From Army Colonel to Chief of Staff

Nick Channer served in the Army for 35 years. He joined as an Infantry Officer in 1982, and his most recent role was Chief of Staff in the headquarters for the British Army in Germany, where he led on policy, planning and governance. The role included coordinating a 250-strong staff, managing organisational and cultural change, security and business continuity, IT and communications services, risk management, and representation in a foreign country at the most senior level.

Nick describes his typical day as: “…one of of multiple spinning plates and a broad sweep from the strategic to the very practical and urgent.”

The stand out skills he took from his military career are leadership, strategy & planning, and the ability to straddle the strategy-executive boundary, facilitating the collaborative execution of a plan into action.

While networking at an Officer’s Association event, Nick found out about the BuildForce scheme. He explains:

“I had never considered working in the construction/security industry – I imagined that only those from the military with an engineering background would be suitable. Buildforce opened my eyes to the broader possibilities, and enabled me to see that my skills might be transferable and made a series of introductions which led me to my current position.”

Nick also attended a CTP workshop which laid the foundations for his transition, and the IoD Certificate in Company Direction, both of which, along with meeting other successful transitioners, he found useful and supportive.

Key challenges he found during the transition to ‘civvy street’ included; convincing employers of the transferability of his skills as they would tend to play it safe when recruiting, learning to network effectively, and maintaining personal morale and focus:

“I was glad of the advice to treat finding a job like a job, and followed a working routine which included PT – but also allowed some time for much needed DIY round the house!”

and finally, what advice would he give to someone leaving the Armed Forces and considering a new career in construction?

“It is a busy and exciting area with the most varied opportunities – far wider than you might think and with an openness to Service Leavers as people with transferable skills. Of course, it is very suitable for with those with an engineering background, but others should consider it too.”

Nick successfully started in a new role of Chief of Staff at Wilson James Ltd, one of the BuildForce Alliance founding partners, in June 2018.

Tom Scott
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