Steve Margetts

Steve is a director of his own business.

The following text is a transcription of a career story collected by interview.

"My name's Steve Margetts and I'm the Director of Keima Ltd. Day to day it's about running the business, about developing software, about talking to clients, customers, updating the website, building collateral - you name it! There's only three of us, so we have to, you know, split the jobs fairly thinly between us at the moment.

"It came about when we were all working for this company called Actix. We were in a provincial office, if you like, in Cardiff, and they were based in Hammersmith in London. We felt a bit out of the decision-making process, we had some ideas and things that we wanted to pursue but we couldn't persuade anybody in the head office to do anything about them... So we thought, well, you know, why not, let's try, strike out on our own and see how we do.

"I was gonna be an academic that was my plan, having done the PhD, and I was tempted into industry by my friends Simon and Rupert. At that time they were working for a company called Agilent Technologies and they were working on their test and measurement group, building automatic cell planning. My friend Rupert actually did this for his PhD which was how he got involved, and then through the various network and contacts things he invited me to join them as well. So I joined this small group in Cardiff.

"I studied automatic optimisation, genetic algorithms and evolutionary techniques for solving numerical problems, things like that. It would have been very difficult to make the connections that we needed, it would have been very difficult to get the knowledge and the skills that we have and we use, without the PhD. In particular it's the ability to look at new things and absorb them, in a way, to be able to read and understand knowledge. The PhD programme was very useful in that, in training that skill and also in general problem-solving as well.

"It seems to me that as you come through school you're always solving problems that somebody else has solved and knows the answer to, and then as you progress into, you know, more and more advanced education you start to work on problems that nobody else knows the answer to – and it's training in that that's particularly important I think.

"Speaking as somebody who's employed PhDs in the past, I mean when we were at our largest we were about ten people, of which five of us had PhDs, so I mean we, we obviously value the technology and the skills that come with PhD people. To be able to work independently for instance is very useful, without much guidance or you know detailed specification of what needs to be done.

"It's being in that situation where you're with like minded people, I think that's the most, or that's one of the most important things, that we've that's been able, been useful to draw upon. This, you know the colleagues we had at the time and the friends and people we knew then, and had we not done a PhD we wouldn't have had that opportunity to meet those people. We'd have been working in a company somewhere else, we'd have had a different mindset, less chance to think perhaps. The journey through academia is never a smooth one is it, I suppose.

"At the time I wanted to become an academic so I thought that, you know, the teaching experience and things would have been a useful addition to that, the skill-set I was developing. One thing I do miss about not being in academia is the teaching. It was nice to have the contact with the students. We've been able to bring some of that along with in Keima with internships and things over the summers, summer periods.

"Do you ever finish a PhD? I don't know if you do. You still remain interested in it, it just kind of tails off slowly. I think in the end the graduation ceremony isn't really the kind of an end, it's just the kind of the beginning of something else. So, I felt pleased that I'd done it, but I was also keen to go onto the next thing, which at that time was working for Agilent.

"Well the thing about business is that it's, there's a lot of it to learn and you have to become an expert in many different areas, to be effective. But none of those areas are particularly difficult in the same way as, you know, hard physics is difficult, it's like that, it's understandable and there are lots of experts out there who can help you. It's, there's been a lot to learn about, particularly sales and marketing, that we didn't really understand. I mean the technical aspects of the business we can do because we've been doing it for years – we can write software, we can produce software tools that engineers need to use and can use well and we, we think we write pretty useable friendly software and develop websites and all the rest of that kind of thing – but the sales and marketing aspects of it, going out and selling something you've made, that's actually quite tricky."