Being a Royal Engineer reservist and Project Manager at Mace

Mace’s Jonathan Hancock, Project Manager in our Consultancy arm of the business, spent 12 years in the Royal Engineers before joining Mace. However, he never actually left the military, remaining as an active reservist, training all over the world and learning skills that benefit both his civilian and military careers.

I spent 12 years in the Army’s Royal Engineers; training as a soldier first, then a combat engineer and also as an electrician. My career was varied like many others. From close support for the Royal Marines in Afghanistan, to implementing water supplies for training battle groups in Kenya, to technical training and instructor roles in the UK, my final role was working in the operations office of a high readiness unit, helping to deploy people across the world for disaster relief and joint nation training exercises, while also maintaining competency of soldiers for standby domestic operations.

I enjoyed my army career for a lot of reasons. The variety of experience and necessity to adapt to new challenges was exciting, and the benefit of leadership and management training was exceptional. I also relished the camaraderie; working in teams to see very tangible, worthwhile outputs and outcomes felt very rewarding. These are the reasons why I wanted to keep an active role in the Armed Forces, as a serving reservist.

It was clear to me from the outset of my employment with Mace that the company could see the benefit of my military training and experience. It’s a substantial commitment to be a reservist and, without my manager’s knowledge of this, I might have been concerned about the perception of my involvement. However, I joined just as Mace signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant, which gave me the confidence to be active in my reserve service, safe in the knowledge that it would be encouraged.

The commitment and sacrifice of time required to be a reservist is, in my opinion, well worth the benefits. These benefits are varied and include interlinked personal and professional positives. For instance, you’re able to build networks of professional contacts, as well as a group of likeminded friends. Within my team in the 170 Engineer Group there are civil, environmental, mechanical and geotechnical engineers, quantity surveyors and architects. There are also specialist teams that include experts in rail, air, ports, water, power and fuel infrastructure. So, apart from being professionally interesting, these are a motivated and proactive bunch of people, that I’m developing strong relationships with by participating in demanding exercises and operations all over the world.

For example, last year my Annual Training Exercise (ATX) was in Gibraltar. My team and I were set a series of tasks – including feasibility studies, geotechnical surveys and design work – by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). We worked as a unit to overcome the challenges we were set, with our military experience of team working immediately kicking in and helping us achieve our goals. This year I look forward to our ATX in Cyprus.

Having been part of the Military for many years now, it’s the leadership and management exposure which stands out for me. These are skills that I use every day at Mace and they make me a better Project Manager. Whether you choose to pursue a career as a Commissioned Officer or a Non-Commissioned Officer, you’ll find the expertise and training opportunities in this area excellent. Furthermore, the skills I’ve acquired in this area include organisational, interpersonal, stakeholder management, problem solving and reporting; all of which augment my role at Mace very well. My military background allows me to approach tasks with vigour and determination, which means I get the job done.

On the more light-hearted side, there is also a lot of opportunity to take up sports or adventurous training. This extends from skydiving to skiing and, as someone who wholeheartedly advocates balance in life, these are great chances to achieve that.

There is a wide variety of reservist units that are seeking the right people for recruitment. These include infantry, engineers, I.T. specialists, linguists, educators and dog handlers to name but a few. Some units might require qualifications and experience but, once employed, the opportunities for development are superb. Even within a single unit you could become a medic, navigation specialist or physical trainer, and these sub-roles support the core training you will receive as a soldier. The commitment can be as little as 19 days a year, this works out at two weeks for the ATX and two weekends a year, but there is scope to do so much more. You are paid for your time, and if you achieve your annual competence objectives you are eligible for a tax-free bonus of over £1,800 after five years’ service. That’s certainly a perk of the role!

Mace’s paid leave for the Annual Training Exercise is very important to me. Without it, I don’t think I could balance my family commitments. The company’s support really does make the difference, allowing me to confidently run a parallel career as an Infrastructure Project Manager in the Army Reserve, alongside my career at Mace.