Ben Phillips

Manchester Airport Group

From SO2 Operations in a Combat Service Support Brigade to Delivery Lead at Manchester Airport

Ben spent eleven years in The Royal Welsh, an armoured infantry regiment, from September 2008 to September 2019 leaving as a Major.
His last role in service was SO2 Operations in 102 Logistic Brigade where he directed and managed the execution of Combat Service Support (CSS) tasks in support of operations, exercises, and other international and domestic military activities centred on 1st (UK) Division. This role also included support to wider Army tasks and other government departments. A typical day for Ben in his final military role started with morning updates from internal and external teams/stakeholders. He focused management on specific priority task lines, usually based around ensuring the correct resource packages were aligned and ready to support various activities. A part of the day was also usually apportioned to providing input into a range of planning efforts on specific medium to long term projects.

Ben’s military service has clearly given him a varied mix of hard and soft skills, ranging from project management, operations management, and leadership skills to softer communication and personnel management skills. These skills were used interchangeably daily, in numerous roles, throughout his time in the military. However, his biggest skill, was and remains to be the ability to adapt. Drawing upon previous experiences and applying the appropriate skillset to match the situation proved to be essential during his life in the military due to the lived experience of constant professional development and change. This has given him the ability to apply a range of skills in a dynamic, flexible, and appropriate manner to suit the task or output required in almost any given situation. Ben gained his current role as Delivery lead – Operations & Logistics, Manchester Airport Transformation Programme (MAN-TP) for the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) through the BuildForce Alliance and connections made with one of their partners from Jacobs.
He feels he was very fortunate during his transition as he had a very pragmatic Brigade Chief of Staff who enabled him, while ensuring he met all of his required outputs, to attend a vast range of OA, BuildForce and other transition based events. Most of these events positively reinforced a consistent stream of advice that helped guide him towards a successful transition. Attending a broad range of events and meeting as many people as possible helped inform him and thus shaped his transition.

The transition from the Military to ‘Civvy Street’ can often be challenging as Ben explains:

“Personally, the biggest challenge was making the early switch from thinking selflessly to having a more selfish approach. Running against the value of selfless commitment, I needed to transition in mindset. The mindset of prioritising my transition while deprioritising but balancing the needs of the role I was in, required me to establish agreement with key stakeholders and manage my time and effort in a considerate manner. While attending various events I always took the time to hear as many voices of experience from those who have completed their transition as possible. In my opinion these interactions are always valuable, even if the person’s sector or specific job role does not interest you, there is normally a golden nugget to be found or a good level of advice to be harnessed.”

Ben’s current role at MAG requires him to lead the planning and management of all logistic operations in support of a £1.2 billion development programme, including large scale construction projects, in a complex and live operational airport environment. He is the lead manager for logistics on the programme with the overall responsibility for enabling a vast range of activities. A typical day involves planning for future activities within the programme; managerial oversight of all planned and live efforts to enable progress; Director level interactions to inform decision making and reporting on performance. Ben believes skills such as planning, project management, stakeholder management and communication skills learnt in the military has enabled him to succeed in his new role. The ability for skills developed in the military to be transferrable has not been a surprise to him, based on the anecdotal feedback of others before him. However, it is the combination of these skills, mixed with the military work ethic and a pragmatic and proactive approach, that has
made a notable positive impact.

When asked what advice he would give to someone leaving the Armed Forces and seeking a new career in construction, he replied:
“Speak to as many people as possible but try and speak to these people at bespoke transition events (it helps focus their energy and advice). Networking is just a series of targeted but pleasant and human conversations, less of a science and more of an art. Be honest with yourself. What are you good at? What are you not good at? What do you enjoy? What do you not enjoy? Where, in terms of geography, do you need to work within? If you can answer these questions early on, you can inform those that would give you advice,
helping to guide you onto a positive but realistic path. I would encourage all of those leaving the military to have confidence in their abilities, whatever your experience and background; I did not have a construction background, or experience of working in an Airport, before moving into the industry and my specific role. Most of us had little real experience of the military before we joined but we still pushed ourselves forward. Establish effective communications with BuildForce, maintain the relationship with your assigned mentor, branch out into other support organisations to complement BuildForce’s guidance.”

And finally, when asked to use three words to describe 1.) a career in the construction industry and 2.) an Ex-Military person to a recruiter from the construction industry, he replied:

“1.) Tangible, complex and dynamic. 2.) Adaptable, professional and motivated!”