Everyone at FCO Services has a big story to tell about their careers here. Some have stories about the complex projects they’ve delivered. For others, it’s places they’ve been with us, or the progress they’ve made and skills they’ve gained since joining. Together, these stories show why jobs here are more interesting, more rewarding and just that bit bigger.
Obviously, the security of our people is paramount. So while the stories here are true, we have not included real names or pictures of the people involved.
Senior Project Manager
“The complexity here is far greater. I’m now responsible for delivering worldwide.”
I work on security projects – planning and putting into place protective measures for foreign and commonwealth embassies across the world. Sometimes this means working on brand new embassies, and sometimes the project is an upgrade to an existing site. It’s my job to ensure that everything runs smoothly in terms of timescales, budgets and governance.
The international nature of FCO Services brings some really interesting challenges. I am mainly based in the UK, but I have to consider the cultural aspects of the many countries we work in. Resource allocation can get quite complicated too, particularly when it comes to putting the right engineers and installers on site at the right time.
Probably the most complex project I worked on was in Washington. It’s one of the most high-profile ambassadorial posts, so there was a lot of pressure to deliver. I got to meet the ambassador and work with their team to help minimise the impact of our work on their daily routine. But the biggest project I’ve worked on is one that’s only just finished – a £25million project that took four years to complete and covered 160 sites worldwide. There were so many variables to consider, and I’m really proud of how it all went. And the client was so impressed that they’ve already committed to another four-year project with us.
Compared to my previous job, the complexity here is far greater. I’m now responsible for delivering worldwide, and I’m proud that our work helps to keep people safe. I also get plenty of opportunities to travel, to meet with clients and see the end results of our work.
Technical Team Leader
“People are trusted to deliver, no matter what their level.”
My job takes me all around the world. I’m responsible for a highly skilled team of engineers who carry out maintenance and installations for government customers globally. Our work includes communications, computer systems, networks and security equipment, and my role is to make sure it gets done.
I spend around 22 weeks of the year overseas – overseeing projects, monitoring health and safety and giving technical advice. One of our projects saw me visit five sites across two continents in just two weeks. It was a global survey of a customer’s telephony system, and it took me to Brunei, Kuala Lumpur, Rio di Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Montevideo.
Another recent project took me to Mogadishu. Diplomatic talks were attracting a lot of high-profile visits, and we had to build a new embassy at the airport to keep everyone safe. It was the first time we’d ever delivered a project like this. It was a real achievement for everyone involved. Experiences like that make the job worthwhile.
When I’m not overseas, I’m back in the UK designing and managing projects, and seeing that our overseas offices are running smoothly. What stands out for me is the amount of trust you’re given here. People are trusted to deliver, no matter what their level. And you can incite change too. I can think of more than one instance where I’ve suggested a process improvement or a bolt-on to a new product, and it’s been acted on.
I’ve experienced so much in my time here. And as we continue to make more sophisticated solutions, for even more customers in even more places, it’s only going to get more interesting.
Graduate Electrical Engineer
“FCO Services have lots of strong female role models. They drive me on.”
I was working in a consultancy before I came here. When I saw that FCO Services were offering a role with international projects and overseas opportunities, I jumped at the chance.
My role supports our overseas engineers. I’m currently running a major inspection programme, which is really interesting. I have to manage the expectations of Ambassadors, embassy staff and our contractors to ensure that the project is going well and not causing too much disruption.
FCO Services are currently sponsoring me to do my BSC in Building Services Engineering, and the amount of study means that I don’t get to travel too much right now. Apart from small trips to Dubai and Brussels, I’ve been mainly based in the UK. But I’ve still been able to work on projects in every continent. The Central and South America projects are always the most fun and interesting, because their electrical systems are completely different to ours.
There are plenty of challenges here. Unlike most engineering roles where you can go to site to sort out an issue, when you’re supporting a project in Africa and an issue comes up, you can’t just nip over and sort it out. You have to find a resolution from your desk, often working with non-technical people on the other end of the phone. It’s not always easy, and every project is different. But we always find a way to deliver.
As a female going into a traditionally male-dominated world like engineering, you’re never sure how you’ll fit in. Here, it’s never been a problem for me. FCO Services have lots of strong female role models. They drive me on; if they’ve done it, so can I.
“You need to get the confidence to get up and go wherever the project is.”
The apprenticeship here was the right choice for me. The pay was good, and they offered the chance to work in electronic engineering, which is something I’m really interested in. I also liked the idea of going around the world, and I’ve been to India, Russia and Denmark already.
