Loughborough Alumni

Our alumni

Kevin Foster

Head of Broadband Standards and Ecosystems: BT

Kevin graduated in 1982 with a B.Sc. in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and has worked at BT for over 30 years. He met his wife at Loughborough, and as part of his role is a registered IET Mentor, mentoring new graduates including fellow Loughborough alumna, Jaina Prajapati.

Why did you choose to study Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Loughborough University?

I chose Loughborough because it had a good reputation for Electrical & Electronic Engineering and I could also continue my passion for sport.  At school I had a difficult career choice between Sports Science and Engineering and Loughborough was an ideal choice for me.

How has Loughborough University inspired you and helped you to progress in your career?

Loughborough enabled me to gain a highly respected first Degree and Diploma in Industrial Studies and prepared me well for what has been an exciting career in engineering.  The teaching and facilities were second to none and this brought out the best in me. 

I was recognised by my employer (E2V) as Student Engineer of the Year in 1981 which was a great start. Loughborough provided me with the foundational skills and knowledge to make a valuable contribution to my employer whilst a student on a new 4 year engineering course; an approach which was pioneered by the University.

My daughter, Bethany, is now studying for a first degree in Engineering Physics at Loughborough University. I met my future wife, Julie at Royce Hall in 1981 and we have been happily married for 34 years. She studied Creative Design and has had a fantastic career of her own. My son is studying PE, Business Studies and Maths at A-level and wants to study Sports Science at Loughborough. I guess we are truly a Loughborough Family!  

Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?

Be the ‘sponge’ that soaks up the vast opportunities put in front of you at Loughborough - engineering opens the door to many exciting and rewarding careers. Work hard, play hard and enjoy!

Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did this impact upon your Loughborough experience?

I played hockey for Suffolk and enjoyed rugby, basketball, swimming and athletics whilst at school but unfortunately I started at Loughborough with a broken pelvis and ankle after an accident whilst working on a farm just before starting university and my sponsorship by E2V. This prevented me from playing sports for a while but when I recovered I took part in Hall team (IMS) sports whenever possible. 

Loughborough also provided me with the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and I made many friends. I had a fantastic time and I look back with very fond memories. Those soft skills learned at Loughborough were very important in industry when I had to work as part of a team and to lead teams.

Can you tell us about your career journey so far?

I left school after A-levels in 1978 to work for E2V (then called EEV) in Chelmsford and they sponsored me to do a degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Loughborough.  I was one of the first people in E2V to attend a four year engineering degree course and it took quite a bit of persuading for me to embark on this type of course at E2V. I graduated in 1982 and led the Electronic Services team in the Gas Tubes Division. 

In 1984 I joined the newly privatised BT plc at their world-famous Research Labs at Martlesham Heath as an Executive Engineer working on digitisation of the local access network known as the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). So far I have had an exciting 34-year career with BT working on leading edge technologies and progressing through the organisation to now hold a senior general manager role. 

I really enjoy my influential role and the responsibility I hold. As engineer it is very rewarding to see the technologies that you’ve worked on make so much difference to the lives of our customers. An important part of my job now is mentoring new graduates and giving back to the organisation the skills and knowledge gained in what has been a highly rewarding career in engineering, innovation and management. I am a Chartered Engineer and proud to be a Fellow of the IET.

Can you tell us more about BT, who you currently work for?

I joined BT in 1984 and started work on digitisation of the local access network known as the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). That technology was the precursor to Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) that now underpins Broadband in the UK. My career with BT encompassed the halcyon days of DSL technology evolution and the birth of the Internet and Broadband. 

I represented BT in North America and Europe in the design, development and standardisation of this technology and led BT’s Advanced Copper Technologies Unit in this exciting period of innovation and change. I led Europe in the alignment of DSL standards with North America and that created a much larger economy of scale for ADSL and VDSL technology which underpins broadband delivered via telephone wires in the UK.

In 2005 I became responsible for the whole of BT’s multi-million pound international technical standards programme covering all aspects of telecoms technology. In 2007 I was elected to the Board of the Broadband Forum which is an American non-profit global organisation for the advancement and standardisation of Broadband, encompassing over 150 of the world’s foremost operators and equipment vendors.

I was subsequently appointed as President and then Chairman in 2008 and this is a role that I still hold. In 2006 I was also appointed to the role of Chairman of the UK’s Network Interoperability Consultative Committee to lead the DSL work area to enable the BT metallic access network to be unbundled and shared with other Communication Providers who wanted to supply DSL based services. 

I was awarded the prestigious BT Martlesham Medal in 2012 for a lifetime’s achievement in the area of Broadband DSL technology and joined a select few BT and GPO employees who have been recognised for their career achievements and contribution to science and engineering.

Can you tell us more about your IET Achievement Medal, and how this came about?

I was nominated by Professor Sir John O’Reilly FREng for the IET achievement award which I received at the award ceremony in London in November 2017. 

I was humbled and honoured to receive the award for my lifetime’s contribution to DSL engineering and the citation on the Award Event brochure describes this is more detail.

What do you love the most about your job?

The ability to make a difference to engineer a better future. It is so rewarding to see the projects and technologies that I have worked on make such a difference to the way we live our lives. Broadband is now the fourth utility and so much part of the way we live our lives.

I have also had the privilege to work with some great people both within the organisations I have worked for and globally in technology standardisation. That forms such a powerful and inspirational network which has been so important for me in my career.

How did you get involved with mentoring Jaina, and what have been the benefits of mentoring for you?

After a long career in telecoms with extensive experience at different levels I am now a registered IET mentor in the Technology line of business in BT. 

Jaina is one of my mentorees and we found we had quite a bit in common with regard to Loughborough University! One of her goals is to become a Chartered Engineer and I’m helping her with that.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

The proudest moments in my engineering career have been for my family and I to experience the recognition for a lifetime’s work in the form of the award of the BT Martlesham Medal and the IET Achievement Medal. It means so much to me as an engineer to be recognised by your peers and the wider professional community.

When I joined BT as a young graduate engineer in 1984 I walked into the main BT research building under a sign that said ‘Research is the door to tomorrow’ and I had a dream of being recognised for something special. That dream came true and I hope it inspires others at Loughborough to aim high – you never know where your degree will take you.

 

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