Al Gadney joined the Air Force at the age of seventeen, progressing through the ranks over 27 years to become a Royal Air Force Engineering Officer.
After such a long time in the RAF, he was keen for a new challenge. Having studied for an Executive MBA and an MSc in Aircraft Design before leaving his role, he left for pastures new juggling a new baby, moving home and transitioning from the RAF to civilian life.
As Al explains: “It was during my time studying for my MBA that I realised my time in the RAF had given me a huge base of transferable skills – whilst a military officer might not know what a profit and loss account looks like, our jobs require us to manage budgets, personnel, use organisational skills and most importantly our common sense! It wasn’t long before I knew I had so much more to offer outside of the RAF.
“When I left the RAF, organisations like the OA became really helpful in the sense that they triggered my thought process to take up networking, since so many jobs were reported to be found in this way. When I first left I took some time to plan my future – I knew I wanted to work in renewables, as that is a true passion of mine. I networked frantically, using my Cranfield Alumni contacts alongside the OA’s database to reach out to as many people as possible. After a couple of conversations, I discovered there were several renewable start-up companies located in Cambridge where I live. I contacted them to find where I could fit into the process, knowing that my skills and passion for the industry would work well in helping these start-ups to grow into larger organisations.
Al explains that networking is just one part of the transition process and that it’s also important to keep an eye out on what online jobs are available. Having approached companies both directly and by applying for jobs online, he was actually offered two positions at the same time.
“Finding my feet in the civilian workplace inevitably took some time. I only stayed at the first company for 8 months; however, it proved the ideal knowledge base to fill many of the gaps in understanding how a civilian business operates compared to my military experience running cost centres without sales and marketing needs. I then joined an even smaller start-up which required an ability to add value across the entire business sphere. Rather than take a large salary, I took shares in the company as it was more important to me to help the business develop then to be earning money straight away.”
“After a few years, I felt I had taken my role as far as it could go, so I got back to networking to see what new industry opportunities had arisen. I had made some connections through the Technology Strategy Board, a crucial organisation designed to help start-ups just like the one I had recently left. My MBA came in exceptionally useful, as did my other soft skills I’d acquired in the RAF. Someone I met through the TSB introduced me to a client of his who runs the GEV Group and I’ve never looked back. I initially started as a consultant but now sit on the Group board, running two revenue making businesses as well as a patented innovation project and the PR/marketing for the Group.”
Al also highlights how important it is to have a CV that is understandable by employers who will most likely have little or no knowledge of the forces. Your CV and covering letter also need to be tailored to the specific position you are applying for.
“Regardless of which branch of the forces you served in, the language used is very specific to your role. The key is to civilianise your CV as much as possible, removing all the jargon whilst still showing that the skills you acquired whilst serving in the forces are what makes you the best candidate. When you are competing against non-forces candidates for a position, you need to ensure your CV can communicate those very valuable skills and different experiences that you have over your new peers. The language you use mustn’t confuse the recruiter about what you can actually do and you should have faith that your military background will make you stand out from the others regardless, so there is no need to bamboozle with acronyms.”
Here is what a typical ‘Day in Life’ of a renewables consultant can look like.
06:30 Normal life doesn’t stop just because you’re part of an exciting, busy organisation, so my day usually starts by being woken up by the children, preparing their breakfast and getting them ready for school.
07:30 Whilst I’m fighting with the kids to eat their breakfast, it’s a quick chance to check through my emails. Due to the international nature of our Group, many emails will have come in overnight from members overseas, so it’s useful to have a look through and see if anything important needs addressing first thing before the rest of the day takes over.
08:30 Drop the kids off at school.
09:00 Due to rush hour traffic, I regularly stop off at a café on the way home and do a couple of hours work from there. It’s so important to make the most of every hour in the day and sitting in traffic is not the most productive use of anyone’s time. We have offices all over the country but many of us work remotely like I do. There is absolutely no excuse not to use technology to help you function more efficiently in this day and age and being able to meet face to face is just unrealistic.
11:00 If I haven’t had to drive off to one of our offices, I generally plan Skype conferences mid-morning to make sure I can capture as many people in one virtual-place as I can. I frequently plan a catch up with our PR company to get an update on press/web stories and our SEO performance as well as liaising with our graphic designer on our marketing collateral and web sites. It’s hugely important for a growing business to ensure their image is compatible with the expectation of the client base and at this stage in our development this probably takes a disproportionate amount of my time.
13:00 Another call with one of the businesses to go over performance figures and to decide how many people we need to deploy in order to deliver on our sales figures and work out how to make up any shortfalls.
14:00 Back in the car to drive home. I take the opportunity to try and call one of our other divisions to request some information I need. We have clients relying on us to produce results and communicating with them regularly is a crucial part of our service.
15:00 Back at home, it’s a catch up on the phone with the MD or one of the other group directors to make sure we are all still aligned and not duplicating effort. This is likely followed by a good session on the phone approaching potential clients, suppliers or resellers that may be interested in the products we are developing. I like to do this at home as I need a quiet environment where I can focus and concentrate properly.
16:30 Time to contact our manufacturer (as they quieten down around this time) for some detailed discussions on modifications and developments to the patented GEV Blade HABITAT, which is an innovative shelter we have brought to market to assist with wind turbine blade maintenance. It’s vital that we try to remain a market leader in our field and continually develop our USP, so this is one of the programmes of innovative work I am developing for the Group.
17:00 With so many calls and emails during the day I have got to make sure my admin is in order so it’s time to start collecting thoughts on how meetings went and making sure actions are confirmed and planned for follow up. Crucially, I need to make time to think ‘bigger picture’ stuff and plan what actions are needed for higher-level matters such as an impending monthly board meeting with our investors.
18:00 A last check of my emails to address any outstanding tasks and then the computer is turned off.
18:30 My wife works as well so from about 1830 onwards we are flat out trying to feed and bath our two boys, cycle through the domestic chores and then after bedtime stories at about 2030 I generally collapse on the sofa for something mind numbing to stare at on TV.
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