Kevin Wagstaff, Head of the Counter Terrorism and Security Division, Dstl

Name:  Kevin Wagstaff

Undergraduate Degree: Mathematics and Management Sciences, University of Hull

Other relevant qualifications:  Chartered Mathematician, a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications. A Chartered Manager and Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute. A Managing Successful Projects Registered Practitioner.

Where do you work?   Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)

What’s their main role?
Dstl is the Ministry of Defence’s in house science and technology lab. We specialise in supplying innovative science and technology solutions to contribute to the defence and security of the UK.

What is your role?
I am Division Head of the Counter Terrorism and Security Division which employs about 700 scientists and engineers. I am responsible for all aspects of performance of the division including project delivery, financial performance, capability maintenance, staff development, recruitment and engagement.

How important is maths to this?
Mathematics is really important in many aspects of my role. I use basic statistics and mathematics to analyse the performance of my division but more importantly I try and stay abreast of developments to ensure that the projects and programmes we develop are innovative and at the cutting edge. The majority of our projects are multi-disciplinary and I try to ensure our project teams take a systems approach to defining and delivering. This may be in terms of experimental design or application of particular techniques. It is also important as I mentor staff in their career development as they seek to become Chartered Mathematicians or Scientists with the IMA!

How long have you done this job?
I have been in my current job for just over a year and it is the best job I have had.

What are the best bits of your job?
The best bits of my job are seeing other people succeed and seeing my staff using science and technology to deliver capabilities that are making Britain safer. I take great pride when staff gain promotions or receive awards as I believe Dstl is a fantastic place to work and provides staff with opportunities they just cannot get elsewhere. We do some real cutting edge science and are always looking to bring innovation into our projects so I take great pride when I see some of the fantastic work we do.

What was your career path and how do you see this developing?
I have been working for Dstl and its predecessors for over 35 years and had so many fantastic opportunities that the time has just flown by. I started work as an operations analyst using my mathematics to develop computer models and simulations of military systems. I was fortunate to have a secondment to the USA  and then returned to the UK to work on a joint UK/US starwars project. I then moved around doing various technical roles in the lab and then went on secondment to the Ministry of Defence headquarters where I provided advice to the Chief Scientific Adviser on a wide range of topics. I then moved into leadership and management roles as a Department Manager and am now in my current role as Division Head. I am now at the twilight of my career and intend to stay in this role for a few more years and then perhaps embark on some consultancy work.

Maths and the IMA

Position within IMA?
Chartered Fellow

Why is maths important to you? 
Maths is important to me because I really enjoy it and believe it makes a valuable contribution to improving our daily lives.  It is a scientific discipline that is at the heart of everything we do.  And it’s fun!

Why did you join the IMA?
I joined the IMA many years ago as part of my continuous professional development. I believe it is important for everyone to continue to develop professionally and it is important to be recognised and to be independently assessed as such by your peers.  It demonstrates that you are serious about your discipline and is good to have on your CV! I enjoy reading the journal to stay abreast of the latest developments in the field but admit I am getting a little rusty on some of the techniques!

What has the IMA done for you?
Helped me progress in my career. Provided resources and a network to engage with like-minded people.