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Why Arqiva is such a great place for ex-military
The transition from a military role to a civilian one can be daunting. Thankfully, Arqiva has plenty of experience in helping people like me make that transition.
I was a member of the Army for just over five years, spending the majority of my time with 14 Signal Regiment in Haverfordwest. I absolutely loved my time in the Army, not just for the challenge it presented but also the camaraderie. You live and breathe with the same people for months on end, forming bonds that are stronger than in any other workplace. There’s banter in the good times and support in the bad. This does make transitioning to a civilian role a little more difficult, though, and I know this very well as it’s something I’ve done myself.
My journey to Arqiva
Luckily I had a transitioning period after coming out of service. After leaving the Army I took a role with General Dynamics, which handled the migration from the Clansman radio system to its replacement, Bowman. Though technically a ‘civvy’ role, I was surrounded by ex-military personnel like myself, which made the transition a lot smoother than it otherwise might have been. It also meant that for my 12 months on the job I continued working closely with the MOD, so I still felt like I was in the Army.
Then, after a year with General Dynamics I saw a position come up with Arqiva, applied, and got the job.
Arqiva took me on as a field technician, a role that was similar in many ways to what I’d done with the Army. I was to help design, build, operate and maintain its network of broadcast and telecommunications systems. In fact, there was a great deal of problem solving – something which is certainly abundant among those who’ve spent time in the military.
On a hilltop site, if you get a fault on the equipment, you need to think logically about what the problem actually is, what could have caused it and what needs to be done in response. Panicking is the worst option – you need to take a second to assess the situation before taking action, which is something the Army teaches very well. If you’re an infantry soldier and your rifle breaks you need to look at it and find out what’s happened.
Another skill that pays dividends in Arqiva is being able to handle pressure. Some of our service-level agreements (SLAs) are really tight, so there’s pressure on every job. Technicians have to get to a site within the specified time limit, whether that’s at two in the morning or during the evening rush hour. Accidents and hold ups on the motorway are no excuses, so you have to find an alternate route. They must also then fix the problem as quickly as possible, to restore services to those who may suddenly be without.
Not all the pressure comes from external sources, though. There’s a great deal of pride among those working here, so we demand a lot of ourselves, to keep services running as expected.
These are just two of the countless transferable skills that not only exist between Arqiva and the military, but which make them wholly compatible.
Opportunity for progression
There are more parallels to be drawn in terms of reward for hard work. In the Army you are encouraged to be the best you can possibly be. If you succeed and show that you’re the best in your peer group you will move on. It’s the same in Arqiva. Those people who strive to be the best will find themselves progressing very quickly. I went from field engineer to head of field operations for the South, with eight team leaders working directly for me, who are each in charge of field engineers, technicians, senior engineers, power service technicians and more.
I’ve also seen other people take a similar trajectory. I’ve seen apprentices come in, do their three year training, then two years after that they’ve gone into projects in terrestrial broadcast.
Arqiva is a huge company offering numerous and varied roles. There are thousands of opportunities for people to change their career as they go through Arqiva.
Advice for potential candidates
My position means I’ve interviewed for a number of roles with Arqiva. First and foremost I want to know applicants have got a rough, basic technical understanding, as your brain needs to be angled in that direction whatever happens. After that, it’s all about the individual.
I like to ask questions on when applicants have had to work under pressure or with a difficult customer. From this I can find out how they think about problems and deal with them, how they handle pressure, how logically they work. If you can demonstrate the aptitude of keeping calm under pressure, having foresight of what you’re doing and being able to dig in even when things get hard, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.
Other than this, applicants just need to turn up on the day and be themselves. We’re looking for the person, not so much the skills. If we’ve seen your CV and called you in then we know you have the skills, everything at the interview stage is about the individual.
Once we’ve taken someone on, we are comfortable and confident in our training provision.
We place great stock on staff training at Arqiva. Every member of staff has a yearly appraisal with their manager – within the field we do one-to-one sessions a minimum of once every six weeks. During these we discover where an individual wants to progress their career and what we can do to help.
We also offer hundreds of internal training courses. There’s continual learning within the company. In fact, we’re running at about eight or nine per cent of a field engineer’s time on training in the field. For comparable companies the figure is nearer two or three per cent. Though this is a big expense for Arqiva – in terms of non-productive time – it helps us develop our staff members’ skills and get the most out of them.
Making a difficult transition easy
Some would say I’ve done well since coming out of the Army, but it hasn’t always been easy! I miss the banter and camaraderie – the level of which you simply wouldn’t be able to get at a civilian company.
It also took me a little while to realise I wasn’t in the Army any more. You have to remember that you’re no longer in that environment – this is a civilian one and sometimes the Army attitudes no longer fit in. You sometimes have to tone things down a little bit – if I’d done that sooner I probably could be further on in my career by now!
That said, it’s worth noting that companies like Arqiva are a lot like the Army in some ways. You will be given opportunities to show you’re working to be the best you can be. Ex-military people already have the right attitude – willing to stand up, dig in and get things done. Beyond that it’s just showing you’re right for the job and working hard. We’ll take care of everything else.
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