Over the last 11 years Claire Bodenham, SafeLane’s International Commercial Manager, has grown and evolved with the company. With an enhanced knowledge of the global explosive threat landscape, Claire has the skills to mentor new team members and is a key point of contact for international clients.
How has your role evolved since you first started?
Initially, I joined as a Sales Coordinator to help with quotes and lower tier bids.
This developed into me becoming a Business Executive where I took on a more bid focused role, with some commercial contracting elements.
I’m now the Commercial Manager for SafeLane’s international projects! When I first stepped into this role, I was responsible for running the bid process and tackling contract management to a much larger degree.
Now day to day bid writing isn’t my responsibility as we have Lucy. Instead my primary focus is commercial contracts; I review and negotiate contract terms for our commercial clients and provide risk management relating to this. I keep on top of any non-disclosure agreement to protect our clients and our teams.
Finally, I help to mentor Lucy in bid management, providing oversight and reviews.
How has the company changed since you joined?
Well, at its core it hasn’t changed. We’re still doing the job we’ve always done - but on a slightly bigger scale now.
No matter what we’ve been called - MineTech, BACTEC, Dynasafe, SafeLane - our values never changed, the team just got bigger.
In order for us to achieve the growth we have, there were a number of years where a small team had to push hard to get us to where we are now. It’s nice to have that longevity in the company and see this hard work pay off.
We understand that at head office we are a small part of a very big machine that allows us to do what we do day to day. I’m at the front of procurement of work, we can’t achieve the successful and safe reclamation of land without everyone. The more the company has changed, the truer this has been.
What was your professional background before you joined SafeLane?
I studied politics at university and actually wrote my dissertation on the UN!
When I graduated, I worked in sales and marketing roles before landing an interview with SafeLane for a Project Executive role.
They liked me but thought I’d be better for a different role with more of a commercial focus. The role was new so I came in with no job description! This means I've been able to carve out my own route and been able to develop and evolve my role. I really found my way in the company.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The variety. You never know what’s coming around the corner... you might open your emails and you may suddenly be off to Iraq, my geography has certainly got a lot better!
I could do my job in any sector, but I love that it’s international and this means approaches need to be adapted to in-country requirements. Clients also have their own individual requirements, so that has to be balanced alongside our work and the standards we comply to, there are a lot of moving parts involved.
I like the high pace - it is intense and can be challenging but I would much rather be busy than be sat watching the clock.
No other sectors seem very exciting now.
I also love that our output means someone you’ll never even necessarily meet will have the opportunity to better themselves economically and socially because they now have the freedom to do so safely. It is very rewarding to be involved in a process that gives someone a fairer chance.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Haha, apart from learning all the jargon? When I joined, it was a bit of a sink or swim mentality because we were such a small team. You had to use your initiative and be a fast learner. When you realise how much you’ve learned, it boosts your self-confidence for sure.
Now my understanding is good enough that I can question the methodologies, logistical considerations, manpower and delivery. You have to understand the approach from a client point of view, so understanding the nuances of why we’re approaching something in a particular way is essential.
From a contractual point of view, you have to identify the risk, so you need to understand these things to understand your insurance needs etc.
I read the requests for proposals and contracts from the point of view of all departments. There is no manual for this - it’s come with time.
How has the mine action landscape changed over the last 10 years?
When the company was originally established it was an unexploded ordnance disposal and clearance company because that was the predominant threat at the time. The aim was for the world to be free of anti-personnel landmines by 2020, however a number of countries have required an extension and some major players are not yet signatories.
We are pleased to see landmines aren’t used as much, although casualties are still far too frequent. War as it was historically fought is reducing…now you see new tactics of warfare. We see terrorists and different fractions fighting rather than the military.
As the threat landscape shifts, we are transferring our skills to focus on mitigating other explosive threats. The most prevalent one currently being improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
When dealing with military laid minefields in a post conflict environment, there would often be some kind of record kept by the military. Even if there were challenges due to the quality of these resources, you had insights into what you were looking for and where and could design a methodology based in this information.
Often the mines are laid without any records (e.g. South Sudan) and in an intermittent fashion, but good community liaisons meant you could still identify those hazardous areas
The IED threat poses a very different operating challenge; SafeLane employees may also be considered a legitimate target in some countries of operation. Projects of this nature require specialist knowledge in addition to a traditional mine action mindset to ensure safety.
This threat is incredibly dangerous, we take pride in playing our part to support the mitigation of the IED threat so that civilians, peacekeepers and national security forces can live and operate in safety.
What is the most interesting opportunity SafeLane has provided you with?
I have been lucky enough to go to Northern Iraq, South Africa, Turkey, Washington DC and to Dubai for client meetings. It’s amazing to meet people face to face to improve working relationships and the travel is nice too!
Can you share your favourite SafeLane story?
The first one that comes to mind was when the entire head office team all became deminers for a day. We all donned PPE and did a manual mine clearance and battle area clearance task.
Everyone got to appreciate the equipment and what it is the field team does day in day out; it instilled even deeper respect in us for the work our field teams do.
What has been the biggest success in the international landscape?
How effective the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention has been, it’s wonderful to see the success of this over the last decade. For example, seeing the UK fulfil its obligation with the the clearance of the Falklands.
You recently completed from some professional development training - can you tell me more about this and how it will impact your role?
It was a contract and commercial management practitioner course by the World Commerce & Contracting; they’re an international organisation which made course even more relevant. It was a week-long course that involved 4.5 days of training and then 2 exams on the Friday. We had to write up and submit 10 assignments after the course.
The course aim was ensuring the safe, effective, efficient and compliant management of a contracts and the learning outcomes included contracting plans and supplier relationship management. It was so interesting to see if from the other side to understand the internal activities our clients go through and why they have to approach things in a certain way.
A main focus was on clear contract language so that everyone who has to read the contract can understand it, even without a law degree!
It also focused on being more agile and responsive, the theme of the training was to adopt a win-win approach.
Thank you to Claire for your time and for featuring in this week’s Staff Spotlight.
Claire shows that SafeLane uses its experience to navigate and solve new problems in the explosive threat landscape while maintaining contract management best practices.