The Future of Defence: How Leonardo is Leading the Charge

Dec 11, 2023
hackajob Staff

Have you ever wanted to be part of a team that’s on a mission to revolutionise the entire defence industry? 

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, let us introduce you to the world of Leonardo, a global titan in high-tech. In this blog, we’ll be sharing the inner workings at Leonardo, where we chat with their Director of Digital, Gareth, a former RAF pilot. Dive in as Gareth recounts his amazing career journey from his early days in the Air Force, to pioneering digital transformation in the defence industry.


Meet Gareth! 

Tell us about your journey from the Air Force to becoming the Director of Digital at Leonardo. Why did a tech career stand out to you? 

My career journey has been a constant evolution. I started in the sky as an RAF pilot, a thrilling beginning that later led me to Rolls Royce. Whilst at Rolls Royce, I spent half of my time mastering project management and the other half immersing myself in the world of IT. Simultaneously, I wore the hat of an Army Reservist, adding another layer to my career. 

My professional life has featured two consistent threads - transformation and data. Transformation is my passion and whether it's shaking up a project or reshaping a programme, I find myself at home amid change. My time has been spent orchestrating programme management and strategic operations, from constructing factories to shifting workloads between sites, always with an eye on transformative change. Data is the other element that runs through my career. Early on, I saw the power of data automation and dashboards - tools that let me take a step back and see the bigger picture of business transformation. This transformation was fueled by technology, the very factor that nudged me towards my current role in the field of Digital Technology. 

My connection to defence is deep-rooted, going back to my university days. It's a field that has always fascinated me. I'm convinced that technology is the game changer when it comes to doing things better, faster, and cheaper. But transformation is more complex, it's not just about tech. It involves cultural changes and processes, and there are always more layers to peel back and uncover.

You lead the team that is implementing Leonardo UK’s digital transformation (and are the first major defence contractor in the UK to migrate key applications to the secure Cloud). How do you foresee this influencing other companies in the sector?

We're at the forefront and we're the pioneers, which is incredibly exciting! 

We're not just studying new technologies; we're diving headfirst, immersing ourselves in transformative technology. We're actively learning, experimenting, and adjusting. Presently, we're starting to work with large language models, digging in to understand how to operate, engineer, and manage them effectively. 

We're not just shifting apps from on-premise to the Cloud; we're re-engineering, re-operating, and re-architecting them. We're challenging the norms and asking "What does this mean for our business operations?” and “How does this transform our finances?" The Cloud hasn't merely shifted our apps; it's swung open the doors to endless possibilities. We're developing low in a commercial Cloud environment, pushing to higher classifications, integrating DevSecOps pipelines into our application space. The Cloud is revolutionising our operations! 

What makes this journey even more significant is the potential influence it can have on other companies. My role here isn't merely about Leonardo. It's about being part of a wider transformation across the entire defence industry! By sharing our journey and struggles, we can help accelerate the digital transformation of our industry partners. 

Tell us some of the biggest challenges you've faced whilst at Leonardo 

Our journey towards digital transformation has been nothing short of monumental! 

We've taken on more than we've ever done before, and it's been a thrilling ride. This has thrown open two doors simultaneously. On the one hand, we've got a backlog of technology we've been itching to implement and on the other, we've got a variety of new capabilities; it’s incredibly exciting. The result? Many, many demands and an insatiable appetite for more! Balancing this demand with our capacity to deliver has been a test of our strength. Yes, there have been challenges and each facet of the digital transformation journey has had its own, but we've tackled them head-on. 

Change is tough, it demands strong leadership, communication, and a shared vision. And Leonardo didn't stop at engineering. Finance, security, HR - everyone's been on this transformative ride and. we've ensured that we're not leaving anyone behind. Technology can, of course, speed things up, but it's crucial that everyone's on the same page. We’re making this happen. 

Tell us about the diversity you hope to bring into the industry and why it's so important 

Simply put, diversity matters. It's the lifeblood of any industry, and defence is no exception. Think about it, we've got veterans with deep-rooted knowledge from years of military service. But to revolutionise, we also need fresh perspectives. We're drawing in talent from diverse sectors - finance, auto, biotech… you name it, we’re doing it. 

Generational diversity is equally essential. With new, emerging technologies, some of our most impactful case studies come from our youngest architects who are propelling us forward in areas like cloud technology. They've grown up with this technology and it's a different game than traditional tech. It's all hands on deck. 

As a reservist, how do you balance your duties, as well as your role at Leonardo? 

Time, undoubtedly, is the real test. Juggling the demands of a challenging role at Leonardo, frequent travels, and family responsibilities while also serving as a reservist is no easy feat. 

However, Leonardo's award-winning flexible working policy allows me to deliver to customers while working around these personal commitments. This, coupled with the company’s supportive policy for reservists, turns what could be a hurdle into a unique opportunity. The industry knowledge I've gained is incredibly beneficial to my military service, and equally, the skills I've honed in the military have been invaluable in my role at Leonardo. While striking a balance can be tough, the unparalleled advantage of learning from both sides cannot be underestimated.

Working tirelessly, even on weekends, has enabled me to supercharge my personal growth by amassing a wealth of experience in a condensed time frame. Challenges exist, but the rewards are immense. 

Are there any misconceptions about working in the defence industry, and how does Leonardo address these? 

There are a lot of misconceptions, but at its core the defence industry is a protector of people. The term 'defence' may lead some to think of aggression, but in truth, to ensure that we continue to enjoy the freedoms that underpin our society, we need to maintain a strong defence. Stability and security underpin our ability to live, work and prosper, and to meet our national ambitions like net zero. The defence industry is also involved in a wide range of activities, from environmental monitoring from space to providing helicopters for search and rescue, something that is often overlooked. 

What makes Leonardo stand out from other defence companies? 

We're not just about products – we excel in software engineering and data. We possess an immense wealth of varying data types, from electronic warfare data to sensor data. We are now actively building frameworks, governance and tools to exploit this data to its fullest potential. We are not only embracing cloud environments, but we are also heavily investing in data and software elements. Combined with our domain experience, this provides an incredibly thrilling opportunity. 

Ready to match with Leonardo? 

If you’d like to join the team at Leonardo, then create a profile on the hackajob platform, where they’re currently hiring for a variety of roles or log in to your profile here. You can also keep updated with them on their hackajob profile. 

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