Forging a career in Project Management: Bridie Searle shares life as a Trainee at Thales
Trainees and apprentices play a critical role at Thales, bringing fresh ideas, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Over the last 10 years, over 100 apprentices and trainees have qualified in their chosen field across the Above Water Systems business at Thales. Bridie Searle is just one of the trainees forging a career at Sydney’s Garden Island Dockyard, the largest ship repair and maintenance graving dock in the southern hemisphere, delivering sustainment to the Royal Australian Navy. Bridie left school at the age of 17 to pursue a career at Thales as a Project Management Office (PMO) Trainee at Sydney’s Garden Island, and says she’s relishing every moment of this opportunity.
Growing up in the Hunter Valley NSW, Bridie applied for the two-year traineeship at Thales whilst still in year 11. “I didn’t know much about Thales before applying but I was quickly intrigued by the diverse nature of the work the company undertakes. From commercial to defence, Thales offers possibilities for young people that other companies cannot so I sensed that opportunities like this didn’t come up very often.” Bridie adds, “With a traineeship, it’s a clean slate. You need to have common sense, computer literacy, good interpersonal skills, drive and motivation. I chose Project Management because the work you carry out in this type of role generates a complex and transferable skill set.”
So, what does a PMO Trainee do? Bridie says it can be a range of things, “I’ve had a holistic exposure to Project Management within Thales. Generally, a PMO Trainee rotates in the Project Management Office between bids, estimating, planning, scheduling and contract administration, but in March last year, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to shadow a Project Manager as exposure to progress my career.” Bridie says this approach is now replicated for other PMO trainees and will help pave the way for future trainees through the stream.
“With shadowing, I manage my own package of work within a project and I’m the Project Manager’s ‘go to person’, ensuring that the work package I'm looking after is on schedule, on budget and all the trades’ needs are taken care of. That’s my priority. It’s fantastic and the experience I've gained has been unreal.”
“Currently I’m working on a Destroyer, Guided Missile (DDG) project where I’m the Wharf and Crane Co-ordinator for HMAS Brisbane’s third maintenance availability (IMAV 03). Previously, I’ve also worked on maintenance availability for HMAS Supply, HMAS Adelaide, HMAS Sycamore and also HMAS Arunta which has meant I’ve had a wide range of exposure on different ships, Special Purpose Operations (SPOs), Enterprises and various stakeholders.”
Bridie describes herself as ‘results driven’ and finds motivation in a cohesive work environment where all people can work collaboratively to deliver a project on time and on budget. “I pride myself on the relationships I build within a team and assisting others.”
When Bridie completes her traineeship at the end of the year, she plans to stay with Thales. “I enjoy working with my team and am learning from valuable and talented people. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to shadow people with decades of experience who willingly pass on their knowledge to help develop and influence young people such as myself. I’m grateful for those opportunities.”
Bridie admits that before joining Thales she didn’t have a clear career trajectory, however that she does come from a family of hard-workers who have instilled in her the importance of a good work ethic. She also finds inspiration from leaders at Garden Island. “My role models include Training and Capability Manager, Natalie Genc and Supply Support Manager, Vanessa Perry. I highly regard their positive attitude, strong work ethic and passion for the work they do. A former Thales Production Manager who worked on HMAS Supply also made an impression on me. Being a woman in the top spot was proof that someone from an administrative role like me can work their way up.”
Bridie believes Thales’ future lies in building the capability of its people and is proud to be part of this. “I believe passing on the knowledge, skills and expertise from one generation to the next is critical. We’ve got hundreds of years of experience collectively behind us. By developing skills and building capability, we will continue to be a valuable workforce and trusted partner to Navy.”
Natalie Genc, Thales’s Training and Capability Manager says of Bridie, “Bridie is an inspirational young talent that we are fortunate to have at Thales. She is one of our rising stars and is paving the way for other trainees in the workplace to enter the Project Management Office. Bridie has also been nominated as a Trainee of the Year Finalist in the prestigious 2023 NSW Training Awards - Central & Northern Sydney Region, a huge achievement!”
Read more about Thales Australia’s maritime sustainment services.
Read more about our Apprentices and trainees.