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Engineering a new team

Mandy Savage, Executive Director Engineering

On National Engineering Day, it seems rather apt to share my reflections so far on leading the engineering function at AWE.


This April, I was appointed as the first Executive Director for Engineering at AWE. This is a new role within the business, separating Science and Engineering functions, and really demonstrates the critical role we play in delivering capability to support the mission.

I was reflecting on how I started my engineering career and how got here. When I left University, I got five interviews across three different sectors. And I chose defence. In some ways I surprised myself; it was my most difficult interview out of the five, but I loved being tested, stretched, and pushed to the limits of my knowledge and beyond. I knew then that this challenge and excitement for defence would carry throughout my career, but what I didn’t realise at the time was how I felt working alongside my peers who had the same sense of passion for the mission. I sense my love for community was born out of my experience as a young graduate.

So that was my first step on the career ladder, and I have not looked back. At AWE, we’re going through changes to get our business prepared for our future mission. Our challenges are much like the challenges that the engineering industry faces as a whole today: How do we entice diverse groups of engineers into defence? How to get young people interested in the field? How do we build resilience, so we have the skills we need in the future? Much of this has to do with how we manage our team.

Of course, we need the engineering ‘know how’ and expertise but engineering leadership is key to us achieving our goals, especially given the complexity of the products we make and the environment we operate in. We need to simplify how we work and ensure responsibility, clarity and empowerment for our key engineering leaders. We have much to do.

But managing a team is also about building a community. My years in the defence industry have only solidified my belief that people are the most important part of the business. The foundations, or bare bones, of a team might be in place, but without good people and culture, the passion and love that makes a company thrive is lost.

In my six months here, I have been delighted to work with distinguished specialists, engineers, and other team members. There is a dedication to defend the nation. There is a sense of belonging and commitment to the important work we do. In fact, I was delighted to find out a former cohort of graduates are still good friends well over a decade later – this is only testament to the strong community of people that already exists here.

My time here will be preparing people for the changing engineering and defence landscape. Building a community means embracing skills and talent, being agile and flexible, and making sure people have opportunities to succeed in their own way.

It’s a rich time to be at AWE and I’m excited to be part of the journey.