Training for a second career in HRM


Tanya Thompson, from Bridgend, joined the British Royal Navy at the age of 17. She served for five years, becoming one of the first female sailors to serve on HMS York, before leaving the Navy to start a family.

"Being a forces child had a massive influence on my career choice. Joining the Navy was my absolute dream career. After a gruelling basic training, I was deployed to my first ship, HMS Invincible. I did a couple of operations on this aircraft carrier. My favourite was through the Arctic circle while en route to Norway. I was extremely lucky to spend every day on the flight-deck and see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) which was breath-taking.

Finding a second career

After leaving the Royal Navy, I joined a healthcare company and worked my way up to head of housekeeping. As much as I enjoyed the job, it didn’t fill the void that was missing after leaving the armed forces. I have always taken a keen interest in human resources. I have a very caring nature and HR has aspects of employee welfare which I feel very strongly about so started to think about a career in this area.

I got in touch with Ross Hall who works on the Armed Forces Scheme at University of South Wales. He was so helpful and had every faith that I would fit in at USW, so he forwarded my details to the course leader for the Human Resource Management degree who accepted me onto the programme.

At first it was quite daunting being back in the classroom after such a long period of time, but that soon passed. Everyone at the University was so welcoming and I soon formed a friendship group with three other women on my course.

Motivation to learn

The biggest challenge was getting into the routine of assignments alongside running my household, but it wasn’t long before the routine was in place and I knew what I had to do. Also the amount of reading! Before university I had rarely picked up a book now, now I read every day.

A pleasant surprise were the grades I achieved. I worried about every assignment, presentation and exam, convinced that I hadn’t done the best, but every time I did well, often grading over the 70% mark.

I do think my military background has had a massive influence on my life at university, particularly when it comes to motivating myself, having the confidence to meet people, do presentations and take the lead.

I also believe that having a good group of friends at university helps enormously. We reassure and support each other all the time. The overall support at USW is second to none. There are various extra study sessions in the library that help with academic writing, report writing and so on, which I make use of. The lecturers are supportive of any worries you have; no matter how small these are, they will help you.

Achieving my goals

The highlights of the course so far have been receiving 100% for a presentation and meeting loads of new friends who I probably wouldn’t have met outside of university, especially the three women I mentioned earlier.

I would highly recommend any ex-forces personnel to consider USW. My journey so far has been challenging but also extremely rewarding." 

Find out more about our Armed Forces Scheme for current and former armed forces personnel.