Project management roles in the defence sector
Project Management Chinook Project Team Leader, Mark Geoghegan, discusses project management within Defence Equipment and Support, entry points into the career and the skill set required to succeed.
How would you describe your current role?
"I’m the Chinook Project Team Leader within Defence, Equipment and Support (DE&S), which is the procurement agency of the UK Ministry of Defence. My job is to enable the Chinook Helicopter Force to deliver its pivotal role for defence."
What project management roles exist in DE&S?
"We have everything. I mean everything; from relatively new project managers on small items of equipment, right up to portfolio leaders delivering some of the UK’s largest projects. For example, we have teams looking at the 6th generation of fighter jets; the hugely impressive Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers; world-leading chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) technologies; complex weapons and missile systems; air traffic control systems and, of course, the iconic Chinook Helicopter.
"There is a lot to get excited about, a lot to challenge and motivate you and if delivering these projects doesn’t get you out of bed on a cold day, nothing will!"
What skills do you need to be a good project manager?
"Firstly, I think that project management is a wide field and is open to a rich and diverse range of skills, experience and abilities. The key for me is being organised, being inquisitive and, most importantly, being passionate about what you do."
Anyone who wants to make things better, see a change and make a difference would suit a PM role.
"A project manager needs to lead and must be comfortable being in a position that puts them at the very front of a situation, which can often be an uncomfortable position, so you need to be confident – but not arrogant.
"Anyone who wants to make things better, see a change and make a difference would suit a PM role, likewise, regardless of background, people who are driven to succeed and want to make a difference would gain a great deal of satisfaction in being a project manager.
"I have had the benefit of working for and with some amazing project managers, and one thing jumps out at me – they all have a great sense of humour, enjoy being with people and achieving against adversity."
What's a good entry point into project management?
"Project Management is a diverse field, drawing on equally diverse people from all backgrounds and experiences. Although you can absolutely start off your career as a Project Manager, the Civil Service and other industries have embraced the apprenticeship route.
"I personally think that having some wider experience first really helps - be it in an engineering and technical background or business and service background. Starting with a grounding and then moving into project management really helps and gives an extra layer of perspective.
"The most important aspect of being a good PM is leading people. People make a project successful, tools and techniques help, but team work, empowerment, followership and of course leadership are key to the result. Those that have worked in teams before can bring much-needed people orientated skills into working in and delivering complex projects."
What are the biggest perks of the job?
"I have been exceptionally fortunate; I have travelled across the world extensively, across North America to the deserts of Jordan. My earnings have allowed me to have the lifestyle that a young lad who started his career on a production shop floor “pushing two buttons," never thought was realistic.
What I am doing really makes a difference to the men and women who are defending and protecting our country.
"Despite all of this I have two perks I think of when it comes to my role and what it has given me. Firstly, I met my beautiful wife. If I hadn’t been a project manager in DE&S I never would have met her.
"The second point is the daily perk of knowing that what I am doing really makes a difference to the men and women who are defending and protecting our country. These men and women are either using the equipment I have procured, or they are identifying the next generation of improvements for new capabilities to keep people safer – it is incredibly rewarding, humbling and it is this that motivates me every single day."
Find out more on the Defence, Equipment and Support website.