Women in STEM: Heather Clayton, Project Controller for Service Delivery
Heather Clayton is a Project Controller for Service Delivery at Airbus Protect. Her role is to support and maintain UK project budgets and schedules. Here are some insights into her life at Airbus.
What’s the best career lesson you’ve learned so far?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Starting a job in cyber can be quite daunting – even if you’re not directly involved in the technical side of project delivery – as there’s so much to learn, including a lot of acronyms.
However, everyone has to start somewhere, and nobody knows all the acronyms – most people have a list hidden on their laptop! If you’re willing to ask questions and learn, you’ll get up to speed in no time.
What are your long-term career goals?
My long-term goal is to become a forensic accountant. Project controller is a great starting point, and I hope to move further into the financial/accounts side of Airbus as my career progresses.
Part of what drew me to Airbus in the first place is the internal flexibility. The company is great at helping you find the right role and progress quickly.
What’s a fun fact about you many people may not know?
I am a qualified forensic investigator. If you put me in a crime scene, I could collect evidence and complete lab work to assist in investigations. Just like our digital forensics team – but for crimes committed in the physical sphere.
Tell us three words that describe you
Stubborn, direct, motivated.
What do you enjoy most about working for Airbus Protect?
The flexibility of the job – including flex holiday and the ability to work from home. These have made a huge difference to my work/life balance. I can plan my days more effectively to ensure I complete the work required, but also have more time to spend with my family.
Your dad Paul Clayton has been with Airbus for 14 years and works in Cybersecurity as a SOC Manager. What’s it like to work with family members?
It’s not a new experience for me as I’ve previously worked with my mum. But it’s definitely unusual being in meetings and referring to my own parent by their first name!
I’m enjoying working with my dad. We now have a lot to talk about and we’re spending more time together because of work. I’m grateful that my parents support my career goals and are willing to recommend me in their place of work.
Can you explain your path to becoming a project controller?
I originally heard about the role through my dad, who works at Airbus as a SOC Manager. He sent me the job spec and said he thought I would be a good fit.
At the time, I was completing my final exam for the ACCA Applied Knowledge qualification, so I was looking to move into a more financial role. I also have a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Investigation and had been working in a full-time administration role for over a year, so was ready for a new challenge. I applied for the role and completed a formal interview face-to-face, which resulted in an offer.
I didn’t have all the qualifications and skills requested in the job description – but I had other skills from my previous work that offered something new, and my interest in the position shone through.
What does a typical day consist of for you?
Day-to-day, I spend my time monitoring small projects attached to one of our clients and assisting the service management team. Since I’m just two months into the role, I’m also spending a lot of time in meetings, learning relevant technical information. No day looks the same, but I love the new challenge.
Why did you choose to work in this sector?
To tell the truth, I was attracted to the role because of the link to finance and accounting, not so much the cyber side. I’ve always enjoyed numbers and spreadsheets. However, I’ve now learned a lot about cyber and realised it’s a lot more interesting and fast paced than I originally believed.
We know it’s only been two months, but is there an assignment that’s stood out to you so far?
I’ve been putting my compulsive need to organise things to good use. Some of the processes I use in my role are relatively new – which means I’ve had the chance to jump in and streamline them. I have previous experience in creating processes and trying to make them as quick and easy as possible, so I’m enjoying this aspect of the role.
What are the qualities required to be effective in cybersecurity?
From my experience so far, I would say the main quality needed is curiosity. If you’re not afraid to ask questions and are self-driven to find answers, then you’ll be just fine. You can learn technical language and skillsets you go, but you need an innate curiosity to succeed.
Any advice for those who would like to work as a project controller?
Make sure you’re super organised. You’ll need to combine this with the ability to be flexible with timetables and workdays. Any background in projects is super handy too!
Want to join our team and take the next step in your career? See our current openings here.