Transitioning from the Armed Forces to Arqiva

We spoke to Shona Purves, who was recruited into Arqiva through the Army Recruitment Fair last year, to learn about her experience transitioning into civilian work life.

Shona Purves, ex forces transitioned to PM role at arqivaIn 2014, we signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant – a voluntary pledge made by businesses and organisations to demonstrate their support for the armed forces community.

We caught up with Shona Purves, a Project Manager in the Satellite and Media team, who was recruited into Arqiva through the Army Recruitment Fair last year, to learn about her experience transitioning into civilian work life.

What did you do prior to joining Arqiva?

I was an Officer in the British Army for 13 years, having joined at 18. I served with the Royal Engineers, and time was split between active service and studying for my Masters’ Degree in Mechanical Engineering. I left the Army in 2010, and as part of the career transition and resettlement process the Army funded my PRINCE 2 project management course.

For two years, I worked for the London 2012 Olympic Games where I designed, commissioned and managed a Games Time Fleet Depot consisting of over 160 staff and 850 volunteer drivers. Following this, I worked for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and organised the operations and logistics for the Queen’s Baton Relay, a 40 day Olympic Torch style relay around Scotland. In November 2014, I joined Arqiva having met the company at the Army Recruitment Fair.

What unique skills do you have from your military career that sets you apart from those who haven’t been in the armed forces?

It would be the structure and formalities of the military that is engrained into you, which you can apply to everyday work scenarios. You are taught to look at the bigger picture and to be self-aware so you can better understand what your role is, why you have to perform this activity, how it will affect others around you, and what you need to do to achieve the wider goal. Also, in the military you are exposed to responsibility at a young age – right from the beginning of your military career you could be taking on either a mission critical task, or leading a team, which is unlikely to happen so early on in a civilian career.

What did you find most challenging when commencing a civilian career?

In the military there is a defined culture – you know what to do, where each individual fits in, and even what to wear for each occasion – whereas in civilian companies you can’t judge the culture of the company from the outside. You have no idea of what the company is really like, which can be quite challenging, especially when choosing a new career. Also, I was unsure of the job title/ level I should be pitching myself at, as the structure of an organisation isn’t always clear and it can differ from organisation to organisation. 

What tips would you give ex-defence personnel when entering a civilian career?

My first tip is to utilise your professional network. I thought my CV would speak for itself and the merit of my achievements would open doors, and it took me a while to realise that it didn’t always work like that. It’s all about networking and attending events like recruitment fairs. At first, I thought using my military network to find a new career was cheating, but then I realised it’s a professional network that you have worked hard to earn membership of and you should utilise it.

My second tip is concentrate on choosing a job that is right for you (and your family). Sometimes, when other people were offering me career advice, they didn’t understand that I was not necessarily just looking for a job that pays well, but also one where I got to spend time in an environment that I was passionate about, and where I can achieve the correct balance with my personal life. The job has to tick all the right boxes.

How did you hear about Arqiva?

I hadn’t heard of Arqiva before the Army Recruitment Fair. I was looking for work in my local area and decided the recruitment fair was a good networking opportunity.

So, I visited all the stands and met Victoria Hall and Simon Keyes at the Arqiva stand and had a great chat with them. They had energy, were genuinely passionate and proud about their work, and gave off a real team vibe – it was always ‘we’ not ‘I’, which instantly resonated with me. Even though I met many companies that day, I left the fair thinking I want to work for Arqiva.

What appealed to you about Arqiva besides the job role?

Arqiva has many appealing features that I missed about the military; it’s a warm environment where people are respectful and are passionate about what they do.

People are focussed on the same common goal – getting the job done – and when you first arrive they support and help you to see where your work fits into this. Even the canteen has a really buzzing atmosphere. Crawley Court has a gym and tennis court and it’s great that I can cycle to work. To me, the overall working environment is a lot more important than people often give it credit for.

What do you enjoy about having a civilian job?

I’m proud of what I do, and my job role complements where I am in my life today; I have a good work/ life balance. Arqiva recognises that people have a life and that employees are people not just machines; they live by the ethos that it’s about working smarter not harder, or longer. Being able to work from home occasionally and having the flexibility to mix up my hours is also really appreciated. To me it’s about finding a balance – the military can own your life, but now I get to plan my own life and take leave at a time that suits me, but without trading in the passion and pride for what I do, and being part of a team. This is also important to me in my career.

How much do you value other ex-forces colleagues at Arqiva?

It’s great to have ex-defence personnel and reservists to talk to at work – we have similar experiences, mentality and approach to work and life.

But Arqiva does not feel like an exclusive ex-forces club, like it can be at some companies and I really value that. I left the military to begin a new life so it’s important that you immerse yourself in it and embrace it.   

If someone is reading this post that has just left the forces to start a new career, what’s the one thing you would tell them?

Everything is different because it is different, not because you’re ex-military! Every company and industry has its own culture, and set of abbreviations and it takes a period of time to adjust and adapt. Choosing your new employer can feel like a leap of faith, but if you are clear in your own personal goals and ambitions and you find an employer whose values match these, then it can also be a very rewarding experience.

Head to www.arqivacareers.com to check out our Fast Track Forces roles, or email your CV to talent@arqiva.com with FORCES in the subject line.

1