Hannah Calland is one of NCUB’s 50 Under 30 network of future leaders under the age of 30. Here she answers questions about her experience at BAE

 bae graduates

Before joining BAE what you thought of the engineering & manufacturing sector?

Before joining BAE Systems I hadn’t really considered a career in the defence industry, or even in the engineering & manufacturing sector. I always assumed it was more of a ‘male’ area and that there weren’t any career paths that didn’t directly involve hands-on engineering.

What influenced you to join the organisation?

I never really knew what I wanted to do after leaving school – I was even hesitant to pursue A-Levels but as I was academic it seemed like the right choice. I studied at a local sixth form college and did A-Levels in English Language, Biology, Business Studies and an AS Level in Fine Art, with no real idea about what I would do after I completed them. A well-known quote from designer Diane Von Furstenberg applied well; ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman that I wanted to be’. I saw myself as a hardworking person, and was driven to be successful – although admittedly I envisioned myself in a creative role, maybe merchandising or magazine editing. I was encouraged by my college to submit my university applications, although I was worried about the choices I was facing – I was unsure about financially supporting myself through a degree I wasn’t really passionate about, which led me to continually question whether I was choosing the right course, and was also concerned about the growing number of people leaving without jobs after graduating university.

As I was drafting my university applications, BAE Systems came to talk to students about the Project Control Foundation Scheme (PCFS) and what they could offer as an employer. It was the first time I considered working in the engineering sector – the presentation was very much focused on the Project Management element of the company (which related to my Business Studies A-Level) and so I wasn’t overwhelmed by the engineering / technical side to what the company does. The opportunity to begin a career in a global organisation and study for a relevant degree (funded by the business) seemed to provide a competitive advantage against other graduates, particularly in the economic climate. I left the presentation feeling confident that I had found what I was going to do, and put all my efforts into the application.

What have you found most interesting?

I think the sheer size of the company is interesting – the fact that I could go into so many different avenues within the same business is definitely an appealing factor. The placements I undertake with the scheme are all tagged as Project Management; however they’re still very diverse – to date I’ve worked on Typhoon support contracts alongside the Procurement function, had a governance role within Business Operations, and an Earned Value Management role on F-35 Supply Chain.

The company infrastructure is also vast – the Warton site I work on is almost like a small town, with coffee shops, a bank, and even a dentist located on site. Even though I’m not involved with the physical engineering of BAE Systems products, walking through the final assembly hangar or watching a combat aircraft take off on the runway is always inspiring.

What have you found most challenging?

When I joined the scheme I was aware that it would be challenging, which I wasn’t afraid of. At times it has been difficult to juggle university assignments, exams, industry-relevant qualifications (such as the APM certification) and busy periods at work, sometimes all within the same week! Time management has become a main focus of my life as a result – it would be far too difficult to cope if I wasn’t organised. It also helps that the scheme coordinators act as a good point of contact for any queries we have or problems we are facing, and try to provide support wherever possible.

On a personal level, it was difficult starting a career at 18 years old when your friends are going to university. As much as you try to still be involved in social events with students, and earning a good salary enables you to do so, you can still sometimes feel that you are missing out on the ‘university experience’ and that you have grown up quite quickly. Phone calls at 2am on a Tuesday morning are not appreciated when you have to wake up 4 hours later!

What’s been the biggest surprise? (pleasant or otherwise!)

Although it has been difficult feeling that I sometimes have less in common with my friends who went to university full time, I was pleasantly surprised that I met an entirely new group of friends through joining the company. While others were on fresher’s weeks, we still managed to organise social events, and now most of my best friends are those I met on the scheme. As the scheme is such a unique experience, it’s good to have people close to you who understand the pressures and are going through the same thing with the same busy schedules.

What are your future plans?

When joining the company, I had no real idea what the job might entail, but threw myself into it and have tried to maximise the experience and skills from each of my placements. I found that I enjoyed Project Management, and was beginning to form a clearer idea of where I wanted to work.

From a previous placement in Typhoon Export, I learnt that I enjoy the dynamic environment of bid work and also am interested in the political aspect to what we do, and so asked to come back for my fourth year in a different role. I’m currently working on an Export bid team, including strong involvement in the Industrial Collaboration element of the business.

When I finish the scheme in 2015, I hope to graduate with a first-class honours degree, and pursue opportunities to work overseas – something that is made possible working at BAE Systems. My focus is definitely on Business Development and Export work, although as I have one more placement left to undertake in 2014, there is certainly scope for all of that to change!

Find out more about our 50 under 30 project. What’s your reaction to Hannah’s experience? Tweet us @NCUBtweets or comment below.