As a manufacturing engineer for Rolls-Royce, Leo Martins spends his days working with intricate objects many depend on but few ever see up close: the critical rotating engine components that drive some of the newest and biggest aircraft, like the new Dreamliner and the Airbus A380. Yet as tech-savvy as his job is, he also spends a great deal of time collaborating with people and training colleagues to deal with technical issues that arise on the shop floor. It’s the people-oriented nature of his work that led him to seek his MBA.
“I really enjoy being a teacher and a leader,” Martins says. “My technical background gave me the foundation to be a technical leader, but I wanted to do an MBA because it would give me the business acumen, because in the future, I’d like to become a leader in the business.”
His technical background started early. As a child growing up in the United Kingdom, he was always interested in seeing how things worked, and his parents would give him their broken appliances to take apart. He eventually attended Imperial College in London and received a master’s in mechanical engineering. It wasn’t until his third year of college that he realized he wanted to go into aerospace technology, which he describes as “one of the most complicated and safety-critical industries you can work in.”
From there, he completed a student internship with Rolls-Royce and went on to work for the company after graduation. His job took him to different parts of the UK and Germany before ultimately sending him overseas. In 2011, he moved to the U.S. to help set up a new manufacturing facility in Prince George, Va. He continues to work there today while residing and attending school in Richmond.
Since starting The Richmond MBA, Martins says his coursework has been highly people-oriented — with classes like marketing, organization behavior, communication, and business ethics — and this has been especially helpful to him in his work. Whether he’s managing “people on the shop floor or people across the Atlantic,” he says of the lessons he takes away from class, “they’ve helped me to influence people and put rational thought behind why people do what they do.”
Outside of class, he makes sure to take advantage of guest speakers and the program’s career series, which have exposed him to lessons on presentation style, etiquette, professionalism, and time management. All of these, he notes, have helped him hone his professional interactions.
Of course, attending these events and balancing his class time, reading load, and a 40-plus-hour-a-week job is challenging, but he’s making it work. “Once you get into a routine and tie down when you’re doing things it becomes more enjoyable,” he says. “You just have to be really fair to yourself and realistic about how much time you need to do the work.”
Looking to the future, Martins has much to anticipate: he’s preparing to start his capstone project, and in October, he’s getting married. Long term, he’d like to grow in his current field, while further developing his people-management skills.
Asked what attracts him to manufacturing, he explains that it’s fast-paced and “there’s no better place to learn about people management and project management.” But the best part? “Knowing that the parts I work on and am developing currently will carry millions of people around the world. It is quite a responsibility to define the manufacturing methods of engines and parts that are going to be in the air for the next 80 years.”