Matt Smith graduated from Swansea University in 1998, having studied French and Spanish. He currently works in the RAF as an Aerospace Battle Manager.
What are you doing now career-wise?
I have been an RAF officer since 1999. I am an Aerospace Battle Manager, meaning that I keep the skies above the UK safe through the use of a network of radars and data links.
I have completed the various qualifications available to an Aerospace Battle Manager, including Master Controller. This means that, when I am on the Master Controller position, I am responsible for the tactical management of the UK quick reaction aircraft and the supervision of a large operations room of people working on airspace surveillance and routine flying training.
How has Swansea University and your course helped you with your chosen career path?
It helped me gain my initial qualification! I was on my final practical test, when my supervisor ran into communication issues with the French over a suspect aircraft approaching the UK. My examiner knew I spoke French, told my supervisor, and the next thing I know I am getting a call from him telling me to speak to the French and find out about the aircraft. Anyway, I did as told and, when I passed on the information I got from the French he said ‘Thanks Matt – I think you’ve just passed’!
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
The pressure of knowing that the air defence of the UK is on my shoulders and that I REALLY can’t afford to make any mistakes…
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Knowing that I have played a part in keeping the country safe.
What advice do you have for current students and new graduates?
I have loved my time in the RAF and would thoroughly recommend it – early responsibility, plenty of opportunity for career development, excellent pay and travel.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, I am due out of the RAF in May 2015, having served the full 16 years I signed up for. After that, I guess I’ll have to find a job! My wife and I are thinking that this may be our opportunity to up sticks and live somewhere else in the world (New York City being the preferred option!).
What have you done that you are most proud of?
Carrying out the role of Master Controller during the 2012 London Olympics. Knowing that I was responsible for the tactical management of the aircraft we had forward-deployed to London to protect the Games was a huge responsibility, and the fact that I played a part in delivering an effective air security plan, and as a consequence, a safe and secure Games, was a great achievement.
What are your favourite memories of your university years at Swansea?
Growing up in Devon meant that I had led a fairly sheltered life until starting at Swansea, so meeting people there from all over the country (and the world in fact!) was great. I particularly enjoyed the sense of community in the halls of residence.
And finally, describe yourself in 3 words…
Needing career inspiration!