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Transitioning Careers: From the Armed Forces to Auditing

Simon Giles is a Lead Auditor at Alcumus ISOQAR. Here we speak to him about his transition to Auditing, and what he enjoys about the role.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’ve spent what feels like a lifetime in engineering across various sectors, but the majority being with the British Army. After leaving the army, I worked as an engineer within the food industry at various levels for businesses including Morrisons and Vale of Mowbray.

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

I started my career as an armoured vehicle mechanic with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (think AA or RAC for the British Army); I worked on various equipment from motor bikes up to the main Battle Tank.  The latter was a boyhood dream of mine, as I always wanted to drive tanks. I spent the majority of my career either directly repairing these machines, operating or building teams to achieve this goal as the engineering manager.

I had some great experiences working in often very austere environments, with very demanding constraints in engineering terms and keeping the equipment in the hands of the user. I have been lucky to visit countries all over the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Italy, Poland, Belize and Kenya.  I finished my time as an Engineering Accident Investigator at the Defence Accident Investigation Branch (Like Air Accident Investigation Branch but for the MOD), which meant I carried out not for blame investigations worldwide for the British Armed Forces, looking into various failures of equipment and processes that led to varying degree of accidents and incidents.

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

Being in the armed forces as you can imagine is very regimented, following processes that have evolved over time and are continually reviewed for continues improvement… a lot like the principles of the ISO standards.  We are regularly inspected/audited to these standards most of which are aligned to ISO 9001and ISO 45001. Many during their military career will be part of teams carrying in depth 1st party audits.

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?

For me personally, I wanted a change of career. I spent the best part of 30 years in engineering and wanted a change – a friend had suggested I would make a good auditor and that got me thinking. 

I started looking around at certification bodies and found that Alcumus ISOQAR offered the auditor training as well as the Auditor role. Other certification bodies wanted me to train myself, with no guarantee of a job at the end of the process. At ISOQAR, I have just completed the training and I’m now signed off as a Lead Auditor.  I can honestly say, I like what I see here at ISOQAR, there’s plenty of support and I have a great team to work with – which is especially useful as a newly qualified auditor.  

What advice would you give to someone in the military considering a career in auditing? Do they need to do additional training? Do they need to make any adjustments?

If you are looking at a role as an auditor, getting some experience in internal audits is a good start (TECH EVAL, ECIs etc) and completing an ISO Lead Auditor course can put you ahead. The skill sets learnt during your service in the military can be applied across various sectors, so if you have not come from an engineering background it does not matter. 

We audit across various industries, your experience in the forces and any other jobs will decide in which industries and standards you can audit against. At ISOQAR I have met an ex-Army Chef, Royal Signals, REME (me) and PT Corps to name a few backgrounds. 

What’s the best thing about being an auditor?

I’m inquisitive (a nosy so and so!), and so I like to see how things are done or made. I like going to the clients sites and seeing how they do their thing.  We can’t consult in this role, but by completing a good audit and providing feedback I feel I’m helping the many clients have more robust processes that are safer, improve product quality or as environmentally sound as possible. 

Where would we find you outside of work?

I have a lovely wife and we have two boys. For my hobbies, I used to enjoy playing Rugby until my body thought it best that I give it up, but I still enjoy watching the 6 Nations and I have recently started going to the gym to get rid of my Prop physique and trying to look more like a scrum half!

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