Mark Ramsay is an internationally-experienced Project Manager, Consultant and Business Relationship Manager proven across complex IT, telecommunications and change projects and programmes. Mark is specialised in networks, infrastructure and digital IT over a 9-year military career. He has just secured a 'dream' role with Jaguar Land Rover at a Management Grade, as an IT Portfolio Manager for their Solihull Plant. SaluteMyJob chats to Mark about his military experience, his key transferable skills - and he offers advice to other ex-military jobseekers looking for similar roles.
SMJ: What was your role in the Army?
MARK: Complex Projects Manager.
SMJ: a) What were some of your key responsibilities and duties within the role and b) how do you think these responsibilities have helped you gain employment?
MARK: a) Key responsibilities include, from conception through to the delivery of complex IT telecommunications and network infrastructure projects for the Ministry of Defence. Working with cross-functional, technical teams in a metrics kind of environment. b) For me, it is my experience of dealing with complex projects, knowing how to analyse problems and how to prepare effective responses.
SMJ: What were some of your key achievements in your military career?
MARK: One of my big ones was a communications IT project delivered in Afghanistan, which had an impact across all functional areas and lowered costs by 12-13% from what they were paying with the previous contract. And on a personal note, taking part in a Lands End to John O’Groats cycle I organised a few years ago, raising £16,000 in the process.
SMJ: What industries and specific roles were you interested in pursuing when you left?
MARK: I did look at some of the ‘obvious’ roles, like project management, or operations or logistic management, I thought they were fine but there was no looking up and out. So I decided to move on from those roles and started looking for more roles with progression, such as more strategy-based roles.
SMJ: What have you done to prepare yourself through the transition phase? What courses/qualifications have you gained in the military and after - to help you gain employment in this new role?
MARK: I basically split my time into four parts during my final year of transition. So my first three months was thinking about - what do I bring, what do I need and then the three months after that was researching all the different options out there, networking, speaking to people - and that really helped. Courses wise - I focused on the IT side - because I knew I had a lot of management and leadership experience. The world of work is changing so much so that actually, if you do not have technical ability then you really are going to find yourself looking for work more regularly than those with technical experience. So I looked at my strengths and weaknesses - thinking about what I needed to do and what am I particularly strong at and what I wanted to do - and it all kind of fitted around the role I have just accepted. Qualifications wise, I am currently doing a Masters in Technology and Management and MBA and have completed various IT course.
SMJ: What did you find the most helpful/enjoyable part of your career transition?
MARK: Learning. I enjoyed the networking, talking to different people and finding out what they were doing. Also, learning about myself was the most important bit. Having a period where I could reassess what I wanted to do was invaluable and the most important part for me.
SMJ: What have been the challenges with transitioning?
MARK: Setbacks and mistakes made along the way. Trying to step back from those, they might be painful at the time but they are really useful later on because you can learn from them. I would love to say the transition period was enjoyable - it’s not really, it’s quite nerve wracking. But when you get that job offer - it is worth it.
SMJ: What advice would you give to help others going through the transition phase?
MARK: Understand your value to others. And that takes understanding yourself and what you can bring to a job. It’s not just about what you have brought from the Army, the RAF, or the Navy, because that’s just a job in reality - you have a lot more value than that. Whether you do further study - or you have a particular hobby - you have a lot more to add to an organisation from what appeared on your last report card.
When you are in the military you are working with very like-minded people, who are very focussed, objective and it makes you much more objective, determined and disciplined.
SMJ: In your opinion, what training and experience from your Armed Forces career has made you more competitive than other candidates in the commercial sector?
MARK: The people you work with throughout your career is what makes you as a person. When you are in the military you are working with very like-minded people, who are very focussed, objective and it makes you much more objective, determined and disciplined and that is something you don’t necessarily get all the time outside the military. The people who you work with - carve you out as an individual. Before you start out in the military, you are very much that rough diamond, that raw piece of charcoal and the military knocks all that charcoal off you, through training and they gradually brush you up and shine you up and you go through various jobs until when you leave - you know you are that diamond and you need to be seen.
SMJ: What key transferable skills do you have that has helped you gain the role you are looking for?
MARK: Strong leadership, management skills, a willingness to learn and embrace new ways of doing things - we are used to change all the time. And also my technical management skills and knowledge. These skills have really helped me gain this new role as I understand a lot of the technology the company uses and of course all the knowledge I gained from the IT courses I completed have been valuable.
SMJ: Tell us a little bit about your new role.
MARK: My official title is IT Portfolio Manager. So I will be looking at strategy and how complex programmes and projects fit together. It is a dream role for me.
SMJ: What advice would you give to others who are looking to get into the IT industry and similar roles? Course, qualifications to gain, work experience to take?
MARK: You need to have a technical background but also management and leadership experience - to be able to deal with problems as they occur. I would get them to consider doing a Masters. The reason I got my role was because I had that underpinning knowledge gained from my Masters in Technology and Management, I’m also doing an MBA, I think has really helped me. Also get some short IT courses completed - take various MOOC online open courses for example.
SMJ: How has SaluteMyJob helped you?
MARK: SaluteMyJob has given me a much broader view of what roles are out there for people in the military. A broader understanding of the market place - the newsletter for example - is useful to catch up with. Becci (one of our recruitment consultants) has been brilliant throughout. She has been a very good, responsible recruiter.
Someone in the military can do so much more than other people without that military experience.
SMJ: If there was anything you could advise businesses who want to employ Armed Forces candidates, what would it be?
MARK: Open yourself up to the similarities between the Armed Forces and the outside. There are so many similarities. Yes it is a microcosm, but there are a lot of similarities that have been brought across into various industries, whether it be operations, engineering or logistics. There are so many parallels - someone in the military can do so much more than other people without that military experience.
If you would like to employ people like Mark into your company then please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 030 3140.