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Celebrating the RAF Centenary: From reservist to project manager

April 1st sees the 100th birthday of the Royal Air Force. An historic occasion that aims to highlight where the RAF has come from and what they do through a series of events that commemorate, celebrate and inspire everyone involved.

Michele Crossman enjoyed a 24-year career with the RAF before joining Atkins, member of the SNC-Lavalin Group,  as a senior project manager in 2017. She tells us more about this momentous celebration and also about her involvement now serving as a reservist.

What does the RAF centenary mean for you as an RAF reservist?
The centenary has got me reflecting on my own almost ¼ of a century serving as a regular – the incredible experiences and stories from everyone I’ve met makes me proud to have been part of the story and continuing to serve as a reservist.
 
What led you to join the RAF? 
As a teenager, I had a great time as an air cadet. And my father and brother were both in the RAF – so I knew it would offer me a fulfilling career with the opportunity to work as part of a team, travel, play sport and participate in adventurous training. 
 
What are your roles at SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins and in the reserves?
I’m a senior project manager within Energy.  In the RAF I’m a volunteer ex-regular reserve, which means I’m under a call off contract supporting the air capability division. I’m like a consultant who has the rewarding opportunity to dip back into defence.
 
Are there any skills that are common to both roles? 
Within my role as a project manager I can finesse the consultancy skills I gained at the RAF; quickly appraising a situation and gathering and sharing information.  Another similarity is managing stakeholders, being a team player and knowing when to step in and lead the way.
 
How do the skills you picked up in the RAF lend themselves to an office-based career? 
Because I had office roles at the RAF, it’s quite familiar – skills like time management, organisation and communication are important. Also, having empathy and a sense of humour instantly makes any office environment a better place to work for everyone.

Is there any synergy with the work you do as a project manager?
Both roles require working with stakeholders to solve problems and get things done.  In the RAF I know I could be confident in what I was doing very quickly. But all the skills from the RAF help bring a fresh perspective to my day job– though I still have a lot to learn.
 
How do you balance work, reservist and home life? 
Family always comes first, so Atkins' policy of allowing 10 days paid leave to complete our military commitments makes it easier.  Flexible working means I can manage work, the reserves, being a school governor – and miraculously still manage to find time to relax.
 
In this centenary year, what’s the best piece of advice you’d give to colleagues thinking of joining the reserves? 
Celebrating RAF 100 also means commemorating the end of WW1.  The reserves have been a fundamental part of our heritage and history and are full of remarkable people working hard, learning new skills and having fun while defending our nation.  Veterans and reservists have some commonly recognisable skills including unity of purpose, flexible leadership and a deep understanding of working in a team. I would say go for it – you never know, you could be part of the next centenary’s story.

As the RAF celebrates its 100th birthday, we’re as dedicated as ever to supporting armed forces reserves. A Ministry of Defence Gold standard employer, we offer a full support programme for Reservist employees and have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. Learn more here: https://careers.atkinsglobal.com/graduates/armed-forces-reservists