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WO Dean Wood served in the RAF for more than 38 years, spending most of his time on the front line. Now a management consultant, with a side-line as partner in a mobile bar business, he is keen to share his resettlement experience with Quest readers – the motivation behind his decisions, the projects he’s become involved in outside the military, his continuing aspirations … and, above all, the importance of meticulous step-by-step planning in achieving precisely the desired outcome
Throughout my career I had seen people get to the two-year point before discharge and, as if it were some sort of surprise, reluctantly enter into resettlement activities. It was as if they were in denial that their time in the Services was coming to an end and they would then stumble on through the resettlement process. Eventually some would attend a training course because they felt they should or they would just use their resettlement leave to increase their paid time off at the end of their service. I was determined not to fall into the same category.
Managing to plan
As I passed the 30-year point I engaged with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) team, registered for resettlement and attended the initial briefing to begin the process. With eight years’ service remaining, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or become when I re-entered civilian life for the first time since the age of 16. Rather than waste my Career Transition Workshop (CTW), I elected to wait until nearer my discharge date. I failed to take the opportunity to use my annual SLTs for resettlement purposes and, looking back, I wasn’t focused enough on the future at that time. That was a mistake – and one that I would advise anyone else not to make!
Planning to manage
I eventually decided on a five-year plan. Even though I still didn’t know what I truly wanted to do, I knew that my CV would not be good enough: who in civvy street would understand what a front-line RAF Squadron Warrant Officer did? Having been in rank for more than two years, I was aware of the opportunity to register with the University of Portsmouth to study for a master’s degree in Leadership and Management, and used the first of my Enhance Learning Credits (ELC). It was my first step in making my experience relevant to the civilian arena, and I followed it up by joining some professional institutes and posting a LinkedIn profile.
I elected to join the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Institute for Leadership and Management (ILM), believing that my future lay in the management field. I began attending networking events with the institutes and met many interesting individuals from all walks of life. The one thing they all had in common was their praise for the Armed Forces and the transferable skills that we all have. I was encouraged by their optimism for my future and decided to work at becoming professionally registered as an engineer to further enhance my portfolio.
Obtaining registration as an Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) was a long but fulfilling process. Documenting my experience and growth of knowledge throughout my career and then demonstrating my professional competence during an interview was extremely rewarding. During the same period, I decided to apply to be a Chartered Manager through the CMI. Once again, this required a detailed written submission and an interview that lasted well over an hour, conducted over Skype from Afghanistan – another gratifying experience when I was informed that I had been successful.
Talking employers’ language
By 2014 I was a Chartered Member of the CMI, registered with the UK Engineering Council as IEng and Member of the IMechE, Member of the ILM, I held an MSc in Leadership and Management and was, through rank and experience, a Member of the City & Guilds Institute, although I still did not know what I wanted to be after I left the RAF. I did know, however, that these qualifications and memberships were not just letters after my name – they were a recognition of career achievements translated into a language that potential employers could understand.
I then considered the work that I had been involved in that was in addition to the ‘day job’ – the projects that I had been required to lead or take part in, the change that had happened, for good or bad, continuously since Options for Change in 1991, much of which I had managed and latterly led. I was also the Squadron Quality Assurance lead and a SQEP auditor. Qualifications in these fields could do nothing but enhance my CV and potential employment opportunities for the future. I still had two ELC left so researched the project management qualifications available, electing to take on a course bundle from Quanta Training, successfully completing the PRINCE2 and APMP qualifications.
A WHINNY-ING FORMULA!
Alongside the new day job, Nelly’s – our mobile bar business – has become a passion and the venture continues to grow. The bar is based within a lovingly refurbished vintage horse trailer, specialising in real ale from an award-winning brewery, high-end spirits and a range of specially selected cocktails, all with fun horse-themed names such as Fifty Shades of Neigh.
While predominantly covering the East Midlands and East Anglia we are open to attend events countrywide. Weddings, country shows, private garden parties and vintage carnivals have all been catered for and the business is about to branch out, being easily converted to become a high-end coffee and cake shop as an alternative option for event organisers.
If you would like to know more about Nelly’s, please visit www.stacked-ltd.co.uk
It was now 2015 and I was in my last two years. I had one ELC left at my disposal and had made a few decisions on my future career. It wasn’t so much about what I wanted to do, more what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to work in one location, didn’t want one job and didn’t want to have to be a slave to the clock. Essentially I wanted to work for myself. I thought long and hard about what I enjoyed at work and consulted my last four appraisals to remind myself about what my superiors deemed me good at. It was at that point that I decided to start my own business as a management consultant.
Once again engaging with the CTP team, I researched the resettlement course programme starting off with my CTW at Kendrew Barracks. This was a superb workshop and I left feeling confident about my own plan. I selected the ‘Introduction to Management Consultancy’ course to reinforce my decision and then the ‘Insight to Commercial Financing’ course, both of which were held at the RRC Tidworth. I felt the latter would fill a gap in my knowledge and at least enable me to understand some business financial language, in the hope of not falling foul of any questions at interview or when pitching my business. I also attended the one-day financial briefing, which imparted some excellent knowledge about pensions and investments.
After going along to a job fair at the Lincolnshire Showground, talking to prospective employers and handing out CVs, I was invited for an interview by an engineering consultancy. I was somewhat surprised at the time and did consider turning down the offer, especially as it was for a job based away from my home location and not readily commutable. However, I decided to accept – for the experience. Needless to say I did not get invited for the second round, but the experience was invaluable, understanding the process, types of questions asked and the need to prepare thoroughly. Although I was rejected I did not look on it as a failure – all I took from the experience were the positives.
It was during this period of resettlement training that I researched and started my own limited company, embarking on a series of pro bono initiatives, supporting business areas from the NHS to local start-up companies with consultancy services. This was an excellent way to gain some experience and feedback without feeling any pressure to earn money. I was able to utilise the testimonials that I received when building my website – another area I handled myself using one of the online providers; a pretty straightforward task if using the templates on offer.
Raising the bar
I was also interested in trying something completely different, so when one of the start-up companies I had been working with offered me the chance to become a partner, I jumped at it. I was now a director of two limited companies and part owner of a mobile bar business (see box)!
The last part of my plan was to obtain change management qualifications and to utilise my final ELC. I selected another course bundle: Lean Practitioner and Six Sigma Black Belt, provided by the Lean Six Sigma Company. The course was held at the University of Bedfordshire and was once again an excellent choice. After two weeks I had graduated with both qualifications.
As I entered my final period of leave, remaining resettlement leave and terminal leave, the networking paid off and I was offered an opportunity contracting in a project role for one of the UK’s main defence contractors.
Looking to the future …
Thinking ahead, I want to concentrate on cementing my reputation in the management consultancy field while at the same time supporting the growth of Nelly’s. I know there is some hard work ahead, but ultimately I would like to be in a position to enjoy family life – watching and supporting my grandchildren as they grow up, having missed out on so much of my own children’s lives due to my many overseas deployments.
If you have any questions for Dean about his resettlement journey, he is happy to be contacted via his business website: www.magnacartaconsulting.com
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