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BIC Innovation Career Stories: Carl’s Journey from the Battlefield to BIC

Carl Harris, once a Squadron Sergeant Major in the British Army, now oversees quality assurance, IT, and training at BIC Innovation.

 

As BIC Innovation’s Operations Manager, Carl is responsible for monitoring existing processes and analysing their effectiveness to create strategies to improve productivity and efficiency within BIC. However, this is most definitely not what Carl had called his profession two years ago.

 

Having spent 24 years in the British Army, with the prestigious 51 Parachute Squadron as his final station, Carl sought a new career path that had parallel values to that of military life. Carl’s military background instilled in him the ethos that “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  Carl applied this mindset to his career transition, meticulously planning and preparing by formalising his military experiences into recognised qualifications like project and environmental management. As part of our BIC Innovation Career Stories, Carl shares the highs and lows of transitioning from military to a civilian role, including the lessons learned along the way.

Can you tell us about your background and experience and how this led you to a career at BIC?

I completed 24 years in the British Army choosing to end my career as Squadron Sergeant Major of the prestigious 51 Parachute Squadron in 2022. While looking for a new challenge I drew on my experience of working in high pressure operational environments, risk and operations management when looking for a new role to transition into.  

Coming from a dynamic working environment within the British Army, I searched for a company and position that would emulate this in the civilian sector, BICs emphasis on a culture of innovation and change aligned perfectly with my own values and aspirations.

 

What motivated you to make a transition to this industry, and what attracted you to the role?

I completed various management and operations management courses while in the Military and so already had a working knowledge of operational requirements within a company. Normally facilitating circa 200 personnel, I was selected to head up the British Army’s Empowerment project in conjunction with McKinsey Analytics who I spent a year placement with working on course content, growth and change management, in order to deliver a course to be rolled out throughout the Military, the first such endeavor to be adopted by the Military. Having completed this initiative, I looked for a similar company and role within this sector and found BIC Innovation.   

 

Did you come across any challenges, if so, how did you overcome them?

The pace of operations within the military is of a much higher tempo, coupled with a command -based leadership model with a rigid structure. This was a difficult transition at first, however the benefits experienced from a more collaborative and flexible dynamic workplace, has highlighted other management strategies that create a more harmonious working environment that I had not experienced previously. Culture change was also a lot different from Military to the Civilian sector but again led to a positive outcome and working environment within BIC.

 

How did you prepare yourself for the transition, and how have the skills and experiences you bring supported you in your new role?

Having a wealth of experience working and managing in high pressure environments such as explosive ordnance disposal, I formalised my experiences into tangible qualifications such as recognised management qualifications, H&S, lean six sigma, project management and environmental management courses in order to capture fully my previous experiences and roles within the military.    

Having had courses in place to attend prior to joining BIC as part of my military transition, it was agreed with my line manager that support to complete the said courses would be honoured and onward training for my role in BIC would be completed. I was supported fully during this time and passed all courses.     

 

What did you find most surprising or unexpected about your new role or industry?

How similar aspects of my current role matched certain aspects of my military role, particularly around training, compliance, management, and procedure. Also, how much the civilian industry drives and influences military procedure.  

 

How have you adapted to the culture and work environment of the new industry, and what have you learned about working in this field?

The major difference is that the military requires and demands a higher level of discipline and operated with a strict hierarchical structure and is able to enforce this in order to complete operations. However, the civilian sector relies on the professional acumen of the workforce to demonstrate discipline and professionalism within the company with a more flexible and dynamic organisational structure.  

I have adapted my management style to accommodate a more relaxed professional environment, reducing the intensity to harmonise with the workforce and culture therefore, moving away from a more aggressive operationally driven ethos and culture required in the military. I have learned that better results are gained from open dialogue, collaboration, ideation sessions and not having the monopoly on good ideas.  

 

What advice would you give to someone who is considering making a similar transition to this industry?

Assess your transferable skills, seek mentors, invest in personal and professional development skills, research your target industry. Find a company such as BIC Innovation that will allow you to challenge yourself daily while also furthering your knowledge of the business.

 

Access a diverse resource pool

Employing veterans offers a direct pathway to a pool of highly skilled individuals equipped with invaluable experience. By bringing veterans into your team, you instantly gain access to individuals who have undergone rigorous training, acquired qualifications, and accumulated valuable expertise during their service. Employers who have already integrated veterans into their workforce attest to their ability to quickly demonstrate proficiency in essential skills and qualities crucial in today’s civilian workplaces including strong work ethic, problem solving, leadership, communication skills, dedication and analytical skills.

For guidance on how to recruit and support the career development of veterans visit:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-employers-guide-to-hiring-veterans/an-employers-guide-to-hiring-veterans-html

 

Picture yourself in our team? Find out about Career and Associate opportunities at BIC Innovation on our website: bic-innovation.com/careers/

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