Steven MacGregor – CEO, The Leadership Academy of Barcelona

Why did you decide to study a PhD with us?

I always say I had two lives at DMEM, before and after joining the sports union.

I first did an MEng in Product Design Engineering and perhaps enjoyed myself a little too much with student life! I eventually joined the Uni Harriers in my 5th and final year and was eager to return to competitive athletics after racing a lot growing up in Motherwell.

I thought the PhD would give me an excellent opportunity to push the boundaries in sport and resolve a feeling of unfinished business during the MEng. I also enjoyed the final research project of my MEng, had a good relationship with my eventual supervisor Avril Thomson and we won a grant to fund a PhD – so all the ingredients were there.

I had a fantastic time in this “second life” and would captain the University Cross Country team and Scottish Universities select, gaining a Double Blue in Athletics and Duathlon and progressing the second year of the PhD in Stanford and Carnegie-Mellon.

DMEM and Strathclyde, with massive influence from the Sports Union and Deputy Head of Sport Anne-Marie Hughes, gave me the perfect platform to do both my studies as well as my sport.

Why did you pick the University of Strathclyde as an institution?

The initial choice goes back to 1994 when leaving school to start the MEng.

I don’t think I was ready to move far from home and Strathclyde was a natural choice given its proximity and excellence in Engineering. I felt most at home after my first visit there and though I had another few choices my father died suddenly in the summer after leaving school, so the ‘home’ theme became even more important.

What was it like studying in DMEM?

I loved the autonomy, freedom and informality of the department while always encouraging the highest standards of excellence.

Fun and learning went hand in hand.

What key skills/approaches did you learn as part of your studies?

I feel privileged to have learned about design in a globally renowned centre of excellence. This has given me the creative confidence necessary to succeed at a time when design thinking has become so popular in the areas of management and leadership in which my career is based.

One of the key areas I learned at DMEM is not to be afraid of experimentation and not getting it right first time. As time has gone by I increasingly value the importance of failure. I saw a quote recently that said “success is a carefully curated set of failures” and the mind-set necessary for that to happen was forged for me at DMEM.

Where has your career gone since you have left?

The week after defending my PhD I moved to Spain with no understanding of the language and two suitcases. That was March 2003 and I still vividly remember landing in a noisy Bilbao to start a post-doctoral position in the Mondragon Cooperative. I stayed 18 months between San Sebastian and Bergara before moving to Catalonia, with the very Scottish weather of the Basque Country a key factor!

I’ve lived a very entrepreneurial existence in Girona and now Barcelona since then, first founding a cycle tours company and teaching at different business schools and Universities before founding The LAB in 2007. I pioneered the teaching of health and wellbeing at IESE Business School, ranked number 1 in the world for executive education by the Financial Times, and have written a couple of books in the health, wellbeing, and performance space.

I’ve been fortunate enough to continue travelling and teach different cultures, from Shanghai to Doha and Buenos Aires.

What would you say to someone considering studying in or working with DMEM?

Go for it. The experience will last forever. And join the Sports Union.

For further information on PG study at the Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management at Strathclyde please visit our website