James Brown, former Army Captain, joined us in April for our Project Management Workshop in Newcastle where we heard from Nexus, TSG Marine and Faithful+Gould. He has recently secured a role as Senior Project Manager with Faithful+Gould, following meaningful connections made at the event.
Can you tell us a bit about your military career?
I commissioned into the Royal Engineers in late 2014, following a year of training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. I was first posted to an EOD&Search unit based in Saffron Walden, where I was able to complete the Bomb Disposal course and deploy on operations overseas. After 2 years within this role, I volunteered to complete a 6 month rotation as an Infrastructure Project Manager, cover the installation and maintenance of new and existing hard facilities within the Middle East. The role was extremely varied and rewarding, covering 5 countries and 12 task sites, there was never enough hours in the day to complete the work. Following the 6 month rotation, I return to the UK and took up as a project / operations manager.
What made you decide to leave the Army?
I really enjoyed the variety within the role as a Infrastructure Project Manager, you were able to develop and deliver projects which clients required. You could see the positive direct affect your hard work was having on others, coupled with the opportunities I had an excellent boss whom challenged and developed me. Once I left this role, I no longer felt challenged in my new role nor could I foresee a future opportunity in any of the roles that were offered to me.
What was your transition timeline?
I signed off in Sept 18 knowing that I wanted to work as a Project Manager within the Infrastructure/Rail industry. I focused my resettlement on building on my project management qualifications by sitting APM PMQ exam and enhancing my finical commercial experience through a number of courses run by the Defence Academy. I was aware that I had no online presence and knew if I was going to find a role that suited me, I would need to understand and utilise my network connections. I attended a LinkedIn Workshop event and Project Management Workshop run by OA, these two events were brilliant and enabled me to take a huge step forward with job applications and networking.
You were looking for a niche in this kind of role, covering both design and projects, how has this shaped your job search?
I originally looked for a role that included both in house design and project management; the combination of these roles focused the jobs search tightly and limited the number of opportunities. Of the roles that did exist, the majority were in small bushiness where personnel have to be multi-disciplined. I decided I would focus my search on project management roles, as client engagement and getting out on-site was more important to me, I’m still interested in mechanical design and working in my spare time to refresh my design skills.
How did you secure your new role?
I did have a formal interview for this role [Senior Project Manager] with a number of senior engineers from Faithful+Gould (F&G), a few weeks prior to the interview I had met Duncan for a coffee, over which we discussed a number of PM roles in the North East including the F&G role and other roles with competitors.
Would you have done anything differently?
Hhhmmm …. I wouldn’t have changed any of my resettlement, I would have signed off sooner rather than staying in a role that wasn’t challenging nor rewarding.
What advice do you have for those looking to start their transition?
If I could give one bit of advice, it would be to immediately stop wasting your time cold applying for jobs, the success rate of this action is shocking low. (I applied for 21 jobs, interviews for 4, got 1) You need to understand your wider civilian and military network through LinkedIn etc and ply these people with coffee until you get the answer you’re after.
Want to know more?
For more information and help with your new career come along to an OA event for Service leavers.