All systems go, Amanda Price’s change of (s)pace brings opportunity for career growth

Amanda Price has spent her career challenging boundaries. With more than 30 years’ experience in the Defence sector, Amanda brings a pragmatic and well-informed view to her role as Business Development Director for Serco’s Space and Security capability.

A self-described ‘rare beast’ in being both a woman and a Chartered Engineer, Amanda is a strong advocate for encouraging women to join the male dominated fields of defence and engineering. “Both my dad and grandad were engineers, so it was a natural step for me. But when I started my electrical and electronic engineering degree back in 1990 only 10% of my class were women, and sadly that number has not changed much over the years,” Amanda said. “Official statistics show that and so does the headcount I do in every senior meeting I attend.”

“The good news is that being a woman engineer in Defence means that you are highly sought after by employers. I had four offers of university sponsorship from the Defence industry and ended up selecting the Ministry of Defence (MoD). For the MoD, a key graduate experience was to understand the military front line. So, I got to spend an afternoon in a Hawk Jet on a low-level flying exercise in the Welsh Valleys and a week at sea in a Force 9 storm on a Royal Navy vessel on work up exercise for the Gulf.”

In the following years, Amanda worked for the MoD as a systems engineer designing test facilities for a Rolls Royce WR21 engine for the Type 45 Destroyer, before switching to project managing engineering programmes at QinetiQ, and then moving into business process re-engineering and transformation programmes while doing an MBA along the way.

Since joining Serco eight years ago, Amanda has held several different roles from programme director for a new explosives test facility, operations director for the Defence business, transformation director for the Atomic Weapons Establishment to her current role as Business Development Director for Space.

“If I thought working in Defence was fascinating, Space is awesome!” Amanda said. “The blend of civil and defence is really interesting. People often think about space as a mysterious place of nothingness, but often it’s more like the M25 at rush hour. I’m lucky enough to part of a Serco Global Space team who maintain and operate the ballistic early warning radar which gives the West its 3-minute warning of nuclear attack while tracking over 3,000 space objects every day. Serco also fly the UK’s military satellite communication satellites, manage most of the Earth Observation data coming down off the ESA Copernicus Sentinel fleet of satellites and maintain Deep Space surveillance telescopes in Hawaii, Diego Garcia and New Mexico. We even have a team supporting space launch in French Guiana!”

“I love the variety in my job. A recent working week for me included editing a bid for air defence radar maintenance; a meeting with the Minister for Space; discussions on a Risks in Space paper I wrote for the House of Lords Risk Select committee, a meeting with the UK Space Agency on ideas we have on how to safely clear hundreds of kilometres of international air and sea space in support of UK spaceport launch activity, and talking to students about to embark on their careers. I also talk regularly to my Serco space counterparts in Germany, Italy, the US, Canada and Australia on ideas for how we support each other with bids.”

“The space sector is more diverse, with more women in the space sector than in defence, so there is a lot we can learn. Until recently, space has been more of a civil focussed mission, with more jobs for scientists than the military or defence contractors but that is changing now that Space has formally become a military domain. However, the whole concept of space and exploration brings in people who were fascinated by the Apollo and Beagle missions and Tim Peake’s Principia mission and is a real attractor to science and engineering careers for STEM talent – something that Defence can build upon.”

Amanda is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering Technology and recently spoke at a Kings College Career Talk, inspiring the young minds of the next generation to consider a career in defence and space. She also is focused on encouraging women at Serco to seek out sponsors to build your professional networks and mentors who you can bounce ideas off, have coaching conversations with and use to explore problems you are wrestling with.