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Saturday 18 October 2014

Solent graduate's technical knowledge landed him a successful non-technical role

We recently managed to catch up with Southampton Solent University graduate Trevor Pegrum, who is a shining example of how a solid understanding of a technical field can lead to a successful career in non-technical roles.


Trevor has worked in a number of positions at navigation giant Garmin in the 11 years since he graduated from a computer network communications course here at Solent. His current work sees him managing sales and marketing projects, but it was his technical knowledge that got him through the door in the first place.

Read the interview below to hear his thoughts on modern career paths, the aviation industry, and making the most out of your time at university.

What does your job involve?

I am currently heading up Sales & Marketing for Garmin’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) aviation division. I’ve had a broad career with Garmin so far and my education at Solent University allowed me to walk into a junior field engineering position with Garmin’s aviation division.

I’ve moved through various different departments within Garmin holding a variety of technical roles, and now find myself heading the EMEA strategic sales and marketing efforts for our aviation and avionics product lines.

Trevor (on the left) indulging his passion for aviation

What has been your biggest achievement in your career so far?

Being promoted to my current position was a huge achievement for me.

I had never expected to be in sales and marketing and my education and background is on the engineering and technical side. However, technology companies like to have sales and marketing professionals with strong technical backgrounds.

What do you love about your career?

I work in the aviation industry, which is a small community, but one which is heavily reliant on technology. I love how fast paced and innovative companies in the aviation industry are. I love the technology, I love the travel, and I get to fly aircraft, which is great. It’s really a dream job for me.

What are the big challenges you are facing in your industry?

Aircraft and avionics in particular are heavily reliant on the global economy and people’s desire to travel internationally. The environmental impact of aviation is not insignificant, and whilst is still minor compared to other forms of transportation and industrial pollutants, it will be affected by the global desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Aviation must find a way to reduce our overall footprint on the environment and become more efficient in the age of environmental considerations and reduced resources.

Trevor and his rowing colleagues at a black tie event

What is the most important thing you learnt at University that prepared you for the world of work?

Wow, where do I start! My course was provided a broad level of technical knowledge, and this has been a huge help to starting my career. However, it’s everything else that goes with the University ‘experience’ that I feel is invaluable.

I was extensively involved with the rowing club, which taught me leadership skills. I also had a large social circle, which taught me social skills. Between the two, every day was a new challenge.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my time at Southampton Solent University. All of these life experiences prepared me to start my career at Garmin and I found myself well positioned against my peers, which has allowed me to have a vertical career path over the last 8 years.

What was your favourite Solent memory?

Loosing the BUSA rowing final by ¼ of a boat length. We trained for over a year to get there, and whilst it was really hard to lose I have great memories of the journey that took us to this moment.

Trevor rowed competitively during his time at Solent. He is second from the back in this photograph, taken by Greg from Blandford Studios

How do you see your industry developing in the future?

Aviation is heavily reliant of computer systems and electronics technology. We are starting to leverage the increased processing power of integrated circuits, as well as lighter, more robust electronic design.

I expect this trend to continue to allow application of new, safer, more reliable Aircraft systems in the future.

What are your future career plans?

I’ve recently been relocated to Switzerland with Garmin to staff our corporate HQ. I can see my career further expanding into a senior leadership position with Garmin in the next 3-5 years.

I also want to finish my pilot’s license which I started last year, which will also open new opportunities for me.

What do you feel have been the biggest changes in your industry?

50 years ago aircraft had no system, no electronic navigation, and it was case of navigation by the “stars” (well, almost), the aviation accident rate was high according to the technology available to pilots.

Fast forward to the modern era and we have a wealth of technology available, from auto flight systems, GPS, Traffic, RADAR, and even aircraft that can land and take-off without any pilot input. The result has been a huge increase in aviation safety, making it one of the safest forms of travel in history.

Trevor (on the right) at his graduation

What advice would you give to current students?

Do as much as you can during your 3 short years. Join a sports team. Join a social club. Get a job (preferably at the student union or a local night club like I did). Go out as many nights of the week as you can afford, and as your course allows. Talk to everyone. Take work experience. And bottom line… enjoy yourself.

You only get once chance to be a university student, and it’s a privilege that simply must be taken advantage of.

Why would you recommend your course and Solent to others?

My course covered a broad range of technical topics, and whilst it was specific to computer systems and network communications, it really was an introduction into a number of modern technologies that anyone planning to work in a technology company could benefit from.

Considering following in Trevor’s footsteps? Visit our main website to find out more about computing, game design and networking courses.