Josh wearing his Army Reserve uniform with UN beret and regalia

Roke meets

Josh

Roke has close ties with the British military. From providing technology that protects soldiers on the frontline to supporting the Armed Forces Covenant, we recognise the steadfast commitment and contribution that our servicemen and women make in defence of our country.

We also have a long tradition of employing both veterans and Reservists within our teams, benefitting from their leadership and knowledge to help us innovate and enhance our future products and services. One such Reservist is Josh, a Senior Consultant in Systems Engineering. We invited Josh to share how he balances his commitment to the Army Reserve alongside his fulltime career at Roke, and applies skills learnt from both vocations in his daily work.

Tell us about your role as a Reservist?

I joined the University Officers’ Training Corps (UOTC) in 2008. At the time, I was debating whether or not to join the army as a regular and I elected to stay with the Army Reserve, where I’d already commissioned and moved to an infantry unit, to pursue a career in engineering and science.

I work mostly with my battalion, 7th Battalion The RIFLES, usually on a part time basis, and it’s been a great experience. Straight after I finished my degree, I mobilised for Op OLYMPIC, supporting the London Games and shortly afterwards spent a couple of months with 2 RIFLES. Depending on the workload, I spend 60 and 100 days per year on Reservist work, which has included short stints as a Training Officer and as a Company Second in Command at Southampton UOTC.

Recently, our battalion was deployed to Cyprus for Operation TOSCA, the UN’s peacekeeping mission, to help maintain stability between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot military forces there so peace talks can be conducted. I took on a role as a Company Second in Command, and I mobilised with the battalion in January 2020. When our tour finished, we were replaced by our sister battalion, 6 RIFLES, which we believe is the first time one Reservist battalion has handed over to another on operations – which is something to be proud of. I’m also delighted to say that I’ve recently been awarded a Joint Commander’s Commendation for this tour!

What do you do at Roke?

Since joining Roke I’ve worked on ICARUS which looked at modular and open architectures for defensive aids systems for armoured vehicles, with a view to future standardisation, and also on a project on dismounted shared situational awareness (DSSA) systems for MoD customers. I’m currently on a task for our Gloucester office which focuses more on business analysis than engineering, as well as working on pitching our STARTLE capability to the Navy.

How have you applied your experience at Roke as a Reservist and vice versa?

Unsurprisingly, I have a bit of a reputation within my battalion for being the ‘geek’ – the guy to talk to about information management, radio systems and computer systems. I can apply engineering analysis to the problems we face. At the moment, while we’re seeing less of each other under COVID-19, I’m working to improve IM through the use of the Defence Gateway, where we use a Jive platform to communicate with our people.

In the other direction, being a Reservist means I speak the same language as our customers. It’s quite intangible sometimes but helps to build relationships and trust. Using equipment in the field and taking part in military exercises and operations first-hand also helps me understand their requirements. It was directly applicable on ICARUS as I knew what the inside of the military vehicles looked like and what other systems they use. For our DSSA project I brought my experience as an infantry soldier to the table, understanding what the information requirements and competing pressures were. I particularly enjoy considering the human factors of these projects.

What do you enjoy most about working at Roke?

My colleagues. I really enjoy the more informal aspects of life at Roke – we can have a laugh over a cup of tea, go for a run at lunchtime or even take part in our annual rounders tournament. The pandemic has put a stop to a lot of these things, but has also highlighted some of the other great aspects about working here, such as Roke’s ability to take anything in its stride. We’re a bunch of people who are happy to turn our hands to nearly anything in terms of our consultancy and engineering offerings. It certainly helped us to adapt quite effectively to all this remote working!

What advice would you give anyone joining the Army Reserve?

Come and have a chat with me! I’m happy to answer any questions, even if you don’t know what those questions are yet. It’s not for everyone, and can take up a huge amount of your time depending on your role, so it’s not something to dive into halfheartedly. It’s a broad church, and you’ll meet people you wouldn’t expect to, do things you wouldn’t expect to and be challenged in unexpected ways too. It’s a great experience.

How do you juggle being a Reservist with your professional career?

I see a lot of Army colleagues in a variety of businesses who struggle, but Roke makes it easy because the company is extremely supportive. It understands the benefits of having Reservists in our workforce, and provides a little bit of extra annual leave for us to complete our training, as we’re away for a minimum of two weeks of continuous training each year. The Army Reserve depends on employers who support the Covenant like this. As long as I’m able to get out of work on time as planned and take the occasional phone call in a working day, then juggling the two is achievable. And, it’s always reassuring to know that work has my back!