I think the biggest challenge for me has been getting used to working abroad. It’s a big change, and there’s a lot of planning involved within the team. You need to get the confidence to use your initiative and be ready to get up and go wherever the project is. At first it was a bit daunting, but you soon get used to it. At the end of the day, you’re doing the same work that you do in the UK.
There are two highlights that stand out for me. The first was completing the apprenticeship. This was a big achievement. The second was winning Student of the Year in my second year at college. My college held a dinner, and a director from FCO Services came along with my direct line manager. It really showed that they appreciated and supported everything I’d done.
I would definitely recommend the programme. If you like any technical or IT work – both hands on and planning – then this is the place. And if you’re interested in travelling abroad a lot and don’t mind leaving the UK for long periods, you’ll find some major opportunities here. It really is a life changer.
“FCO Services is complex. Our work supports everything the business does.”
Finance here is rewarding. FCO Services is complex and worldwide, and the work we do supports everything the business requires and more.
Our management information supports the business’ commercial decisions and we ensure that bids for new business are commercially viable. We also ensure payments from customers and to suppliers are made on time. The sheer diversity of our work presents some unique challenges.
One of the most important parts of my role is the creation and governance of policies and procedures to manage financial risk wherever we are operating. Although I’m based in the UK, the impact of my work ripples out thousands of miles in every direction and it is my insurance remit that reaches the furthest. Our technical and logistics people are out in the field 24/7 and I have to ensure they’re covered no matter where they are. When I took on insurance, we did not have cover in place for restricted locations. We are now covered worldwide for which I take a lot of satisfaction from.
Joining from the private sector was a big leap. It was my first job in the public sector, so I was effectively starting again I have been able to take on specialist responsibilities which I would not have been able to do elsewhere.
Once you are here, it can be a job for life. There are plenty of opportunities to take on new challenges, and the training is here to help you diversify. It’s a career that can take you in all sorts of directions. You just have to be open to learning new things.
“My biggest impact? Raising awareness of electrical safety worldwide.”
As a Programme Director, I’m responsible for all the Estate projects that we deliver for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This covers everything from office fit-outs and refurbs to new residences and embassies. I’m involved in projects of all sizes – one of the largest being our global seismic survey. We’re assessing all FCO overseas posts for seismic vulnerabilities - roughly 5,000 properties in 260 locations. Every single one needs to be checked. If we find a weakness, it’s up to us to recommend works that will make them more robust. Ultimately, we’re trying to keep the people who work and live in these buildings safe.
My current role involves a lot of customer liaison, but one of my previous jobs here was much more front-line. I worked in the engineering team, going overseas to carry out surveys, and then coming back to the UK to design and deliver the solution. It was really satisfying to resolve an issue that I had discovered.
I think the biggest impact I’ve made at FCO Services was a project I did to raise awareness of electrical safety. It’s great to know that I improved the safety of local staff and our customers all around the world.
I’ve risen up through the ranks, and I’ve always felt supported. I was helped to achieve my chartered status, and I’ve gained leadership and management skills. I’m now one of the most senior female technical leads here, responsible for one of the largest portfolios within FCO Services. Now it’s my turn to give something back, which is why I’m mentoring young engineers coming through the business.
IT Solutions and Development
“I helped develop our Visa management application system. It’s going to be global.”
From a technology perspective, there’s a huge amount of variety here. FCO Services deals in all kinds of work, so there’s always something new to get involved in.
In my current role, I manage the testing phases for the software we put together. I make sure the software that goes out is tested thoroughly and defect free. When testing for customers, we need to set up test environments here that match what they have. And we’ll only roll out the software and applications when we’re happy that it’s met the criteria to ensure it is effective and secure.
My most interesting project so far? Probably the VISA management application system. It was a new Back Office system that we developed, and it’s going to be rolled out globally soon. We carried out the pilot phase in Indonesia. That was an exciting place to go, and the work we did there was fascinating too. I didn’t just work on the testing – I also got to advise on the development side and worked closely with our customer to provide end user training and ensure the project was delivered . So I was closely involved from start to successful launch. And the results of my hard work will be used worldwide.
Since joining FCO Services, I’ve moved across from software development into software testing. I did this for my own progression. I wanted to broaden my horizons, learn a new skill and gain experience throughout the whole project lifecycle. Looking to the future, I hope to progress into a senior management role – a role where I can shape the department. This is the kind of thing that’s possible here.
IT HelpDesk Team Leader
“I had to set up a secure call between the Foreign Secretary and the UN Secretary.”
I’ve been here for 22 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever stopped developing. I started as a technical apprentice, but moved across into the IT side of things when I realised that’s where my real interest lay.
