Project manager Steven Hepburn says his career with BAE Systems has him involved in every aspect of an operation!
Steven Hepburn, 29, is a project management graduate at BAE Systems. He joined the company in 2013 after completing a masters degree in international business at the University of Glasgow. He also has a BA in international business from Glasgow Caledonian University.
Why did you decide to become a project manager?
I had a light-bulb moment during my masters. We did a crash course on project management and I realised it was what I wanted to do. After my BA I worked for a small company and then ran my own business for a while. I really enjoyed the variety – I’d be dealing with customers one day, doing finance the next, then working to solve a problem. That was exactly what appealed about project management – you can get involved in everything without having to specialise in just one area.
What attracted you to BAE Systems?
It seemed to be one of the top companies for project management graduate training, and I was inspired by the range of things it does; I thought it would give me the variety I was looking for. I also liked the idea of a company that produces something real and tangible – a new ship, say, or an upgraded vehicle – and, as a multinational, BAE Systems offers opportunities to work abroad.
What does the graduate training scheme involve?
It’s a two-year programme that sees most people do four placements of about six months each. I started at Portsmouth Naval Base in the project controls team for a ship refurbishment. Working with experts, you learn not only what to do but the right way to do it. I then went home to Glasgow to be part of a Naval Ships project management team, rolling out a competency assessment tool. This was an entirely different project – very people-oriented – that enabled me to interact with a wide spectrum of professionals across the business.
Where are you now?
I’m back at Portsmouth on my third placement, helping to prepare for the arrival of the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2017. I was keen to take on more responsibility, so I got myself a three-quarter-million-pound warehouse redevelopment project to run. I’ve had to create the business case to obtain funding, engage with all the stakeholders, liaise with subcontractors and so on. It’s a full project manager role, with full accountability, although I’ve had a lot of help and support, of course.
You sound as though you’re thriving?
I really am. The graduate scheme is everything I thought it would be and more. I enjoy working in a large organisation that’s so supportive of young people and where I can always ask for more experience and responsibility. As well as project management training, there’s a lot of personal development training to help you grow as an individual. It also means that you don’t feel as if you’re just another staff member for BAE Systems.
Your next step?
My wife works near Boston, US, so I applied to do my final placement at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence in the city and they accepted me. I’ll be working alongside a team of project managers to roll out some revolutionary new software to combat fraud and organised crime. Again, it’s very different from what I’ve done before, but BAE Systems’ philosophy with project management graduates is to train us to manage a variety of projects across different sectors, so the skills I’ve developed are fully transferable. All I have to do now is show them it’s worthwhile to keep me on in Boston when my graduate training finishes. Otherwise my wife will never forgive me!
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