Armed Forces Week 2023 - Ian Todd
In honour of the men and women serving and protecting their country, Airbus celebrates the Armed Forces Week on June 22th 2023.
In this year edition, we are celebrating #ArmedForcesWeek with Ian Todd, Head of Sales for UK, US and APAC region in Airbus Secure Communications. Ian served in the Royal Air Force for 24 years before joining Airbus in 2018. We discussed his career journey, the transition after leaving the RAF and his current position today.
Please introduce yourself and tell us more about your time in the Royal Air Force?
My name is Ian Todd, I’m the Head of Sales for UK, US and APAC within Airbus Secure Communications and I served in the Royal Air Force, joining in 1981 and serving for more than 20 years. I was a member of the RAF Regiment, who had the task of protecting RAF bases wherever they are operated. In my early appointments, I saw service in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus, and the Falkland Islands, on Light Armoured Infantry Squadrons, and Rapier Ground Based Air Defence squadrons.
Why did you join the Royal Air Force?
When I was younger I didn’t really understand the meaning of “serving” so I joined for the adventure. However, deeply I always knew I wanted to commit to something bigger than me.
Since childhood, I always wanted to be either a policeman or join the Armed Forces, to have a career protecting and helping people. It was through attending lots of air shows that the decision was made easier, and I decided to join the Royal Air Force.Throughout my whole military career, I discovered myself, had some fantastic experiences, met amazing people and developed valuable skills that I’m still using today.
I will forever be grateful for my time in the RAF.
What did you do after you left the Armed Forces?
I left when I was 40, it wasn’t an easy decision but I wanted to challenge myself. Shortly after leaving the RAF, I was offered a role as Head of Aviation Security at Heathrow Airport. I had a key role in the response to major security incidents such as the London Attacks in 2005 and the Liquid Bomb Plot a year later. We had to take unprecedented security measures in the airports, many of which are still in force today.
With the experience I gained at Heathrow, I worked with two companies in Aviation Security management and in the protection of critical national infrastructure, developing my skills in security strategy, sales, threat and risk management and working in the UK, and throughout the Middle East and Africa.
I finally joined Airbus in 2018 as Head of Critical National Infrastructures Security business line in Germany. The plan was to capitalise on Airbus’s existing experience in the provision of full-service security contracts in Germany, and to grow an offering in Europe and the Middle East. After 2 years, in 2021, I decided to return to the UK to be with my family and took my current sales role in Secure Communications.
What attracted you to join Airbus?
I was drawn to Airbus because it allowed me to re-enter the defence sector after leaving it for 20 years. The chance to bring my skills and passion to a well known company in the industry was very exciting. Now I feel like I came back to what I know best.
I also found within Airbus the same values I was sharing with my peers in the RAF: respect, integrity, speaking up culture, looking after people and on top of that, great opportunities.
Everyday I’m surrounded by a mix of people who’ve been civilians throughout their lives but also many military veterans or reservists. This healthy mix confirms that Airbus values the knowledge that comes from the Armed Forces. Our diverse visions are what makes us better at understanding our customer needs.
How would you describe the transition from working in the military to working in the industry?
A transition from military life to the industry is never easy, the difficulty should not be underestimated.
One of the biggest challenges someone can face when leaving the military is understanding business from a commercial point of view, how you win and deliver business especially when in a leading role. Yes it’s challenging, but I was able to gather all of the tools I needed to grow and develop my skills. I was welcomed with open arms by people who took the time to explain and walk me through new business and processes, and that made the transition much easier. This has continued throughout my time in Airbus, where there is always the potential of training and mentorship.
What would be a quality you learned at the RAF you are still using in the industry?
I would say leadership, as it is a quality equally applicable in both sectors. Thankfully, that skill was taught and nurtured throughout my career in the RAF.
For me, leadership and people awareness are key to success. No matter which business you’re working in, people are the heart of everything. Therefore, leading effectively my team is the only way to achieve our goals.
What do you like the most in your current job?
I’m really proud to work with incredible professionals on a daily basis and contribute to national security in the UK. The capabilities we are providing to the UK MoD are essential. I’m still serving my country but in a different way.
Our main customer is the UK MoD and we are providing secure connectivity for air, sea and land. We are working on developing a portfolio of opportunities for our services and solutions such as in SKYNET.
What advice would you give to an ex-serviceman who wants to continue his/her career in the industry?
The key is to find a company which values the strengths and background of former military personnel and can leverage those qualities effectively, providing tailored guidance to facilitate a smooth transition into the business world.
Don't hesitate to seek help, there are people and organisations specifically made to help you. Find a mentor who has experienced it and can guide you through those early stages.
“Be true to yourself and value those around you. In the end, it’s all about people"