Paul Robertson is a Product Marketing Manager for
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in the USA
1) Where did you grow up and when did you leave Scotland?
I was born in Glasgow, and actually left Scotland for the first time when I was 1 years old. My father worked in the Insurance industry and took an overseas position in Nairobi, Kenya. We moved back the UK when I was 6 and lived in Solihull then Sheffield before ending up in Edinburgh where I finished my high school education.
After leaving school I went to Strathclyde University and back to Glasgow to discover the city I was born in. With a degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering I started my career in the then thriving Silicon Glen with Motorola Semiconductors in East Kilbride and later moved to Hewlett-Packard in South Queensferry.
I got the opportunity to move the US in 2004 with Agilent Technologies, which was initially a 2 year assignment but became a permanent move. We live in Spokane, WA in the “Pacific Northwest” and made the decision to stay based on the winter skiing, hot dry summers and what appeared to be more stable employment. Ironically not long after getting our Green Cards Agilent closed the plant in Spokane – leaving the skiing and hot summers.
2) What is your job/sector and how many countries have you lived in?
Getting laid off in a foreign country during a downturn was a challenge I wouldn’t want to repeat in a hurry, but it did give me the motivation to make a career change. With the help of a short spell at a local University I changed from a career developing equipment to test cellular phones into one involved with the electric power industry. With the huge investment in renewable energy and smartening up the grid it has been a good change.
With the exception of a spending the first 5 years of my life in Kenya, I have lived in the UK and the US.
3) Do you sometimes visit bonny Scotland?
We have been very good at making regular visits back to Scotland to see family and friends, and typically go back once a year. We have 2 boys who were both born in Scotland and we have worked hard to maintain our links and instill a sense of pride in their home country. I love going back, but unfortunately it tends to be very rushed as we try to pack everything into a 2 week visit. Highlights are a proper cup tea, a mountain bike ride in the hills and a decent pint in a local pub.
- Glasgow to San Diego
- From Edinburgh to New England for good
- Cumbernauld to Malaysia
- An Edinburgher in Wisconsin
- From Cranhill to Qatar
- A Scotsman in Bangkok
4) What do people in your host country think of Scots and Scotland?
Being a Scot abroad is an interesting experience. The majority of American’s confuse the Scots and Irish, with most assuming St Patrick’s Day is the main event in my yearly calendar. I also usually get the question once a year “Do you celebrate 4th July in Scotland?” But forgiving the ignorance of UK geography and culture, the American’s give Scots a warm welcome and we have been humbled by the acceptance and friendliness shown towards us.
5) Should haggis be a protected species?
Absolutely! But it is in need of a marketing campaign to improve its image. Incredible as it may sound, I have found people who haven’t associated kilts or bagpipes with Scotland, but I haven’t found anyone who hasn’t raised a smile at the mention of haggis and instantly made the connection to Scotland.
Unfortunately most assume it is barely edible and only fed to tourists.
6) Has living abroad changed the way you think about Scotland?
It may not have changed the way I think about Scotland, but it has sharpened my perspective. Scotland and its people have left their mark across the world. Scots that leave Scotland do very well in terms of how we integrate into and contribute to companies and communities across the world. Yet, Scotland can be a stifling, narrow minded, cynical place that prevents it moving forward and realizing its full potential. If you could bring back the talent, ideas and determination of the Scots that leave Scotland you would have truly have a world class country with home grown businesses that equal the Google’s and Samsung’s of the world.
7) What do you miss most and least about the auld country?
I miss Scotland’s sense of humour the most – the Scots have a unique way of looking at things and an ability to cut through the nonsense.
But I don’t miss the narrow minded, dwelling on past grievances, bigoted, aspects of Scotland.
8) What about the independence referendum coming up? How will it affect you and Scotland’s international image?
Reflecting on America’s view of the Scottish Independence debate, my experience is that very few are aware of it and for those few it is a quaint curiosity that has something to do with old grievances of a minority. Regardless of the outcome, I doubt it will be anything other than a minor news story.
Personally, I hope the debate is a real one with full disclosure on all the facts and figures and realities of what an Independent Scotland would mean. There are many unanswered questions, and the politicians want to force a narrow debate between ‘Choose Freedom – we’ll figure the details out later’ and ‘Doubt and Uncertainty – why step into the unknown if you don’t have to’.
9) When are you coming home for good and do you have a message for Scots back home?
I don’t know if or when we are coming home. We have settled into living in America and as long as it continues to work for the family we will probably stay. However, I wouldn’t say never to moving back.
If I had a message it would be a warning for Scot’s Ex-pats: “Young MacGuffin’s Doric lines in ‘Brave’ may put your Scottish authenticity in question – failure to provide a translation beyond quine doesn’t quite cut it with the locals”.
Do you know a successful Scot who lives outside Scotland and who Scottish Times can profile? If so contact Ina Göldenitz on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 00 44 (0) 344 7570
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