Get a feel for what a career in the Civil Aviation Authority is like by reading these interviews with some of our current employees.
I joined the CAA International team in 2011, having previously worked in the aviation department of one of the Big Four professional services firms. On my first day, I was expecting a lot – the CAA did not disappoint! I’m based in Gatwick but I travel to clients around the world, supporting other countries to enhance safety and security. It’s very dynamic, varied, multicultural, with no time to get bored and a great team to work with.
After having been here six months, I was promoted to Senior Business Manager, and now I’ve been selected for the Top Talent for the Future programme, which identifies future directors of the business. The process takes nine months, with lots of training and also a project: ours is about key international relationships, how the CAA has to engage beyond its regulatory duties, who do we partner with and how can we influence in those places where we have no regulatory authority.
I value the expertise I’m surrounded by, and the exposure in the international environment, but the work-life balance is a powerful attraction too; the ability to work from home, the family considerations. People give more back as a result - enjoy coming to work, do everything thoroughly and with integrity, feel they have something to add and are proud of what we do, influencing world policy.
Senior Business Manager
Having worked for global engineering consultancies on transportation projects, I knew of the CAA’s regulatory role in the UK and the investment they make in their staff. What I wasn’t aware of – and what made me apply – was the exposure they have on the international markets: enhancing safety and performance, teaching people best practice across the globe.
I started in 2010 as a Business Manager, in charge of a number of projects. After two years – driven by the influence we can have on other organisations and countries – the CAA recognised my ambition to move into a managerial position utilising my commercial, people management as well as technical knowledge. Now I manage a team of technical experts across different disciplines and direct projects across CAA International, and it’s really motivating to see the energy and commitment to deliver high quality work in the team. My job is to show them that what they do and how they do it, influences everything we achieve.
There are always opportunities to excel in your role and to learn – perhaps even to change your career path. The company actively encourages secondments (the team I manage in CAA International is entirely made up of people seconded from other areas, applying their knowledge as well as learning new skills in this way) and the training opportunities really mark us out. That and the reward of knowing that what you do makes a difference, truly means something.
Project Manager – Noise Modelling
Being an acoustic engineer I’d always held the CAA in high regard. I knew they led the way in understanding aviation noise. I liked the idea of providing objective advice to widen the debate and inform both sides. When I saw an advert for a role in environmental research, I knew I had to apply.
I’m a project manager in the Environmental Research and Consultancy Department, which sits within the new Policy Programmes Team. Amongst other things, this encourages collaboration and the sharing of experience. I manage a small team undertaking aircraft noise modelling for government and commercial organisations. We predict noise around airports and advise on how to manage it. We also develop and contribute to international standards relating to aircraft noise and emissions.
Before joining, I’d heard that most people at the CAA were pilots or had been involved in aviation, which was off-putting – and not true! You don’t necessarily need aviation experience. We want to bring fresh thinking into the business. There’s a broad mix of people and backgrounds, including those who want to keep moving within the organisation, and those who focus on being the best at what they do. Both are needed, and valued.
IT Service Desk Team Leader
I joined in August 2008 as a contractor. A year later I was made a permanent member of staff as a Lead Analyst and in 2013 I was promoted to my current role as a Service Desk Team Leader. This is the first point of contact for any IT issues – from someone’s PC not working to installs of new software. I run the service desk, manage a team of five analysts and deal with any issues that have been escalated. It means we get work with all the different areas of the business.
It’s great to work for an organisation that’s responsible for people’s safety – but the CAA is involved in areas you might not imagine, like the ATOL scheme that protects holidays. It’s really varied and the people are too… I come from a healthcare background. What we all have in common is the level of collaboration: everyone works together and supports each other. And that includes the support you get for training and progression. I never thought I’d be a manager of a team, but the CAA believed in me and encouraged me. It’s a progressive business.
I was working in Finance when a friend recommended the CAA as a great opportunity to try something different. I started in 1999 in a business support role, then moved to a more senior position as an ATOL Licenser. Another move – to a new division as a Radio Licensing Officer – led to this current role. Although I wasn’t fully qualified because it required an engineering background, the experience I’d gained was enough.
I’m responsible for coordinating spectrum and communication frequency for all aircraft and navigation system. Frequencies cross boundaries, so they have to be managed Europe-wide. It takes a lot of clever prioritisation, because every day is so varied, but there’s no micro-managing; I’m trusted and given the freedom to complete tasks at my own pace. One of my roles is looking after the finance for a large spectrum release programme – invoices, payments, projections – while another is working with the UK security services…
I’ve had lots of training here. You just have to find the areas for development and present a case. An Air Traffic Management course in Luxembourg (I came back and changed our processes the next day)… Specialist technical training… Office training… Aviation studies… all funded by the CAA. Every time I thought I’d reached my level, they’d empower me and push me further.
