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Meeting our ex-Army employee - Matthew

We spoke to Matthew, who prior to joining us at Admiral, was in the Army for over eighteen years, serving in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. 

As you may know, Admiral signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2019. We are committed to supporting reservists, ex-armed forces personnel and their families, both inside and outside of the workplace.

Before coming to work at Admiral, Matthew was in the Army for over eighteen years. We caught up with him to hear more about his transition out of the Army and into Admiral…

Could you tell us a bit more about your experiences in the army?

I joined the Army at 15, right after I took my GCSEs. I thought I was the hardest kid in the world when I joined, but I found out I wasn’t! Honestly, I was a bit of a tear-away, and joining the Army did me a world of good.

I had a really varied experience. I started out in the Coldstream Guards – wearing a red jacket and a furry hat outside Buckingham Palace, living in Westminster and then Chelsea barracks. One year, instead of taking part in the Trooping of the Colour, I decided to try out for P-Company. I was successful, got my wings, and joined 3 Para (3rd Battalion, Parachute Company). I saw a lot of conflict – Northern Ireland, the First Gulf War, Bosnia and Serbia, the Second Gulf War, Afghanistan. I had some good days, and some bad days; in the army your bad days are really bad.

How did you find the transition out of the army?

Transitioning was hard, but eventually I made the choice to leave and be with my family. Right before lockdown, I was a guest speaker at my children’s school, and one of the children asked me what the hardest thing about being in the Army was. I told them that physically it was P-Company selection, but that mentally the hardest thing was leaving.

When I drove out of the camp for the last time, and realised it was all over, I pulled my car to the side of the road and cried my eyes out. I didn’t want to leave. The Army is more than a job, it becomes a massive part of your life.

I was so young when I joined that there were things I had never had to do for myself before, like going to the doctors and getting a bus. Civvy street can be really overwhelming. After eighteen years, I was very institutionalized, and to an extent I probably will be for the rest of my life. The Army is a completely different world, and the transition out takes a lot of adjustment.

Whilst I was in the Army, there were times where I thought I would prefer an office job, mainly to have a rest from running up and down mountains with my kit on. In reality, the transition to an office job was mind-numbing, and I wished I was back on those mountains. It took time, but I adjusted. That’s what they teach you in the Army - improvise, adapt and overcome, and that’s what I did.

How did you come to work at Admiral?

It took me a while to end up at Admiral. Straight after I left the Army, I worked in Close Protection and Counter Terrorism, which is a natural step for a lot of ex-servicemen. After a while, life events took over and I had to step away. I ended up in Technical Support for a while, and if I’m really honest, it wasn’t the job for me. I didn’t mind the job so much, but the place I worked was difficult. I’m based Swansea way, so I ran into lots of people who worked at Admiral, and I heard nothing but good things.

When I first joined, I was shocked at how different it was to my old company. On my first day of training, when we were talking about car parking arrangements, I asked my manager a question about bringing a motorcycle to work. She told me that she didn’t know the answer, but that she’d find out. Within ten minutes, she got back to me with the information I needed. I remember being shocked. At the last place I’d worked I would ask a relevant question and most of the time, I’d never hear back. The level of communication at Admiral is similar to the Army, and it was really refreshing.

How have you found working at Admiral?

Honestly, it is rare to work for a company that supports you like Admiral does. I know that because Admiral isn’t the first company I have worked for since leaving the Army. I struggle with PTSD, but my Team Managers have always got behind me and supported me, even when I’m having a bad day. It’s quite easy for me to slip into the squaddie mentality of ‘I’m fine’, but I’ve worked a lot with People Services (HR) and they have given me the support that I need. It’s the first time since I’ve got out of the Army that I know I’m working for a company that supports me as much as they can and understands my situation. Civvy street can be really hard, and that’s why it is so important to know that you’re in a place where you will be looked after no matter what. That is what Admiral is for me.

What are you up to at the moment?

I currently work as a Customer Loyalty Representative. My role includes development, so I get to do some coaching within my team and the department which I really enjoy. I also spend time monitoring other peoples’ roles and improving our customer service.

There is a lot of opportunity for progression at Admiral, and I am excited to be moving onwards and upwards, building another career for myself.

What transferable skills do you feel the Army has given you?

I think the biggest one is communication. In the Army, you’re constantly interacting with people you don’t know, so you really develop the skill of confident communication, which has definitely come in handy in my current role.

Flexibility is another one. In the Army, there is a saying that you have Plan A and Plan B, but it’ll be Plan C that comes into play. And it’s true – there have been times when I have planned and trained for months, only for something to not happen. Similarly, having a sense of humour, because it keeps you grounded and helps you face any situation. In my current role, if things don’t go exactly to plan it doesn’t phase me, because I can keep things in perspective, find a solution, and move on. I suppose you could say it has made me more resilient.

What do you enjoy most about working at Admiral?

No one shouts around here and compared to other places I’ve worked that’s a real plus! Apart from that, there’s real variety in the people you speak to on the phones and I really enjoy interacting with customers. I’ve always believed that it’s worthwhile coming to work if you can help someone out, and make their life just a little bit easier, and in my current role I get to do that. One of the customers I spoke to the other day told me that I had made her day, and it’s the rewarding moments like that which make it enjoyable. That’s why I love my role and being a part of Admiral.

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