Pathways into Tech: meet Phil Richardson

Find out how Phil Richardson took his own pathway into a technology-based career as a customer engineer working within Google Cloud for the Ministry of Defence. A role he had never really considered! If Phil’s experience inspires you, register today for Pathways into Tech. The Forces Employment Charity event is being held at the Google Academy, London on Wednesday 11 September 2024. Come and explore if tech might (or might not!) be for you.

Phil served for 25 years in the Royal Navy. He specialised as a helicopter pilot, leading the integration, assurance and force generation for aviation operations specifically for the UK aircraft carrier programme. Phil is now responsible for the engagement and technical relationship between Google, the MOD and wider UK Defence industrial base. He helps Defence solve its problems using the power of cloud technology to improve its services, efficiency, and innovation.

Here, Phil talks to the Forces Employment Charity further about his experience.

What made you consider a career in this sector?

I am passionate about Defence and the role it has in ensuring national security. I was looking for more stability in my life whilst staying close to what I was passionate about. A role in technology was not something I had considered until a friend suggested I apply for a role. One where I could use my leadership, problem-solving and passion for Defence in a civilian capacity. The overlap between what Google provides, a hyperscale company that invests heavily in research and development and has a culture of innovation really appealed to me.

Why choose Google?

Google’s diversity, inclusivity, culture of innovation, and sense of fun all attracted me to its core values. I could see clear parallels with my personal values, and as they were growing a new team and looking to recruit people with military experience, I relished the challenge.

How do you feel your skills from the Armed Forces community converted across to your role?

I believe that working in small teams, sometimes under significant pressure in order to achieve a common aim was a trait that I found converted seamlessly from working in a military environment. The reliability and dependency of the Armed Forces community to embrace a challenge, create a programmatic series of steps, and reliably deliver a solution are core transferable skills. I believe these skills transfer seamlessly and are not perceived to be a superpower but they really are!

What are your personal positives to your role?

I relish working closely with groundbreaking technology and having the levers to be able to transform organisations that I feel passionate and loyal to, to solve their problems. The diverse and inclusive culture that Google celebrates is one that recognises people’s differing backgrounds and I feel that my background is very much valued and used to the benefit of all the teams I work with. Google is a hugely supportive employer, too; having gone from re-signing the Armed Forces Covenant in 2022 to applying for the Gold Award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme, within two years makes me enormously proud of the commitments it has made and how it values the skills that veterans, reservists and Serving personnel have.

Any challenges – and how did you overcome them? (If any)

One of the challenges I experienced was imposter syndrome. I left an environment that I knew intimately well and was confident in. The challenge of learning a new language, a new technology, new ways of working, and embracing a new culture was like drinking from a firehose! This feeling lasted a considerable period of time, but the core values that the military gave me (hard work, resilience, grit, and determination) meant that I have overcome this feeling and developed confidence and credibility in my new career.

What tips would you share with anyone considering a role in tech?

Be a sponge, be prepared to read up, learn, and embrace the latest trends, capabilities, and developments in a constantly changing sector. Get hands-on, learn how to code, at least at a basic level, and get a qualification in Cloud, AI/ML, etc at least. Then you can truly understand the implications behind suggesting a particular technology solution.

Finally, take your sense of fun with you!

Sign up to Pathways into Tech, and other events!

Register for Pathways into Tech today! Living remotely in the UK or overseas? You can register to live stream the day’s event! We are also running a regional evening event later in September/early October. Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll keep you posted.

Consider also our fully funded online LinkedIn Essentials course, which will take place on 14 November. Our newsletter will let you know when registrations are live for that.

Our ‘Pathways into…’ events are part of Op PROSPER

The Forces Employment Charity provides one of three workstreams of Op PROSPER. A government-led programme through the Office for Veterans’ Affairs and awarded to us through the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust. We provide the Employment Pathway workstream through our ‘Pathways into…’ events to empower veterans and their families, the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, enabling them to thrive by ensuring equal access to employment opportunities and supporting them into sustainable, valuable careers.


Want to hear about our programmes, partnerships, events and ways that we could support you?