Neil Hodges is the Ship Systems & Propulsion Manager for the Submarine Support Management Group (SSMG). Neil has been employed by BMT Defence Services for 13 years, and has been seconded to his current position since 2011. Neil is based in Bristol, although he also visits other areas of the UK with his work.
How did you become interested in the marine environment?
I grew up in Cornwall and always enjoyed sailing and being near the water. At school I enjoyed science, maths and physics, so an engineering degree seemed like the obvious choice for me.
What was your entry route?
I took A levels in maths, physics and design technology, and then began an IMarEST accredited Marine Systems Technology degree at Plymouth University. After graduating in 1999, I joined BMT Defence Services, who specialise in independent naval engineering and design.
How has your career progressed so far?
At first I worked at the head once in Bath and was involved in many discrete engineering projects primarily in support of the MoD and Royal Navy (RN) surface ships and submarines. Typical projects included engineering feasibility studies, risk assessments, system and equipment design changes, and platform surveys. I was also involved in detailed studies for new naval ship designs.
After 3 years I was seconded to the SSMG as a Senior Platform Design Engineer. The SSMG provides engineering and design services support for the RN submarine fleet. I spent 3 years at the SSMG before moving to the Aircraft Carrier Alliance as the Weight Engineering Manager where I looked after the development of the weight and centre of gravity for the new RN aircraft carriers.
After a period of 6 years I moved back to the SSMG as the Ship Systems and Propulsion Manager. Whilst working for BMT Defence Services, I took an ILM level 4 Introductory Diploma in Management. I’ve also attended many different courses to build on the work skills I use on a da -to-day basis, including report writing, negotiating and presentation skills. In 2008 I achieved Chartered Engineer status through the IMarEST.
What are your main responsibilities/tasks?
I am responsible for a team of 10 engineers who provide project management, engineering and design services support to the in-service submarines section of the MoD. We work alongside the MoD to help maintain the in-surface submarine flotilla by providing specific support in the mechanical/marine engineering area of submarine systems and propulsion. The team conduct the technical and project management aspects and I support their activities and certify their work. My responsibilities also include creating and fulfilling management processes that are necessary to ensure the effcient management and control of the team. I am mainly once based but regularly visit the various dockyards to inform specific project activities.
What are the main qualities and skills you need to do your job?
Apart from an appropriate degree and on the job experience, it’s important to have good team and communication skills. Strong organisational skills and project management abilities are also useful, but these are all skills that you can develop whilst you are working. My secondments have definitely helped strengthen my abilities in these areas.
Where do you see your career heading?
I am very happy working for BMT Defence Services. I started as a graduate engineer and I am now a managing engineer; my wish is to continue advancing my career within the company. My current role continues to represent a positive challenge that keeps me motivated and interested, therefore I am content to continue in the field of in-service submarine support.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy my work because it’s challenging. Different problems crop up daily and I enjoy the variety this creates. It is great working for a company with so many opportunities. BMT Defence Services has sister companies all over the world, so I may have the chance to relocate to another country.
Do you have any tips for someone considering a similar career to yours?
I think it’s important to take an accredited course. When I was looking into my next step after A levels, I didn’t realise how much an accredited degree would help me develop my career later on by making the road to chartership that much simpler. If I had not chosen an accredited degree, I would have had to have done further study and examinations. It’s definitely worth doing some research into the degree courses you’re interested in, and getting advice from the relevant professional body. I also think it ’s important to work for a company who will support and encourage you to continue learning, so you can reach your full potential.