Alumni profiles

In profile

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TECH ENTREPRENEUR

DR LU GANG

MSc(Eng) Data Communication 2002,
PhD Computer Science 2008
Founder and CEO of TechNode

The recipient of the British Council’s 2018 Study UK Alumni Awards (Entrepreneurial category) for China and the East Asia/Pacific Region, Dr Lu Gang started TechNode as his personal blog when he was undertaking his PhD. Its popularity led to its launch in China as a bilingual technology news platform in 2012. TechNode reaches millions of readers each month and is leading the drive to connect Chinese and global start-up ecosystems. It employs over 70 staff; international offices are opening in 2018.


I remember I had a farewell dinner with friends the day before I flew back from the UK to China in 2008 and we made a promise that we would all come back to Sheffield in 10 years’ time. I was therefore delighted to visit the University again in 2018 with the British Council in China, having received their Entrepreneurial Alumni Award. This recognition means a lot to TechNode and I felt so honoured.

My mission for TechNode is to act as a bridge between China and the global tech ecosystem, covering the latest developments and start-up stories in China, and to build a platform for entrepreneurs. I really didn’t expect this would become my career. I started my blog so I could share my PhD research findings. I was reading the English media covering stories about Chinese technology and I realised that there were two key words that were talked about – censorship and copycats – which are not 100 per cent true. I thought I can probably write something to tell the truth. I learnt from TechCrunch in the US that a tech blog can also be a platform linking everyone in the start-up ecosystem. I decided to take the risk and turn my blog into a media company.

There were two reasons why I chose to study at Sheffield. First, I have always loved the UK, the football, the music, the culture. Second, in China it takes three years to finish a masters degree and in the UK it’s one year with great education quality. Thanks to my supervisor and my department, I reached out to a Sheffield-based tech company and they then sponsored my PhD. I was lucky – I didn’t have to worry about money and I had the chance to see technology from both academic and industry angles.

I owe everything to my UK experience. I will never forget my graduation – it was really a happy and glorious moment for me. I also had opportunities to visit universities across Europe as my papers were accepted at several conferences.
I really enjoyed my weekend time, playing football at Goodwin, hiking in the Peak District – so many great memories of Sheffield.


ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN ENGINEERS

SAHEELA MOHAMMED

MEng Bioengineering 2017
Engineering Graduate in the Diabetes Care Division of global healthcare company Abbott

Recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal in 2017 for her outstanding contribution to the Faculty of Engineering, the University and the wider community of Sheffield, Saheela Mohammed continues to volunteer with children, promoting education in STEM subjects, alongside her work within healthcare technologies.


Voluntary work is something that was incredibly important to me throughout school, later at the University and now at work. It has always been my chance to give back to the community and support initiatives involving the engagement of children in education. At Sheffield, I volunteered at various events and interactive workshops in local schools and colleges, visiting local attractions with children and their siblings for Saturday Playgroup, and attending a nationwide conference for Engineers Without Borders.

I was also active with the Women in Engineering student society, and was elected as Secretary and later President. We were involved with the national Big Bang event where a large number of organisations showcased the wonders of science, engineering and technology to young children. We also contributed to the Engineering Is campaign, which was launched at the Houses of Parliament. This included a children’s book written by student engineers as well as online games, lesson plans for teachers and information on different engineering careers. The engineer and TV presenter Roma Agrawal was a supporter of our work – and Professors Elena Rodriguez-Falcon and Sheila MacNeil at the University were also key players for me personally.

I feel that my volunteering work at the University contributes to my working life very positively. Taking part in the Global Engineering Challenge, as part of my course, taught me about reshaping initial ideas and adapting solutions. I was also selected for the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy, which further developed my project management, planning and negotiation skills. My internship and research placements allowed me to get ready for work with a glimpse into working life. I always say yes to every opportunity – any experience, good or bad, develops you as a person.

While I was reading bioengineering, I knew I wanted to advance healthcare technologies so that everyone, everywhere, can benefit. Within the Diabetes Care Division at Abbott, I am working on the manufacturing process of their glucose monitoring system – Freestyle Libre Sensor – and supporting technical investigations. Helping to create systems that support the control and management of diabetes is a step for me in achieving my goal of driving positive changes to advance
healthcare technologies. I am looking forward to seeing what future rotations have in store for me.


FAIRTRADE CHAMPION

TONY HALL

BA Economics 1969
Principal at Hall Consulting, Chair of Fairtrade America

Tony Hall is a consultant with expertise in business development, marketing channels and global business. He became involved with the fairtrade movement in 2003, when he volunteered as a business consultant for a project in Asia. When Fairtrade America (which is affiliated to Fairtrade International and uses the distinctive green and blue logo, familiar in the UK) was established 10 years later, he joined the Board and was Treasurer before his election as Chair in 2017.


I have spent many years promoting fairtrade and supporting fairtrade organisations, helping them improve their strategic and marketing skills as well as finding new outlets for their products in Europe and the US. Brand recognition is a challenge in the US – the UK is a fairtrade stronghold – and our main task is to build awareness, and begin to unify the complex and fractured nature of the main fairtrade players in the US. Fairtrade America was launched in 2013 and we also have another independent player, Fair Trade USA, which can be confusing.

I came to the US when I was working for General Electric (GE). I was managing business development across Europe before a move to Rockville, Maryland, running Alternate Channels for GE Information Services. I next spent 20 years in Silicon Valley, consulting for software and web services start-ups. I now live in Orange County, California, with my wife Jan.

I was brought up in Liverpool in the UK – and can safely say I didn’t have a career plan when I completed my undergraduate degree at Sheffield. I began as a teacher in London and went into the manufacturing industry after eight years – much better pay! I soon realised I needed an MBA and I graduated from INSEAD, in France, before my move to General Electric.

Sheffield was far enough away from home for my desire to be independent, yet close enough to get back home via Manchester – even by hitchhiking, which was fairly common in the 60s. I really enjoyed my time there. Highlights were being elected to the Student Representative Council as an independent; completing the 46-mile Rag walk in 11 hours; and working on the Music & Ents Committee in the era of the ‘super bands’. And, of course, I enjoyed my economics classes, which went on to define my career later.

My son, Nicholaus, followed in my footsteps to Sheffield and is an information management graduate. Initially he didn’t like the food or weather, but he fell in love and is still there. I believe there are also six alumni among our cousins, and I am researching their stories. I also find time to follow Everton – the original Liverpool football team! – and I plan to work my way around the world on trains.

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