This year’s UK Armed Forces Day is taking place on Saturday, June 26. This annual event is an opportunity to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets.
We are proud to present the perspectives of some of our colleagues, all of whom have served in the military either before or during their career at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.
Tom Barker, Chief Security Officer
I began my career as an officer in the Gurkhas prior to 9/11. Over the next eight years I took a Rifle Platoon and then the Reconnaissance & Sniper Platoons into Sierra Leone and Bosnia, as well as two tours of Afghanistan.
Individually, I also had the opportunity to serve as a deputy Company Commander with 3PARA and as an Aide de Camp to the deputy Commander of NATO forces in the Balkans. So, it was a really fulfilling blend of junior command on increasingly intense operations and latterly insight into senior operational command and leadership.
At each stage of my career the fundamentals taught in the military have helped me through periods of intense physical, intellectual and emotional stress – giving me self-confidence to navigate fast changing situations, a recognition of the need for constant improvement and self-education, and an almost evangelical belief that by harnessing the experience of my team, we can collectively form a better plan with full support, rather than one solely created by me.
It also helped me understand that we only have the privilege of leadership if we retain the support of our team members – that I will only get my team to perform at their very best when they believe that I am able to help them perform their mission/role better today than it was yesterday, and better tomorrow than today.
Rebecca Foran-Coutts, Business Analyst
My military background has definitely influenced my role as a consultant and as a business analyst. The military gave me opportunities to learn how to cope with different people and their different needs and taught me how to see the bigger picture. Many of the skills I use in my day to day work were skills I learnt during my military career and they have been ingrained ever since.
Veterans and reservists add incredible value to the workplace and they possess a unique and powerful skillset that greatly benefits BAE Systems. Skills such as leadership, teamwork, the ability to handle stressful situations, and self-direction all spring to mind.
Veterans also bring valuable attitudes and behaviours to the commercial workforce, such as loyalty, a willingness to accept responsibility, a strong work ethic, resilience and a positive ‘can-do’ attitude.
That’s because we are accustomed to working in highly pressurised environments and know how to act decisively and calmly. Veterans are also recognised for our adaptability, a skill gained from experience of working across many different geographies and diverse environments.
But probably most importantly, veterans understand the landscape in which our business operates. Technology and globalisation is something we are experienced in and military personnel use some of the most sophisticated technology in the world. Typically, the military is among the first to adopt new technology which means that because of their experience, veterans are often aware of international and technical trends relating to business and they can bring both technological knowledge and a global outlook to the business and to our clients.
Ian Norgate, Test Manager
I would say the biggest takeaway from my time in uniform, one that I have tried to follow while at BAE Systems, is that “Nothing is impossible”.
You may suffer from a crippling fear of heights but, when needed to, you can rappel from a helicopter 150ft above the jungle, and pick up a casualty. High frequency antenna gets broken? Improvise a new one from a half filled skip and two cans of Coke.
Motivation can often exceed raw talent. I once watched a recruit who must have only topped out at 5ft on a good day, launch herself over an 8ft wall that was causing no end of issues to a number of the taller and more athletic recruits. Why? I think she just straight up refused that it would stop her.
On more occasions then I would like to admit the well laid plans fail; but with empowered leadership at the team level, flexibility and willpower. You can achieve the impossible.
Charles Bishenden, Project Manager
I served 10 years in the Scots Guards and up to now, a further nine as a Reservist in the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC). Like many of our colleagues in BAE Systems who will have served in combat or support roles, my role as a Musician (or Bandsman) will have given me a completely unique, and at the same time very similar set of experiences.
Since 2002 I have been involved in every major state, ceremonial and national event, including Changing the Guard, Trooping the Colour and the 2015 Rugby World Cup; with my final two years in the Regulars culminating with the Great British Summer of 2012 and the Diamond Jubilee, Royal Wedding and closing ceremony to the London Olympics (where Sir Chris Hoy actually asked me for a photo!).
Although I was lucky enough to have never been called upon for my secondary role as a paramedic, my time in the Forces has given me unrivalled access to civilian and military domains, as well as to some of the greatest examples of self-discipline, leadership and integrity.
