We chat to a few Vodafone UK employees about how they mix their job with life in the armed forces...
We’re doing more than ever to support the armed forces. Having recently signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant, we’re making a promise to work with the forces to hire excellent former servicemen and women, as well as helping anyone in the Army Reserves make their required training days with flexible working hours.
And it’s much more than just a promise: its confirmation of an ethos we’ve had at Vodafone for a long time and it’s being backed up personally by UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp, who has a military background himself.
To find out what that all really means for the people who make our network tick, we’ve been speaking to just a few of the hundreds of Vodafone UK employees with ties to the armed forces about their experiences in mixing mobile tech with training…
‘Worth its weight in gold’
We only hire really excellent people, and we know that the armed forces are full of them. That’s why a growing number of our staff started their working lives in the services before joining our team. Equally, a lot of our full time employees love spending their free time training with the Reserves, which we actively encourage by helping them take time off and work flexible hours when they need to.
If that sounds like the kind of environment that’d suit you down the ground, you needn’t just take our word for it. Here’s a few of the guys to tell you about how life at Vodafone has helped them transition:
Ricky – Enterprise Solution Consultant
“I’m an ex-regular,” says Ricky. “I did 23 years in the Royal Signals, and I’m also now a reservist. I just can’t get enough of it! I joined the army in 1988, joining as an apprentice. I went through the apprenticeship scheme at the army apprentice college at Harrogate at the age of 16, straight from school. I’ve since served in several places around the globe: Germany, Iraq, Northern Ireland, and even an exercise in Canada, along with a variety of other places around Europe. I left the military in the highest rank you can reach as a soldier.
So with such a long history in the armed forces, how did Ricky transition after leaving?
People from the military are very driven and very motivated…
“People from the military are very driven and motivated, and they bring a lot in regards to teamwork, leadership skills and technical understanding, along with a will-to-win and satisfy the customer. But transitioning into a civilian job is about dipping your toes in the water,” he says. “You’ll go to a career transition workshop while you’re still with the military to try and help you move over.
“To be honest, you’ve just got to throw your hat in the ring and apply for a job. So I did apply for this job, and I was successful.
“I spent a couple of years after leaving working for a small electronics consultancy company, where I found it quite difficult to go through with my application for the Army Reserves; they didn’t have much of a background, so they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. I had to send them the Army Reserves policy! It was a bit difficult and the support that they could give was quite minimal.
“That’s very unlike what Vodafone gives you with things like time off for Reserve training,” he adds, adding that since starting with us he’s found balancing his career and his army life a lot easier:
“I think Vodafone is really supportive. My manager is very supportive, too – he’ll even put things into a military context for me to help me understand! But I think the biggest thing is time: being given that extra bit of time so that you’re not taking all your own annual leave. That extra week to be able to attend is invaluable, because it allows me to balance the Army Reserves with my own leave with my family. That’s worth its weight in gold to me.”
Claire – Terminals Planning Manager
“He’s just leaving but he’s been in the army for the past 17 years.” says Claire, talking about her husband. “The army supports quite strongly with career transition workshops and partnerships, and they offer a lot of training for people as they leave as well.” Claire may not be in the armed forces herself then, but she understands more than most the demands it can put on people, and why employers need to be supportive:
“I don’t control where we live. We live where my husband’s job is, so for me, being close to work can be extremely difficult. At the moment I live in Suffolk, through no planning on my own part, that’s where he’s posted at the moment, but I’ve been exceptionally lucky with the support I’ve had from my team and the company.
“Vodafone and my managers over the years have been really understanding of the difficulties that I’ve encountered,” she explains. “For example, when he went away for six months and then came back, he was granted three weeks leave. I hadn’t seen him for a long period, so my manager said that I could take that time off as well to spend with him.
“Vodafone has been very accommodating and helpful,” Claire adds. “I think it’s important for everyone to support the armed forces, and there’s a big skill base in the armed forces that Vodafone could really benefit from, so it’s great to see the company standing up and offering support.”
Tom – Contract Specialist
“I’m going through the process of joining the Army Reserves right now,” says Tom, “in the shape of 4Para, which is the reserve battalion for the Parachute Regiment. I was all ready to go to the regular Parachute Regiment but at the same time I had a chance to join Vodafone too. They offered me a job and I thought I’d better step back and reassess things. I realised I could join the reserves whilst still having a job and a good career at Vodafone, so I thought that would be the best of both worlds.”
For Tom, then, being in the army has always been part of the plan: “I’ve got friends and family who have served in the military or who are there, so I’ve been around that culture and atmosphere for a long time. And also the lifestyle appeals to me – the fitness element. Fitness is a big part of my life so it seemed like a good way to combine that. I think that’s a common thing for a lot of people.
““The Army Reserves require nine weekends of training a year,” he explains. “That won’t impact my job at all, but then every Tuesday night there’s training in London. And Phase 2 training culminates in a constant 2 week training period at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, which consists of the Combat Infantryman’s Course and the Parachute Regiment’s specialist course, P-Company. Once that’s completed then the next step is undertaking a 2 week parachute course at RAF Brize Norton. I’ve had very encouraging conversations about that with my immediate line managers. They’ve all been very supportive, telling me that it all sounds great and that I should go for it. They’ve let me make up the time by coming in slightly earlier, giving me the option to get an earlier train to make it to training.
“That’s important because if people are trying to do it, and if there are those chances in the military, they need to be actively encouraged and told that they can go for it without fear of putting their jobs under threat. It’s really important that those people are supported to train thoroughly and effectively,” he says. “Initially, I wasn’t sure how that would pan out, but once I saw the corporate covenant being signed I thought that the timing had worked out really well here.”
Stephen – Engineer
I left school at 16 and joined the boys’ service,” says Stephen, “going into the Royal Corps of Signals. I then spent 23 years and 47 days in the army. I came into Vodafone via Cable & Wireless with the job I went into, which is still what I’m doing now: fixed line network operations. I remember that at the time there were a lot of ex-armed forces there already. There were even one or two there that I’d served with at one time or another!”
“Adapting to civilian life is the hardest part,” he tells us. “Because you’re coming from this ingrained ‘black or white’, strict disciplined mentality to the more relaxed civilian side.” Luckily, Stephen’s found the support offered at Vodafone UK to be really helpful:
In Vodafone there’s a lot of support primarily for the ex-forces
“In Vodafone there’s a lot of support primarily for the ex-forces, but also for those in the Army Reserves. It’s been very, very supportive environment. There’s certainly a big military presence here, and the company supports the reservists and those in the TA with time off and everything else they need, and that’s very commendable.”
And, like a lot of his colleagues, Stephen believes that that kind of help is beneficial to both parties: there are a lot of skilled and experienced people out there that Vodafone could use,” he says. “So it’s great that with the signing of the Corporate Covenant, Vodafone is becoming much better known within the Armed Forces.”
Here at Vodafone UK we’re always on the lookout for people who will be leaving the armed forces with specialist signals or engineering skills, from fibre network delivery to network planning. If you have these skills and think Vodafone could the workplace for you, then visit our dedicated recruitment portal at careers.vodafone.co.uk and register your details and we’ll aim to match you to one of our specialist roles.
More on the armed forces… Check out how Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp’s military background made him the man he is today right here. Or you can find out exactly what signing the Corporate Covenant means to Vodafone here.