What’s the most unexpected thing about your job?
Occasionally I get questions from new customers who I’ve never worked with or questions from existing customers that need to be answered really quickly - questions ‘out of the blue’. Often I don’t immediately know the answer so need to get a bunch of people together to solve the problem - this is really exciting when it happens and regularly unexpected.
Did you have any role models when you were younger? What inspired you to do the job you’re doing now?
My dad was definitely a role model who inspired me to become an Engineer. He was very proud to be an aircraft technician but also talked to me about becoming a ‘Chartered Engineer’. My dad worked for Chartered Engineers who had many years of experience and who he clearly held in high esteem. He was the first person to talk to me about ‘qualifications’ and ‘experience’. Getting ‘qualifications’ is a critical stepping-stone in any career, but relevant ‘experience’ is the key attribute that differentiates one person from another. It is the ‘experiences’ you gain that shape your credibility - and individual credibility is particularly important in any STEM career. My ambition from a young age was to become a Chartered Engineer - and I did it!
Any influential toys during childhood?
Probably Meccano and Lego - both far more basic than you can buy today. The great thing is that these 2 toys are still available today so there must be something good about them!
Your favourite subjects at school?
Physics, Maths and Engineering - and playing sport.
O levels in Physics, Maths, Chemistry, English, Metalwork and Technical Drawing
A levels in Physics, Maths and Engineering
BEng (1st degree) in Engineering
MSc (2nd degree) in Guided Weapon Systems
Your reason for choosing this career?
I wanted to make a difference - and enjoyed solving problems.
Tell me about your career path to date?
I left school after A levels. I’d had enough of school and joined the Royal Navy as a technical apprentice. Following the initial part of my apprenticeship, I joined my first ship HMS BROADSWORD in 1987 during the ‘First Gulf War’ to put my training into practice. Having to keep equipment working on a warship in a ‘war zone’ certainly taught me a lot about engineering. In 1988 I was promoted to be ‘an Officer’ and started to train as a Weapon Engineer Officer - this is the person in a ship or submarine who looks after all the computers, communication systems, sensor systems (such as sonars and radars) and the weapons (such as guns, torpedoes and missiles). I specialised as a Submarine Weapon Engineer and having earned my ‘Dolphins’ served in TRAFALGAR Class nuclear submarines.
In HMS TRIUMPH I was part of the longest solo deployment (at that time) by a Royal Navy nuclear attack submarine, including the first circumnavigation of Africa and transit of the Suez Canal by a Royal Navy nuclear submarine. In HMS TORBAY, I served as the Deputy Weapon Engineer Officer during several long, worldwide operational deployments - and was lucky to visit many foreign ports and work with other navies.
I enjoyed a varied Royal Navy career with jobs at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (where the Royal Navy trains it’s new officers) and at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Acquisition Headquarters, in Bristol (where the MoD ‘buys stuff’ for the Armed Forces). After completing an MSc in Guided Weapon Systems, my final appointment in the Royal Navy included responsibility for testing new and existing sensor systems - at sea and in shore-based test facilities.
After serving for almost 20 years, I left the Royal Navy in 2003 and joined QinetiQ as a Systems Engineer. Until taking on my latest role, managing a multi-million pound submarine business portfolio, I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of different jobs in QinetiQ, including leading QinetiQ’s emergency response to an emergency involving HMCS CHICOUTIMI in 2004 - where a Canadian submarine had a fire in the middle of the Atlantic and needed our help to get back to port safely. As the Chief Systems Engineer for QinetiQ’s Maritime business in Gosport, I lead the team responsible for developing new, specialist atmosphere control equipment to allow, for the first time ever, women to serve at sea in Royal Navy submarines. I was also responsible for establishing a new Diving and Hyperbaric Test Centre at our Haslar site in Gosport and coordinating QinetiQ’s support to the Italian Navy for a new submarine escape system - protecting people in extreme environments.
My current role involves lots of discussion with the UK MoD, the Royal Navy and other overseas navies to understand their problems - and my experiences from the Royal Navy and as a Chartered Engineer are key to me being able to do my job. I’m lucky that QinetiQ has access to some of the ‘brightest minds in the world’ - some of them working for QinetiQ. Increasingly no single company can answer some of the trickier customer problems so a large part of my job is talking to other companies, universities and professional organisations (like the IET) - all of which have some really great people! QinetiQ also owns some unique world leading facilities such as our ‘Ocean Basin’ at Haslar. One of only a few in the whole world, it spans a surface area greater than the pitch at Wembley Stadium and we do some really exciting things!
I’m married to Tiffany and live in Hampshire - we have one son Owen (16) who has just ‘missed’ doing his GCSEs (due to Coronavirus) and moves onto A levels in September. My main interest is spending time with my family and I enjoy running, football, walking and generally being outdoors.
If you could have any job what would it be? How does it differ from what you’re doing?
I love my job and - if I started over again having just left school - I’d probably do the same!
Your advice to a young person considering a career in STEM?
Do it, look at career opportunities in ‘Maritime STEM’. Don’t worry if you don’t have a plan - I never really had a plan! Just go with your gut feel and do the stuff that you enjoy. You can always - more now than ever - change course if you end up doing something you don’t enjoy. Remember that you can make a difference.