To start with, an introduction – I’m Cait. I work in Technology Strategy and Planning for the Air Sector of BAE Systems. I’m passionate about progressing new technologies and my role revolves around helping new ideas get into our mainstream business. I finished the company’s engineering graduate scheme in August and have since been getting my teeth into my exit role.

Millennial Think tank

Alongside my day job, I lead a Millennial Think Tank within BAE Systems, a group of graduates and apprentices (and those who have recently come off the schemes) who use our free time to progress ideas and champion change that we want to see in the business. As part of this, we’ve been trying to improve relationships with our partner companies from an earlier stage in our careers to support both collaboration and retention, which lead us to the New Professionals Forum (NPF). I’ll be taking half an hour at the next NPF event in March to introduce our Millennial Think Tank so if you’d like to know more about how we set it up and what we do, please come along!

Two of the drivers for a Millennial Think Tank are to both harness and provide an outlet for enthusiasm, and to get new professionals excited about being part of our industry. We want to have a say about the future of the industry that we’ll be one day leading. We can do this through speaking with larger forums (such as the Defence Growth Partnership) and through building a voice within our own companies by making recommendations about where we think our industry should go and listening to senior responses to our ideas. For me, if even one of our ideas is something that senior leaders want to support new professionals to develop, that’s a win! Through this feedback loop, we’ll be supporting senior leadership, engaging with our industry, and receiving mentor-like direction on our ideas so we can all develop, progress, and be ready to carry our industry forward when our time comes.

Forest of the Future

At the NPF event back in November, we ran an activity in the afternoon – the ‘Forest of the Future’. The spirit of the challenge was a first go at a futures activity, where you look at the future you want and work backwards to see what you need to be doing now in order to achieve that future. We proposed 8 questions about the future and received a variety of great ideas, with a significant amount being about a greener future. Overall, it went well. We achieved our aims of gathering some potential solutions to the challenges we proposed and had people talking over both sensible and whacky ideas. We had a great range of people from different roles and backgrounds that provided different perspectives on the challenges. All of the ideas have been captured into a PDF pack that’s hosted here. The team also learnt for next time that we need to get everyone together to explain the task before setting everyone off to complete it –I think the demos and food were too good to drag people away from!

One thing I noted during the session was that people seemed to comment that they thought their ideas weren’t good enough to be captured, either because they thought they were too far-fetched or not thought through enough. Here’s a different perspective, if you don’t think your qualified enough to say that an idea is good, what makes you think that you’re qualified enough to say that an idea is bad? Almost every idea has a spark of something good that just needs to be identified and drawn upon. We should be encouraging a culture of innovation across our businesses, and to do this we need to encourage lots of ideas, both whacky and sensible, in order to allow us to converge onto the best ones. To be innovative, we need a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds, and skills and we need to be bold in order to succeed. We need the advice of senior leaders to put credibility behind the ideas and it’s in this collaboration where we think innovation will flourish. We’re not expecting one idea to change the world but I have no doubt that one of your ideas will be an excellent starting point from which to try. So for next time… all ideas are good ideas!

NPF Innovation days

In the coming year, the NPF will be setting up new standalone events to specifically help encourage innovation across industry. NPF Innovation Days will have limited availability so a smaller enthusiastic group can focus on a topic. At the last NPF event, we asked attendees to suggest topics so we’ll use a couple of these to try and get more great conversations going across our events:

  • New & alternative sources of energy
  • Global Britain
  • Job sustainability & security past AI age
  • Global resource management (food, water, power, etc)

Outcomes from these days can then be progressed through your own businesses or be taken forward as collaborative activities for the future. Remember, all suggestions are welcome for new topic ideas or more solutions to the questions, just drop an email to Fred Sugden, the NPF Facilitator, below. We need to make sure that what we do is useful to everyone so please let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see at a future event.
See you in March!

The next event will take place on 27th March 2018 at QinetiQ Farnborough.

If you would like to know more about the NPF or get involved, please contact Frederick Sugden (NPF Facilitator).

This blog was written by Caitlin Percy