Director of Quality Assurance & Training
The Lightship Group
MBA Full-time (Class of 2005)
Working as a professional photographer is an unusual enough occupation, but Keith Holloway could see beyond the lens. He knew he had the motivation to succeed.
He gained his professional photography qualifications and was happily working in London. But in 1992 Keith made the first of many important decisions – decisions that were to change his life.
He joined the fledgling Virgin Lightship company; a US-based firm that operates airships carrying advertising and aerial photography at major sports events.
But Keith had already come to the conclusion that, in today’s competitive business world, it was vital to have recognised academic qualifications behind him if he was to make significant progress. He has already studied in the UK via The Open University and had OU’s The Capable Manager qualification behind him. That was a taster and he went on to take a full OU Diploma in Business Management.
He moved on from photography and for a year ran a Somerfield supermarket, which gave him valuable experience in many aspects of management, including customer relations, staff management, health and safety issues and cash control. In fact, Keith did so well that turnover at his store improved by 25 per cent, largely down to improved staff motivation and performance as a direct result of Keith’s personal management approach. He focused on the motto of ‘the customer is King’ and drilled into his staff the importance of good customer service.
Keith, now 39 and married to Gwen who he met while working in Cape Town, used his experience, skills and academic qualifications to land a job as Manager of Training (Europe) for Virgin Lightships in 1996. He was responsible for all training areas across the firm’s European fleet, including the development of a programme in association with NATO focusing on military regulations that applied to civilians operating on mine clearance duties in Kosovo.
Within two years Keith was promoted to Virgin Lightship’s Group Manager of Training and Development and he delivered a series of training programmes in Asia and South America, supporting the firm’s international turnkey projects for clients such as Goodyear and Pepsi. These contracts were worth $20 million over three years.
It was at this stage in his career that Keith decided that an MBA would be an excellent tool to further his career prospects. Aston was an almost natural choice for him as Keith and his wife had a home base in Kidderminster, not too from Birmingham. He explained: “I already knew Birmingham of course and was impressed with the amount of regeneration going on in the city. Aston is a compact university campus and both the students and teaching staff turned out to be very friendly.” Although by now he had lots of general business experience behind him, Keith found the Aston MBA stretched him. He said: “The MBA was the hardest thing I had ever done, mentally, culturally and emotionally, but I loved every minute of it.
“Aston’s MBA staff were top class and really supportive and the group work and presentations were great to do.” Classes and studies in the evening were demanding but Keith and his fellow MBA students bonded and became, as Keith describes “a tight team of 25.” He graduated in 2005 and still keeps in contact with many of his fellow classmates. Keith says his Aston MBA gave him a better insight and understanding of business. “Studying for an MBA ensures that you are able to see the bigger picture more clearly.”
From Aston Keith moved on to become a Management Consultant for Miracle- Gro, the firm is located in the USA with operations in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe and Keith worked alongside site management teams. He researched and recommended training programmes for the introduction of lean manufacturing. Further spells in consultancy led last year to Keith returning to Virgin, which had since become The Lightship Group, as Director, Quality Assurance and Training. Keith, who works in the US, is now responsible for establishing, implementing and reviewing, quality and training strategies across the business and reports directly to the CEO.