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The tools and support to drive your own career: about the BAE Systems graduate programme

BAE Systems’ graduate programme is changing; what remains the same is the variety of work and career development opportunities.
Jush Maru, a graduate engineer at BAE Systems, shares his experiences of the graduate programme
Name: 
Jush Maru
Job title: 
Graduate engineer
Nikki Watts, a line manager at BAE Systems, describes how she supports the graduates she manages
Name: 
Nikki Watts
Job title: 
Capability delivery manager
I think the sheer amount of support you get at BAE Systems is rare.

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The programme has been designed to give graduates real responsibility from day one; instead of rotating around different teams, you will be contributing to a substantive role from the start. However, you will still receive the same career opportunities, training and support that BAE Systems is known for. We speak to graduate engineer Jush Maru, who studied aerospace engineering at the University of Sheffield, and his current line manager, capability delivery manager Nikki Watts, to find out more about career development at BAE Systems.

Graduate Jush says…

I first applied for an internship at BAE Systems because it had some really cool projects. I was lucky to join the land business, with projects ranging from the manufacture of munitions to working with the development of state-of-the-art technologies. By the end of the internship, I was convinced that BAE Systems was the right place for me.

I’d definitely recommend BAE Systems to others; I think my friends get jealous over some of the work I am doing. Your scheme will not be rotational, as mine was. However, each of my placements complemented the next, similar to what it would have been like if I’d remained in one team. Every person I have come across has been a delight to work with, passionate about the work they do and very supportive. Some moments that have helped my career development include…

1. Gaining recognition

Due to the amount of experience I had gained during my first placement, I was asked to continue my work with this team while transitioning into my second placement; that was when I realised how much knowledge I’d picked up and the trust my team had in my work. My learning has covered technical and soft skills – from understanding customers’ technical requirements to how to engage with outside agencies. Another highlight was when my team nominated me for BAE Systems’ graduate of the year award for operational excellence and I won.

BAE Systems is thorough with its training. I have also worked with strong and knowledgeable teams and they did a lot of on-the-job teaching, with practical insights that built on the training and my background reading.

2. Getting involved

I work best when I’m busy; picking up activities outside of my core role helps to keep the day flowing. I am a STEM ambassador and am on our graduate council. Taking on additional opportunities has helped me to develop extra skills that will help me with my future career: for example, the ability to communicate with different audiences.

3. Career planning with managers and mentors

I’ve been very lucky with the support I’ve had from my managers about my future. For example, they suggested a secondment with a client organisation to better understand how clients operate to develop the skills I would need to become an engineering manager.

We are also encouraged to find mentors from among the senior leadership team. One of my mentors started in a similar position to me and so is able to give me a wider perspective on my career development and valuable advice. Another mentor is helping me to work towards my chartership qualification with IMechE. Speaking to friends, I think the sheer amount of support you get at BAE Systems is rare.

Line manager Nikki says…

I manage engineering graduates in our land business, which has been an absolute privilege. My advice for graduates starting out in their careers includes…

1. Own your development

Career development is all about taking control of your personal journey. BAE Systems is massively supportive, providing the tools and development opportunities but the responsibility lies with you as an individual. This approach has helped to shape my own personal development, including completing and obtaining both a masters and chartership, funded by my employer. I’d encourage any graduate to focus on delivering against SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited) objectives in their role; ensuring that we understand and deliver against what is expected of us is vital for promotion within a business.

2. Learn from others

Even now, 14 years into my career, I ask questions to check my understanding and expand my knowledge every day. There is a massive breadth and depth of knowledge within BAE Systems; proactively seek out feedback and opportunities to have more informal discussions. I’d also recommend observing how people do things (their behaviours) as well as what they do, as that can make all the difference to success.

3. Don’t compare

Each person’s career development is individual, so try not to judge your progress against that of others. It is down to you to shape your career going forwards and to develop the skills and behaviours required.

This content first appeared in the UK 300, a product developed and created by the editors at TARGETjobs.

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