Bringing experience and skills from defence

Ex-Royal Navy officer, Phaedra Gibson takes a leap of faith to join Smiths Detection in the middle of a global pandemic

As Global Service Training Director at Smiths Detection, Phaedra Gibson is responsible for training both the field service team and Channel Partners, plus the delivery of customer training solutions. From a career as an officer in the British Royal Navy, Phaedra successfully transitioned from military to civilian life, bringing a wealth of transferable skills to the commercial world. In due course, she joined Smiths Detection.

Phaedra chose the Royal Navy for three main reasons: firstly, she is very values driven and wanted to be involved in an organisation doing good; secondly, she always wanted to lead others; and lastly, she loves the sea! Her first post was as an Officer of the Watch on the bridge of a warship. Several years later, she moved over to the Training Management Branch and spent 14 years managing complex transformational change programmes and leading large Defence teams to audit both military training and education.

Valuable skills 

“In the military, you tend to change jobs quite frequently and having been in uniform for nearly 25 years, I found myself in many different and fascinating roles. Whatever the job, as an officer, you always have responsibility for people and equipment. I was confident that the many skills I acquired along the way would be attractive to civilian employers. Smiths Detection is very supportive of different styles of leadership.”

As a leader in the Defence sector, Phaedra learned to combine strength and resolve with compassion and empathy, a skill instilled early in officer training and underlined with the phrase ‘know your people’. The ability to communicate in an honest, sensitive and timely manner was honed directing post Trauma Risk Management Teams and acting as an Investigating Officer for complex HR related issues.

“Without good communication, minor misunderstandings can escalate into complicated and sometimes toxic issues. Honesty, particularly when the topic is difficult, should not be feared, but encouraged. Also, as mistakes in military training can be catastrophic, there must be clear policies and processes – the training delivered by Smiths Detection is equally important for global security and deserves the same respect.” 

Finding Smiths Detection 

Eventually, Phaedra sought new challenges and the opportunity to lead growth outside the military, whilst still working for good. Having successfully made the transition and happily pursuing a new career, Phaedra was invited to interview with Smiths Detection.

“I wasn’t looking to move but approached the interview process with an open mind and by the end, I genuinely wanted to join the company. At each stage, I was drawn to the corporate values and mission statement. At Smiths Detection the culture is very much one of lived values and they mirror my own. Respect for all regardless of age, background or seniority. I have a team of 60 people who come from all backgrounds and walks of life – I consider this a huge advantage and always foster difference. Smiths Detection embraces diversity in every respect and converts diversity of thought into impressive results. The other core value I particularly admire is customer focus.” 

Professional and personal goals

The primary aim in Phaedra’s current role is to maintain and further develop Smiths Detection’s position as a leading global provider of training solutions in all its markets sectors. Personally, she wants to focus on meeting the new challenges and enjoying the rewards of her civilian career. “The opportunity to develop something spectacular with a team of 60 people scattered around the world is a challenge I truly relish!”

Phaedra’s Royal Marine Officer husband left the military three years ago to support his wife’s career. Having previously been deployed six months of every year, he now provides stability at home for the couple’s four children and works part time on a new business venture.

“Looking back, I took an extraordinary leap of faith. Smiths Detection was a strong enough magnet to draw me, the main family provider, out of a comfortable position with potential and launch me into the unknown in the middle of a global pandemic! And I would do it all again…….I am really happy here and very excited for the future.”