Helen Haigh and Christiane Spencer both had military careers before becoming project managers and working for Tetra Tech. Helen also serves as a reservist. Here they talk about how they made the transition into civilian roles and how Tetra Tech supports its military family.
What is your role, how long have you been with the business and why did you come to Tetra Tech?
Helen: I have been a Project Manager at Tetra Tech for four years. I currently manage a programme of works to improve and refurbish Government Property Agency buildings and assets from Sheffield to the Shetlands. I saw that the defence sector is one of Tetra Tech’s main focusses in the UK (and overseas territories) so thought this would be a good match for me coming from a military background.
Christiane: I have been with the business since early 2019 and am involved in schemes being run out of our Lossiemouth project office from single living accommodation to a new air traffic control facility. Joining a team working on RAF projects with other ex-services colleagues meant that I didn’t have to leave behind the feeling of being part of a military family – only now I don’t have to go on exercise!
What role did you have in the military?
Helen: I served for 10 years in the Regular Army in the Royal Engineers. You manage a lot of soldiers through their trade training development which ultimately prepares you collectively for operational deployments. I feel very fortunate to have travelled to many places around the world due to my role in the Army. A lot of your training is accredited, and you have the opportunity to complete qualifications such as with APM.
Christiane: I was an engineering officer in the RAF leading a team of 120 people who worked on the Tornado GR4 aircrafts. I left the military in 2016 having done six years’ service. During this time I developed invaluable contract management, people management and organisational skills.
How has your military role helped you in your civilian role. What transferable skills have been valuable and how?
Helen: There are so many transferable skills you learn in military training that are equally as valuable in a civilian role. The main thing is to be organised but also communication skills when managing your client and stakeholders. In the military you learn what’s called mission analysis and apply the ‘so what’ to every task. I apply this every day. How will what I’ve been told affect my programme? What does that mean for costs? Is there an opportunity to expand my team? And don’t forget, you never stop learning.
Christiane: One of the key things I learnt managing such big groups in the RAF is that you need to have different approaches to dealing with different types of people to get the best results from everybody. They also throw you in at the deep end in the military so you learn very quickly to stay calm in stressful situations and think on your feet.
What support have you received from Tetra Tech and what support, resources and initiatives do they have in relation to supporting veterans and reservists?
Helen: Tetra Tech is a gold standard military covenant award holder which demonstrates the dedication the company has towards supporting veterans and reservists. I’ve had time off in the past to take part in Reservist exercises and (pre-covid) really enjoyed taking a fundraising walking team to the lakes to support Walking with the Wounded.
Christiane: My husband is still in the forces so can be required to move around for his work. Tetra Tech has been very supportive in allowing me to work wherever I need to in order to accommodate our military lifestyle even before the pandemic when flexible working has become more commonplace. They also have a great ex-forces community that supports one another.
Is there anything you have worked on or been involved in at Tetra Tech that has made you especially proud?
Helen: I’ve been proud to attend some of the Invictus Games trials that Tetra Tech sponsor and it was great to have the opportunity to take my line manager to the Houses of Parliament on Army Reserves Day.
Christiane: I think I am most proud to of the Single Living Accommodation project I am working on. Having lived in them myself I know how frustrating it can be when facilities are perhaps not up to standard and therefore, I know my work is helping to make things better for lots of service personnel.
Is there anything that you think is particularly unique or impressive about Tetra Tech as an employer?
Helen: It’s great that there is a military family weaved into the business and it’s so accessible to reach out to people. As a global company we also have so many opportunities to work overseas which is something I’ve always admired about the breadth of our business.
Christiane: I love the fact that we work in close knit teams and so really feel connected to our projects but we are also part of a large multi-disciplinary organisation with a range of capabilities that we can bring to our clients to support them.