From Rifles Captain to Project Manager
Captain Matthew Bartlett served six years with the Rifles and gained leadership, stakeholder management and decision-making skills that stand him a good stead every day as a Project Manager for LendLease.
When Matthew Bartlett left the Army in 2015, he was an Infantry Officer with 3rd Battalion The Rifles. His last role was as Company Second-in-Command, responsible for the training and operational effectiveness of around 90 soldiers.
Leading a platoon or a company on exercise and on operations, working with soliders, civilians, contractors, other militaries, the media, all at the same time, knowing when to make a quick decision and when to ask for advice and deliberate and understanding the importance of deadlines – being somewhere or providing information on time could be the difference between mission success and failure – are all skills I learned in the Army and use every day in my role as Project Manager, managing a site for a client.
It is my job to ensure that a site maintains its programme, budget and all work is carried out safely within given guidelines. This can be during the pre-construction phase and involve contract negotiation and design issues or during construction, managing a principal contractor. A typical day might involve me working from the office or from a project site as appropriate. Meetings are commonplace, either with clients to backbrief them on progress and outstanding issues or with site teams to push forward projects. I am usually working on more than one project so managing and prioritising my workload is key.
Matthew found his job through a friend who worked at Lendlease who put him in contact with the right person: ‘I had an interview, undertook a few days’ work experience and then started as a Construction Manager. I moved to my current role through applying via an internal jobs board and formal interview.
The ex-military network was very supportive during my transition to civvy street. It seemed that whichever industry I was interested in would have ex-mil personnel who were willing to chat and help where possible.
The biggest challenge I faced was proving that I was a suitable candidate despite not having any sector experience. Lots of potential employers will not realise the added value in hiring an ex-mil employee because they can’t see past a lack of perceived technical expertise. I personally believe this is very short-sighted and that most ex-mil personnel will thrive if they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their ability.
The transition process is very challenging but the current processes and organisations are very helpful. There needs to be a more positive message surrounding veterans and their mental wellbeing. It is a false perception that veterans are somehow ‘damaged goods’ and need nurturing and support. This may be the case for some but on the whole I believe that military experience enriches people’s lives and makes them a more rounded, grounded employee who can manage situations without cracking under pressure.
My advice to those transitioning is don’t undersell yourself. While you may not have experience in construction, you will likely have had more training in leadership and management than your corporate equivalents. Furthermore, you have experience of adapting to new environments and learning new skills which means you will acclimatise to your new career quickly.