How a career in tech supports volunteering as a Special Constable
On a Friday evening, when most of us are heading home for the weekend, you'll find Niall Fletcher signing off from helping Leidos deliver the UK's new Air Traffic Control services and stepping into uniform for his second shift as a volunteering special constable for Police Scotland.
“I'm a naturally inquisitive person, and this allows me to not have to choose between a technology role and a policing role," he explains of his 17 years volunteering with the force. “When I'm working as a business operations analyst and consultant at Leidos, I've got this top-down perspective on all the pieces of a puzzle and how they fit together. But from the policing perspective, I'm a tiny cog in a much bigger machine and I get to see the details of how a larger operation unfolds on the ground."
That could mean working within the local community on preventing antisocial behaviour, accompanying a full-time police officer, or other special constables on searches or arrests, helping in response to disasters, like the Stonehaven derailment in August 2020, or supporting the police presence at major events, from the G7 conference to the Commonwealth Games.
With two kids at home, in addition to his role at Leidos, working in at least 16 hours a month of volunteering makes for a busy schedule – but support from both his colleagues and the company's dynamic working approach makes the commitment easier to manage.
“This week, I need to go in for a full day's training with the police," Niall explains. “If I had to do that at the weekend it would really impact my private life. But because my work is flexible and because my program leads trust me to manage it, I'll be taking this Friday off instead, which is supported by the paid leave that Leidos offer for public service volunteering."
Indeed, Niall sees his work and his volunteering activities as complementary. In both cases, as he explains, it's about communication and helping people solve their problems within the constraints of a particular system.
“Working with the police has given me more confidence in talking to people from different backgrounds, being able to get under the covers about what they're struggling with, and figuring out how best to help them," he explains. “That's not always an instantaneous solution, but after being in the same area for a while you actually can start to see how you've made a difference through changes in people, or changes in a neighbourhood."
At Leidos, that keen awareness of others' needs has translated into Niall's work on CORE (Collaborative Outreach with Remote and Embedded Employees), a programme designed to overcome the isolation often experienced by geographically distributed employees. This provides a safe platform for employees to share questions and support each other, helping more than 4,000 Leidos remote workers feel part of the same team, no matter the physical distance between them.
And it's that same passion for teamwork that has kept Niall coming back to Police Scotland for 17 years, throughout all the challenges of the role.
“People ask why I keep doing this, why do I put up with being shouted, abused, or even assaulted when I don't get paid?" he says. “It's because I'm astounded by the dedication and compassion of the full-time officers who do this day in day out. We're a close-knit team, and that's what motivates me because I want to support them by making this very difficult job a little bit easier in whatever way I can."