Magazine article Management Today

Sir John Parker: If I Had to Start Again

Magazine article Management Today

Sir John Parker: If I Had to Start Again

Article excerpt

I started out as a naval architect, and would have been content to stick with designing ships. It's a very special job. I sold ships for companies the world over, from China to Argentina to Scandinavia, and the industry still captivates me today.

Growing up on a farm in Northern Ireland, I was obsessed by machinery, which led me to engineering, then shipbuilding. I remember the first passenger ship I worked on, P&O's Canberra. I knew the ship like the back of my hand but never thought I'd be chairman of P&O.

My first managing director role was in 1974 at Austin & Pickersgill in Sunderland, with 2,800 people. When the industry was nationalised three years later, it was Britain's most profitable shipyard. Then I got hijacked to join the board of the British Shipbuilders Council, in the dying days of the Callaghan government. I got to know Whitehall pretty well. And I was only 35.

I was then asked to return to Northern Ireland and run Harland & Wolff I was reluctant. …

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