Becky Piper

16 April 2024

Meet Lead Project Manager, Becky. She originally joined Leonardo in 2018 as a Project Engineering Lead. After returning from maternity leave in 2023, Becky felt it was time to consider a career outside of Leonardo. Here she tells us why she decided to return to Leonardo later the same year.

Can you tell us about your role when you first worked at Leonardo?

I joined our Electronics business in 2018 as part of our infra-red detectors and thermal imaging sensors team based in Southampton. It was tight knit, so it was a really great community to be part of and the work I was doing was very interesting on really exciting, cutting-edge projects.

I was lucky enough to be selected for the company’s Succeed to Lead development course, which gave me some brilliant opportunities. I then moved into Leonardo’s Business Transformation Programme (BTP); it was good to be doing something that was giving back to the rest of the business, and delivering improvements to our tools, processes and ways of working, which can really impact peoples’ working day.

What was your motivation to move on from this original role?

I think the root cause was probably coming back from maternity leave and into a completely different role with a team predominantly based on a different site. Working on the BTP ahead of my maternity leave had been great, as although everyone was in Edinburgh, we were all working from home, so I didn’t notice any impact of that. Coming back, I often felt quite isolated and out of touch with the team who were located together in the office in Edinburgh, and I felt I wasn’t really part of my old team in Southampton either who had all moved onto other projects.

Returning to work after becoming a parent for the first time is a huge transition and I feel I really lost my confidence at work. I no longer felt like I was making a tangible impact on the business and I began to consider whether I was in the right role. When another company approached me with an opportunity to work on a more customer-focussed project, I wondered if this might provide the chance to feel more job satisfaction again.

How would you compare your experience outside of Leonardo vs inside?

My experience outside Leonardo was not one I enjoyed. I missed the focussed, Leonardo culture where our IPTs are really committed and energised around meeting deadlines and delivering the best solutions for our customers.

It was also nowhere near as good in terms of flexibility, which was particularly important to me since I have a young family. Leonardo’s flexi-time, flex days and hybrid working approaches make a huge difference to me as a working parent trying to juggle a career and being present for my son. Suddenly being without these benefits really highlighted how important they are to me.

What motivated you to reapply?

If I’m honest, I wanted to specifically come back to Leonardo pretty quickly. I missed people after just two months. However, I think it was the culture and the flexibility at Leonardo, more than anything, that made me want to return.

Leonardo is a much more inclusive employer; this understanding around balancing personal circumstances with work commitments is certainly much better for me and I feel there are fewer barriers in terms of career opportunities and prospects. For me, this is tangibly demonstrated in the number of women we have holding senior roles within the business and openly fulfilling these alongside family commitments.

How has your experience been since re-joining and what differences, if any, have you noticed?

Even during my leaving and exit interviews, but particularly coming back, I don’t think I realised how much people cared about me at Leonardo. When I came back, I felt like I was coming home.

I was offered a couple of opportunities and I am feeling really inspired by the work I am doing now as the project manager for our Digital Engineering transformation programme. It is challenging, but I am back to feeling like I can make a real, positive impact and I’m excited to see the new capabilities the team are developing go live in the future.

In the time since my return, there have been more steps forward in terms of flexibility within the business. There are different working pattern trials going on around the company and it just makes it that little bit easier to balance with home life.

We are not perfect, no company is, but clearly our approach to inclusion and diversity is not just talk – we don’t just say we’re an inclusive employer, it's actually real. There is genuine intention and action behind the words, which is what I think is embedded in the culture.

How can more women be encouraged to work in the engineering sector?

We need to consider both encouraging women to join the engineering sector and encouraging women to stay within the sector throughout their careers. 

Engineering isn’t always an obvious choice or talked about as an option within schools, so it is important that we continue the great STEM outreach work Leonardo is doing, making young people aware of the opportunities within the engineering sector. I see role models as an important part of this, helping young people to visualise themselves doing a future job, as well as talking about the reality of a job in engineering. Sometimes, people outside our industry aren’t aware of the variety within the sector and there can be a misconception that engineering equals grease, boiler suits and fixing engines!

It is also important to consider how to keep women within the sector throughout their careers. Whilst things are definitely improving, I see a drop in diversity at more senior levels across industry, particularly in technical roles. I think there are a number of barriers that contribute to this, but for me, one key difference is ensuring that the impact of starting a family or other caring responsibilities are no different for women than they are for men. Flexibility is key to this, and Leonardo is really leading the way in offering truly flexible employment, which means flexible working is the norm rather than an exception. It is normal to see colleagues block out time for school runs, finish early to attend school events or work around caring responsibilities. Leonardo also offers a strong shared parental leave package and I am really heartened to see so many of my male colleagues taking up this option, bringing more equality to the load of parenting from the earliest days. Again, role models play a key part in demonstrating that it is possible to balance more senior positions with other commitments and normalising this.

How are you involved in promoting equality in the workplace, and why is this important to you?

Equality in the workplace is important to me because this results in more diverse teams, which have extensively been shown to be higher performing. Equality means that people from all backgrounds are able to contribute and lead, which means we consider a far greater range of perspectives and ultimately deliver better solutions to our customers. I am an active member of Leonardo’s Equalise network, and am specifically working on a project to support parents in the workplace. This is something I am passionate about since some simple adjustments can make a radical difference on ensuring parents – particularly new parents – feel supported and able to remain engaged at work. More locally, I am proud to have a brilliant, diverse team working on my programme, 30% of whom are women.

Inclusion and Diversity

We're strongly committed to supporting our people, and as times, people and society change, our approach to inclusion and diversity is continually evolving to reflect this. This is evidenced by the range of activities we provide and the organisations and initiatives that Leonardo is signed up to.

Inclusion and Diversity

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