A Force To Be Reckoned With #2

Career Stories from ADF Partners

There is an enormous amount of talent, creativity, grit and determination in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) spouse/partner community. Not to mention incredible stories of partners adapting to changing circumstances, making the most of new opportunities that come their way, and not just surviving but thriving in the face of the challenges. Each month we’re going to hear from an inspiring ADF partner who is achieving success (however they define it) in their career life and ask them what they’re doing, how they got there and what’s next.

Paul White – Logistics Analyst

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Paul (left) with his family

Paul is a Senior Logistics Analyst with Raytheon who lives in Brisbane with his husband and two young children. Paul served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1998-2006 during which time he met his husband Chris (who himself discharged from the Navy in 2017). Paul has been a serving member, an ADF partner, and is now both a veteran himself and the husband of a veteran. Paul has previously represented Defence families in WA as the Defence Families of Australia Delegate for Western Australia and is also a small business owner. He has lived on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. Whilst the family loved living in Perth they are happy to be back home in Queensland close to family.

What does your current job involve?

I am a Logistics Analyst with Raytheon Australia, currently working on Collins Class Submarine upgrade projects. I work in a small team that works to provide the support systems and strategy that go hand in hand with the physical systems that we deliver to Defence. Our aim is to ensure adequate training packages, logistics support processes and reduced life cycle costs are a part of the overall systems that we design, build, integrate and deliver to the war fighter.

What training and professional development have you done to get where you are today?

I have recently completed a university graduate certificate, but before that I had only really worked through our in-house work provided career advancement programs. I would say though, for anyone whose workplace offers these types of courses and training, jump on it. Take advantage of what is on offer, and work hard to get through the training pipeline. The other thing I have done is to seek out a mentor both in the workplace, but also find someone who is external to your company, but still in the same industry. The knowledge and experience you get from this is invaluable.

Has being an ADF partner influenced your career options and decisions?

Definitely. Firstly (as with every other defence family) packing up and moving across the country to follow a posting is taxing. It means starting from scratch. If you can land yourself work with one of the big Defence contractors who have work locations around the country, you may just be able to transfer between offices in such times, but you need to make yourself valuable to the company. 

I am not sure that I would have continued working in Defence Industry had I not remained attached to the Navy, through my partner. It is only now that I have 10+ years of working in industry that I feel I will continue on this path for the foreseeable future.

What other jobs do you have/have you had? 

My first job post discharge lasted 2 weeks. I think it was less about the job, and more about not being prepared for life outside of Navy. 

I spent a couple of years working in a Bath and Body products factory in Sydney as their production manager. This job gave me the confidence to get out there and be productive, and reintegrate into the civilian world. 

When we moved across to Perth, I spent the first year working nightshifts in the warehouse of a mushroom farm. Did you know that mushrooms are grown indoors? Whilst it is a farm, it is not a traditional one.

In 2010 I started working for BAE Systems as a Team Lead in the JLU warehouse at Garden Island, and since then have worked within defence industry. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career life that you’ve successfully overcome?

Being gay and coming out whilst in the navy, 20 years ago was a real challenge. Sure the rules had changed, but attitudes were still very much stuck in the past. I was an active player in advocating for change to Defences policy on Same Sex partner recognition, and the lead up to that change saw some real skeletons come out of the closet with respect to staunch opposition to the changes. It was a challenging time to be a young sailor, who was still finding his feet, yet being so out in the spotlight calling for change.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve embraced?

I got to travel to a lot of places around the world.  Some pretty and with all the trimmings, but others were places that challenged my thinking. Seeing countries where clean water was a pipe dream, flushing toilets were unheard of and things like going to school every day was the stuff of fairy tales. These experiences as a young man shaped and moulded me and my thinking.

Having the chance to work alongside a great team of people under the  Defence Families Australia banner was fantastic. An organisation that brought together partners, to work on ensuring families are looked after as much as possible, to support the uniform member whilst they do their jobs. I have lived through deployments, both where it was me going away, and where I was the one left behind with the kids. They are tough. If we can ensure that the family unit has support, and can remain functional whilst the serving member is away doing their job, then that is one less worry for them. It allows them to keep their head in the game, and carry less burden and stress about how the homefront is coping.

Has being a veteran and an ADF partner developed skills/attributes that you think have helped you in your professional life?

Without a doubt. For example:

  • The ability to think on my feet
  • Compassion and Empathy – important when working with and growing teams of people.
  • Understanding the Defence machine – it is a complex beast with many moving parts.
  • A real understanding of what we are striving for.  Anyone can work on a system, and make it look good, but truly understanding what such a capability will do for those at the coalface, and how it will better their lives, I think gives me a competitive advantage over those who have not had the exposure and experience.

What are some of the skills/attributes that are needed by people working in the Defence Industry?

Apart from the obvious ones surrounding security, I would say the ability to think on your feet and remain flexible are a must. Defence has a lot of legislative and governance requirements that may seem illogical and sometimes a little backwards, but understanding where those come from can be important. At the same time, being able to recognise where something can be done better, and having the courage to raise your hand and have those conversations can pay dividends. 

Understanding the Defence machine can go along way in gaining you respect and even stature. This is where defence families and veterans have an upper hand, having intricate knowledge of the coal face can be invaluable. Often a company will take on a contract, and neither the company nor the CASG contract office will truly understand how the warfighter will actually use the system on a day-today basis. Being able to articulate these intricacies enables you to have a direct impact on the quality of the system that we provide.

