Working in Defence — Then and Now — Meet Helen
Meet Helen, currently a Training Aircraft Programme Manager in Defence Equipment & Support, who has completed 34 years of service in the Ministry Of Defence (MOD)
Helen started her MOD career in September 1982 as the first female Electronics Engineering Apprentice at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, Malvern. She has served continuously in the MOD since then.
Helen has worked in support of all four Front Line Commands over her career, achieving both Chartered Engineer and Registered Project Professional (RPP) status. Her current role includes ensuring the Hawk Jets used by the Red Arrows are safe and available to fly.
How did you feel when you first joined MOD?
I was excited. It was my first job at 16, straight out of school. Lots of new people to meet and my whole life ahead of me!
What interested you in engineering?
I wanted the challenge. Back in 1982 it was not considered a career for young ladies. However, my sister was enjoying her Production Engineering Apprenticeship at Austin Rover (the car manufacturer) so that opened my eyes to other opportunities.
More traditional female jobs didn’t appeal to me and university wasn’t an option straight from school as my parents couldn’t support me financially. An apprenticeship offered me the opportunity to work and continue my studies.
What was the offer like when you first joined MOD, and how does it compare to your job now?
Compared to other companies MOD’s offer was the lowest pay and the furthest from home but provided much more interest in terms of the work available!
34 years later I have had the most fascinating and challenging career. I’ve been supported in my Further Education; the MOD paid for my MSc and all my professional qualifications that have got me to Chartered Engineer and Registered Project Professional (P3M).
What have been the highlights of your career, what are you most proud of?
Personally, being awarded Finalist Woman Engineer of the Year, and receiving Chartered Engineer and Registered Project Professional have been my big successes.
Professionally, I feel the difference my team and I made countering the IED threat in Afghanistan is a highlight of my career.
What makes MOD a great place to work?
There is something for everyone; the opportunities are there for the taking!