Success Stories: from Hendon to Hong Kong
In this example of life after policing, William Bruce shares his journey from policing in London to international opportunities working on some of the World's most iconic buildings as well as his own property venture. It's a tale of persistence, self-belief and constant learning.
If you would like to share your story, let us know.
When did you decide to leave, and why?
I know it sounds cliché but being a Police Officer is something I had wanted to do since my school days. I was one of the last generation to complete the full Hendon training school course when I joined and loved (and loathed) every minute.
However, what then followed was a very deliberate but subtle erosion of benefits, autonomy, and increasing levels of politicisation and bureaucracy over the course of about ten years. You could feel the sentiment change dramatically amongst the teams.
In the end, a recruiter from Hong Kong reached out through a contact to offer an opportunity to work there for a major Multinational. Being a British citizen with permanent residency rights, combined with the pension changes, the extremely long hours and no family life I decided to take a chance and explore what was possible – I wasn’t desperate to leave, but I was curious to see if there was a better life for me out there – the offer they eventually made was exceptional in comparison to what I was earning and with only 15% salaries tax, I took the opportunity and in May 2015 I handed in my warrant card and lifted my life back to Hong Kong.
What are you doing now?
I am currently working for Ove ARUP limited, one of the world’s most respected engineering companies, as a Senior Consultant for Resilience, Security and Risk Advisory.
ARUP’s name is not so well known, but their work and reach has impacted virtually every single person on the planet. Between the Sydney Opera House, to Heathrow T5, to the Shard in London - we have helped build some of the most amazing and recognisable structures on the planet and frequently break architectural boundaries doing so.
At the same time, ARUP’s commitment to communities has led to some feel good projects in poorer countries, building homes for homeless families devastated by disaster, designing water and irrigation systems for rural desert communities, and building new schools for under privileged children in poverty-stricken areas.
My role in all this is to help create discreet security master plans and protection strategies that fit the design intentions of those facilities, complementing the aesthetic use of the building and supporting infrastructure to ensure a comprehensive matrix of risk calculations are adequately designed for to protect both the inhabitants, as well as the organisation(s) that they house from man made threats.
Once the plans have been accepted I am then responsible for implementation and delivery according to strict industry standards, it is quite a varied role.
On top of that I run a fairly successful property agency that introduces investors to US rental and off-plan UK investment properties. We have been going since 2015, and work with some of the biggest developers and agents in this space. I’ve always had a passion for property, so I think that shines through in what we do and the returns we’ve been getting for our clients.
What had you been doing in the police?
I worked in the Met in London on Response, Beat Crimes, CID, SNT, Proactive and BSU teams at Borough level, before joining (what was then) SO16 Diplomatic Protection Group.
Joining the DPG was a game changer for me, it completely opened my eyes to a new world of opportunity – from working with Diplomatic Ambassadors, to going on operations with intelligence services from around the world, to specialising in counter terrorist sniper work, to riding VIP armed motorcycle protection on ‘The Wing’, to training with UK & US Special Forces, to chatting with Lady Thatcher over a cup of tea and a mince pie in her kitchen at Christmas – the experiences and memories were pretty awesome!
How did you find another job?
As fate would have it, due to an injury to my back I was placed at New Scotland Yard as part of the protective security team of the NSY Estate in order to recuperate. At that time, a chance meeting with an old friend of mine who happened to be at NSY for a meeting, led to an after-meeting coffee and catch up. He mentioned in conversation that a contact of his was a recruiter in Hong Kong and had a really interesting opportunity that he was struggling to fill. Out of curiosity I asked a few more questions which then led to me writing my first C.V. in about 12 years for him to pass on to the recruiter.
The criteria they were looking to fill was quite specific, a European government trained specialist, HK resident who spoke English and Chinese and was able to manage security projects as well as deliver a VIP protection program. It was almost as if the job description was written for me!
After an initial conversation with the recruiter, I then filled out the application forms, completed an online questionnaire, and went through three rounds of interviews before being offered the role by the CEO himself. I made everything ready, downsized my world and moved to Hong Kong to a fresh start and a new adventure.
