TechVets & Me: RAF veteran to Cyber Assurance, Andrew Kershaw’s story

TechVets & Me: RAF veteran to Cyber Assurance, Andrew Kershaw’s story

Meredyth Grant

Being born into the Royal Air Force and serving for 20 years in intelligence, Andy Kershaw left the forces after an emotional and challenging four-year resettlement period. He initiated civilian life in the Cyber Security sector working as a cyber assurance manager with the support and guidance of TechVets.

Andy’s initial catalyst to exploring resettlement was the change in financial circumstances with the new adjustment to the Armed Forces pension scheme, moving all personnel from the AFPS75 pension scheme to the new AFPS15 scheme. After 44 years of being moulded and influenced by the Royal Air Force, his uniform was not the only thing he left behind but also his identity.

Leaving the forces after so many years and going through the resettlement process is an incredibly difficult, emotional, anxious, and confusing time for all that experience it. For many, losing the military identity and then constructing and discovering a new identity is incredibly challenging. These are normal feelings and sensations. Everyone’s resettlement is unique of their family situation, background experience, future goals, personal interests, and style of life they want. It is not one size fits all. For Andy, a real struggle came from the lack of support and validation from others experiencing the same challenge. After researching military organisations and charities, Andy found a community among TechVets where he was able to reach out for information, gain insights and connect with like-minded ex-servicemen in the Cyber Security industry.

During the four-year resettlement period, Andy used his surplus time to decide what exactly he wanted in life, he made goals and set a plan. The type of role he wanted was something flexible, would give him transferable skills, was expanding and part of a growing market to future proof against unemployment, ability to work from home to be closer to his kids and provide him with the power to give his family a house and stability. These were goals that his military salary couldn’t allow him to achieve.

Andy analysed the transferable skills he had to offer and in his current role, the experience he’s had is that 80% of the time soft skills or staff skills gained from the armed forces are utilised. These skills are readily transferable and include problem-solving and communication, although cliché military skills, they are essential day-to-day skills in his commercial role. The ability to write coherent emails, talk to people, manage people, resources, and programs, understand people’s points of view, listen, the skill of listening and understanding what someone’s trying to tell you is incredibly important in most roles and are very transferable skills.

Time management is another major skill that people with military backgrounds possess. They are reliable and will always be well prepared with any task and show up on time. With an ethos of let’s get it done to the best of our ability, military people are able to get through any project no matter how difficult, unengaging, awkward or boring it is. This discipline is unique to military backgrounds and our soft skills that must be capitalised on and transferred into the commercial, civilian job space.

Other skills that are perfectly transferable skills can be a little harder to see and realise as skills. Deployment on operations where you’re dropped into the deep end of an unknown environment, there is no choice other than to be successful. Throughout deployment complexities, adversities and unknown factors must be resolved. These skills are converted into a commercial environment, for example, when put in front of a new client who you’re trying to win a contract, you need to understand them, you need to be sympathetic, you need to be mindful of what other suppliers are perhaps bidding for that work. You must work through those unknowns to be successful. Soft skills gained through operational experience and the agility that military people have in dealing with very dynamic situations work really well in the commercial space.

Although Andy was in intelligence and didn’t necessarily have a transferable hard skill such as the engineers, pilots, air traffic controllers, or logisticians from the different branches and divisions throughout the military, he realised that his currency was information and in a digital world, that is very valuable.

Service lives are known to be very busy, but as taught in basic training, you must make time. As an ex-serviceman, Andy stresses the importance of finding time to focus on your own goals and objectives as part of your resettlement. Even if it’s 15 minutes every day, empower yourselves for what is going to be your new future. Use your military skills to problem solve and be disciplined throughout your preparation. Reach out to organisations such as TechVets who can provide you with many different types of support to get you to achieve your goals.