From Army Signals Corporal to Learning & Development Programme Co-ordinator
After joining the Army at 16, preparing for civilian life eight years later was a challenge for Marie Butler but she found her niche with construction giant Balfour Beatty.
Marie Butler joined the Army at 16. She spent eight years developing her skills in the Royal Corps of Signals. Her role was to provide secure cryptographic communications and information systems to the battlefield.
“I worked with masts and frequencies providing a network like British Telecom to the field serving in the Falkland Islands, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq. I also became a Military Physical Training Instructor (PTI) delivering physical training and development programmes ensuring soldiers and officers were fit for operations.”
As important were the personal skills Marie developed:
“I was continuously pushed to do more than I thought I was capable of, internalising the military code of conduct. This code of conduct has never left me, not even in civvie street, installing a sense of pride in all I do. Team work is a significant element in any soldier’s career and it is engrained in to you to successfully complete all tasks in a timely, effective and efficient manner. The Army installs a moral compass, building on integrity, determination and self-confidence.”
But the transition to civilian life was not easy:
“There was no real transitional period – one minute I was running around the desert in Iraq with an SA80 and the next I was walking around the aisles in Asda with shopping bags! I didn’t feel there was any support really and so for a long while my mind remained in survival mode. I looked for employment but struggled to find anything similar to what I was doing in the forces, struggled with not feeling I was needed or feeling a strong sense of team work and camaraderie. I wanted the adrenaline fix, a job that needed done and done with precision. I had a genuine desire to join a ‘hands on’ industry but no idea where to start.
“Joining the Army as a child and leaving as an adult was scary enough: employment and finding a home were two of the most daunting aspects. I would have liked to have been found by employers, I would have liked for my time in service to feel like it was worth something. I had a vast amount of experience and discipline and a definite thirst to excel in civvie street in a performance-driven industry – sadly this all seemed wasted on departure from the Army. I would have liked for all soldiers leaving the forces to be invited to ex-Service career fairs to help with the biggest frightner to anyone facing civvie street!
“Many years later I suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to my involvement with operational tours. It was made apparent part of the ‘trigger’ was due to the lack of accomplishment, the lack of success and the prosaic culture which civilian street seemed to offer.”
Marie has now found a role that offers what she was looking for:
“I joined Balfour Beatty less than 6 month ago. I was offered the role of learning and development administrator in the Learning and Development department at Balfour Beatty. I then applied for, and got, a promotion to learning and development programme co-ordinator.
“I work with graduates ensuring a high level of data integrity is maintained at all times by keeping and maintaining accurate programme records in a variety of forms, anything from collating and analysing data to escalating performance concerns.
“Every day offers a different challenge and I work very much in the time and moment dealing with queries imminently, thinking on my feet, adapting and accommodating each potential scenario.”
Marie finds the analytical and organisational skills she learned in the Army invaluable in her current role evaluating data, interpreting information, prioritising and recording data and managing resources.
“The personal skills I have gained are that I am loyal and base myself on honesty and integrity. I have self-discipline and I am very structured. I am always punctual and certainly have a ‘can do – will do’ attitude.
“To anyone thinking about a career in construction I would say ‘go for it!’ Continue in civvie street as you did in the military, as part of a team working in a major project which affects one of the largest parts of the UK’s economy. Offer your skills, standards of quality and commitment to excellence to contribute to a successful, fulfilling and satisfying role in the construction industry.”