My way: Sir Alan Jones, Toyota UK's Chairman Emeritus, on opportunity

'You've got to keep your own core views'
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The Independent Online

Sir Alan Jones is Chairman Emeritus at Toyota UK and chair of SEMTA, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering, and Manufacturing technologies

What did you want to be as a child?

A footballer!

What did you realistically think you would end up doing?

I wanted to make things.

How did you first get into car manufacturing?

I left school at 16 and became an apprentice at Vauxhall Cars. I couldn't afford university, so it was a simple decision to make. The best part was the mix of learning and getting a salary; it was an introduction to the world of work in an adult way. The worst part was missing out on making money.

How did you work your way up from apprentice to director of manufacturing?

I did a HND in engineering and took every opportunity I could. If someone gives you a job, you can look at it two ways: you've just got to do it, or you can see it as an opportunity. You've also got to keep your own core views; mine are to believe in myself and what I'm doing, and to be straight and honest. I was lucky with Toyota because I came in at the beginning, joining as manufacturing director at its inception in 1990.

Do you consider yourself successful?

I don't think I'll ever feel successful because there's always something else around the corner. The satisfaction is in the process of getting there. When you get there, then you think, "OK, where now?"

What's the best decision you ever made?

Persuading a lady called Mary to marry me.

What's your single biggest regret?

If you think of things as regrets, you'll go nuts. It's better to see things as a learning experience, not a regret experience.

Have you ever been fired from a job?

I've been put in the corner a few times in the past. When you have your own views, things can get rocky.

Have you ever fired anyone and how difficult was it?

It's the greatest disappointment in the world when you ask someone to leave a company; it's a personal failure of your own.

What are your interview tips?

Show willingness to take up a challenge and to learn.

What are your CV tips?

It should be concise, and above all focus on your challenges and how you've overcome them.

H ow's your work/life balance?

How's yours?

What motivates you?

Challenges and seeing other people develop.

Who are your heroes?

People who get their hands dirty and learn to do things better. As a child my hero was Brunel, now it's the founders of the Toyota production system and all the engineers and scientists who have improved our daily lives through innovation. They are the ones who will take us through the next challenge, such as climate change.

How do I get to be where you are?

Don't wait for people to give you things on a plate.