Jo Salter, Britain’s first female fast jet pilot for the RAF now works as a director for PwC in its People and Organisation business. She joined the RAF at the age of 18 to be an engineering officer and went on to train as a combat ready pilot, flying the Tornado GR1 in 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, as well as being a fast jet instructor on the Hawk. PwC has recruited almost 100 ex-military personnel in recent years and Jo will join its military network which offers support and a community for the veterans and reservists employed by PwC.
“…No matter how many times I fly a loop or a barrel roll, it still puts a smile on my face…”
From RAF to MBA to PwC
I joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 18 because they were offering sponsorships to study engineering at university and I’ve always been one to try and make the most of every opportunity. At that point in time, women weren’t allowed to fly, but shortly after I finished my degree the Government announced women were allowed to become pilots. What an opportunity! After a great deal of hard work, I became a fast jet pilot flying the Tornado GR1.
I left the military following the birth of my first daughter and after 12 years’ full time service. At the time, I was studying for a Masters of Business Administration. This led on to my becoming a lecturer at the Open University Business School, teaching management in the disciplines of people, organisations, marketing and finance. I still do this today.
I also worked at a couple of tech start-ups before starting my own consultancy company providing management consultancy, inspirational speeches and high performance coaching to a range of clients. When I started contracting with PwC last year, I was really taken with the quality of the people, the culture and absolutely loved working with a team again. I decided to make it permanent.
Helping people become happier, healthier and more productive
My new role involves embedding digital capabilities within PwC’s People and Organisation practice.
I work with leading organisations on their people challenges with a specific focus on how employee wellbeing impacts the organisation both from a financial and cultural perspective. I’m excited to be doing this because I’m able to bring innovative technology to really get to the source of the problem in ways we couldn’t before.
Combine this with great analytics and virtual, plus on the ground coaching and we’re able to not only identify the real cause of the problem but also make change happen. This helps people become happier, healthier and more productive and helps organisations understand what they could be doing differently to create a great place to work. Wouldn’t you want to work for an organisation like that?
How a diverse skillset helps PwC serve its clients better
Being a fast jet pilot places you under immense pressure. A skill I would certainly say is transferrable to working in the corporate world. Whilst my background is diverse and different, other skills I have gained such as leading and managing a team count for a lot in my current role.
We need people in organisations with diverse experience who think differently to meet the needs of our clients. I’m lucky to work for an organisation who share the same views. Long gone are the days of only recruiting life-time career individuals, there is now a drive to make the workforce diverse to reflect the society we live in.
Flying still keeps me smiling
I do miss flying fast jets. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sitting on the end of the runway with the burners on ready for take-off. However, I am still a reserve officer in the RAF VR(T) and fly Air Cadets at weekends. I’ve been flying cadets for over a decade and, no matter how many times I fly a loop or a barrel roll, it still puts a smile on my face.
Support for military veterans and reservists
PwC was given the gold award from the Ministry of Defence for its support and commitment to defence personnel and has recruited nearly 100 ex-military personnel over the past few years.
It’s good to join a firm committed to recruiting veterans and reservists from the Armed Forces because they understand our commitments outside of work and our varied backgrounds. For example, I am given five paid days a year to carry out reservist work and there’s a military network where people can share their experiences and connect. It’s important because one of the best things about being in the military is the feeling of camaraderie and teamwork and at PwC it feels similar.
Advice to other girls and women contemplating military careers
The culture is definitely less male dominated today, although there still aren’t enough women to truly represent our society. My advice to other girls and women is to follow your dreams, make the most of every opportunity that presents itself to you and most importantly, love what you do. If you love what you do your job becomes part of your life and it makes getting up in the morning so much easier!
I would query why being “the only woman in the room” is relevant anymore. We need to move away from gender and focus more on being the best version of ourselves that we can be. Let’s focus on being the person in the room with the talent, the skills, someone who listens to what others are saying, who has a point of view, who can make good decisions and whose interested and varied set of experiences add value and stand out in the crowd.
International Women’s Day
To mark International Women’s Day this year, PwC is holding a Women in Tech event at The Science Museum to share our research investigating the reasons why so few schoolgirls take up technology subjects and careers. This event brings together tech organisations, government, press and our diversity partners, everywoman and CodeFirst: Girls, to discuss whether we’re doing the right things, how we can amplify these and do them quicker and whether there are initiatives we could collaborate on to have a bigger impact.