What advice do you have for someone who’d like to work in the Defence Industry?

Don’t be put off applying for a role, just because it asks for XYZ skills as a mandatory requirement. If you can satisfy only 70% of the requirements, throw your hat in the ring. I have spent a number of years in hiring manager roles and I can tell you that I cannot remember a single time where I have hired someone who has every required attribute.  Life experience, and the ability to learn quickly are invaluable, but at the same time hard to articulate. 

Ability to hold a security clearance is a must. Check out the requirements on the AGSVA (Australian Government Security Vetting Agency) website in advance.

Absences from home are a part of life for many ADF families especially Navy families. Did you find deployments had an impact on your employment and work/life balance? What strategies did you use to survive and thrive during deployment or other absence from home of your partner?

Chris last deployment was challenging. Our twins were 3 years old, and Chris was posted with very short notice to a ship that was preparing for a Middle East deployment at the end of that year. Soon after posting to the ship, our Armidale fleet were grounded, and the Ship went north to conduct border patrols. During this MH370 went missing, and the ship redeployed to join the search. As the year rolled on, the ship moved into work-ups for the deployment and then in the middle of the year, she sailed for the sandpit, where she remained until December of that year. During this year she was home for 5 or 6 weeks in total, and that was broken up, sometimes we saw Chris for just a few hours on the wharf whilst they came alongside, replenished and left for the next task. 

This was my first deployment home alone with the kids. Equally for Chris, he missed an entire year of their lives. During this time, we really drew on the support of family and friends. I was working with Defence Families Australia at this time, and was able to use this lived experience when talking with our policy makers about how to support the family unit. Raytheon were fantastic and supported me where I needed it with flexible working arrangements to be able to juggle the work/life commitments. 

One thing I would offer is to be upfront and open with your employers during these times. Most will understand and be accommodating where it is needed. Keep an open dialogue with your manager so they can manage the work needs around what is happening.

You have twins – how have you managed and “balanced” the workload of having two children the same age whilst working outside the home and having a partner in the ADF?

This was hard. I cannot thank my parents enough for uprooting their lives and moving across the country to help us with the kids when they were born. For three years they lived over in Perth and helped us every day with the kids. They provided the ability for us to work fulltime, and when needed, travel for work. When they moved back over east, we had to work on strategies to manage our time. We drew on the help of friends and built up a support system around us. Building resilience into our daily lives was hard, but essential. I think it is one skill that defence families excell at.

As if working full time in the Defence Industry and having twins you also own a small business. How did you get started as a small business owner and why?

When I was working at the Bath and Body products factory, I was able to buy stock from the owners at a cost price. I came to love burning candles, and when we moved to Perth and I walked into a retail store to buy some, I nearly fell over at the cost of them. Very quickly I started to make my own candles. From here it grew, friends wanted me to make some for them, family wanted them and it spiralled. We started attending local markets selling our products, and built a website to sell from as well. For a year or two, we even started selling them by in-home parties (think tupperware). About 5 years ago, we opened our Perth Candle Supplies shopfront ( www.perthcandlesupplies.com.au ) and these days we specialise in candle making supplies and run candle making classes for home candle makers from our premises in Fremantle.

What do you enjoy about running a small business?

Seeing the fruits of our labour. Honestly seeing people come into our store who have never made a candle in their life, and after attending our class, and having a go, they get the bug. I guess it comes back to, the satisfaction of helping others

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of starting a small business?

Don’t. No seriously, it is hard work and challenging, but it can be rewarding. My number one tip would be Plan, Plan, Plan. You need to plan in detail what it is you want to achieve, then work back from that. Keep reviewing and updating your plan as things change. Just remember, keep some me-time no matter how hard or busy it may get. Block out some time in your diary if you need, but still spend some time with your family and friends, after all, they will be the ones who support you through this, just the way you supported your partner when they were in uniform.

What have been some of the highlights of your career?

-Working with DFA and the opportunity to spend time with the most senior leaders of the ADF, and be able to work directly with government ministers and senators to ensure that we support those who support our war fighter, was amazing. During my time doing this I got to see real change being made, and was truly thankful for the opportunity to be involved. 

-Seeing parts of the Middle East – whilst it is an area that is in turmoil, it still has places of beauty.

-Working on Patrol Boats and seeing refugees who are fleeing from the horrors of their homeland, and risk everything to get on a leaky boat with their kids in the hope of a better life. Whilst this is not entirely a positive experience, it changed the way I think and act in life. It gave me compassion and empathy and 20 years on there is rarely a day goes by where I don’t think back to this and appreciate just how lucky I am, and how lucky we as a nation are.

What are your next goals?

Buy a house over here in Brisbane, and start to enjoy life with family. Work is not everything, and time can never be regained.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Enjoy life. Live in the moment, but think for the future. Experience what you can, while you can.

Thank you Paul! You can find more details about Paul’s candle business at www.perthcandlesupplies.com.au

One thought on “A Force To Be Reckoned With #2

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Paul. It was a good reminder that sometimes with a career change, location change or for me, after a long period out of the workforce, you might need a job or two to get your confidence back. Lovely to see your lovely twins growing up healthy.

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