My digital transition
With 14 years in the Royal Air Force and another 9 in the Army under her belt, Lisa Berry, 49, left the Forces in 2015 after just short of 24 years’ service. With her transferable skills augmented by industry-specific qualifications courtesy of CNet Training, she is now working as a network design engineer. In this special Q&A, she tells QUEST why she is keen to encourage other Service leavers to follow suit – particularly other women …
Hello Lisa! What qualifications did you gain in the military?
When I was serving, the military were very good at sending you on ‘military-run courses’ to gain military qualifications. However, the fact is that many of these are not recognised in civvy street (unless you are lucky enough to be interviewed by a fellow veteran). Qualifications in CMCQ, RMQ, Datalinks and RADAR are meaningless to them. I was fortunate, however, in that, back in the late 1990s, they didn’t run their own version of MCSE and had to source outside courses, which meant at least I left with something!
Did you use Enhanced Learning Credits?
Yes, I did use ELC for my resettlement. I was looking for a complete career change after leaving the Forces and wanted to become a foot healthcare specialist. To this end, the course I took included an element of theory, and I did some studying online and case studies work. It was a two-week course, where I learned how to deal with the diabetic foot. I came away from that thinking, ‘I can’t do this.’
Tell us about your experience with CNet Training.
I’ve completed the CNCI® and CNIT® with CNet. I did the CNCI (Copper and Fibre) first, as I had no prior knowledge, as such, about installations on a large scale. I’d done patching before but had no hands-on experience in terms of how it physically got from ‘A to B’ across sites, through pits, etc. There were no prerequisites required for the CNCI course and it’s a recognised qualification outside if you’re working with copper/fibre installations (Pearson BTEC level 3). I did the CNIT® after that, and gained the Pearson BTEC level 4 qualification.
I thoroughly enjoyed both programmes. I came away from them feeling confident that I could come back to work and crack on with the job straight away. I learned a lot from the instructors, who are all highly experienced within the industry.
Start networking before you leave and get qualifications that will be useful in a variety of roles
What is your current job?
I’m a civil servant employed as a network design engineer for Defence Digital. I love my job! I’m passionate about it because, as a veteran, I want to know that a defence system that we may have designed, installed or that we provide support for doesn't fail when you need it most. I don’t want anyone in a hostile environment to not being able to log on, or to say that their ‘Spectrum 48K worked faster than this’. It is important that it works and that it works well.
However, there’s only one other female in my department and I don't know why. I know there are lots of fantastic female engineers in the Forces but here, in civvy street, it’s not the case, so come on girls, get into engineering in civvy street! [Editor’s note: To find out about CAPSLOCK, an initiative that aims to encourage female Service leavers to pursue careers in cyber security, take a look at our special feature click here.]
What advice would you give to someone leaving now?
Start planning as soon as you can, because time will go past in the blink of an eye! Really do your research and make use of the resettlement courses available. It’s almost like those last few years at school – ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ – all over again, so be sure about what you want to do because once you’re out earning a pay packet to keep a roof over your head, you can’t easily just have a complete career change. Use the resources on the CTWs. Start networking before you leave and get qualifications that will be useful in a variety of roles, so that your options are not limited. For instance, I studied to be a foot healthcare practitioner, then discovered I really didn’t like the work, so make sure you have a back-up plan.
Did you find it difficult to adjust to life ‘outside’?
I found that, after 23 years’ service, I was quite institutionalised. I had a different mind-set to my civvy counterparts. Also, everything is done for us in the military (pay, taxes, etc.), whereas outside you’re on your own: if you don’t earn, you can’t pay your bills; if you don’t pay your bills, you’ve got no roof over your head. Often my warped military humour got me into bother, too, and the occasional shout to motivate didn’t go down well!
What do you love about your job?
I love the challenges. I enjoy that every day is different, I may be in the office one day, jumping on a plane the next, travelling from one end of the country or world to the other. I’m encouraged to adapt and overcome. I’m an engineer so they allow me to use my initiative and find a solution, and because we work alongside the military, it’s not a case of ‘Can you find a solution?’ but ‘You will find a solution!’ My colleagues in my department, although mostly civil servants (rocket scientists, as I call them), have been doing this for many years, and they do their jobs with pride – there is no ‘downing tools’ until the task is complete. I enjoy that, because even though I am no longer in the Forces, I feel I am still doing my bit.
Is there anything you hate about your job?
There’s not much to hate about my job. The pay is poor – I could go and get a job earning a fortune with the qualifications I have. However, then I wouldn’t get 38 days’ paid leave, full pay sick and flexi hours, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
Any final thoughts on resettlement, or advice for others?
Start preparing early. Don’t think that two years is plenty of time – use every minute you possibly can to get as much out of the training as you possibly can. Before you know it, those two years will be up and no matter how well prepared you think you are, you won’t be!
LISA’S TOP TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
- Leadership skills
- Good organisational skills
- Ability to work under pressure and think on her feet
- Determined mind-set
- Determination to see a task through to the highest standard
- Practical thinking
THE CNET ADVANTAGE
Get in touch
Tel: 01284 767100
ELCAS Provider Number: 1267