How Mick Whiteley, former RAF avionics engineer, pursues his passion for education at Leidos
Having gone from a struggling A-level student to a Royal Air Force (RAF)-accredited avionics software engineer to obtaining a master's degree in education, Leidos UK's head of talent development, Mick Whiteley, is a firm believer in the benefits of lifelong learning.
A passion for education led Whiteley to the role of instructing RAF recruits in software engineering, where he believes his own experience with the difficulties of academics gave him greater insight on how to adjust his teaching to better support them.
So when it came to leaving the RAF 22 years later, Whiteley knew he wanted to work in education.
"I was planning to teach computer studies as a college lecturer, but I hadn't appreciated the difficulties of the transition from working in a well-resourced and disciplined environment to teaching a bunch of teenagers," he says. "I didn't think of myself as a regimented military person at all, but it became abundantly apparent that I was most comfortable in that environment. At this transition point in my life, it was just too big an initial step."
Instead, in 2008, Whiteley joined the commercial sector, working in an engineering environment providing services to the MOD — providing him a perfect balance of combining his interest in talent development to a mix of former military personnel and commercial people focused on the MOD’s programmes.
For me, the biggest advantage of joining a large company like Leidos is that there's a lot of variety in the roles you can do," he explains. "People sometimes think that you need to switch companies to move up or get greater enrichment, but the career structure here means that if you want to advance, you don't need to leave the company.
Mick WhiteleyUK Training Manager
Having been able to adapt to civilian employment at a company with strong military connections and with the support of an extensive network of former military personnel, Whiteley is now confident he'd have no problem returning to college teaching. But he's happy leading Leidos' UK Talent Development team with its associated strategies and the impact he can have, especially on those who are transitioning from the military to the commercial world.
"We're a small team, so I'll do everything from setting out our strategy for the year to actually delivering the training programmes," he says. "I enjoy that flexibility, and though it's hard work and you're often shattered at the end of the day, it's rewarding because you're teaching people who actually want to be taught."
Whiteley points out that Leidos offers a wide range of opportunities to former military personnel — whether they want to jump straight in on a challenging new project or find their feet in a more established programme. With such a large and diverse portfolio of services, systems and solutions, he's confident there's something to suit most people.
"The litmus test for me is that I've got a 25-year-old and a 22-year-old son — would I want them to join Leidos? Absolutely," he says. "We do work of national importance: We deployed the last census, I have supported air traffic systems with NATS, and we do amazing work with the UK government. Leidos makes a difference to the UK, and I think, particularly for ex-military people, having something that you can be proud of, such as supporting a mission of national importance, is really important. It makes you feel empowered."