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Soldiering on: From Army to Auditing

Jonathan Lee is a Lead Auditor at Alcumus ISOQAR. Here we speak to him about his transition from Military to Auditing and what he enjoys most about the role.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Initially training as a primary school teacher, I taught at schools in Leeds and as a Native English teacher (NET) in Hong Kong before deciding to join the British Army.

After meeting my wife, Harriet, during my 7-year forces career, I decided to put down roots and spend more time at home which required the transition to civilian life leading me to my current role as a Lead Auditor at Alcumus ISOQAR!

You were in the armed forces before joining ISOQAR. What did you do exactly?

I joined the Royal Corps of Signals as a Communications Systems Engineer. My role involved establishing and maintaining RF and IP networks all over the world, often in difficult situations and with limited equipment. Generally, my focus was keeping lines of communication open between the decision makers in the operations room with the guys on the ground.

I was fortunate later in my career to be able to support counter terrorism operations which emphasised information security and enabled me to work with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, opening the door ISO 27001 and auditing in general. My experience enabled me to spend the last years of my career acquiring and instructing civilian recognised qualifications such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), paving the way for my transition out of the forces.

Why do so many ex-military personnel go into auditing?

There are a lot of similarities between the military and auditing and the forces create individuals with a skillset that is perfectly suited to compliance and assurance. The forces lifestyle is very regimented, with clearly defined processes and procedures. They need to be strictly followed with discipline – this is an important part of army life, and is a quality that is equally important to auditors.

The forces embed skills and attitudes within personnel that translate effectively into an auditing role – including the ability to seek out and follow policies and procedures, systematic inspections and report writing, attention to detail, organisation, and communication skills among others.

Certainly, the opportunity to travel for audits may be appealing to those who enjoyed the chance to get away with the forces, with hotel accommodation being a significant improvement over a draughty tent on a cold and wet Salisbury Plain!

It’s a competitive market for Auditors at the moment, so you probably had plenty of options. Why did you choose ISOQAR over the competition?

Whilst I had the knowledge, skills, and industry experience for an auditing career, I didn’t have the qualifications. Alcumus are one of the only certification bodies that will provide the training and qualifications necessary. I knew several of my colleagues from the Signals had left the army for a career at Alcumus with not a bad word said between them about the company, role or the transition from the forces.

One of the biggest selling points for me is the work life balance. The Customer Engagement, Scheduling & Bookings, Travel, and Technical teams provide a lot of support and allow auditors to focus on the job in front of them and not bring work home with them, compared with other certification bodies who may expect the auditor to handle these additional elements of the job.

What are the challenges in transitioning from the military to a career auditing in the private sector?

I worried about the transition from the forces to a civilian job and was surprised by how straight forward and easy it was. A career in the military provides valuable skills and experience but many service leavers doubt and undervalue themselves. There is plenty of time during the resettlement period to find out what opportunities are out there and what roles are suitable.

Whilst many concerns will be shared amongst all service leavers, the experience of a new career post-service will pose unique issues and anxieties that might be as simple as having to choose your own clothes rather than the issued uniform, missing the feeling of your beret or adjusting to less oversight and more independence. No matter how long you’ve served, the transition to a career at Alcumus and settling into a new role is quicker and easier than you’d expect.

I applied for the Information Security Lead Auditor role six months before my final day in service, with Alcumus offering me the position and they were happy to wait for me which took off a lot of the pressure of resettling.

There is a strong sense of community at Alcumus with a large number of ex-forces personnel which really helped with the transition. As well as having other veterans who are happy to help with any issues or concerns, it was reassuring to know that individuals with a similar background to me are successful in the role.

What advice would you give to someone in the military considering a career in auditing?

To any service leavers considering a career in auditing I’d say go for it! The hardest step is the first one so just reach out and have a chat and you might be surprised how many doors your experience and skills can open.

Alcumus will provide the training necessary in terms of courses and qualifications as well as practical hands-on experience, which builds you up gradually until you are confident and capable of going out to conduct audits independently. Once you’ve been signed off, you’ll audit customers in industries reflective of your experience in the forces.

Regardless of how far along you are in the transition out of the military, it is worth finding out what’s out there and how suitable life as an auditor could be for you.

What’s the best thing about being an auditor?

Everyday is different. I get to meet new people and see different businesses doing their thing. It’s exciting to see how different organisations fix the same problems in different ways. I could be onsite or working remote, I might be the lead on the audit or a supporting team member, there might be an audit team, or I could be working independently, and every client is interesting whether they are a one-man-band, tech-savvy virtual client or a large enterprise business with sites all around the globe.

Compared to being in the forces, the best thing is that there are far fewer ‘fastballs.’ I can look at my calendar and I know where I’m going to be auditing months from now, which is a pleasant change!

If you’re from a military background, considering a new career path, we encourage you to explore the opportunities available at ISOQAR. Your next rewarding journey could be just a step away.

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