Why ex-military personnel are a perfect fit for operations management by ex-RAF engineering officer

Posted on Saturday, September 17, 2022 by Faye CoppNo comments

Craig Peckett, a former Communications and Electronics Engineering Officer in the Royal Air Force hit the ground running when he left after 16-years-service. We spoke to Craig back in 2016 when he landed a role at Chesterfield Cylinders as a sales engineer, quickly making his mark and in under 18-months he was Company Operations Manager. Here we talk about his military transition, his success - and why he believes ex-military engineers - and ex-military personnel in general, make great operations managers.


After 11 years ‘in the ranks’ and a further five years as an officer, Craig left the RAF in 2012 with some impressive career highlights. His most notable were serving three years as an engineer on the Red Arrows and commissioning in front of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. After serving in the RAF since he was 17, the transition process was daunting: “I didn’t really have a vocation in mind; I knew my abilities to lead, be part of a team and my hard-working attitude would benefit a manufacturing industry and I was willing to start from the bottom again for the right business,” Craig told SaluteMyJob.

craig peckett RAF

His first role was at Interserve as a regional sales manager and then as an education recruiter but Craig said, neither were for him. With the help of connections through SaluteMyJob, Craig landed his role at Chesterfield Cylinders as a sales engineer. “They are massive advocates of ex-forces there and they appreciated how military engineers’ minds worked,” said Craig. “I went from a salesperson to Company Operations Manager overseeing all production output in under 18 months. My logical mindset and ability to communicate effectively across all levels was of huge benefit.” 


Craig is now Operations Director at Sentry Doors after honing his managerial skills at Chesterfield Cylinders - but his military engineering skills and experience have also helped him get where he is today. Craig said: “Those skills helped greatly, the military teaches you subconsciously how to deal with difficult situations, how to adapt, overcome and problem solve. Military engineers are highly competent in taking on responsibility and finding solutions, it's embedded within your personality from day one. Most of us also master the art of compromise and know how to speak to people regardless of level, we work in a respectful manner and that is key in the civilian industry.” 

craig peckett

As Operations Director, Craig is directly and indirectly responsible for all procurement, technical, research and development, internal sales and production staff and processes, as well as being responsible for profit and loss and the site head of health and safety. His role has come with some challenging moments but Craig said he is proud of what he has accomplished so far, his highlights include: “Navigating through COVID without losing any staff to redundancies and ultimately increasing turnover that year, more than doubling turnover and output the following year. But my biggest accomplishment is taking the staff on the journey with me and developing them which in turn has seen all their salaries increase considerably.”


So why does Craig think ex-military personnel are a perfect fit for operations management? “They are logical, technically minded, and because of their ability to react quickly and effectively. Ex-military personnel are used to receiving orders and disseminating down the ranks. Communication both written and verbal is an absolute key in industry.”

So how do you get into operations management? Craig offers this valuable advice to serving, transitioning and former military personnel: “I would recommend they consider that to get into management they may need civilian engineering management experience and as such not to dismiss ‘lesser’ roles initially.  Starting an engineering-based degree is great for the CV but many want experience.  A project management qualification is always advantageous as well as enhanced excel/word packages. Be open to new opportunities, be clear of the path you hope to take and sell yourself, it's not arrogance, it's confidence.”  

Want to find out more about operations management? Read our ultimate guide to getting into operations management here. And to search and apply for project, operations and engineering management roles, click here.

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