Working abroad for UK interests

Matthew Heald

Matthew Heald

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AEROSPACE worker Matthew Heald was told to get to know his customers as best he could – so moved 5,400 miles with his family to make sure he did.

Matthew left behind his Bispham home, and Warton workplace, to spearhead BAE System’s military aerospace and information (MAI) activities in Qatar.

The Gulf state had issued a Request for Proposal for a new fighter aircraft which outlined a fast combat jet requirement — initially for 24 aircraft, with an option for a further 12 aircraft.

BAE Systems responded by offering the Typhoon.

But Matthew’s work involves much more than just selling aircraft.

There’s also a proposal for training 150 engineers a year in basic engineering skills for the armed forces. This would take high school graduates on a three-year course and turn them into skilled engineers.

Officially he is the business development director for MAI in Qatar — his job title has changed to reflect the expectations of the people he may be in the room with.

There is even talk of a need for a future advance jet trainer, though that’s still being hinted at rather than being anything official.

Matthew said: “It’s a very different life. My wife and children leave for school around 6.30am, and I follow them out of the house.

“Because Qatar is three hours ahead I do all my Qatar-based work in the morning, then start working with the UK later in the day. It means working from 7am to 9pm a lot of the time.

“There’s very few restrictions in the country. Women can drive and are encouraged to work – part of my job is to help generate jobs for women.

“You hear the call to prayer five times a day but it’s a reassuring sound.

“And there’s an ex-pat community out here which gives a good balance of cultures.”

Any engineering company looking for contracts in Qatar is expected to commit to helping the authorities achieve a 30-year vision, so BAE has become involved in the Qatar Science and Technology Park as part of its commitment.

Matthew, who is due to return to the UK next year after his three-year stint in the Middle East, added: “You need to understand the culture and the ambition, along with an understanding of where the country wants to be on the world stage.”