It goes without saying that these experiences have helped me to develop and grow as an individual, given me composure, taught me the importance of teamwork and given me a story or two to tell, and it could be an overused cliché that ex-forces come with a can-do attitude, but with world class training and the highest expectations in standards, I’ve often found veterans and reservists bring a fighting spirit.
I continue to relish being part of the Defence community, hopefully bringing with me that cultural affinity with our clients and, as a Project Manager, I greatly value those life-lessons learned in leadership and trust and try and bring those skills to bear every day.
We’re fortunate that BAE Systems hugely supports Reservist work, recognising that there are mutual gains to be found in each career and I’m now privileged to continue my service in the Army Reserves with the HAC. I’m not sure I meet the ‘twice the citizen’ description, but I continue to enjoy the camaraderie it brings and likewise give-back where I can with the knowledge I’ve gained from a career here at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.
Alice Hughes, Project Manager
One of the most important things I have learnt from my time serving as a reservist is the benefit of teamwork.
As a combat engineer, building bridges is our bread and butter – but it’s not an easy task. We spend our time in all sorts of environments and can be expected to build any sort of bridge to suit the needs of the vehicles we have with us and the terrain around us. We are efficient, strong and able to assemble some pretty big bridges in rapid time – but only because our team works together. I like to apply this same mentality in the project delivery environment by using the strengths of my team members to deliver on-time and to the highest standard.
Problem solving is another key attribute that I have found to be transferable – being able to think outside the box and respond quickly in high stress situations to achieve the desired outcome has definitely helped me in both my time in the military and my time as a project manager.
In my training, there have been occasions where we have tried to execute the perfect plan of attack. Usually this goes out of the window within the first few rounds, as you cannot predict how adversaries respond, so we have to problem solve and improvise to still achieve the desired outcome. Again, I have found this extremely helpful in my career as a project manager, having that ability to react and be flexible to still deliver, even if I have to deviate from my original plan.
Ed Beer, Service Support Specialist
As a former regular serviceman and current serving reservist I have had a lot of different experiences during my time in uniform.
From learning to work as a team with complete strangers in basic training, through to running a team of complete strangers as a Staff Sergeant in the reserves, the key element is trust and, to paraphrase the Army’s current standards, it’s all about leadership, respect for others and for yourself, integrity and discipline.
Former servicemen are usually easy to spot. They are the first to a meeting, know when to listen and when to ask questions and, most importantly, they will want to understand the manager’s mission and their part in it.
I’ve had plenty of lessons in leadership and management. Some of them are written down, such as the Seven Questions – “what, when, where, etc.” – but a lot are unwritten. And it’s these which take me back to the core values and standards of the Army: “Selfless commitment. Respect for Others. Loyalty. Integrity. Discipline. Courage.”
Rich Harris, Account Manager
During my time in uniform I worked with a variety of other nations and cultures and I’ve seen the advantage of inclusive diverse teams, enabled by psychological safety and carefully built high morale. I strive to bring some of that experience and mind-set to the workplace to help create a healthily diverse and inclusive work environment where everyone can be themselves, wants to work in, and brings their unique insight to bear. I learned that diverse teams can think through problems better.
I was privileged to be trained in leadership, complicated and complex problem solving tools, and different delivery methodologies at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the UK Defence Academy. I was able to practice those skills in different high-tempo deployed environments and found they were applicable and effective from small groups to organisations of thousands. It’s rare to get so much time to develop skills and opportunity to practise in a wide variety of settings and that seems like a real strength of military experience. Being taught to think through problems to the finish and have the education and training to plan and deliver, while remaining calm in the face of external pressures, are great insights to bring to our workplace.
It’s helped put some problems into perspective – I always think as long as the building isn’t on fire and no one’s dying we’re having a good day. Also, I think there are a lot of similarities between military planning and delivery, especially on Operations, and Agile – that’s a great seam to exploit further. There’s less of a gap than thought between the military mindset and Agile delivery.