Simon Cole is the Operations Director for Stirling-based Dogfish Mobile. He is also an RAF Reservist with 602 (City of Glasgow) Sqn. He has two children and lives in Elgin.
We caught up with Simon to find out all about his careers, both civilian and military. We also spoke to Simon’s boss Greig Johnston to find out how Simon’s reservist career impacts on Dogfish Mobile.
Simon, tell us about your career as a reservist, when and where did it all start, what’s your current role, and what made you want to join up?
“I spent 17 years as a Regular in the RAF where I was a Navigator on helicopters. I loved my full-time service, but I took the decision to leave because I felt I wanted to do something a bit different and see what was on the other side of the fence. When I left to pursue a business career, I had a sense of leaving behind a family and a way of life that I was extremely proud of and missed terribly. Within four months I had applied to join the RAF Reserves. I am so glad I did!”
What’s the best part of being a reservist?
“It sounds trite, but putting on my uniform and carrying out reservist duties recharges and energises me. It gives me a sense of balance that I don’t get anywhere else. I would struggle to carry out my business career without the release the reserves gives me. I think the best part is the camaraderie, and everyone pulling together, along with getting a top up of military humour. I also have a sense of pride and a feeling of doing a useful job and giving something back to my community.”
Where has your RAF career taken you?
“After I left the Regulars I joined 602 (City of Glasgow) Sqn as a Flight Ops officer. It was a change of branch from my regular service where I was aircrew. I’ve supported the Sqn and in particular I’ve supported the Joint Warrior Exercises from RAF Lossiemouth. That’s been great for me as it’s been in the maritime environment working with NATO Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and is an environment that I had very little exposure to during my Regular Support Helicopter career. I’ve recently been promoted and will shortly be supporting the Joint Force Air Component (JFAC) as an SME using my Rotary and Electronic Warfare skills that I gained in the regulars; I am really looking forward to that.”
Do you have a favourite moment?
“I have lots! I was never particularly keen on parading in the regulars, but when I left, I gained a much better understanding of what it meant and how important it all was. One of my proudest moments was marching for a mile with 602 Sqn through Glasgow City Centre on Armed Forces Day and then parading in George Square. I can also remember doing an afternoon of Battle PT in Glasgow, even after 17 years in the regulars it was one of the toughest PT sessions I’ve done. It was outside, the rain was bucketing down as only it can in Glasgow, and the whole squadron was rolling around in mud and water totally committed to supporting each other and getting through the session in fine style, it was hugely enjoyable (and tough!). Then there have been numerous Force Development favourites, for example a week of cross-country skiing (and falling over) in Norway and climbing Munros in Scotland.”
Tell us about your civilian job.
“I’m the Operations Director for Dogfish Mobile. We’re a mobile and web technology company with a stated aim of improving people’s experience of life by the applications we create. My role is to make sure all our projects run to time and budget, and we deliver what our clients need.”
Being a reservist requires time off work, how does your employer support those demands?
“My employer is very supportive and gives me two weeks of paid leave for my reservist duties. We’re a small company, so this amount of time off is generous.”
What skills have you gained as a reservist that enhance your civilian role?
“As well as getting a completely different perspective and refreshing outlook on life, the reserves have helped my leadership and communication skills significantly. The military is a team, and that culture of looking after and supporting each other to get the job done feeds through very strongly into my civilian role. Also, in your reservist role you get put into situations where you need to follow procedures and orders, or quickly establish them in order to achieve the objective. This experience has been really beneficial to me as it allowed me to help bring order and process to our company as we expanded rapidly during a period of high growth.”
What would you tell a colleague who was interested in becoming a reservist?
“Don’t hesitate! You’ll have a lot of fun, be tested in the process, learn loads and really enjoy working as a team while doing a very satisfying job. Being able to combine this with a civilian job is a real privilege.”
Greig Johnston is CEO of Dogfi.sh Mobile and Simon’s boss.
How do you as an employer benefit from employing a reservist?
“Dogfish Mobile are keen to demonstrate support for the community that our staff live and work in. We’re very proud to be headquartered in Scotland, we’re also equally proud to be able to support in a small way our armed forces by employing a reservist. We’ve signed the Armed Forces Covenant and are a Silver Award winner on the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. This exposure to the Defence Community and the wider engagement it brings us connects us to an area that without a reservist we wouldn’t have been in touch with. It helps ground our staff and gives a greater context to and understanding of the environment that we live and work in. We have also been lucky enough to be invited to some pretty cool military events! On top of this, employing a reservist brings very useful skill sets into our company, which we’ve detailed later.”
In what practical ways do you support your reservist(s)?
“We give our reservists two weeks’ paid leave per annum to carry out their military commitment. On top of this, we are enthusiastic supporters of Military Engagement events.”
What qualities do reservists bring to the workplace?
“An armed forces reservist comes with a range of valuable skills they have leaerned whilst serving. These include strong leadership and followership skills, as well as the ability to communicate clearly to a very wide cross-section of people. We’ve found that reservists are able to stay calm under pressure because of the situations they face during their military service, have a dedication to getting the job done along with a disciplined work ethic and bring a sense of order to chaos. They’re also good line managers because they’ve had that experience of a strong command chain. Additionally they bring a unique and refreshing perspective into the company which helps staff members (particularly the younger ones) really think about wider society.”
What would you tell a fellow employer if they asked if it was worthwhile employing reservists?
“It’s a definite yes. This is one of the few situations where there is genuinely no downside. The influx of skills into the company justifies the decision on its own, and then there is the wider satisfaction and value in being able to engage in a small way with the Defence Community and the benefits to the company culture that this brings.”