Name: Sue Cooke
Job title: CEO
Tell us about your career journey to the 3M BIC:
I joined the graduate management training programme for the Employment Department of the Civil Service after leaving University, so that gave me a very practical grounding in managing people. A few years later I moved into Training & Enterprise Councils and Business Link, which was a blend of public and private sector partnership and was a very exciting place to develop my career, in a period of growth and promotion opportunities. During that time I did a part-time MBA, which was a fantastic grounding for working strategically with SME businesses and also in becoming a director of strategy and then operations at Business Link West Yorkshire. When that closed, I ran my own consultancy business for a few years, whilst also teaching MBA strategy at various Business Schools including Huddersfield and Bradford. More recently I moved into economic development within local government to help set up the LEP and run its skills, business support and inward investment programmes, building and leading a team of around 80 people at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Describe a typical day at work:
Following a quick chat with our ‘skeleton team’ at the start of the day, I usually have back-to-back Zoom meetings throughout the day for a range of projects and University groups, catch ups with colleagues, and also various external groups or business boards on which I represent the 3M BIC/University of Huddersfield. By 4.30pm I am hopefully back at my desk tackling the email mountain which has been gathering throughout the day, responding to messages. On a good day I will have a few gaps to be able to chat with tenants and maybe pop out for a walk round the block as we have a lovely riverside setting with woods by the side of a golf course, so that’s a welcome fix of nature and sunshine at the moment.
What keeps you motivated at work?
I love to be busy, working on a variety of projects with different people, setting up new initiatives and seeing them take shape, like the Sir George Buckley Leadership Centre, the Kirklees Top 100 Companies and the new responsibilities I have taken on within the University for developing a Knowledge Exchange Strategy. I find it rewarding to coach and nurture team members, giving them new responsibilities and helping them to understand how to operate at a higher level.
The most exciting thing about your job?
It is exciting to have overall responsibility for the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in its entirety, to be able to shape its future and make a difference in terms of the quality of the facilities and experience for those who are members of our community, as well as the innovation support we give to companies across the region.
The most challenging?
Balancing all the various time demands is challenging. Finding time to respond to unexpected issues within a busy diary has its moments, but the juggling is part of the variety of the job so it usually works out even if a few late nights are involved.
Time of the day you are most creative or inspired?
No particular time of day, but I do like writing and editing so when I have a solid couple of hours to work on board papers or strategy documents, I do enjoy that.
Proudest career moment?
I was very proud to be appointed into this role two years ago, as it brings together so many of my previous experiences and gives me an opportunity to lead the 3M BIC into its next phase of development.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My Dad worked his way up from the shop floor to become the MD of an engineering company and was a great leader and people person, so I remember him telling me to respect everyone equally from the cleaner to the boardroom.
What innovations should we look out for in your industry?
The world of business space and conferencing is clearly in transition following the ‘fast forward’ adoption of working from home and online meetings, so our business model is adapting to more flexible space solutions and virtual events. The adoption of technology that we promote here at 3M BIC will see more companies investing in additive manufacturing, light-weighting techniques and more sustainable models of product and service delivery, so our Innovation & Technology Team is busy helping companies adopt these approaches in a more digital environment.
Out of the office…?
Now that my children have grown up and flown the nest, I have more time for cultivating the veg patch, walking the paths of the Colne Valley and for volunteering. I have helped out my local Explorer Scout group for around 15 years which is good fun, especially campfire cooking (dib dib), and joined the Slaithwaite Civic Hall Trust a couple of years ago to help bring this Victorian building back to life as a vibrant community centre.