My work has seen me visit 50 different countries. I spent three and a half years in Bangkok, covering a number of posts. Here, I looked after everything technical for our embassies in the region. Once, I had to set up secure communications in a hotel room, to allow the Foreign Secretary to have a phonecall with the UN Secretary General. It was quite a nerve-wracking experience.
I was the first FCO Services representative sent to Sri Lanka to equip the FCO’s Rapid Deployment Team, restore IT and telephony infrastructure in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 tsunami. But my highlight was probably my visit to Rwanda. Shortly after the genocide, we went over to carry out a broad programme of technical work, which extended to the relocation of the Ambasador’s protective team armoury. We had a very hectic week, but we did get some downtime and finished our trip off with a visit into the mountains to see the gorillas.
At the moment, I run a team who provide a wide range of IT solutions and 24-hour support to the business and numerous government departments. This variety keeps things interesting. And as the business continues to grow, I know that I’ll grow with them.
“I’ve helped us react quicker to new opportunities. It’s already made a difference.”
Our government customers come to FCO Services for cutting-edge secure technology solutions. Whenever a new request comes in, my team are the channel who take it forward to the second stage.
We assess and prioritise requests of all sizes, and make sure that they’re passed on to the right team. It’s not just about juggling resources and people though – I look at our processes too, to see if there’s anything we could be doing to make our bids run more smoothly.
Our customers rely on our technology at home and abroad, and they often use it in tough environments. So we need to deliver across different networks and in different locations. I recently helped get one of our trial devices out to Sierra Leone and Malaysia. A lot of collaboration was needed to make that happen.
My role is mainly behind the scenes. It’s like being the stage crew in a theatre production. If my team and I do our job right, few people notice. But the production wouldn’t happen if we don’t. The work we’ve done to improve bid processes is a great example of this – it’s helped FCO Services react quicker to new opportunities. It’s already made a difference.
Since joining five years ago, I’ve had lots of opportunities to try different things. I’ve enjoyed more autonomy too. I’m supported to make my own decisions, and I’ve been able to shape my team and make an impact. In terms of the future, I look forward to gaining more experience and learning even more about our new technologies.
HR Delivery & Resourcing Manager
“FCO Services is global, and HR has to reach everywhere our people go.”
I’m proud to be part of the HR team. We help FCO Services get the right people in and ensure they are supported after they join. We partner with the business to enable them to deliver for our customers, and line managers to enable them to deliver for their teams. And we also help individuals develop themselves and their careers.
FCO Services is global, and HR has to reach everywhere our people go. For example, we help recruit people for overseas posts – finding the right individuals for each post’s unique challenges. We also help retain our talented workforce in the UK and worldwide, by making sure they have the challenges and support they need to progress. I can honestly say my work has stretched across every continent.
FCO Services is very different to any organisation I’ve worked in before because what we do is so unique. It’s very diverse, and some of the work is seriously technical. But it’s critical that we understand the business and its challenges if we’re going to properly partner with them. It’s been a fascinating learning experience.
FCO Services have done so much for me in my time here. I’ve been given the chance to broaden my role, and they’re sponsoring my CIPD studies. I’m on the way to being a qualified HR professional. And I’m free to focus on my passion for resourcing.
I’m a working mum, and the culture here helps support both sides of my life. The onsite nursery is a perfect example of this. FCO Services has afforded me opportunities and I want to give that back. I like being here, and I see an interesting and challenging future ahead of me.
“When Cyclone Nargis flattened Rangoon, I was flown in to provide rapid response.”
I’ve been working as an overseas officer for over 30 years, and in that time I really have seen the world. I’m based in Islamabad at the moment, but I’ve previously been posted in Malaysia, Israel, Thailand and Iraq. I’ve also been on countless short-term assignments.
The most interesting place I’ve worked is Israel. You see it a lot in the news, but when you’re there you get a completely different perspective. Working in Baghdad was probably the most challenging assignment. It’s a dangerous place and really tough in terms of living and working conditions. You have to wear full body armour when travelling to and from the airport. Fascinating, though. One day incoming rockets are flying overhead; the next, you’re playing cricket on the embassy’s helipad.
The biggest impact I’ve made was in the aftermath of cyclone Nargis in 2008. It hit Rangoon in Burma on a Sunday, and flattened the place and flooded the British embassy. With no electricity or means to contact anyone, the embassy was completely out of action. I was flown in to provide rapid response assistance, and quickly got to work restoring generators and getting the local radio, satellite and phone communications systems working. As a result, Britain had the only mission in the area that was operational and communicating within two days.
I’ve travelled so much because my team maintains the technical and physical security of embassies all around the world. We handle everything from access control systems and intruder detection to CCTV and telephone systems. I like the variety of the work and the places you get to live in. Travelling and broadening your horizons – you can’t beat it.