Dean Kavanagh is the Managing Director of QED Environmental Systems Limited, formerly Geotech. The firm is now based in Coventry after relocating from Leamington Spa where it was based for more than 40 years.
Dean grew up in Little Heath, Coventry, and attended Good Shepherd Primary School before joining Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School in 1992. He studied for his GCSEs, following in the footsteps of his dad and uncles who also attended the school.
He said: “It was good that quite a lot of my friends attended Wiseman, and although going to secondary school was daunting, they split the classes up so that you were still with two or three close friends which really helped you settle in as a Year 7 pupil. It was a fantastic school to go to.
“One of my favourite teachers was our year head Gordon Rutherford. He was a fantastic role model and knew when to have a laugh and a joke, but when it came to discipline he was the kind of person that you had such a high respect for that you didn’t want to cross. He certainly helped me to aspire to achieve during my time at Wiseman.
“I’m also very grateful for a number of other teachers that helped you understand that where you were wasn‘t where you had to be. I wasn’t a naturally gifted student and worked very hard at school, but that made me very determined in life. Wiseman taught me some very important life lessons, and one of the key ones for me was to believe in yourself, but challenge yourself at the same time.”
In Dean’s early years his favourite subject was maths and he aspired to become a lawyer, but it was science that later sparked his interest in engineering. A two-week work experience placement at Marconi saw this develop further after he was tasked to design an organisation piece which would help staff to find tools for a piece of machinery quickly and easily.
He said: “They put me with a CAD designer and we created a mould which held all of the tools and stuck a picture of each tool on the casing so that people could quickly find what they needed. I thought no more of it, but about six weeks later I was invited back to Marconi as they’d actually had my design made after working out it would save them around £15,000 in changeover costs over two years and I was given a £250 innovation award. That was the catalyst that made me move into engineering.
When studying for his GCSEs, Dean applied for a four-year apprenticeship with Marconi which included a Higher National Diploma in engineering and was one of just 16 successful applicants. He spent the first two years at the firm’s technical training centre and the second two years at Coventry Technical College.
On finishing his apprenticeship, Dean was then offered a permanent position as a supervisory support engineer at Marconi where he managed a team of four engineers.
He said: “I worked in that role for a couple of years and then Marconi made the decision to consolidate their business into telecoms and ultimately sold off a lot of their assets and outsourced their manufacturing which I was involved with.
“I then transferred to Jabil Circuit and I worked there for around 18 months. I was the lead NPI work cell test engineer and was responsible for transitioning all of Marconi’s new products from their design houses in Nottingham and Italy, taking them from small volume manufacture into volume manufacture in a short period of time.
“Jabil then decided to close the Coventry facility and move the volume work to Hungary and Malaysia and the new product work that I was involved to their flagship European plant just outside of Edinburgh.”
Despite being offered positions in Hungary and Edinburgh, Dean had recently started a relationship with his now wife, so decided to stay in Coventry and joined Gas Data which designs, manufactures and service gas analysis instrumentation. He was then headhunted by Geotech, in Leamington, in 2006 where he has been ever since.
Dean said: “I originally joined as the service manager and then became operations manager after about 18 months, which included taking responsibility for all of our manufacturing, service and technical support.
“In 2010 I was asked to run our new product development and became programme manager, before joining the board of directors in 2011. This was quite poignant as I joined in the board in February before turning 30 in the May, and one of my aspirations when I was at Wiseman was to try and become a director before I was the age of 30, so I managed it with three months to spare.”
Geotech was acquired by QED, which the firm has now rebranded to, and Dean was appointed as managing director in February 2017. He is responsible for all aspects of the business and still takes an active interest in new product development. He is also still keen to speak to customers and distributers and ensure that customer service and quality remains at the heart of what they do.
Dean added: “My prime responsibility is to drive the strategic direction of the business to help it grow, and to support the development of all of our staff because they are our biggest asset.
Advice to current pupils
Dean said: “My advice to current pupils would be to work hard because it absolutely pays off in the long run. “I would also advise people to take the opportunity to think about what you want to do. I managed to find something that I was good at, that triggered my interest and excited me, and doing that as a career is much better than doing what other people want you to do or what is expected of you.”