Logistics and Support Director at Defence, Equipment & Support at the UK Ministry of Defence
Roger West has a fascinating 40-year career that has taken him from IBM to Defence, via Big 4 consultancies and leading supermarkets. Now Logistics and Support Director at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) at the UK Ministry of Defence, his team helps deliver equipment and support services to the UK’s Army, Navy and Air Force – from food to fighter jets.
Roger joined DE&S on an 11-month contract and ended up staying 10 years – so far. It all started for West in agricultural engineering, or at least that was the plan. After some average exam results, he came to realise “just how little you get paid in agricultural engineering so I went back to college”.
West says he earned a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with IBM and upon completion was taken on full time. He had a fascinating career with them, largely in manufacturing including design and development of robot assembly lines.
“I then took the opportunity to move into sales because IBM was trying to diversify out of the equipment business and into software and services. I did a couple of years in sales, unfortunately that coincided with the recession in the late 80s. The sales experience was really good and stood me in good stead for later life because it wasn't easy, it was tough yards. It was tough being a salesman and interacting with people you wanted to buy from you, and I think when I went into procurement, I had a bit more empathy having been on the other side of the table.”
West stayed with IBM for 13 years until he decided to take voluntary redundancy and a “reasonable amount of money”. He left the tech giant on the Friday and joined UK supermarket chain ASDA on the Monday.
“Joining Asda from the IBM environment was tremendous,” he recalls. “So different. In IBM we were very meticulous about decision making – as you can imagine when you're dealing with bits and bytes and very fine tolerances on equipment, decisions had to be right.
“I went into Asda and it was completely the opposite. So, one of the phrases I've found myself using over the years came from that period – if it's not broken, then break it and do something different. Equally, if you've got an opportunity to try something different than just give it a go because you can always stop and do something different and that was very much the model within Asda – to try things, fail early, move on, do something different. There was no penalty associated with failure, so that was great fun with Asda.”
After this short but fascinating career step, West made his move into consultancy for a decade, with companies that became PwC and Capgemini.
West soon found himself at DHL as procurement director, joining them on their NHS supply chain contract.
“You know that that was a fantastic job, and I've I think I've always been fortunate,” says West. “Going through my career I can look back and say the job I'm in is the best job I've had at that time.
Speaking about his current role, West says “This has been the best job in my career so far. It has been a huge amount of fun and opportunity. I’ve always felt that even on a bad day, I can still make a difference, and that’s a good thing to be feeling.”
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