Jon Cowdry: Next step for Valley GM

At Ascent we understand the importance of career progression and identifying high quality leaders. Our shareholders, Babcock and Lockheed Martin, are an important part of this, providing potential onward talent management and opportunities. 

Jon Cowdry, the General Manager at RAF Valley, is one of our senior managers who is moving onwards and upwards. Here he shares his personal perspective on how Ascent identified his capability and guided and supported his forthcoming move to Babcock.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I studied civil engineering and took a graduate role in a consultancy, then moved into business development before I joined the RAF and really found my feet leading logistics and fuel operations across the world. I chose to leave at the end of my initial commission to gain more stability in my life, as I was now married and an expectant father. I spent the next few years running marine operations for three UK major ports, before joining Ascent nearly four years ago. Outside of work I’m very family focussed and try to keep myself fit enough to keep up with my children.

What attracted you to work at Ascent?

I was introduced to Ascent and rapidly learned about its journey to date, and imminent future plans. The Basic Flying Training programme was in its infancy, but a £174m SDSR contract uplift was already on the horizon. Ascent was investing in technology and innovation to better drive operational performance and there was a clear focus on transformation in partnership with our military UKMFTS customer. 

I joined at an extremely challenging time, as the first COVID lockdown came into force a just few days prior. Being introduced to a business in this situation gave me an immediate level of insight into culture and outlook – I was afforded a great deal of flexibility to support my family as I’m married to a front line NHS worker. I also saw impressive agility and responsiveness to an ever changing situation – this enabled us to maintain operations throughout, while protecting our people.

What did your role at Ascent entail?

I was responsible for the delivery of the Basic Flying Training and Fast Jet contracts at RAF Valley. This broad role covered all aspects of running a business unit, managing key customer relationships, and representing Ascent in the local community and further afield. 

Much of my time was initially spent integrating the more recent Basic Flying Training programme with the long established Fast Jet programme, to create a single, performance-focussed team. 

What have you enjoyed most about working at Ascent – what are some of the highlights?

It’s an exciting place to work. One perspective is casually pausing conversation as a formation of Hawks roar up the runway, seeing the absolute elation and pride in the faces of BFT graduates as they receive their “wings” and knowing that Ascent is making a vital contribution to the security of the UK.

A quite different perspective is the passion that I have for building highly capable teams and business processes. I was afforded a great deal of autonomy to shape the team that I was lucky enough to lead. 

How is your career progressing with your move to Babcock?

Leading the Valley team with Ascent made me visible to the senior leaders of Babcock UK Aviation and, with Ascent’s guidance and support, I have been successful in securing a move into the Head of Hawk Programme role. This is win-win-win: Babcock get a known quantity, Ascent has been able to facilitate an extended handover to my successor, and my career progresses in a very exciting direction. I doubt that I would have been as successful in securing my new role had I not benefitted from my time with Ascent. 

What are the benefits and why would you recommend working for Ascent?

Ascent really cares about its people – I have been involved in and have also observed incredible support being given to several people who faced extreme health or other personal challenges. Alongside this, the learning and development opportunities are truly exceptional, and the links into Babcock and Lockheed Martin open up far greater horizons in this arena.   

The structure of the business is very flat, so people interact at all levels and there is always opportunity to get directly involved in initiatives that directly shape the future of the business. 

The company continues to evolve as is grows, along with the needs of UK Defence and our other customers. The future is exciting.