Thales

Taking its name from the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher dubbed the ‘Father of Science’, Thales is a bellwether in mission-critical information systems for aerospace, defence, security and transportation, and one of the ten largest defence contractors in the world, boasting operations in 50 countries and a staff of more than 68,000.

7.5 / 10 12 reviews Overall Satisfaction

Interesting and rewarding work.

321 employee reviews - read more

Pros

  • Interesting and intellectually challenging work
  • Friendly, social atmosphere with a good culture of support
  • High starting salary
  • Solid soft skills and business skills training at the graduate level
  • Good job security
  • Flexibility of jobs, locations and hours

Cons

  • Very top heavy
  • Lack of technical training
  • Career advancement is generally limited
  • Lacks name recognition, especially among graduates
  • The pace of projects can prove limited by the defence industry’s slow development cycles

Taking its name from the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher dubbed the ‘Father of Science’, Thales is a bellwether in mission-critical information systems for aerospace, defence, security and transportation. The company has a global network of 22,500 high-level researchers that maintain its reputation for both civil and military technologies. With headquarters in Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the suburbs of Paris, Thales is one of the ten largest defence contractors in the world, boasting operations in 50 countries and a staff of more than 68,000. Over half of personnel are now based overseas and almost 80% of Thales’ profits are procured outside its homeland.

Today Thales is at the forefront of digital technology, yet the company’s roots can be traced back well over 100 years to the pre-electronic 1888. In 1968, Thales’ predecessor Thomson-CSF was born from the merger of Thomas-Brandt and Compagnie Générale de Télégraphie Sans Fil. During the ‘70s, Thomson-CSF received its first major export contracts in the Middle East, after the 1973 and ’79 oil crises. In 1982, the umbrella, Thomson SA, was nationalised, leaving the company on a weak financial footing. In the mid to late ‘80s, the company’s financial circumstances were turned around by refocusing on professional and defence electronics, and heavily divesting its interests in communications.

Before the end of the decade, Thomson-CSF – anticipating cutbacks in defence spending – began to restructure its businesses. Looking towards external growth, predominantly in Europe, the company made a number of acquisitions – both small and large – and in doing so expanded the Group’s industrial base outside of France. By the end of the century, the French State’s interest in Thomson-CSF had reduced to 40%; and in 2000, the newly privatised company completed the friendly takeover of the British Racal Electronics. By the end of the year, the company had rebranded to Thales, and responding to the geopolitical and economic upheavals following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, strengthened its focus on the technology-intensive segments of the defence market. 2007 saw the transfer of transport, security and space activities from longstanding partner Alcatel-Lucent, and just two years later Dassault Aviation became the Group’s main private shareholder and industry partner.

Although Thales’ business arms are now organised by market segment – aerospace and space, defence, and security – the company operates as a single organisation, sharing technologies and drawing on complementary capabilities. In aerospace, Thales employs over 13,000 people and provides onboard and ground systems for the civil aerospace market. The company provides systems and functions for commercial airliners, regional business aircraft and helicopters, and is the first-tier partner of a number of the world’s leading manufacturers, including Airbus and Boeing. Thales is also involved in high performance satellite technologies in both civil and defence sectors, covering telecommunications, space infrastructure and transportation, observation and environment, science, navigation and ground systems.

In the defence market, Thales has long been a partner to military and security services around the world, designing and delivering systems for all four environments: air, land, sea and space. Thales’ security systems currently account for 25% of turnover, and the company invests 18% of revenue back into innovation. And in transportation, Thales offers a wide range of railways signalling solutions and integrated transportation systems to ensure safe transit of both goods and people.

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With such a vast array of applications for its technologies, it’s unsurprising Thales recruits for all manner of roles within engineering and business management. The company takes on up to 130 graduates in the UK every year from a huge range of disciplines. Specific engineering roles include: systems, software, electronics, hardware, mechanical, manufacturing, design, RF, mathematical modelling, and research.

If you’re looking for ‘varied’ and ‘interesting’ work with – as one candid software engineer explains – a ‘high salary for someone with no experience’, then look no further. Thales provides aspiring engineers and business professionals the chance to work on the ‘design, build, test, install and support’ of the company’s own products.

