Mikael Thomas is at the frontline of the Australian Future Submarine Program supporting the design and construction of the Future Submarine yard at Osbourne in Adelaide. Mikael draws on more than two decades of military program experience and thrives on the challenges inherent in international programs.
Tell us a bit about your responsibilities at Naval Group.
In early July this year, I moved to Naval Group Australia as an Infrastructure Program Manager. In my role I am responsible for managing the Infrastructure team and supporting Naval Group in the delivery of the Future Submarine yard design under a contract between the Commonwealth of Australia (CoA) and Naval Group. I am also responsible for supporting the ramp up of the Infrastructure team in Australia which is currently made up of 14 people.
What was your very first job and what was the best experience you took away from it?
I have been working for DCN, DCNS and now Naval Group for 23 years. I started in 1995 as a Satellites Communications Industrial Manager for the company in the French city of Brest.
One of the highlights of any career is being involved in successful bids and I thoroughly enjoyed winning a satellite telecommunication competition. From a management perspective I highly value building working relationships with colleagues each day, being mentored by highly experienced and motivated people and also engaging with the customer and key stakeholders.
How did you get where you are today?
I became involved with the Australian Future Submarine Program (AFSP) during the Competitive Evaluation Process phase in 2015 and was involved in scoping out the AFSP infrastructure requirements. In September 2016 I was nominated in the AFSP team as a Work Package Manager and Infrastructure Interface Manager responsible for managing the relationship with my counterpart in the Commonwealth of Australia team. I am where I am today because I value leadership, relationships and have a strong motivation to reach objectives around cost, quality and on time delivery. I like a complex multicultural environment. I enjoy working at a high technological level and maintaining strong relationships with the people I have met and worked with.
What would you say are the three things that have most contributed to your success so far?
- A high capacity for work; and
- Building strong relationships with colleagues, management and key stakeholders.
What are the most critical problems faced by people in your field? How do you think these problems should be handled?
To be successful in the Future Submarine Program and any complex international program you need to have an appreciation of working in a multicultural environment. My experience was underpinned by my previous satellite telecommunication environment work but also being involved in another successful bid for French Frigates maintenance between 2009 and 2012. My experience was enhanced through a further two years working as a Naval Group Infrastructure Bid manager serving foreign customers such as the Brazilian Navy, Norwegian Navy, Indian Navy and Egyptian Navy on various maritime programs. Immersing myself in the Australian Future Submarine Program requires patience and involves learning lessons from my Australian colleagues as it did on previous multicultural programs.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job, what makes it all worthwhile?
Working with a team facing the same challenges everyday and the sense of achievement that comes from overcoming those challenges.
What would be one piece of advice you would offer someone looking to take up a similar career path?
Be open to sharing your knowledge and learning from the people you meet – both in your professional and personnel life. Never believe that a challenge is insurmountable, always believe you can overcome it. Enjoy your life and work and take the best you can from each day.
If you want to be part of this massive undertaking and if you want to work alongside some of the brightest technical minds from both France and Australia, then you should consider becoming a part of the team who will design and build Australia’s next generation of submarines. Visit our careers pages to discover what opportunities are available.