Name: Mike Bell
Title: Global connected car director
Company: Jaguar Land Rover
Location: Coventry, England
Family: Wife, Carolyn; daughter, Eva, 2
Born: Birmingham, England
Languages: English, basic French and German
Education: Doctorate in computer science, University of Liverpool, England; bachelor's degree in computer science, University of Liverpool
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first automotive role was chief technology officer at Jaguar Land Rover. I wanted to work for a company that made something tangible and exciting. I saw the possibility for a resurgence of JLR following the acquisition by Tata: two brands with fantastic potential to unlock. Technology is transforming the automotive industry so I saw an interesting future there. This combination of industry transformation combined with my technological knowledge seemed irresistible.
Launching Jaguar Land Rover’s first connected car and seeing the delight of our first customers as they experienced the product for the first time. I have led the program from initial idea through to launch over a challenging three-year journey.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
I set up a start-up software company with a niche product. We had great success, but customer demand grew beyond what we could fulfill. We needed investment but were not prepared to accept the ownership share demanded by venture capitalists. As we struggled to grow, we ended up selling the business. In hindsight we should have taken venture capitalist investment. This experience taught me that you don’t have to have everything under your control to be successful.
What is your current challenge at work?
Navigating the complexity of launching connected products and services across the globe with different types of suppliers, commercial models, legislation, customer expectations and attitudes in each market.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The complexity of different ownership possibilities. Buying a first vehicle used to be a rite of passage for most drivers, but attitudes toward ownership are changing – and I’m not sure if car companies across the industry are reacting quickly enough to social change.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
You have two ears and one mouth – use them in that ratio. Make sure you keep people on board as you talk to them.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
It’s such a great time to join the automotive industry. We are in a period of really exciting change. Make sure you listen, but don’t be afraid to challenge views. Observe and learn from other industries, and be prepared to work cross-functionally.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Take an outside-in perspective and walk through the customer experience firsthand. Experience the pain points, fix the basics and then focus the organization on putting the customer at the heart of everything they do.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I want to be CEO of a company. I enjoy the dynamism and challenge of leading people across diverse functions.
What do you do to relax?
I used to run and ski. Now I enjoy spending time with my family, walking and doing do-it-yourself projects such as restoring old houses.
A blue Ford Fiesta 1.1.
Range Rover Sport.
May 2012-present: Global connected car director, Jaguar Land Rover, Warwickshire, England
February 2010-April 2012: Chief technology officer, Jaguar Land Rover, Warwickshire
2006-2010: Deputy CTO, United Utilities, Cheshire, England
2005-2006: Clinical lead architect, BT Global Services, Leeds, England
2004-2005: Chief technical architect, Civica, Cheshire
2002-2004: Technical architect, Teacher Training Agency, London, England
2000-2004: Lead technical architect, Baker Hughes, London and Houston, Texas, USA
2001-2002: Technical team leader, H.M. Customs & Excise, Liverpool, England
1995-2000: Managing director, Geomica, Liverpool