As Terry Pratchett would say: the world is a globe – the farther you sail, the closer to home you are. So maybe it was destiny all along that Charlotte Newton would end up working at RAF Fylingdales. Since joining Serco in January 2018, Charlotte has established herself as a key part of the Operations and System Support team and recently progressed into her second opportunity as a Systems Analyst.
“Growing up near Whitby in North Yorkshire, the main road you drive to go anywhere south takes you past the huge, imposing, giant sandcastle shaped building, which is hard to miss,” Charlotte said. “I’d been to Fylingdales on a school trip and I knew I wanted to work in physics, but I didn’t appreciate at the time that there would be a job for me there.”
Finding herself back home after studying Physics with Particle Physics at Royal Holloway, University of London, Charlotte saw a job advertised for a Spacetrack Analyst at RAF Fylingdales. “The job ad said you needed a keen mathematical ability and experience in computer coding. Although I had this, I wasn’t sure if I was qualified, but I applied anyway. The interviewers were super engaging and passionate about Fylingdales as a system.”
“I remember being terrified that I would be let loose on a massive piece of kit, but I received an amazing amount of training. I shadowed colleagues on shift for three months and when I did step properly into the role, support was always available. The first three months were a steep learning curve, especially working in a military environment with the Royal Air Force where they have their own ways of doing things. Having said that though, Fylingdales is really big into the Whole Force concept so it feels like one big team.”
“As a Spacetrack Analyst at Fylingdales, we support the RAF to track satellites through a radar system. You work on shift with a close-knit team of people. You all have different jobs, but you work together and if you have any questions, there’s always someone else who does your job that you can talk to at shift handover.”
Earlier this year, Charlotte had the opportunity to take up a 13-month secondment working as the UK Space Operation Centre Commercial Integration Cell Representative at RAF High Wycombe. Representing the interests of six commercial companies to the RAF, Charlotte’s role is to facilitate and grow commercial links with military in space operations and space surveillance.
In December 2019, Charlotte decided she’d like to continue her formal education and complete a Masters degree in Space Science and Technology at the Open University. “I put forward a business case for financial support and Serco agreed to fund my study. I have been learning so much in my job and thought it would be great to gain formal recognition of these new skills.”
As the final module of her Masters Charlotte will complete a dissertation. She is currently looking for a suitable topic. “I would like to do something relevant to Serco. The work we do at Fylingdales is quite complicated due to the classified level of information, but Serco is doing a whole lot of work in Space so I’m collecting ideas about what I could do.”
As for the future, Charlotte has a good idea of where she wants to be. “Within the next 5 years I’d love to do a stint abroad. There are lots of opportunities that I’d love to be part of especially when you look at what Serco are doing as part of team Athena and what’s happening with Space in Europe and beyond. I don’t know what will work out, but if nothing else, the team at Fylingdales are amazing, with good opportunity for career progression. I’m confident that whatever I end up doing will be exciting and amazing!”