As a veteran who served in the RAF for 33 years, Mo Ahmed, Senior Management Consultant and Delivery Director at Sopra Steria shares what it means to him to be asked to judge the British Ex-Forces in Business Awards and how he approached the challenge of selecting winners from the pile of inspiring and talented ex-military nominees.
Putting on my black-tie attire and stepping into an in-person gathering of veterans and military personnel at this year’s British Ex-Forces in Business Awards will hold even more significance and emotion than I ever could have realised when I was first asked to be an official awards judge. This delayed ceremony for the 2020 awards has been an incredibly long time coming and the fact that it takes place on Reserves Day (23rd June) will only make it even more special.
I’ll be honest, when I was first approached to be a judge for the Innovator, Team Leader, Young Leader and Outstanding Achiever of the Year categories my initial reaction was one of wow . Had they got the right person? (Perhaps a part of me is still that young 17-year-old, working-class lad from Halifax.) But my initial reaction soon turned to a feeling of utter privilege and honour to be part of the incredible team behind this event.
I perhaps didn’t realise in that moment just how challenging it would be not to choose every single nominee as a winner. They are all doing and achieving such incredible things in the business world and putting their unique experiences and talents to great use in so many diverse ways.
As someone who has made that transition from the military into ‘civvy street’, I was truly moved by every single story. There was such a range – from those who have left the Armed Forces in the last year or two, to those who have been out for a decade and have established themselves in the world. They’re all bringing strong leadership, professionalism, discipline and more; and applying themselves to deliver outstanding outcomes.
Although everyone’s experience is unique, I think we all share that initial apprehension about how we’ll cope with that transfer from military life into the ‘big world’. For me, having joined the RAF in the 1980s and progressing up through the ranks for 33 years before being discharged due to injury, the idea of transitioning to the business world was overwhelming. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences as I approached the almost impossible task of choosing individuals from these talented people as the winners and runners-up.
My scores and feedback will be added to those of the other judges and at this evening’s spectacular event we’ll finally see the winners crowned after all this time. But of course, every person in the room is a winner in my eyes!
I’ll also be incredibly proud to be representing not only the RAF but also Sopra Steria. As a company, we proactively employ veterans and we have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. Our former military colleagues are a vital part of our team and bring first-hand experience which is invaluable for our work with The Ministry of Defence and in so many other areas.
I hope more employers follow Sopra Steria and others to benefit from the huge pool of talent and specialist knowledge that ex-service people offer. From my first interactions with Sopra Steria, I felt valued and encouraged to thrive and I’ve had the opportunity to influence positive change, including establishing the Multi-Faith Network, for which I am now the chairperson.
When reflecting on the successes of my own military and civilian career, I never lose sight of the fact that everything was only made possible because people believed in me. This is the spirit I’m bringing with me to these awards and to everything I do in the future. I’d like to say congratulations to every nominee in the room this evening and to reiterate my thanks for being invited to be a judge. It has been a true honour.
The British Ex Forces in Business Awards 2020 Ceremony takes place this evening (23 June 2021) at the O2 Arena. More information can be found here. https://exforcesinbusiness.co.uk/2020-finalists-uk/
Mo Ahmed, Senior Management Consultant and Delivery Director