The Business Management Graduate Programme provides the opportunity to experience the spectrum of business activities undertaken across Thales UK. The programme comprises four six-month placements, including programme management, commercial, purchasing/procurement, sales and marketing, and head office functions. If numbers are more your thing, then the specific finance stream provides the graduate an opportunity to develop during four six-month rotations around the company’s various businesses. If you impress during the two year placement, then there will most likely be the opportunity of a permanent role at one of the company’s UK sites.

To give yourself the best possible chance of joining Thales’ legions, you’ll first need to be technically astute and have reached a fairly high level of academic achievement – ‘generally a 2:1 from a good university is required’. The company covets ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘drive’; and those eyeing Thales’ graduate engineering route will need a ‘good engineering/science based degree’ and ideally ‘some prior work experience (i.e. a year in industry)’. During the recruitment process ‘be yourself’, ‘bring your own ideas to the table’ and be honest – ‘if you do not know something’, say so.

Thales employs a three round hiring process. After the initial application has been accepted and screened by a recruitment agency, the first hurdle to clear takes the form of a series of online psychometric tests (SHL). Tackle these successfully and expect a 30-45 minute telephone interview with an HR representative, with generic competency questions on team work, company knowledge, etc. An assessment centre awaits those that impress, comprising a couple of group tasks and a presentation (normally on your final year uni project), rounded off with a technical interview held by a manager from your chosen discipline. The sentiment echoed throughout our survey responses emphasise that knowing the answer is not the be all and end all; it’s ‘more [important] how the problem is discussed’. On the whole, the assessment day is described as ‘enjoyable’ and gives candidates the opportunity to meet recent graduates and ‘gain a better understanding of the company’.

Once ensconced in the Thales machine, recruits do seem slightly disillusioned with the opportunities for progression. One software engineer describes the company as ‘very top heavy’ with another concurring ‘it seems very difficult to move up’. Conversely, one commercial officer lauds Thales’ ‘formal training’, ‘mentoring scheme’ and ‘accessible’ managers, although ‘technical training is more difficult to come by’.

Thales also offers internships to students wanting to get that all important foot in the door. ‘Students get a very good feel for life and work at the company... tackling real projects’. Impressing during a placement is ‘certainly an aid to future graduate employment’; as one programme manager impresses, ‘the majority of the graduate intake in my year had previous [company] involvement... through placements’.

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Stats

No. of Worldwide Employees: 68,000
No. of UK Employees: 8,000
Annual graduate intake: 130
No. of applications per year: circa 3,500

Salary

Graduate starting salary: £26,500 plus 2k welcome bonus

Departments

Aeronautical equipment
Air Traffic Management Systems
Airborne Surveillance & Mission Systems
Avionics
Communication Systems
Crawley Hub
Critical Information Systems
DCMS
DTS
e-Security
Ground Transportation
GTS
Missile Electronics
Naval
Operations
Optronics and Land & Air Systems
Optronics Systems
Power Amplifications X Ray Imaging
Research and Technology
Satellites
Security
Security and Consulting
Surface Radars
Through Life Support Engineering
Training & Simulation
Transport

Not many official work social events but colleagues are always happy to help you and work as a team, and don't mind a drink in the pub occasionally too!

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The original application form was very long and contained 3 competency based questions. I would suggest researching carefully exactly what the company does, and fit this into these questions, if you were short-listed at application stage, you were required to have a telephone interview, which was fully competency based questions including the previously researched "What do you know about Thales?" I had a bit of paper in front of me with some notes. Finally if you were selected to go forward after the telephone interview, there was a assessment centre, which consisted of a group exercise, a written exercise, aptitude tests, and a presentation (about a project of your choosing)/interview which is 50/50 competency and knowledge.

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Thales does get involved with schools and projects like Lab in a Lorry and other volunteering work, as well as supporting the Alzheimer's Society as their main charity.

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The graduate scheme whilst well-intentioned does not seem to be providing training that I think will make me a better engineer. I may change my mind in due course as I attend further courses, but currently it all seems to be common sense material that is being relayed.

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Read all reviews in Expectations vs Reality
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Locations

UK Head Office:
2 Dashwood Lang Road
Bourne Business Park
Addlestone
Weybridge KT15 2NX
Tel: +44 (0) 01932 824800
www.thalesgroup.com

European Locations:
Austria
Belgium
France
Germany
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Spain
Switzerland
United Kingdom

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