Why did you choose a career in the industry?
I studied for a PhD in Visual Cognition and intended to pursue an academic career. I loved the research element and the opportunity to teach undergraduates and share my knowledge, but grew somewhat frustrated by the slow pace of the work – publication of research articles in academic journals often takes 6–9 months.
I wanted to work in a role where I could combine my people skills and ability to share knowledge in a role that was at the forefront of industry and where I could see the outcome of my actions more quickly – I certainly found that at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence!
What is a typical day like for you?
I get in at around 8am and usually start by checking my emails and looking ahead to see which meetings are in the diary for that day and the rest of the week. Each day I work closely with our Project Managers, Service Delivery Managers and Delivery Director to ensure our projects are delivered on time, at cost and to the agreed level of quality.
I manage project finances by eliciting forecasts from Project Managers, combining this with spend to date and then analyse what that means for our profit margins. It’s not unusual for me to speak to clients and subcontractors to enquire about invoice payment dates.
I often deliver training to colleagues on best practice and our tools and templates, and was asked to be a ‘superuser’ for our new finance system. Each month I am responsible for generating a portfolio view of the finances for all projects in my area of the business, and then briefing our Delivery Director on any changes from the previous month, as well as highlighting any projects that have financial issues worth exploring.
I also manage project risks and work closely with our technical staff to understand these risks, then work with Project Managers to agree how to manage the risks, and work out what sort of mitigating activities we might want to enact to control the risks. In other words, very varied!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the range of people and range of tasks that I encounter each day. My colleagues are interesting, intelligent and friendly which makes coming to work an enjoyable experience. I have the freedom to manage my own time and tackle the stimulating range of tasks in the best way I see fit.
What are the current challenges the industry faces?
The ongoing cyber threat from both individuals and more organised groups is a constant challenge to our company, albeit one that excites us and motivates us to come up with innovative and effective solutions.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Ensure you have a range of real-world skills you can offer employees, and are able to articulate them. Don’t worry about the specifics for now – you will learn those in your role. Focus on what you need to make a positive impact at interview and in your first few months.
Ask yourself: can I analyse data, understand trends in the data and be able to articulate those trends to others in a clear and succinct way? Can I write in a professional and formal manner? Can I stand up in front of people and explain difficult concepts in a clear and logical way? These are some of the building blocks that employers value, and they show that you can learn the job-specific skills as and when needed.