Interview: from the British Army to Turner & Townsend

Ed Robinson is our Global Defence Lead, driving our business growth in the defence sector. Ed joined the company in 2016 after a 23-year career in the British Army. Here, in our Spotlight on inclusivity programmes interview, Ed discusses what attracted him to working for a major programmes consultancy, how he found the transition and the advice he has for those looking to follow a similar path.

Ed Robinson has been at the heart of securing major delivery partnerships (Paragon, Equinox and Unity) with the UK Government’s Ministry of Defence and driving growth into their supply chain. 

He also chairs our Military Network and championed our signing of the Armed Forces Covenant, through to securing a Gold Employer Recognition Scheme award. 

We spoke with Ed to hear more about the great work he is doing as we push to enhance our veteran network internally and improve their representation across our projects and programmes. 

Ed Robinson 932 X 621

Ed Robinson Global Defence Lead

What drew you to working for a major programmes consultancy after serving with the British Army? 

When I look back at my time in the military, everything I did was focused towards keeping people alive and getting stuff done – be that on operations in the Balkans, Iraq or Afghanistan, or when liaising with numerous government departments from the Ministry of Defence’s Head Office. 

My military career was centred around people and delivering outcomes. The risks and consequences of getting something wrong had an extraordinary cost – the lives of those who serve to protect us – the real national treasure. When serving, I would work on projects or programmes ensuring that the team responsible for delivering them were equipped with the skills to engage and complete the assignment most effectively.  

The management of performance and risk, the timeline in which to deliver and the management of cost were always closely understood. The training and experience when serving equipped me, for instance, to oversee delivery and integrate into operational service a £0.5bn portfolio of counter-IED/bomb disposal capability. Being able to use these skills in major programmes was an obvious next step for me. 

What similarities do you see between your current role with working in the military? 

I am very lucky to work with great people who thrive when they feel like they are making a difference. This is very similar to my time in the military. In my role, I lead the global defence and security sector, that drives value and performance to transform mega-scale complex programme delivery. In doing so, we contribute to provide a safe and stable world in which people, and future generations, can enjoy the freedom to prosper and live without fear or persecution. 

What are the skillsets of veterans, and how do they bring value to major programmes? 

Veterans are more rounded than any stereotype would have you believe. They come from a culture that has a mindset designed for ‘completing the mission’ and one that nurtures responsibility, often generating innovative outcomes. 

Veterans have intuition baked in through training. In many cases, this was then honed through warfighting and staying alive in the most inhospitable environments; under such circumstances teamwork and collaboration has never mattered more. They speak up when something does not look or feel right, have an inquisitive mindset and get the task done. 

They are adaptable self-starters, able to operate in a team or independently and can be incredibly resilient. In my experience, they know what hard work is and thrive in uncertainty, a crisis or change.

What challenges did you face when transitioning to consultancy and how can such challenges be overcome? 

The training and personal development I experienced in the military gave me strong people skills, a can-do attitude and an innate skill to almost intuitively sense if something did not feel right. The challenge was more about overcoming the lack of understanding of those that have never served or had little contact with anything to do with the military on the value I could bring to a business. This can make it really hard to get your first foot in the door.

A lot has changed since I joined Turner & Townsend in 2016. At that time, the UK business employed some 10-15 veterans. In 2017, I formed the Military Network with a few kindred souls and, in 2018, our business signed our Armed Forces Covenant pledge with the General Officer Commanding London District.

Since then, we have achieved Bronze, Silver and, in 2021, Gold Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme awards. By doing this and supporting our military community, we now have almost 200 veterans, reservists, spouses of those still serving and Adult Cadet Force Volunteers in our UK business. I am encouraging the formation of similar networks in North America and Australia. Ultimately, veterans are great for business. 

Do you have any advice for veterans considering moving into consultancy? 

Getting a few relevant qualifications and memberships (MSP, MOR, APM) in resettlement is key; not because you lack the experience, but because it helps others who have not served relate to you better. It also equips you with a lexicon to help explain your experience in a more relevant way – a way that resonates with someone who might hire you. This will help lower any risk you might otherwise present as a candidate. 

Veterans must also be humble as they transition, for as much as they have to offer, so too do they have much to learn about a commercial world. That, and never forgetting to trust one’s instincts, always pay dividends. 

Organisations that embrace diversity and inclusion are the ones that will benefit the most. With many transferable skills, it is ultimately a logical and easy transition for veterans to make across the globe into the world of consultancy. Put simply, it is about helping someone or an organisation with a challenge they face; I have yet to meet a veteran that does not love doing this. 

For further information contact:

Charlene Singh
Global Business Generation Lead, Infrastructure

t: +44 7939 981267