chain Debate.

My advice to others is to think big and grab the opportunities you are given. When I was in the sixth form I had the opportunity to attend an Insight programme to encourage Women into Engineering at Brunel University, which confirmed to me what I wanted to do. I’d also say keep your options open – going down the Mechanical Engineering route gave me very varied experiences.

Big companies will give you the training and support that you need. My sponsorship with ICI set strong foundations for me as an engineer. Two years after graduation, I moved to Dyson as a Production Engineer. It was a fast-paced, dynamic environment and really opened my eyes to the supply chain, enabling me to grow my product development, manufacturing, purchasing, and planning and logistics skills. They also invested in my development supporting me to complete an Executive MBA at Cranfield which became the segue way into my academic career.