Alex Dow initially considered financial services and consulting as he wasn’t sure what direction he wanted to take after leaving the Army in 2011 as a Specialist Team Leader. However, after researching alternatives, he ended up working in his current role as Construction Operations Manager at Siemens, based in Manchester.
Alex remotely manages a team of Site Managers and Site Supervisors who work in the UK and oversees on Offshore Construction sites. This involves duties that include performance management, on-job-development, disciplinary activity and administration.
Alex says: “It’s been really rewarding converting those skills acquired in the Army to something altogether different – in my case working for an offshore wind turbine supplier.”
He adds: “Civilian organisations really appreciate the same values that are expected in the military – integrity, discipline, courage, loyalty, respect for others and commitment.”
Alex has found that the principles of managing people are common to both his military and civilian roles. “My team expect to be treated fairly & consistently, performance managed and for me to administer them in the same way regarding training, holiday, sickness and compassionate absence.”
Some of the challenges for Alex were understanding the new terminology and the different ways in which civilian organisations operate – how they behave, their attitudes towards risk, money, and health & safety. For Alex, it’s a ‘completely different culture’.
He says: “I now work with a much more diverse set of people from many different backgrounds. There is a company culture but it isn’t ‘lived’ in the same way that I experienced with colleagues in the Army. Also, I socialise with civilian colleagues from time to time but there’s no requirement to do so – in general you do your job during the day and then go home at the end of it. However, it’s been reassuring to see that my background is relevant and I’ve enjoyed learning about a new industry.”
Alex needed some help to translate the experience he had built up from a career in the Army into something that was relevant to civilian employers. However, this was an area the OA was able to help with.
Alex says: “My consultant helped me modify my CV and I left feeling much more confident about my prospects.”
Alex does miss the Services and looks back fondly upon his time there. He says: “I was part of a great and a high performing team. What I remember the most is my time spent leading a specialist team on operations in Afghanistan. The intensity was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced and I’m proud of what we achieved in very trying circumstances.”
He adds: “However, a lot of the guys I now manage also have a military background so we have a lot in common. The offshore working environment can be quite austere and involves time away from home and family. This seems to be well understood and tolerated by the ex-military crowd.”
What advice or top tips do you have for anyone leaving the Services now?
- Have confidence in your ability and really play on your strengths.
- Do as much research as possible – read books, get out there and meet people in different sectors, find out what they do and learn the lingo.
- Look up employers and get a dialogue going with them. The information you gleam will help build your confidence and smooth over your transition to civilian life.
- Don’t worry if you aren’t 100% certain what path to take, that’s normal.
- Enjoy the transition. It’s an opportunity to discover what interests you and what it is you’re really good at.