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Long before I joined Co-op, I spent 7 years in the Royal Navy as a Warfare Officer, initially in the Surface Fleet then in the Submarine Service. I decided to leave and change career in 2016 in order to achieve a better home/life balance.

A new beginning

As the only full-time job I had ever known, leaving the Forces was daunting and a big challenge. I found that it was very difficult explaining my skills and experience to those in the industry who didn’t have a military background. And when it came to interviews, I didn’t have any demonstrable experience in a business setting. I decided that delivering change in the technology space was what I wanted to focus on, so I joined an ex-forces scheme run by an IT consultancy. The courses they offered provided me with the relevant industry recognised qualifications, but they also taught me how to explain my experience in a way that was applicable and relatable.

Using my whole skillset

After 2 ½ years contracting for a major public sector employer, I decided to seek out a permanent role. Co-op immediately jumped out at me as an organisation with comparable values and core principles to the forces and public sector, so it seemed like a good fit. I was worried that only having a couple of years of project management experience might put me at a disadvantage compared to other candidates, but Co-op really valued the skills and experience I brought as a package, and even committed to supporting me with further professional development opportunities.

One of the aspects I had to consider when I decided to work in a more formal business setting is the uncertainty as to whether the job will provide that same level of intensity, pressure and motivation which I used to thrive under in the Navy. But there is an amazing amount of change going on at Co-op and I’ve been lucky enough to work on several high value, high impact technology transformation projects in my time here so far. The skills that I brought with me, like rational problem solving, calmness under pressure and the ability to adapt my capacity, have really helped me in my role at Co-op - especially during the first few months of the pandemic.

Learning and growing at Co-op

I feel I’ve really developed professionally while working at Co-op. It’s an organisation where everyone looks out for each other, the role is fast paced and rewarding, and I really enjoy it - I’m still learning new things every day. Co-op was one of the few employers that had flexible working arrangements long before COVID-19 made it mandatory – they really do look out for their colleagues.

If you’re thinking of applying for a role but are worried that you don’t have years and years of experience, my advice would be don’t be put off. Co-op considers all of the skills you can bring to the team, and they will recognise your true potential.

Andrew Livingstone
Project Manager