Like many others, my motivation was to serve my country in some small way.
It is the ability to do something in support of your nation and to be part of something bigger that often brings Reservists and Regulars into the Armed Forces. Additionally, the opportunity to develop oneself and face new challenges is an additional pull for many.
Both drivers are abundantly clear when talking to Olly Warren, who has recently returned to the RAF as a Part Time Volunteer Reservist. He has joined the RAF Digital Reserves, a new capability which formed earlier this year. Its aim is to provide a highly flexible, effective and diverse talent pool which gives cost-effective support to the organisation.
For Olly, whose day job is Chief Operating Officer at North-East based software development company Excelpoint, it is a return to where he began his working life with four years as an RAF Regular Policeman.
Olly has had great support from his current company, which is a signatory to the Armed Forces Covenant. Through its Employer Recognition Scheme, Excelpoint and other companies are also recognised for their exceptional support to the armed forces community and going above and beyond their covenant pledges.
During Covid, Olly was sat at home like many members of the public and became frustrated that he could not do more to help:
The timing had never been quite right to join the Reserves but in 2021 I believed I could make the commitment work.
Digital might not seem the obvious choice for an ex RAF Policeman but in the intervening years Olly has taken a new career path in the technology sector. He takes up the story:
“I left the RAF to support my family’s expanding business, quickly realising that scaling up our use of IT was key to future business growth. IT had to be an enabler to our development, not a blocker, and that premise has stayed with me since those early days of working in my family firm.
“After a decade working in various organisations and in roles including project management, system design, software development and digital innovation, I am now back working in a small organisation which also has plans for rapid growth. We work with clients of all sizes who need to be able to move more adeptly in the digital space.
“Our offer is based on a no code technology platform. All that means is that we provide bespoke business systems without having to write custom code. We go through the consultation process of understanding the business process, its pain points, and desired outcomes and then we design and implement a new system very, very quickly.”
It is that focus on client service and technical knowledge that is now benefiting the RAF. As an Air Specialist Class 1, Olly has worked closely with the RAF’s Talent Concepts and Development Team to revolutionise their existing RAF Project Hub, a tool linking project leaders with volunteers from across the RAF who want to develop skills outside of their primary role.
Wing Commander Webber, Head of RAF Talent Concepts and Developments, said:
It has been a fantastic experience working with Olly. He quickly understood our brief and then developed the concept further, re-designing the Project Hub to create a professional, easy to use Power app that will revolutionise the user experience.
Olly’s first project has already delivered benefits for the organisation. But what of the benefits for individuals, and indeed their organisations?
The opportunities for an individual are wide-ranging according to Olly:
“I wanted to serve my country again in some small way and develop my leadership and digital experience. I'm happy to give the skills I have to benefit the Air Force. But there are numerous opportunities for me as an individual too.
“I have no doubt that I will experience a range of technical projects and challenges within the Air Force that I never would in the civilian world. I have already had the opportunity to join in discussions with other digital reservists and specialists from across the armed forces. That provided a great opportunity to talk with and learn from other full and part time digital specialists. Very rarely will you be in room with that concentration of expertise in one place.
“I would encourage people – and businesses whose people want to sign up as Reservists – to give it a go. You will get lots out of it as an individual and as an organisation.”
To find out more about the RAF Digital Reserves in the first instance, contact: [email protected]
You can also find out more about how the RAF works with employers through its Employers’ Guide to the RAF Reserves.