Six months later, the share price of that company took a massive nose dive – and the expensive foreign hires were the first of a major cull that cut nearly 60% of the workforce. All of a sudden, I was made redundant and in a major predicament.
It took me six more months to find another job, I was bare bones broke, living in a wet market shoebox flat (80 square foot) and eating rice porridge for dinner. It was the greatest test of self-will and character.
I could have gone either way, and I thank all the early lessons the job gave me, about self-reliance, tenacity and pragmatism. Rejection after rejection I endured for ‘Local’ Jobs, until one day I got a break and joined the Hong Kong Jockey Club as an Emergency Planning and Resilience Support Manager – which eventually led to where I am now.
What do you miss? What don't you miss?
Without a doubt I miss the camaraderie, you just don’t get that out here – there is absolutely a special connection you develop with people who have seen what ‘real’ life looks like, to just be yourself without the need for social façade. To genuinely care for each other and despite sometimes hating each other’s guts – instantly stand firm at their back and protect them without a thought. Out here, there are protocols, social nuances and sometimes downright ridiculous power circles that I thought could only exist in the Job – oh how wrong was I!
However, I do not at all miss losing out on all the normal stuff – because of my role I missed every single Christmas and New Year with my family. I don’t miss the feeling of second guessing yourself every two seconds when you learn you are subject to some malicious allegation, even if you know you’ve done everything by the book. I don’t miss having to go through pathogen control protocols when you’ve been exposed to the body fluids of someone infected with every nasty disease possible.
I don’t miss viewing everyone and everything with suspicion first – your view becomes extremely polarised by the horrendous nature of humanity you are constantly exposed to, and it makes it difficult to see the positive stuff. There are wolves and vultures, but actually most people just want to be happy and live a fulfilling life, like us.
I don’t miss wearing my parade uniform for friends who were taken too soon.
What advice would you give others?
As others have already said – be absolutely sure that you want to leave. Do your research and be clear on what it is you want to do.
If you are struggling to put your finger on this, it isn’t because you don’t know – it’s just you don’t know how to answer that question yet and it is natural to fear an unknown future, which is why it is important to ask for help (something we are all very bad at!) thankfully, it is something the Mightify team specialise in.
The grass is not always greener. In the job you have more stability than corporate roles, you actually have a lot more perks than you think. You are also more protected because there are some pretty strict rules that the Police have to adhere to, whereas out here (especially in Asia) those rules are completely subjective, I’ve seen some horrendous miscarriages of process here and no real rights to challenge.
That said, as long as you are agile, and you plan properly – the opportunities are simply amazing. Do not focus purely on the UK, there are some significant opportunities turning up in emerging economies, the Arab states and wider Asia. Focus on Plan A, always have a Plan B – stay agile – keep contingencies ready.
Have your finances in check. It’s an unstable world right now, and money is a very important part of this. Don’t just save, invest – talk to a financial advisor who specialises in income growth from a trusted source. Keep yourself financially resilient, so if the worst happens you have a fall back.
And above all else, prepare yourself and network like crazy. You may be a constable, sergeant or chief inspector with 20 years’ experience in Policing, but that means very little to hiring manager with absolutely no idea what that means in transfer
able skills – by networking you create relationships with people that lead to opportunities because they get a feel for the person you are before they even look at your CV.
You need to be able to align your skills to a language that they understand – and that means industry qualifications and learning how to market yourself properly. Make sure you invest in yourself, take the time to learn how to showcase your skills and talk to people like Tom Wheelhouse who specialise in teaching people how to do so!
A final critical note – be humble – as job we are very good at taking control, but out here being flexible and working on communication and compromise is crucial. I’ve seen so many people come out of military and police roles into civilian and corporate roles expecting people to listen without question to their advice – I’ll be blunt, they don’t give a hoot unless you learn how to communicate in their language. De-programme the ingrained hierarchy persona and become a mentor/advisor/peer, it will serve you well on your adventure.
Best of Luck!