Building a new life: From RAF medical discharge to a thriving career at Leidos
When you've spent your entire working life in the military, transitioning to civilian employment will always be difficult. But when Katy Newby unexpectedly found herself medically discharged from the Royal Air Force Police after 12 years of service, the sudden need to reinvent herself presented one of the most challenging experiences of her professional life.
“It was a massive shock, but rather than focusing on what went wrong, I just threw myself into being a mum to my fifteen-month-old daughter," explains the Leidos Project Security Officer. “They say every cloud has a silver lining, and this meant that I was able to be her biggest influence through the early years of her life."
While being a mother provided a new sense of purpose in those early years, as Newby's daughter grew older and began school, she began to realise how much she had been giving up in terms of her professional life.
What I struggled with most in that period was losing my identity. When I left the armed forces, Corporal Newby was half of who I was. Being a mum is this huge, important purpose, but I still felt like I'd thrown myself into it so much that I'd put the other half of my life on the back burner.
Katy NewbyProject Security Officer, Leidos UK
After a couple of years of taking on various part-time jobs, Newby joined the MOD Guard Service, which reminded her how much she'd enjoyed working in security. Yet she also increasingly felt the need for a career that would provide more opportunities to progress professionally. So, in 2019, she headed to university to pursue a degree in organisational capability development, followed by a master's degree in critical infrastructure security.
“I hadn't been in education since I left school at 16, and I never even dreamt I'd get a degree, let alone a master's," says Newby. “But it turned out that I absolutely loved researching. I always want to know the whys and wherefores of how things happen, so it suits me right down to the ground. I remember crying when I found out that I'd been awarded a first, and that was really my wake-up call that I'd found something that I'm good at."
The combination of her academic qualifications, on top of a decade plus worth of military service, made Newby an ideal candidate to join Leidos as a project security officer in July 2023. But what stood out to Newby was how much Leidos presented the perfect fit for her in turn.
“My interview gave me such a positive sense about working the team that I turned down other interviews because this just felt like it was meant to be," she describes. “Five months in, I still absolutely love it. The fact that I can work from home is great for my family but I also don't feel isolated from work at all because there's an amazing sense of community. People see you as a whole person and trust you to do what needs to be done the way you think is best rather than dictating exactly what you should do. “
From sending out her first 40 post-military job applications and getting only three responses to the challenges of balancing her studies against part-time employment and childcare responsibilities, the past nine years may not have been easy for Newby. But as she first learnt back in her days as a military cadet, anything worth having is worth working for.
“I still struggle with the fact that I had no control over when I left the military," she says. "But when I think about how I've gone to university and how I've found my own path back into security, I'm able to look back on that unexpected challenge as a positive opportunity to mastermind my own destiny."
For more information on our Operation Military Veteran Programme visit: www.leidos.com/operation-mvp