Business Manager for Aviation Security Directorate (AVSEC)
I worked previously for City & Guilds, in its assessment and compliance department– very different to what I do now! I joined the CAA in July 2013, which makes me the CAA’s first ever Business Manager for Aviation Security. AVSEC’s move to the CAA from the Department for Transport about a year ago was a major project, with some pretty challenging dimensions, and I found it fascinating to be working at the centre of all that. We are now in Phase two of the transfer, working to fully embed the new function into the CAA and its culture.
Being accountable to Government, and to the public, demands honesty, transparency and integrity – all of which matches my own personal values very well. I am proud to be part of the CAA, and find it extremely rewarding to be carrying out a role that I know has real benefit for the travelling public. I feel that I am playing my own small part in safeguarding aviation in the UK from the terrorist threat, and I honestly get a real buzz from that. And because that threat is always evolving, our jobs here never stand still for long.
The upshot is – I no longer mind Mondays at all!
Principal Airworthiness Surveyor
When I joined the CAA in 2007 from a leading aviation consultancy, I was looking for a better work/life balance. I’d got to a phase in my life where I had to stop chasing the money and think about being with my family more. I began as an Airworthiness Surveyor in the Heathrow office, then relocated to Gatwick where I was offered a role within the Chief Surveyors’ Office, I had responsibility for training surveyors and for helping with policy issues as well. Recently I took the opportunity to get broader experience as a Principal Surveyor.
Working for the CAA is an opportunity of a lifetime – working with a world class regulator, and with some of the smartest minds in the world. As we can’t have all the knowledge in one person’s head, the team is structured to work together and consult with the specialists as required – say it’s a materials, there is specialist to help with a new technology aircraft ( to confirm we can accept the aircraft onto our register). We’re more proactive than we used to be as well; more visible and customer-focused, with more impetus, and the tools to get things done.
Project Manager – State Safety Programme
I did a degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Investigative and Forensic Psychology. I was also in the university air squadron and the air cadets – and I have a private pilot’s licence. So I was looking to combine my interests in psychology and aviation. I went to the NEC flying show and asked the CAA about work experience - which developed into paid work and then an interview for a job.
I joined as an analyst and received lots of applications training. The project manager’s role came about through me asking what else I could get involved in. I got involved in bids, then was asked to manage a project. Along the way I took a professional training programme. You just have to show initiative and want to find out more – then people can’t help enough.
I’ve been here almost two years now. From the start, I felt that with more and more people coming in who weren’t from the industry, we needed ways to help younger members of staff make contacts and get guidance. So with a colleague I came up with Future Faces – a kind of professional support network for those who are early in their careers to meet people they wouldn’t normally encounter in their work. We took it to senior management who were really supportive and provided a budget. We’ve just had 17 people turn up at our first event!
Senior Business Manager for Exams & Licensing
I’d been in aviation for 15 years, including 10 years in pilot training and to board level. One day I picked up a copy of Flight International and was drawn by a role advertised with CAAi. In 2009 I joined as a Business Manager in the training department: taking a part of the business that had lots of opportunity to develop, diversifying the portfolio, engaging with more expertise… After a year, I was given the added responsibility of the exams portfolio, and in 2011/12 I moved up to Senior Business Manager and inherited a new service stream of licensing solutions.
The one certainty at the CAA is that there’s no such thing as a typical day. We work on a global platform, with global exam centres and projects – and global influence. I get a real kick out of going into an overseas regulator and being able to engage and help them improve their processes, reinforce their staff capabilities, or resolving issues and providing tools to assist them. It’s not about being better, because we learn from them too; it’s about making it easier and raising safety standards.
I’ve learned that if you’re motivated, you’ll be encouraged and empowered to make changes. Your responsibilities can change very quickly too. Today I’m a Senior Business Manager – who knows what I could be in the near future? A different management role? A move up the chain? It doesn’t feel uncomfortable now, with the tools I’ve been given and the opportunities I have been able to create or seize.
After basic training as a lawyer, I joined the CAA in 2004. Since then I’ve really developed. My technical understanding has grown. All the legal training and continuing professional development has been provided - and with the additional courses you can take, like communication and presentation skills, you’re always learning. The organisation has developed while I’ve been here too; it has much more proactive foresight, is more prepared for anything and everything.
