Supporting you to build a career in consultancy

Dave Clark, Atkins’ Global Defence Sector Lead, outlines the support available for those considering using their capabilities to develop a career as a consultant.

As a former Ministry of Defence (MOD) employee, I know that a role in the armed forces allows you to develop incredible skills: teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, working under pressure and many more, plus technical expertise and capabilities across a range of domains. So, as you start to consider your transition to civilian life, why not bring those skills and capabilities to consultancy, where you’ll be using them to help deliver projects that are really making a difference across our society.

At Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, around 200 of our colleagues are part of our active and supportive ex-Services, reservists and cadet officer community. They are bringing their innovative ideas, and new ways of working to help our clients overcome complex challenges – their valuable experience and their commitment to solving problems is enabling us to deliver high-quality support across multiple sectors. But just as our veterans, reservists and cadets support our clients, we aim to support them too, through the transition to their new role and beyond.

Programmes for your personal development 
In 2014, we established a programme called Partnering with the Armed Forces (PwAF), as part of our wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion network (ED&I), signing the Armed Forces Covenant in 2015. The aim of PwAF is to support our services community within Atkins. It also hosts Military Insight Days at our offices to help service leavers and veterans transition into civilian life, and sends speakers to military recruitment events to share their experience of transitioning and offer support. Our commitment was recognised with Gold Employer Recognition Awards from the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme in both 2015 and 2020, and we have set up an alumni group of industry for recipients of the award to share knowledge and ideas to support ex-service, reservist and cadet personnel. In 2019, we were also presented with the Best Large Employer Company award at the Heropreneur Awards, which champion the remarkable achievements in business of Armed Forces veterans and spouses.

ED&I is hugely important to us, and we’re striving to be a leader in this area, not a follower. We employ people from a multitude of different cultures, and with different abilities, and have staff networks for groups to share their experiences, whether those are related to the military, LGBTQ+, faith, neurodiversity or gender. We’re committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive culture, where everyone is able to bring their true self to work, and can achieve their full potential. In the Defence arena, we’re proud signatories of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter and the Women in Defence Charter, with strict targets in place to transform our aviation and aerospace markets into more gender-diverse teams and to provide opportunities for women to succeed at the highest levels. Our gold sponsorship of the Defence Women’s Network Conference 2023 reflects our commitment to driving inclusion and diversity within our organisation, and to investing in our female employees at all career stages.

Mentoring at all levels
Mentoring schemes can help break down boundaries, improve communication, provide support and offer insight into others’ experiences. We encourage our veterans to mentor service leavers – whether they are joining Atkins or another organisation. Within the company, our schemes at Atkins deliver both ‘traditional’ mentoring and reverse mentoring – which pairs up people from different backgrounds, at different levels of experience, and in different roles, with early career professionals, who provide challenge, insight and different perspectives, through open and honest conversations in a psychologically safe environment. As well as providing those in leadership positions access, in a non-hierarchical way, to different views that may inform their decision making or help them understand changes that need to be made – it can offer career development to emerging leaders.

Our mentorship schemes provide the opportunity for us all to better understand the lived experience of others – to take the time to listen to colleagues from different backgrounds about their lives. And there is genuine, top-down buy-in, and advocacy from our senior teams, including me, as we actively participate in reverse mentoring. My own experience of mentoring has provided me with two-way conversations that have broadened my viewpoints. By discussing and sharing things that are going on in the business, and getting feedback from my mentee and my reverse mentor, I am able to get an understanding of their experience, and use this to inform our inclusivity initiatives. Essentially, these conversations take place in a psychologically safe space, where we can be open about our opinions and feelings – I really value the opportunity that mentoring offers to learn from other people and their lived experiences.

Walking the walk
As someone who has made the transition from MOD, I believe Atkins doesn’t just talk the talk, it puts its commitments into action. Whether that’s the yearly conference we host with reservists that allows them to engage with and provide Feedback to senior leadership in the organisation; or promoting reserve service amongst our workforce (including providing an additional 10 days’ paid leave to enable them to undertake their training); or fundraising for military charities, I see advocacy across all levels of the company.

And for service leavers who join us, you’ll find plenty of opportunity to develop, personally and professionally – training, volunteer days, and much more. You might initially join us to work on projects in the Defence sector but fancy spreading your wings and using your skills in other sectors, so there are opportunities to move into different parts of the business, and to work with a wide range of clients in different industries. You’ll be able to support us as we not only remove barriers to progress at every level within the organisation, but also inspire inclusivity and equality in the world around us, through ensuring accessible, sustainable design. 

Interested and want to find out more? 
Interested and want to find out more? Visit our careers site here:, and if there’s no current vacancy suitable for your skills we’d still like to hear from you – register your details here: Or why not come and talk to us at a Career Transition Partnership (CTP) event? I look forward to hearing from you.

A mentee’s view
Consultant Neha Bhasin is both a mentee of and mentor to Dave Clark, as part of Atkins’ reverse mentoring scheme. She describes her experience.

From my perspective, being able to share the experiences that my different background offers – and knowing that our Senior Management Team is willing to listen to diverse views and opinions, and take them on board to drive positive change – has been really valuable. It has increased my awareness and understanding of the business, and the landscape within which we work, and given me extra confidence. It’s a real example of allyship in action, being able to talk about anything and everything: from the challenges I’ve faced; through my personal career development, and the fields I need to look at to expand my expertise; to equality, diversity and inclusion and ideas to make it even better at Atkins. 

A successful transition 
Atkins’ Paul Hutchinson was awarded the prestigious ‘Reservist of the Year’ prize at the Ex-Forces in Business Awards in September 2022. Nominated by Digital Advantage Practice Manager, David Hirons, the category recognises the importance of British reservists, by distinguishing those who have demonstrated excellent achievements in their career, while also dedicating themselves to the commitments required of the Reserve Forces. Judges assess each candidate’s business achievements in the last 18 months – including demonstrations of leadership or innovation, contributions to successful projects and examples of capabilities – alongside how they have acted as a strong ambassador for the British Armed Forces and committed themselves as a reservist.

What is consultancy, and what does a consultant do?
Consultancy allows organisations to draw on expert advice and specialist skills from an external professional company. Expert teams from a consultancy are taken on to deliver a specific project, with defined outcomes and deliverables – these projects may be scheduled to complete across a few weeks or months, or sometimes several years depending on their scale and complexity. The work may have tangible outputs, such as building bridges or roads, or implementing new technologies; or may be looking at operational processes, management and business strategies.

Consultants offer an independent, impartial point of view that helps identify problems and their root causes, and offer solutions – being outside the organisation they can see the big picture without being influenced by previous issues or internal politics. They undertake research, interviews, workshops and analyses, as well as verification and validation of hypotheses and proposals. Some consultants work from client sites, embedded in and collaborating with internal teams; others work off-site, regularly taking part in meetings with key stakeholders. 

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