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Insights Ian Gibson: A Legacy of Leadership in Systems Engineering and His Impact as INCOSE UK President

Meet Ian Gibson, who has been at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, for three years. As a roving chief engineer, he goes where needed – instigating good systems engineering practices, providing technical assurance and leading teams.

Ian has recently reached the end of an outstanding term as president of INCOSE UK (International Council on Systems Engineering) – a not-for-profit membership organization and professional society in Systems Engineering. 

We spoke to him about how he balanced his presidency at Atkins and the legacy he's created for Systems Engineering in the UK: 

Photo of Ian smiling towards the camera

What are you currently working on with Atkins?

“I'm working on various projects for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and supporting infrastructure projects, including Sizewell C and Integro. 

I'm also developing training courses on "Capability Systems Engineering", which will be ready to roll out in 2023.”

Congratulations on coming to the end of your tenure as President of INCOSE UK – how did you come to take on the role?

“I got involved with INCOSE in 1999 when I was lucky enough to attend the International Symposium in Brighton. In hindsight, that was jumping in at the deep end to see if I would sink or swim. 

My first leadership role was in the Bristol Local Group in 2004. A few years later, I joined the INCOSE UK Council in 2008 as the communications director. 

I worked as events director (twice) and outreach director before becoming president-elect of INCOSE UK in 2018. I took over as President of INCOSE UK in November 2020 and moved into the Immediate Past-President role in November 2022.” 

How did your work with INCOSE fit your role with us?

“The role entailed being a company's legal director, taking responsibility for governance and financial stability, and delivering member benefits to over 1,200 members. 

We became a licenced Professional Engineering Institute in 2020, able to assess members for Chartered Engineer status. With that has come additional regulation by the Engineering Council, in addition to existing governance from the international INCOSE organization.

The overall fit with my day job has been relatively easy to manage. There were some unavoidable clashes where I needed to be out for the day or committed to calls at certain times due to the availability of stakeholders. 

Thanks to flexible working, and support from my Practice Director, I could always keep up with commitments or catch up in my own time.” 

Atkins prioritizes work-life balance as well as individual growth and learning, offering opportunities like professional memberships, technical conferences, and innovation training.

What skills and experience have you developed in this role that you can bring to Atkins?

“Leading and managing a volunteer organization through influence and persuasion has been a valuable skill to develop and use in my work.

The same time-management skills that I apply to my voluntary work are the ones that I use with non-billable capability development activities within the practice. 

You can rarely do everything you'd like to, so seeing how things connect and picking out the most advantageous route becomes very useful.

I have also had to write many articles and present onstage to big rooms full of people. You have to work at both through regular practice, and both require you to find your own "voice" and style.”

What do you see as your legacy as president of INCOSE UK?

“My main legacy will be the transformation from being an "engineering club" when I joined INCOSE UK to being a Professional Engineering Institute with a new name, identity, and governance regime that is fit for the future. 

Having a new identity, rather than just somebody else's name with "UK" stuck on the end, is a really key thing for the organization. 

My work over the last two years, getting the membership onboard with transitioning to a new name, the "Institute for Systems Engineering" (IƒSE), and then pushing that change through Companies House and the Engineering Council, is undoubtedly what I will be remembered for.

I'm also proud to have overseen our adoption of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Diversity Concordat and the instigation of various ED&I-related policies. I hope that we move beyond having ED&I policies to having a visibly equal, diverse and inclusive organization.

Assuming that the final IƒSE vote goes through in favour, then I'm expecting to be in the position of being the founding member of a licenced engineering institute. That does sound pretty cool as something to put on a CV.” 

Ian is a great example of how Atkins fosters an innovative and collaborative culture where our colleagues are given the freedom to think differently, boldly, and proudly. His dedication to systems engineering and the transformation of INCOSE UK into the "Institute for Systems Engineering" (IƒSE) is truly inspiring.

Engineer your own career success with Atkins 

Ian Gibson's remarkable journey from INCOSE UK's presidency to his invaluable contributions at Atkins is a testament to the extraordinary individuals who shape the future.

If you're looking to make a meaningful impact and contribute to innovative projects like Ian, consider joining our team at Atkins.

 Explore the diverse career opportunities we offer, and together, let's engineer a brighter future. 

Apply to jobs at Atkins today.