I deal with litigation and advisory work. I might be in meetings or in court. An example would be the decision to ground a plane. If someone challenges it, it’s my role to defend the CAA, to define what we’ve done and why. That means supporting, working with and learning from the technical experts, and this is where the culture of open communication and collaboration comes in. Because we’re Legal, people might feel they need to be careful what they say – so we break down these barriers, encourage informal, friendly discussions.
It’s a great atmosphere. We have good benefits and holidays, with flexible working and no culture of staying beyond your normal hours. Yes, you have to be very enthusiastic and eager to make a contribution, but it’s a great work/life balance.
I joined CAAi in 2013 from a company that manufactures labels and identification systems for applications such as aircraft wiring and black boxes. I’ve always been a bit of an ‘aviation geek’, so the opportunity to work for a world leading organisation that touches on all sectors of the industry was very exciting. There’s no better feeling than knowing your efforts can help shape the future of aviation safety and security, plus environmental and consumer protection.
I’m responsible for planning and delivering all marketing activity for CAAi. Many countries face challenges to improve safety and security oversight and don’t realise there’s UK CAA support available to them. It’s my job to demonstrate how we can help them overcome these challenges and work with them as partners to improve aviation standards – for the good of that country, and to protect British passengers travelling around the world.
I manage the full B2B marketing mix from communications (advertising, PR, online) to organising international events and devising strategies bringing new products to market. Collaboration is key. With so many stakeholders, it’s critical that we’re able to involve the right decision makers at the right time. Since joining, I’ve been assigned more challenging tasks outside and above my job function. My line manager has been very supportive in my career progression and I’m being promoted to Marketing Manager.
I joined in June 2014, having worked for an economic consultancy on aviation studies in the Netherlands. It’s the strategic objectives I love – enhancing safety, ensuring choice and value, improving environmental performance, maintaining security. The CAA is making sure we live in a better world and I’m proud to say I work here.
CAAi is an international arm of the CAA, with the same aim of ensuring UK passengers, wherever they go, enjoy safer skies. Of course that benefits other passengers in other countries. We are exporting best aviation practice around the world. We also export the CAA’s culture: supporting each other, acting with integrity, doing the right thing to protect the public.
We need to keep adapting to the changing world around us. We need foresight and more knowledge sharing. We need to be enablers and people who can learn and develop. If you’re great at one thing you can be a technical specialist, but you have an opportunity to develop further. I’ve already been on the six month front line manager’s training course, which allows you to go out of your comfort zone and learn things like negotiation, influencing and change management. There’s always a place in the CAA for different people with different skill sets.
Head of IT Service
Although I’d worked at the CAA since 2002 in various roles for IT suppliers, it was 2008 when I actually joined the organisation as IT Service Manager. This was part of an in-sourcing activity of many IT functions which was undertaken to enable better control of IT Resources in an important period of modernisation. This was also in preparation for a Business Transformation Programme that is now underway. Bringing IT functions in-house has also allowed IT to work more closely with the business to ensure the IT department meets their priorities. An example would be shifting paper-based functions online – which can have a highly visible impact, such as with the new electronic exam system. Last year was about tendering for the right supplier to work with in delivering Transformation Programme Objectives - putting the new contracts and processes in place. This year it’s about delivering those services, making sure the business is ready to use them, and that we’re ready to support them.
We’re all about collaboration – and about aspiring to do as much as we can. That’s the way IT works with the business, and it’s the way the CAA works with its Stakeholders externally as well. Like with the volcanic ash cloud: there wasn’t a legislative requirement to speak to the industry and suppliers about engine tolerance, but the CAA actively drove those discussions to provide clarity to industry and engine manufacturers. That’s why we look for self-starters who can take responsibility, put themselves forward and have a go. A passion for aviation isn’t essential, but once you’re here, you’ll soon have one!
Professional Support Lawyer
I found my first job here through the website as a temporary Paralegal in 2010. Since then, I’ve been on maternity leave twice (during which I popped in for a few ‘keeping in touch’ days to catch up with and provide support to the rest of the team) and have just been re-admitted to the Roll of Solicitors. Re-gaining my practising certificate has taken a joint effort from me and the organisation – me identifying what I need, and the CAA providing the support and opportunity.
I’m currently involved in an exciting and significant project that will result in a number of key changes across the business. Naturally, we all have our area(s) of expertise, but we’re generalists and can work on anything that comes in: be that ATOL issues or a query from someone who has bought a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and wants to know the rules that apply.
You get the chance to move around the organisation, shape your own role, make great friends... The benefits are fantastic – maternity leave was six months’ full pay without a minimum length of service requirement, the rest statutory – and I had the flexibility to work part-time and do a phased return, which was exactly the reassurance I needed.