Eurofighter Face: Debbie H 

As Eurofighter’s Eurofighter Manager of PMO & Contracts, Information Management, Business Support, Debbie H. has a wealth of experience. Here we find out what it takes to help keep the organisation going throughout the Covid crisis.

Debbie H

Tell us briefly about your career to date.

I have got 20 years’ experience in the air sector. At BAE Systems I have worked across a number of different roles and platforms— but all in Project Management. I came to Eurofighter in September 2019 to work in Project Management but focused on the IM sector away from the product. 

You joined Eurofighter just before the pandemic struck — how did that have an impact?

Less than six months before COVID-19 hit we had ordered laptops from Wuhan and we were wondering why we couldn’t get them delivered! Yes, it is fair to say that the role I had signed up for changed fundamentally and very suddenly. The need to get everyone working from home put the IM department in the eye of the storm. We were vital to ensuring business continuity.

It was a complex and challenging situation and there was a huge amount of work to do — from ordering equipment and upgrading networks, through to educating the teams about how the new tools all worked. 

Who are the key people who have inspired you professionally, personally and mentored you? 

My mentor in BAE Systems is Alison Ramsey, who I still keep in touch with now — she is very inspirational and a great person to go to for advice. I have also gone to other people in BAE Systems for advice.

I've also had the privilege of using the mentoring scheme here in Eurofighter and from a cultural point of view enjoyed the experience of having a coach from another nationality working with me. In fact, I have been so inspired by these two ladies that I have become a mentor myself.

What attracted you to Eurofighter?

We started thinking about an international assignment back in 2018 because we thought it would be good for my career and our family. We wanted to show them that there is more to life than Preston.

I was keen to broaden my experience and the role in Information Management really appealed to me. Munich was always one of my preferred options and, from a practical point of view, there were so many flights which made it easy to get to and from the UK and it is centrally located within Europe.

What skills, expertise and knowledge do you need and what are important?

Initially, I was employed to be a project manager and deliver strategic projects across Eurofighter. Over the past three years, my role has grown and so I now look after projects, contracts, budgets, service delivery and the service provider.

What are the main pressures and challenges that the role brings?

Every day is different, and every challenge is different. For example, back in 2019 not everybody had laptops or the ability to log in even remotely. So, throughout COVID there were a lot of issues to deal with.

Today, the challenge is just dealing with the sheer variety of issues and projects that come our way. So, it’s the volume of work and the different queries that we get, along with the complexity of different projects that we run both internally and externally. We are constantly dealing with different levels of complexity, different stakeholders and different issues.

From a service delivery point of view, we are the people dealing with unplanned events day in and day out.

How does it feel to be working as part of the Eurofighter family?

Personally, I love it. I love working in the international environment and the experience I've gained culturally. I am very lucky because I work in a department where most of my colleagues are German which means that as well as gaining lots of technical experience. I’ve learned lots about how different cultures behave, work and interact. 

The biggest thing for me is I've loved coming from a huge company and being able to scale my knowledge and experience in a smaller environment. At BAE Systems you generally carry out  project planning, project control and project delivery, but you only do one element of that. Whereas here you're responsible for everything from minute-taking and arranging meetings to presenting to the CEO. You can be responsible for the whole lifecycle of a project. I really enjoy that broad scope and variety.

 To reach your level, what are the kind of key personal and professional attributes that you've drawn on?

My role is dynamic meaning you need to be adaptable and think on your feet. It's fast paced, so a key thing I have learned is the ability to stay calm under pressure. 

You also need the ability to draw key information out of people and to understand the problem and then be able to tailor that for your audience. You might need to deliver a technical message from a service provider operative to an engineer, or from a technician to the Board of Directors.

The most important attribute you need in project management is stakeholder management — the ability to communicate and speak to people. And everyone who knows me, knows I like to talk! 

What does a typical day look like?

On a day-to-day basis, I would say 50% of my job is unplanned.

Why is the work that you and the team do important?

We deal with everything from mobile phones to laptops to all the applications that we use to communicate with all of our partner companies and our customers. Without the department the company would not function. During COVID, the importance of business support really came to the forefront. Before then it was always in the background but during COVID business support and IM demonstrated why we are so important.

Work life balance — how do you relax? 

I have several hobbies. I run and have entered a number of half marathons. Since being in Munich, I like to explore Bavaria and go into the mountains hiking with the children. Being in the center of Europe, it's easy to experience and make the most of our time here.