Futures Lab Command Lead: Francesca Riches
Years of experience in defence: 3
Brief summary of your career prior to Futures Lab:
Before entering defence, I spent 14 years in the private sector as a Project Manager, covering infrastructure and software projects and programmes. Over the last three years, I have covered various programmes as a Senior Project Manager and Bid Manager in the land domain. My most recent experience was an Operations Manager, supporting capability growth across key technology areas.
What does your role involve?
As Customer Engagement Lead, my role involves understanding the Army front line command challenges and helping to provide advice to reach the outcome they need. I advise the customer on our rainbow/collaborative provider network to help inform defence decisions. Part of the service includes assisting the customer by writing their requirements and seeing the process through to contract award. In addition, I am responsible for maintaining the relationship with the customer throughout delivery and beyond.
What aspect of your role is exciting, rewarding, or interesting?
The most rewarding aspect is supporting our Army in their ambition to be the best, ultimately helping to protect our nation. Furthermore, I’m proud to be able to provide an excellent service to our customers, helping with their challenges. I also enjoy engaging with different mind-sets and ways of working, which facilitates constant learning and development.
How important to you is teamwork? Are there any other factors at play which are crucial to you being successful in your role and key in the success of Futures lab?
Teamwork is extremely valuable and can lead to great innovation if you have the support of a team. Sharing knowledge within (and outside) of your team is really key to understanding other activities that are happening and how this could support your endeavour for a customer or a partner. I like to have that teamwork mentality with the customer too, ensuring you build that relationship but also work together to achieve the desired outcome.
How are you helping embed change in your domain?
Showing how industry and academia can help support defence decisions using a collaborative, rainbow team to help accelerate exploitation to the front line.
Can you provide an example of a task you’ve led on and how this has helped to improve military capability for the MOD?
As the Customer Engagement Lead – Command Lead for Land, Futures Lab. We actively work with the customer to understand their problems. To achieve this, we provide a service through the Futures Lab Provider Network in order to address those challenges. Essentially, every task we deliver is adding value to improving military capability.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in defence?
After spending most of my career in the private sector, I wanted a new challenge and to contribute to the protection of our nation.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Helping make a difference and pursuing getting the right capability to our front line commands. I enjoy engaging with different people and understanding their pains and gains.
What is the most interesting/exciting task you’ve led on and why?
I’m new into the team but have had an opportunity to pick up some interesting tasks around networks and monitoring, ground sensors, hybrid drive vehicles. This is in addition to an innovation framework for networked sensors and effectors.
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing instead?
Exploring opportunities to work with the defence customer with their challenges.
If you could provide any advice to aspiring colleagues, what would it be?
Communication and engagement is key to supporting customers, along with integrity.
What has been your career highlight?
Changing my career path by moving into a customer engagement lead role. I’m deeply passionate about the domain and engaging with customers.
What is the best advice you have received?
Believe in yourself.