In 2022, Thales is stepping up its recruitment policy, with plans to hire 11,000 new people worldwide. In this joint interview to coincide with Euronaval 2022, talent development managers Audrey Attenti and Myriam Chevreuil discuss the opportunities available within the Group, which sees skills and career development as a long-term endeavour.
What would you say to a new graduate interested in joining Thales?
Myriam Chevreuil (MC): I’d say that a career with us is a chance to take part in ambitious, far-reaching projects. For instance, Thales is currently developing solutions for greener aviation and designing the next generation of satellites. Or, to take an example from the naval sector, our Maritime Mine Countermeasures Programme (MMCM), which aims to boost performance in mine-clearance operations and improve personnel safety. It’s exciting and rewarding work: you’ll be involved in developing cutting-edge systems and disruptive new technologies for our customers, such as our Folding Light Acoustic System for Helicopters (FLASH) and the SonoFlash air-droppable sonobuoy, which can detect and locate increasingly evasive submarines. With these two recent success stories, Thales has cemented a position as a key player in naval defence and maritime security.
Audrey Attenti (AA): I’d say that working for Thales means choosing a career that makes a difference to people’s daily lives. In their own way, every one of our 81,000 employees is helping to make the world a better and safer place, to defend national sovereignty, to find new ways to respond to climate change, and much more besides.
What opportunities are currently available at Thales?
AA: Right now, we’re mainly seeking software and systems engineers and architects, cybersecurity engineers and project managers. With so many roles on offer, we naturally recruit people from all walks of life. In fact, if you look at the 9,000 new employees we hired globally in 2021, you’ll be hard-pressed to find two people with identical backgrounds. And because diversity is one of our core values, we don’t see a person’s education and qualifications as a barrier to advancement. At Thales, nobody’s trajectory is set in stone. We empower our employees to take control of their careers – to build their skills and abilities so they can progress upwards or sideways within the Group.
MC: We have long-standing partnerships with engineering schools, business schools, universities, institutes of technology and even high schools. In the naval sector, for instance, we have close ties with the French naval academy and ENSTA Bretagne. Our workforce is incredibly diverse in terms of roles and backgrounds, so we’re not only looking to hire engineers! We also need people to join our production and repair teams. Many of our employees come to us with undergraduate degrees or vocational qualifications in digital systme or industrial IT, for example. Internships and apprenticeships are also a key component of our recruitment policy: in 2021 alone, we took on 2,500 people on these types of contracts in France.
What is the Group’s internal mobility policy?
MC: At Thales, don’t keep our employees in a box. If you’re an engineer or technician and you join us in a naval-focused role, there’s nothing stopping you from moving into aerospace or cybersecurity down the line. Our people have transferable skills and we actively encourage them to keep trying their hand at something new. The Brest site, for instance, is home to both our naval and aerospace teams, so it’s relatively easy for employees to switch between the two. Thales’s common core of technologies – electronics, software and systems – significantly enhances mobility opportunities. Right now, we have 3,000 positions open to internal candidates.
AA: We also recognise the importance of retaining talented, motivated employees. When it comes to building long, fulfilling careers with Thales, determination and ambition matter just as much as technical expertise. To cite an example close to home, one of my colleagues in the talent acquisition team has an HR background but has always harboured a passion for aerospace. Recently, we gave him an opportunity to move into this line of work as a project manager. It wasn’t something he’d done before, but he worked with his manager to get the training he needed before making the switch.
Does Thales offer international mobility opportunities?
AA: Yes, of course. Thales has 46 sites in France, spread across seven different regions (Nouvelle Aquitaine, Ile-de-France, Centre Val-de-Loire, Grand Ouest, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, Rhône-Alpes and Occitanie). But it also operates in 67 other countries. We hire people to fill vacancies in all these locations, as well as offering international mobility opportunities to current employees across all roles and functions. For example, one of our technical bid managers recently spent 18 months in Brazil, working on digital security projects at our Thales Digital Identity and Security sites in São Paulo and São Bernardo do Campo.
Do employees receive ongoing education and training?
MC: Yes. Our e-learning portal includes modules on all our areas of expertise, and we also run skills development programmes. Training is also a great way to familiarise employees with the changes affecting our business, such as the rise of drones and the second quantum revolution in the naval sector.
AA: Since our people operate in an environment that’s in constant flux, we follow the “70:20:10” model for learning and development.
This means that employees gain 70% of their new knowledge and skills through practice and experience, i.e. they “learn by doing”. Another 20% comes from interacting with their colleagues, manager, experts and members of their professional network. The final 10% is acquired through formal learning – by attending in-person or online courses, gaining certifications or completing accredited training. This model puts our people in charge of their own development and fosters a culture of knowledge-sharing across the organisation. Because the projects we work on are so complex, our employees need on-the-job training and constant support from their managers and colleagues. Speaking personally, there were holes in my knowledge when it came to systems engineering. To address those gaps, I spent hours visiting sites and talking and listening to colleagues. Every department is accustomed to onboarding new hires and welcoming employees who are changing roles.
Do all employees spend time immersed in front-line operations?
MC: Employees working on naval technologies go out into the field more often than most. Our engineers and technicians routinely spend several days at sea testing the products they’ve developed, such as new sonar suites or mine countermeasures systems. These immersive experiences are a great way for them to get to know our customers and learn more about their needs and priorities.
Do you have any final words?
AA: Whether you’re considering joining Thales’s naval division or any other area of our business, you can look forward to an exciting career, unlimited progression and development opportunities, and a chance to see the impact of your work first-hand. And you’ll be working with great colleagues in a stimulating and rewarding environment. So feel free to join us!