From Marine Engineering Technician to Project Manager
Darren spent nearly 29 years in the Royal Navy from May 1990 to November 2018. He first served as an Artificer Apprentice, later becoming a Warrant Officer 1 Technician in 2006. His roles included Engineering, Operations and Project Manager and Unit Warrant officer in various capacities both on operations and in Navy HQ and Engineering Support Units. Darren specialised in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and was a Ship Structural Specialist until becoming a Warrant Officer where he took the role as Propulsion Manager, responsible for whole department management and electrical distribution and ship’s propulsion systems.
His later career involved Project and Programme management, Career Manager and Operations Manager roles in Navy HQ and Engineering Support Units within a Naval Dockyard. Darren’s Project Management skills were clearly honed during his time in the Royal Navy as he describes a typical working day in his most recent role within the Armed Forces:
Daily management of a Multi- disciplinary Engineering Support Unit, enabling front line engineering support to ship in home and foreign ports. Enabling the training and development of up to 180 Technicians of all ranks and facilitate the structural growth of the unit as it worked with Industry Partner agencies and Ships teams to carry out small to medium engineering project repairs and maintenance support. Operations management of dormant ships ensuring all safe systems or work, defect and maintenance repairs and contractor control are managed across multiple vessels.
Additionally, Darren explains the skills he learned while serving:
• Strong Leadership and Team building skills; able to lead large teams of junior personnel or work within a multi skilled hierarchical team in projects or programmes.
• Developed planning and co-ordination both at sea on military operations or as a support role both in Engineering, personnel and plant management and logistics.
• Deadline and delivery focused mindset that enabled quick decision making to reach goals in short timescales often with few resources.
• Good stakeholder management skills utilised both in military operations contexts but also as part of a strategic change programme and project management during ship repairs, upgrades and refit periods.
Darren gained his current role as Project Manager for Faithful & Gould through a BuildForce insight event where he met a representative from F&G. This discussion consequently led to interviews and a permanent job offer.
The transition from the Military to ‘Civvy Street’ can often be challenging as Darren explains:
“Initially, being unsure of what field or sector I wanted to work in but once I decided that Construction would a good opportunity the advice from the people I met through BuildForce enabled me to narrow down where I might best fit. Not having conducted any job searching or even having a CV as I joined the Navy straight from school in 1990. Everything was new and had to be learned or experienced for the first time. Being in busy roles during my final year of service meant that the best and most concentrated transition activities were left to the last 4 months of service and 3 months after leaving.”
Darren explains what helped most with these various challenges during this transition phase:
“The networking opportunities, time and advice given along with work placements arranged through BuildForce. Advice from many ex-Military personnel I met, especially within Construction and BuildForce but also general transition advice from Career Transition Partnership (CTP) and companies I met at events. Darren’s current role at F&G involves working as Project Manager within a Project Management consultancy working with clients to deliver their project goals and often working within a framework arrangement.”
In Darren’s own words a typical day might involve the following:
• Daily on-site contractor control, stakeholder engagement and health and safety control with projects I am managing.
• Making or enabling decision points to be reached with contractors and clients around the issues that occur.
• Design and concept meetings for current and future projects.
• Quotes, contract tendering, weekly updates on both client and contractor sides of projects.
• Stakeholder engagement with contractors, consultants and clients to enable well managed, controlled and cost-efficient projects.
• Project and cost management from concept to delivery and close out.
In order to facilitate his new role, Darren believes the following are skills directly transferrable from his time in the Military:
• Client facing presentational and meeting skills.
• Team orientated approach to getting tasks or projects completed.
• Deadline focused approach to delivery and prioritising.
• Health and Safety and Site Safety approach to work and contractor control.
• Project planning and co-ordination of a multi-layered work stream over more than one project
Working in the construction industry after serving in the Royal Navy for nearly 29 years has proved to be varied and challenging for Darren, but also extremely rewarding. From a personal perspective, he believes there are 3 key areas to focus on in order to succeed:
1. You must be dependable
2. You need to be approachable and team-oriented
3. Focused on deadline and delivery