Graduate Profile

Stacey Tait, BSc 1999

Lieutenant Stacey Tate at the Fleet Review, June 2005


My ambition at school was always to be a forensic scientist, until my fifth and sixth years when I discovered that chemistry was not exactly my forte, and I decided to follow physics. My decision to study at St Andrews was deeper rooted, having spent summer holidays in the area since the age of five; apparently I even declared to my parents at an early age that I was going to university in St Andrews!

The four years I spent in St Andrews were highly educational, not just about physics, but life in general. I greatly enjoyed the subjects I studied, but found some subjects to be slightly beyond my grasp. Fortunately, good friends, strong lecturers and a lot of self development got me through and I graduated in 1999 with an honours BSc in physics. Not only did I finish with a degree, but also with good friends and personal skills I didn’t realise I had. University taught me about working with others, ensuring strong self-discipline and motivation (usually around exam times) and coupled with my job in a pub, I learned how to manage my time to greatest effect.

So what to do next? I wasn’t naturally gifted enough at physics to complete an MSc or PhD, plus I wanted to start earning some real money after 16 years in education! I had looked at many careers with companies still pursuing physics but found them to be lacking for me in one area or another. Although not the most obvious of career choices, I decided to join the Royal Navy and started my training as an officer cadet in January 2000, coincidentally with two other physics graduates from St Andrews.
My decision to join the Royal Navy was based on a number of areas – I joined on a 12 year contract, which was later extended to a 16 year contract with an immediate pension at the end, so had immediate job security; I also had job diversity, whilst still working for the same employer but a guarantee of job changes at least every 2-2 ½ years; this job diversity also means that I do not have to stay exclusively in engineering.

I spent a year as an Executive Assistant to a high ranking Military Officer in the Joint Services Command and Staff College; my subsequent jobs have involved internal business management and performance monitoring; budget management; management of a multi-million pound missile system and making sure it is available for use as much as possible for warships on the front line; and delivering training to junior and senior engineer officers, as well as naval technicians, prior to them joining operational warships.

Additionally, most RN training comes with some form of civilian accreditation - I have a diploma in management from my System Engineering Course, and a City and Guilds Qualification in Leadership and Management that is based on experience; I could also have the opportunity to study for an MSc in the future. The Navy also gave me the choice to meet new people and visit different places – so far I have been around the North Atlantic Countries, the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the USA, all across Europe and to the Middle East – and this is the work I get paid for!

Although my job does not involve physics the way I learnt it at University, the principles have been applicable in four out of the five jobs I have done in the Royal Navy so far. These included managing the electrical and systems engineering of all the weapons and sensors onboard a ship; understanding the development and support of missile systems and radars in a project team environment; and in ensuring people understand the equipment on the ships they will be joining, by understanding the basic principles of radar, sonar, communications and classical mechanics – just think bullets firing out of very large guns!

My time at St Andrews was excellent; it was a small but strong community and set me up with friends and a feeling of family which is greatly akin to that I have in my current career. Whilst I miss it, I am still in touch with my friends, and I still use many of the things I learnt during my degree on a daily basis.

First posted BDS 2.9.05

updated 23.11.08