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Royal Air Force - INWED 2021

Published: 22/06/2021

To mark International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), the Royal Air Force has shared this case study of Elizabeth Clark, who is a Communications and Electronics Engineer and the lead Safety Engineering for Air Command Battlespace Management, and is working towards professional registration.

Elizabeth Clark, FLight LieutenantWhat is your trade in the RAF and how does that fit into the wider picture?
I am a Communications and Electronics Engineer. My Branch is responsible for leading all communications engineering activities that support Information Technology services, strategic communication services, satellite communications, Air Defence RADAR or technologically advances mission support systems.

What is your current role in the RAF?
I am the lead Safety Engineer for Air Command Battlespace Management.

Talk me through an average day.
I provide oversight of all legacy and new Battlespace Management equipment Safety Cases and act as the Safety Engineering specialist for all Battlespace Management equipment programmes.

I liaise daily with our industry partners to ensure they are asserting assured equipment integrity, performance and functionality for all equipment types they provide and deliver to the Air Traffic Management world.

I act as the Safety Engineering specialist for all Battlespace Management equipment programmes; however, my main focus is offering specialist advice on the safety and assurance of equipment behaviour as designed, to inform and enable safe usage.

What responsibilities do you have? How do you think this compares to if you had an equivalent civilian job?
I aid in the monitoring and assessing Safety Management (SM) processes applied by the providers of engineering services(i.e. contractors and industry delivery teams) to Battlespace Management Force to ensure they are correct, compliant and assured against extant policy and engineering good practice.

I provide Safety Engineering specialist technical advice and guidance to the Chain of Command on Engineering Safety Management processes and Safety Case development, management and review.

My current role is embedded within a Head Quarters and I predominantly engage with civilian contractors and Civil Service personnel.  As a specialist I do not envisage my primary role being different in theory to that of a civilian Safety Engineer.  However, the context in which I support, i.e. military and operationally focussed Air Traffic Management systems is very different.

What’s the best part about your current job/role?
I gain great satisfaction when I identify a safety problem and offer a safety engineering solution that mitigates or reduces potential Risk to Life.

What further educational opportunities have you had that relate to your role?
I completed a full time MSc in Safety Critical Systems Engineering at the University of York in November 2020. This was fully supported and endorsed by my Branch and is classed as Advanced Pre-employment Training for my current role as a Safety Engineer. The course has equipped me with the skills necessary to understand how complex products, services and systems can contribute to posing a risk to human life.  It also provided me with the educational background required to become a leader in the field of safety critical systems engineering.

What developmental opportunities have you had that are not trade-specific? (e.g. Leadership and Managerial, Instructor Qualifications)
Throughout my time in the RAF I have completed multiple Leadership and Management qualifications with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), the most recent being an ILM level 5, that focussed on project management, strategic insight and practical expertise as a leader.

What civilian qualifications have you earned, if any?
I have always studied in my own time throughout my whole career.  I have always educated myself in areas where I was intrigued and wanted to know more or to enhance my skill set as a professional to be a stronger member of my RAF team.  Since joining the RAF, I have gained the following additional academic qualifications:

  • Open University-BSc (Hons) Psychology (2.1)
  • Open University -Post Graduate Diploma Post War Conflict and Development
  • Edinburgh University-BA (Hons) Business and Enterprise (1st Class)
  • Lincoln University -FDSc Engineering Management
  • University of York -MSc Safety Critical Systems Engineering (1st/Distinction)

What do you enjoy most about your job / the RAF?
I enjoy the challenges that I face every day and the excitement of new opportunities. The RAF isn’t just an organisation to me, it’s a family, it’s part of my identity and being a part of the RAF genuinely inspires me to be the best version of myself.

What are some of the most memorable experiences from your time within the RAF?
All the above points. I have too many fond memories to mention. I have loved every part of each of my training experiences, working out of Branch within the Intelligence sector, becoming a professional Engineer, being a full time MSc student, being fortunate to be in a Command position, meeting friends for life and all of the sporting and AT endeavours.

How much do you keep in contact with friends / colleagues from previous postings?
You make friends for life wherever you go and always know someone at the Station/Unit you visit. The Engineering Branch is close, there are yearly Seminars and Dinners to attend where it is always nice to catch up with old friends.

What is your next goal in the RAF?
Over the next 2 years I aim to establish myself professionally as a Safety Engineer and be an effective team member and enabler. I also aim to attain Professional Registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng).

Further to this, I would like to be more involved in Programme ASTRA, which is an RAF initiative focussed on being better at collectively understanding what the future RAF needs to look like, in terms of training our people and being creative with our innovation prospects. It looks to articulate next generation skills, knowledge and behaviours and how we train effectively to ensure we attract, inspire and retain talented people – I would love to be more involved with that Programme.

I also have my eye on a part time Master of Business Administration (Defence) delivered over two years. I am interested in educating myself to be able to contribute to future military initiatives that involve the commercial sector. Alternatively, I would also love to create an opportunity to complete research at the MPhil/PhD level in areas such as defence and regional security policy, strategic communications studies or in the sphere or Artificial Intelligence supported Electric Vehicle Safety Enhancement Techniques.  This would support the future RAF in its endeavours to bring electric aircraft into service for trainee pilots.

You can find more about engineering careers within the Royal Air Force and more widely about the engineering within the Ministry of Defence by following @DefenceEng