Features / If I Knew Then

If I Knew Then: Marty Reid

By ellie pipe, Friday Jan 17, 2020

Most recently, Marty Reid has held the post of centre director at Future Space, an innovation centre based at UWE Bristol. From January 2020, he took over as head of Engine Shed.

A regular speaker on innovation and strategy, Marty also takes on the role of CEO of The Science Research Foundation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Bristol, which runs university business incubator, SETsquared Bristol, and Engine Shed.


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How did you start out in business?
Having studied engineering at university, I took a well-trodden path onto a graduate programme with Rolls-Royce but quickly realised the ‘technical’ route wasn’t for me. I ended up travelling across the Nordic countries for my first job and then spent the next few years hopping from city to city around the world, working with all kinds of wonderful people.

If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?
I should have taken the time to try to understand why people have a different point of view, or what motivated them to take actions I didn’t understand, rather than just going in headfirst to try to change them.

Marty Reid is the new head of the Engine Shed. Photo by Jon Craig

What advice would you have given yourself when starting out?
Don’t feel like you are in a race with your peers, and that there certainly isn’t a “right” way to plan or develop your career. The most interesting people I know don’t know where they will be in ten years.  Also, don’t be afraid of making a big change if it feels right!

If you knew then what you know now, would you still be sitting there?
I hope so – while I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, it’s all been part of a great journey.

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
To borrow the motto of Stokes Croft, I’ve learned that there’s great value in “relentless optimism”. It’s not naïve to believe that there’s potential to be harnessed and that progress can be made from any situation.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?
I had a fantastic boss who told me that when planning your career or making life choices, you need to balance what you are good at, what you enjoy and what you value. Earlier in a career, it’s easy to overlook the last one, but the best innovators I’ve come across have their values at the core of their business.

What is your business highlight?
Rather than one specific highlight, it’s more the sum of the brilliant and diverse people I’ve been able to work with over the years, from eccentric aircraft pilots in Brazil to karaoke-obsessed robotics researchers in Japan, to the genuinely collaborative and supportive business community I’ve experienced in Bristol.

What is your business low point?
I went through a period feeling like I was stuck in a certain career path and just going through the motions. It took help and some harsh advice from a mentor to get my confidence back and make a change.

What keeps you awake?
I worry that for all the growth in Bristol and emergence of new businesses that we aren’t yet making significant progress in genuine economic impact for everyone.

What’s changed from when you started out?
I see values and ethics slowly taking a larger place at the heart of more enterprises, even the big companies. There is more interest in business being done in the right way and for the right reasons.

What’s still on your to-do list?
For all the work I’ve done with supporting the growth of new businesses, I’ve not taken the jump yet to start my own venture, so maybe that’s still to come.

What’s next for you in business and personally?
It’s a new year taking up the reins at Engine Shed. I hope to build on the momentum towards making Bristol a genuine world leader in innovative, accessible and ambitious business and technology.

Having got married in the past year, it also feels like 2019 went by in a bit of a whirlwind, so I’m hoping that we get a little more time to just enjoy being together this year.

Main image courtesy of the Engine Shed.

Read more: If I Knew Then: Tegan Vincent-Cooke

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