Why do ex-service personnel go into telecoms?
When compiling a picture of the ‘average fibre worker’ we found 40% entered telecoms from a military background. To add a bit of context around that figure, we reached out to ex-service personnel working in the fibre industry to ask why.
There were distinct commonalities in the experiences and sentiments of the respondents. This is a brief overview of what we learned about why ex-service personnel choose to pursue a career in telecoms;
Skill-sets are a good fit
There is natural cross over of skills gained in the forces which are highly valued in telecoms. This is particularly so for signals officers who establish and manage communications networks in the field. However, it’s the forces mentality perhaps, rather than skills, that sees so many ex-services personnel succeed in the sector.
Ex-serviceman and Operations Manager, Russ D is responsible for hiring the best fibre engineers for the job. The key traits he looks for in individuals are; punctuality, a willingness to learn, adaptability and cultural fit. These factors, he says, are key components of any ex-forces personnel.
“I think these basic tools are overlooked by people serving within the Armed Forces. When coming into civilian employment however, they are sometimes scarce in other individuals. A defined skill-set and experience is gained over time but the above factors are tools that are already drilled into a service leaver and stand them out from a crowd.”
Daniel G, a former Signals Officer and Build Agent, agrees. We asked him what skills acquired in the army have served him well throughout his telecoms career.
“Being self-sufficient and standing on my own two feet as well as having a far better work ethic. The difference between the veterans and “civvies” is incredibly obvious. The veterans rarely need to phone the office for support, dealing with most situations themselves.”
Community in the sector
The transition into civilian life can understandably be quite jarring but there is education and support for service leavers looking to enter new careers. Telecoms is a popular choice for veterans. This has created formal and informal communities and support structures within the industry, making it more desirable for others to follow.
An example of this is Openreach’s Transition Force programme which has supported over 1500 veterans back into civilian life. Megan K, a former Telecommunication Operator Specialist in the British Army, was one of the people who benefited from the programme. For her, telecoms offered a career path already well worn by her colleagues.
“I guess for me it was knowing there was a lot of ex-military people already in the company and job role I had applied for. The factors of being able to work outdoors, manage your day as you see fit and having all the tools and training provided were benefits. Having that support network within the company helped with the transition into civilian life.”
This sense of comradery extends well beyond organised programmes in big businesses. As an independent contractor, Stephen W built a strong team of ex-service engineers to complete fibre work in difficult conditions. He did this because he knew he could rely on them to get the job done.
“I had a team of 6 and all of them had served under me in the army, so we all knew each other on a personal and professional level. My team worked far and wide if needed and they would be there without fail. For instance, we built a few demanding networks up in the Snowdonia mountains which was a test of self-discipline as it was extremely cold. You could call it a military operation as every day was a challenge to make money and deliver the right standards.”
Future proofing your career
Megan’s experience was echoed by telecoms engineer, Sam T, who learnt about the fibre industry while still serving. For him, it was about future proofing his career by finding a rewarding role in a growing industry.
“I got into the telecoms industry from word of mouth. A few lads who had left before me had spoken about it. I did a bit of research and found there was, and will be, plenty of work for the foreseeable future. With it being a very hands on environment, it’s ideal for people of our background to pick up.”
Leaving the the forces for civilian life is a big change. Committing yourself to a new career path requires some research and soul searching. When planning his next step, Russ took an objective approach.
“I looked at the longevity and the number of people within each trade at the time. Telecoms seemed like the most sensible and lasting trade to be employed within. The way I looked at it was that everybody will always have a need for telecommunications no matter how much it scales and advances.”
From the statistics alone, it’s clear to see many ex-service personnel build fantastic telecoms careers. Their practical skills, attitude and adaptability forged in the forces often gives them a head start when embarking on fibre work.
Thank you to all the ex-service personnel who contributed to our surveys and answered our questions. There was some valuable insight shared, more of which we’ll be featuring over the next few blogs. If you’re a fibre professional wondering what Pickr’s all about, get the lowdown direct from our team.