Leading Leidos UK Women: How careers in the Armed Forces influenced new roles in technology
To mark this year’s international celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, recognising the achievements of women in STEM, we took the opportunity to understand what it takes to move from a career in the Armed Forces to working in the technology sector by interviewing female Leidos UK employees. Learn more about Rachel Meeke and Eddie Hutton-Fellowes below.
Meet Rachel Meeke, Responsible Person (Logistics)
My current role at Leidos is as Responsible Person, which means that I ensure that Leidos and our sub-contractors are compliant with all the legislation and guidance, which comes with being a licensed wholesaler of medicinal products. In a nutshell, this includes making sure that the medical warehouse at the Defence Fulfilment Centre in Donnington is operating in line with Good Distribution Practice (GDP), keeping medicinal products at the correct temperature and having the correct processes in place to maintain product quality, and patient safety. Along with the other Responsible Persons in Team Leidos and Defence, I also make sure that we only buy our medicinal products from licensed suppliers, and only supply products to those authorised by Defence. We host audits from the UK’s competent authority (MHRA) to be able to demonstrate that we continue to comply with EU and UK legislation on GDP, and maintain our set of wholesale and controlled drugs licences.
I joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 2011 as a pharmacist as I did not want to work in community or hospital pharmacy. Commissioning as a pharmacist in the Army allowed me to combine the clinical skills that I had learned at University, with a career in the Army, which would allow me to travel, use those clinical skills in different and challenging environments.
After a short spell at Sandhurst and Phase 2 training, I joined my first unit – the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. This is the military’s role 4 hospital and where servicemen and women are brought to be treated if they are injured during operations. It was here that I completed my clinical rotations and postgraduate clinical diploma. In 2013, I deployed on Op HERRICK and worked in the role 3 hospital in Camp Bastion. There, I was able to use the clinical skills that I had learned to work as part of the multidisciplinary teams treating British servicemen, local nationals, and children, as well as any other member of a coalition force that required treatment.
In 2014, I deployed again to Op GRITROCK – the UK, Irish and Canadian response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. This was the most challenging, yet most rewarding period of my Army career and my achievements were recognised with a 3 star commendation. I worked with a small Army team in addition to pharmacists and technicians from the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health, and with Save the Children International (SCI) who were running the hospital for Sierra Leonean health workers. We helped design clinical guidelines and formularies, create storage solutions and stock management systems, as well as implementing training packages whilst contending with an extremely fragile supply chain, several demanding agencies, and of course, an extremely infectious disease.
Following that I completed 12 months at RAF Akrotiri running the medical provisioning point and I finished my Army career at 84 Medical Supply Squadron in 9 Regt RLC helping them prepare for their deployment on Op TRENTON in support of the UN mission in South Sudan.
Being in the military teaches you to be flexible, especially during deployments as often you can’t predict what the next day may bring (especially in clinical environments). You have to make decisions based on little information, whilst balancing any risk that might be involved. The nature of the work Leidos does with the MoD means that this skill is invaluable to me. This was especially evident during COVID-19, and for my job in particular, where there were some quick decisions to be made on getting medical products out to our overseas locations.
, Responsible Person (Logistics)
We need to widen and increase equality of access and participation in STEM.
Life after the Army can be daunting. The Army family, especially within the medical services, has a very strong sense of community, which I still miss. But it is possible to find that sense of belonging elsewhere. I owe a lot of my personal, as well as professional, development to the Army and I think that it was this development that gave me the confidence to make the decision to leave and apply for roles which I wouldn’t have been qualified for prior to my time in the Army. A military career does not have to be for a lifetime, I served for 6 years but spent a large proportion of that either serving overseas or on deployment.
Leidos has been supportive in enabling me to fulfill my professional CPD requirements (such as attending the MHRA symposium), as well as giving me the opportunity to undertake an Executive MBA (EMBA) with Cranfield University as part of the apprenticeship scheme.
The EMBA is designed for those who want to move into senior management and covers a variety of core and elective topics. It combines academic studies with commercial application – with lots of opportunity for Leidos to benefit from that learning. After completing the EMBA I hope to move into a more strategic role.
I am proud to serve as a STEM ambassador, frequently working with local schools to promote STEM subjects. I think it’s important that young people are shown the opportunities which are out there, and have access to those who currently work in STEM industries as role models. We need to widen and increase equality of access and participation in STEM. I would encourage anyone who is in the Army and looking for a change to start updating their profiles on social media and making the most of any civilian networks that they are part of… there are plenty of people out there willing to help.
Meet Edwina (Eddie) Hutton-Fellowes, Head of Global Logistics Services
As the Head of Global Logistics Services (GLS), I joined Leidos in 2016 after 22 years of service in the Army to assist in early transition work of how Defence managed its Supply Chain and movement activity. Through this work, I saw an opportunity to request a period of work experience to develop commercial awareness, and was offered a six-month contract. I have not looked back since and I can say without doubt, that I am now very commercially attuned.
I had always wanted to be in the Army and never deviated from that career choice whilst growing up, joining the Territorial Army ahead of going to University. My first cap badge despite having joined a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (REME) unit, was that of the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) - back then women could not join the units they can today! With the disbandment of the WRAC, I subsequently commissioned into the REME as a TA Officer. Following graduation, I returned to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where I commissioned into the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) as a Regular Officer in 1996.
After receiving some fundamental training in being a Logistician, I was posted to Germany, which is where I was born. Life in the Army was as I hoped it to be; the opportunity to travel with early operational tours included the Balkans with extensive exercise activity across Europe. I played a lot of sports and represented the Corps Hockey team ultimately finding my true niche with rugby, playing for the British Army (Germany) team and then going on to play for the Army Squad.
Specialising as a Petroleum Officer, taught me to move, store, and test bulk quantities of fuel, be it for vehicles or aircraft; in short, I am trained to build a supermarket fuel forecourt in the middle of nowhere. That training also included firefighting which resulted years later in hanging out through the door of a helicopter to assess the damage of an ongoing fire that raged through an oil refinery in the Basra Oilfields in Iraq.
I spent time in Afghanistan and experience from that and other deployments serves me well today in enabling supply chain solutions to our Military Personnel. Having supported Civil Authority tasks akin to those military personnel helping with flood defences or currently with COVID-19 testing. Our people, our teams are at the heart of everything we do and that remains just as relevant within the commercial world.
, Head of Global Logistics Services
Every day is a school day – no matter how old you are, there is always something new to learn.
My 22 years in uniform, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel, certainly gave me the skills to multi task, engage with a wide range of people, think under pressure and be innovative with often limited resources. Being able to run with something new and fast paced has not stopped since joining Leidos and that is what I love about my job within Global Logistics Services – no two days are the same. Reminding myself that every day is a school day – no matter how old you are, there is always something new to learn.
I have benefited from the leadership skills developed within the Army and subsequently transferred them into the commercial sector. Hoping the way that I use them provides a positive role model for other women, which I hope in turn they replicate across their own network of friends and colleagues. That paying it forward, is important to me, so if we as female leaders do just a little bit to inspire and create confidence, we can help others to succeed in accomplishing their goals and fulfil their potential.