Career stories: Damian Riley, British Army Recruiting Group

Sep 15, 2022 | Careers, Sector & policy

ISE is looking for directors to join its Board. Read the career story of director Damian Riley, Chief Executive Officer, British Army Recruiting Group – in partnership with Capita “I never had a career plan.”

“So, I always felt a little envious of my friends and peers who seemed very certain about what they wanted to be ‘when they grew up’.

“Nonetheless, I enjoyed a really nurturing early home life, access to great education and learning at school, university and beyond, as well as a number of inspiring and talented bosses who invested in me.

“I’ve been very fortunate in this respect.  One of the values that has guided my career is a desire to use my management and leadership positions, to nurture and develop others who may not have had these opportunities.

“Despite my lack of a ‘plan’, I’ve always had a strong interest in politics and the public sector. Initially this drew me into studying politics at university, before entering the public sector as a research analyst at the Audit Commission, where my career began in 1998.

“Circumstances conspired in my favour, and I had the opportunity to draft a key presentation for the CEO, Sir Andrew Foster. He was impressed enough by this to offer me a role as his Executive Assistant.  As a result, I got great exposure to very senior people, complex decision-making, and organisational leadership dilemmas at an early stage in my career.

“From there, I was approached by a former colleague who had moved to work in management consulting, in the public sector team in PwC. I wasn’t looking for a move, but I was impressed by the people I met at my interview, and the variety and flexibility of consulting work.

“And the money wasn’t bad. To be honest, I thought I would do a couple of years at PwC, before moving back into a management role in the civil service. But…. I loved the challenge of consulting work, focusing on helping my clients deliver social value, and the quality and depth of professional development I received at PwC.

“In the end, I spent 13 years in the firm, and played an active role in building a small team from c.150 when I joined, to a UK-wide practice of over 2,000 people.

“My move to Capita in 2016, rather like my move to PwC 13 years earlier, was another instance of the right opportunity at the right time. I had enjoyed life as a consultant, but I was looking for a new leadership challenge, to roll up my sleeves and deliver big operations and services.

“As one of the biggest suppliers of outsourced services across the public sector, I could see an opportunity in Capita to marry up my interest in working with public sector clients, with my desire to extend my operational and business leadership experience.

“And so, it has proved. Since I arrived in Capita just over six years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to lead some of the highest profile and socially important services in the UK, including disability assessment and education services.

“Most recently, I became the CEO of Recruiting Group, a partnership between Capita and the British Army, responsible for the recruitment of Regular and Reserve soldiers across the UK.

“It is in this role that I first came across the ISE. Recruiting talented, motivated students from a variety of backgrounds, into exciting and rewarding roles in the British Army, is a key priority for me and my team.

“We don’t have a monopoly of insight in this area, so being part of a network of passionate and expert employer recruiters, and education institutions, is a huge benefit for us.

“When I saw in late 2021 that the ISE board were recruiting for new Directors, I was keen to apply, not only to further my own connections and network, but to be able to make a strategic leadership contribution to an organisation, which I believe fulfils a vitally important role across education and employment.

“So, what are my takeaways from a varied and interesting 25-year (and counting!) career?”

  1. Explore your passions and interests first. Worry about the salary second. You’ll never be truly successful at something, and therefore paid well for it, unless you enjoy it.
  2. How you do things – your values and behaviours – has more impact than what you do, in motivating and inspiring those around you, and therefore in your own success.
  3. Being able to spot and seize opportunities is more important than having a ‘plan’ in progressing your career.
  4. Always do, and be, your best in any given situation, and you will make your own luck in finding new opportunities.
  5. One of the most important responsibilities of career success is to give something back, whether through allyship, or developing others who may not have had the opportunities you have had.

ISE is open recruitment for new Board directors. Deadline for application is Friday 23 September.

 Read more ISE career stories


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