In this month’s newsletter, we take a close look at the role of Project Manager. Simon, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Army attended SaluteMyJob’s Project Leadership course and is currently working for Babcock. He retired from the Army after 31 years and spoke to SaluteMyJob about his transition into commercial employment and offers a valuable insight into what transferable project management skills he believes military people possess.
SMJ: What was your role in the military?
Simon: I was what you would call a middle-ranking officer – a Lieutenant Colonel. Doing general staff like activities, the last few years within a NATO context.
SMJ: What could this be best compared to in Civvy Street?
Simon: I think my role could translate over to a middle manager/lower senior manager role in civilian street.
SMJ: When did you leave? What did you do to prepare yourself?
Simon: I left officially over four weeks ago but had six months of concentrated time to help me transition. During this time, I was looking at geographically where I would like to work and also thinking about what type of roles I was looking for. I did the Manchester Business School's Executive Strategy and Executive Decision Making Residential Course. I also did the Association of Project Management APMP course. I felt this would give me better credibility in terms of showing employers I am somebody who is willing to learn, able to learn and to also help understand some of the current project management civilian terminology.
SMJ: What industries or roles were you interested in pursuing?
Simon: I was looking at project management type roles – but now I would say I was more interested in programme management.
"I believe we are widely employable but don’t take it as a given"
SMJ: What have been the challenges with transitioning?
Simon: So far – relatively easy. I think the CTP (Careers Transition Partnership) is a very good grounding. The challenge is and was for me and still is – is knowing what I want to do. I saw myself as being a project manager, I had been involved in operational planning and I felt there was a transition between one and the other.
SMJ: What would help others going through the transition phase?
Simon: Expectation management. I believe we are widely employable but don’t take it as a given you can sit on your backside and be expected to be taken in by the civilian world without a bit of hard work. The business about what skills you are trying to sell, what skills you should sell and how to sell those skills in a realistic and commercial way is very important.
SMJ: How did you get your role at Babcock and could you tell me a little about your role and responsibilities
Simon: I did a day’s workshop with SaluteMyJob on the subject of Agile Project Management and I was introduced to the organisation I am working for now, in a work placement type role for a period of three months which I am half way through. So I initially came here to do project, programme type management but it became clear to me that project management was not something I wanted to do. So my position here has developed, for example I am helping to write a strategic plan for the organisation – so more strategic decision making and hands-on general work at the moment.
SMJ: What transferable skills do you think you bring to the role?
Simon: It’s decision making, it’s having a strategic view and making it workable. And it’s my ability to think and write clearly. And as an outsider, it’s being able to come in with a fresh pair of eyes to be able to look at certain strengths and weaknesses within the organisation.
"Think wider than the technical skills that the military is going to bring to you."
SMJ: As you work closely with the project manager at Babcock, what transferable skills do you think are needed for this specific role?
Simon: It’s our ability to communicate, our people power – our ability to look after people, understand people, want to help people and manage people, those are the type of skills we (ex-military) bring across. Decision making, leadership, the people aspect – that is our strength.
SMJ: If there was anything you could advise companies who want to employ armed forces candidates, what would it be?
Simon: Think wider than the technical skills that the military is going to bring to you.
SMJ: In your opinion, what training or experience from your Armed Forces career, has made you more competitive than other candidates from the commercial sector?
Simon: It’s decision making, the ability to stand up for yourself, not to be intimidated by people. It’s our communication skills, it’s our people’s skills, it’s our confidence, it’s our wider life experience. We have seen things people in the civilian environment hasn’t seen, in all sorts of environments, both at home and abroad. We bring a very different perspective to things.