Arvind Mahendran

Mechanical Industrial Capability Manager

Continuing our series for Black History Month, we speak to Arvind Mahendran, Mechanical Industrial Capability Manager, from our Electronics division in Basildon.

22 October 2020

Can you tell us a little about your career so far with Leonardo?

I joined Leonardo as graduate having already spent some time with the company during my university years as an industrial placement. In total, I've been at the company for 10 years, which I guess for a millennial is quite a long time!

The graduate programme was quite a treat; it's nice to join a company and not just be thrown into things. If offers a tiered approach to learning providing an understanding how different parts of the business work - gaining the opportunity to grow and meet more people, especially around the graduate community – both in Basildon and around the sister sites.

Working as part of our Industrial Engineering team I got to work on quite a lot of new products and I really got a chance to be a ‘sponge’ and learn from the guys in the team.

I was part of the company's initial ‘Succeed to Lead’ leadership scheme which has given me opportunities not only to go places and meet people, but also to visit various military sites. This has provided me with the opportunity to better understand other organisations’ ways of working and allowing them to also critique our own leadership styles. The programme also allows you time to get out of your day to day activities and gives you time to think and take stock of your own career and what you want to do going forward.

All of this has helped me prep for my eight years as a Product Introduction Engineer as well as my new role in Mechanical Engineering - which I started earlier this year - and it will also hopefully hold me in good stead for the rest of my career!

What challenges have you faced during your career?

I try to take things in my stride and let my work speak for itself. But yes, if I'm honest, being the youngest in the room can be a bit of an interesting perspective, especially when you're working with some people who have a long tenure and know a lot more than me as a graduate. However, you get to know various ways of working with different people and bring out the best in them and yourself. It's a balancing act, but you need to know when to not be afraid and to push for things when people aren't being supportive.

There has been nothing too stressful and I've always had great mentors who have helped me with my career planning, as well as many good people around me for my day-to-day work. My current boss has always been on hand at various points in my career to talk to and gain support from, as have various senior members of staff. I think it's important that we are be able to reach out to more senior employees, sometimes you need take the initiative to move things forward and give yourself every chance to reach the next stage of your career.

It's a philosophy I now take forward and encourage in those that I am mentoring.

As we celebrate Black History Month, what are the most important things you think we can do better as a company?

I joined Leonardo in Basildon around 10 years ago and it didn't have the most diverse of populations – not just ethnically but gender too. It has improved over the time I've been here, but there is still plenty of opportunities for further improvements.

What I've tried to encourage people to think about is that diversity of a team brings about diversity of thought and better ideas. I've grown up in quite a privileged position and was able to get a placement here – something many people from minority backgrounds are not lucky enough achieve. So I do think that it is important to reach out into every area of society and increase the diversity of applications and of those joining our company.

This needs to extend to diversity in our leadership positions. Although my mentors have all been very good to me, I've not had a mentor from a similar minority background to me, since there really haven't been many in the previous generations. Obviously it would be good to see that change. It's what modern companies are aiming for and should it reflect the modern society we work and live in.

Looking to the future, what can we do now to make our company more diverse?

There is more work we can do in our local community to encourage greater numbers of people from different backgrounds to consider engineering careers as an option. This in turn will help increase the number of quality applications for our vacancies, which will likewise then see the diversity of our workplace evolve while continuing to hire the best people for the job.

I think that there has been a change other the last few years in creating an understanding of the Leonardo brand among the engineering community – more so than when I started as part of Selex Galileo. Additionally, I think some of the changes we are now implementing such as custom working practices to support flexible working, are a positive step.

Some people may not see the value in these kinds of things, but supporting initiatives today such as Black History Month is important to give us all time to take stock and appreciate the significant contributions minority groups have made in this country. We need to focus on the future by showing aspiring engineers that no matter what their background may be, they can look at those who have already chosen a specific career path and been successful, and that there are opportunities for them both within our company and across the wider industry.

I fervently believe that diversity of our workforce can only improve the way our company is run and be a major factor in its future success.