Blog written by Meg Naylor, NPF Chair

September’s Development Series webinar saw Dr Helen Almey, Head of Capability Engagement – National Security, within the ADS Group, sharing her views on transferable skills and the security sector.

As a Forum, we have previously welcomed Helen to speak at NPF’s annual conference in 2022, and to start our conversation in the Development Series, she reflected on two key takeaways from this experience:

  1. The admiration that she had for the New Professionals community, in their dedication and drive for personal development.
  2. The challenge that people had around understanding and defining the Security industry.

Helen shared her definitions of Defence and Security, to help us explore some of the differences and similarities:

  • The Defence Sector provides the technology and services to allow Governments to protect the nation by providing capabilities to their Armed Forces. Helen reflected that the Defence Sector often has a clear, military end customer with defined, Government-led budgets and distinctive procurement routes. The nature of Defence Programmes tend to be larger, complex and more high value, lengthy Programmes, and Prime Industry’s typically have a significant role. In addition, the supply chain may be long and complex.
  • The Security Industry is comprised of companies involved in the protection of people, property and information, in the non-military national security space. Instead of a clear end customer, the security sector may have end users in National Government, emergency services, first responders or the private sector. Budgets are generally smaller and from diverse sources, and there can be many procurement routes. Programmes are generally smaller and shorter, and Prime Industry’s may have a role but also may not. In contrast to Defence, the supply chain tends to be shorter.

Helen also reflected that these are not mutually exclusive sectors, and there is significant overlap between environments and technologies.

Helen shared her thoughts on why transferable skills are important. In a dynamic, changeable world, it is important to have options in terms of your skills and interests. Helen reflected on the influence of geopolitical events on her career, and the impact that these things had on her direction. She also shared the value in being able to adapt to life circumstances, and the importance of flexibility in your ambition and outlook.

Looking at the Security sector specifically, Helen shared her view on why the Security sector is a good place to develop your career and transferable skills. There is a huge amount of diversity across the sector, with different customers requiring different skillsets. There is a range of end users, including Industry, Government and the front-line community and this provides an exciting challenge in terms of working styles, pace and scope. Helen emphasised the importance of SMEs in the Security sector, and the opportunity that SMEs offer in terms of new professionals potentially being trusted with more responsibility and having greater visibility. Ultimately, the Security sector was highlighted as a place that people can make a significant impact on crucial global matters.

Helen also took some time to highlight Resilience, as an additional sector of huge importance. Resilience was defined as being the response to incidents, whether they are man-made or natural, to restore normality to the population. Helen shared some examples of resilience threats in the financial, political, natural, conflict and climate-related fields, and discussed the value that transferable skills and experience across Defence and Security sectors can bring to this lesser-known field.

From a fantastic and detailed talk, Helen’s key pieces of advice for the New Professionals community were:

  • To take every opportunity to learn and develop a breadth of skills and experiences.
  • To ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of being so focused on your end goal that you miss interesting opportunities along the way.
  • To explore how you can apply your existing skill-base to new environments and challenges.
  • To apply for a role that you are passionate about, even if you are worried that you are being too ambitious. Helen shared the mantra, ‘The only job you’re not going to get is the one you don’t apply for’, and reminded the audience that they should take time to understand how their skills apply directly and indirectly to new roles.
  • Finally, the more transferable skills you have and recognise, the wider your options are.

The New Professionals Forum would like to thank Helen for her insightful talk, and look forward to welcoming members of the community to the next in our Development Series webinars:

Don’t miss out and sign up now!