Women in Tech; Military Spouse, Military Child

Laura-Jane Turner

We sat down, albeit virtually, with Laura-Jane and asked a few questions regarding her spousal experience within our military community, her award winning career and mentoring experiences. A focus of this chat was the importance of support networks and in particular, the fundamental part they play in maintaining not only good mental health and wellbeing but also career success, be that at home or in the office.

 

What is your career background? Where did you start, and where are you now?

I completed a Management Technology degree at Brunel University, and secured a place on the Graduate Development Programme at Vauxhall to be a Dealer Principle. I can proudly say that, as a part 1 qualified Mechanic, I can strip Vauxhall engines. The fact that my father was an Electronics Engineer in the RAF really started a love for technology, but I found that I didn’t actually enjoy getting very dirty, and the garage was not the place for me. So, I worked in sales for a company called Compact, now HP Inc, before moving to an IT company; I’ve worked with IT and Telecoms for most of my career.

 

I fancied a change of pace and began working with the East Midlands Development Agency as the business development lead for Women in Business. That gave me the opportunity to support the development of female businesses and upskilling, a role which developed into supporting ethnic and minority businesses and people with disabilities. 

 

One of the outputs from that was creating the Women’s Ambassadors Network, the Women of Worth Award, and the School Gates project where we supported Women into Education from areas of deprivation. Once EMDA closed, I found myself looking for work again, and returned to IT.

 

What have your experiences as a Military Spouse meant in terms of your working life?

After meeting my husband, I recognised a need for my work to be more flexible to suit our regular postings. Traditional employers tend not to understand the experiences we have as military spouses, and our robustness as we carry on with our lives while a loved one serves, or is on operational tour in a foreign country. Often, we don’t tell others how hard this can be, and I think this shows an indication of really how resilient we are as a result of our continued experiences.

 

I am lucky enough to work for an amazingly supportive company, which is a member of the Armed Forces Covenant, and they recognised that COVID has proved it’s what you do, not where you do it. I am now in the Netherlands sitting in meetings with my team based in Nottingham and London and the world carries on as normal.

 

What have your experiences been like within the Military Community?

Moving to JFC Brunssum was my 35th house move as a result of my time as a military child, a military wife and a diverse career. Our last posting was in Northumberland and prior to that we were at MOD Boston-Down in Salisbury.

 

When I talk to my friends about postings, there’s a whole drama about packing and unpacking and ‘oh I’m never doing that again’. I’m lucky if I get three years in a house, in fact I can’t remember the last time I lived in a house for three years and you just get used to it; you buy furniture that’s easily disassembled, you don’t keep too much rubbish and you just recognise the fact that cardboard boxes and paper are your friend!

 

What challenges have you faced as a Military Spouse?

As me and my husband do not have children, nor a dog, meeting people in new areas can be a challenge, as you don’t have the same reference points as others in your situation. As I work full time, the standard way of meeting other wives is through coffee mornings, to create that support network around you, and I haven’t been able to attend. I feel that for the military spouses that fall out of that norm, it is noticeably harder, but you crack on and you find things to do. 

 

The internet has been a valuable tool, and I have joined the International Wives’ group here in Brunssum, and we find ourselves going to Dutch classes to become integrated into society over here a bit more. Especially when working from home, I feel as if creating a physical support network is the determining factor behind how successful a move is, which was made harder as a result of COVID and lockdowns. Physical networks are best, but equally, having online support networks work, and my experiences of mentoring individuals has allowed me to help those seeking support, but has also made an impact upon my health, giving me the experience of having someone to talk to and to reach out to and vice versa.

 

Proudest Moment/Achievements?

I was recognised as one of the Top 25 Women in Tech, having been nominated by a number of my peers. Since then, I’ve been nominated for the CRN Women in Channel Executive Mentor of the Year award for the work I’ve done with local schools and businesses, and for my mentoring work. In the year following my nomination, I won the award. Another highlight came in march this year, as I won the East Midlands Leadership Awards Women Mentor of the Year. 

 

Receiving commendation is a really rewarding experience, as they are to do with who I am, but also what I do. If I can get people to want to talk to me about what I do, I can help people in what they do, and impact upon their decisions and experiences. 

 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the event to receive the EMLA award, I was ill, and one of my colleagues has it on his mantelpiece. Thinking about it, the old mantra is so true, if you enjoy what you do, you don’t work a day in your life, and I really enjoy helping people. These brief off-hand conversations we have can be so valuable, not only to you, but in the value that they give to someone else in equal measure.

 

Your advice for Spouses

I always ask when I’m working with a Mentee, ‘What are you passionate about?’. Finding employment is going to be hard, and anyone that tells you it’s easy is probably lying. You have to be passionate about what you’re choosing to do, and that’s what will carry you through the hard days. My second part to that would be ‘find someone who understands’. Find either a mentor, a support group, whatever you work with best, some people find reading helpful; some prefer active group engagement; whatever it is, find that early on, so that not only will your passion carry you through, but you have people to rely on when life is a bit tricky. There is a wealth of support and advice out there, so find people who can support your passion, and you will be okay in the end.

 

And if you end up not enjoying an experience, or a role isn’t quite suited to your skillset, be brave enough to say ‘this isn’t right for me’. There will be something out there that is better for you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and own them when you do.

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