If I had to start again... Mike Turner

I'd have fancied being a footballer. I played inside right, but I wasn't quick enough. Instead, I did 22 jobs in 42 years at BAE Systems. There was one very hot summer in the paint shop that I'll never forget.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I wouldn't change anything about my working life, as my decisions all worked out. But I made sacrifices. I can't remember much about my kids' childhood. Would I change it? Probably not, I'm afraid. You have to make your choices.

I joined BAE when the company was Hawker-Siddeley. I'd been accepted for an economics degree at the LSE, but a guy in the upper sixth told me they'd sponsor you for £10 a week, twice what a grant gave you, and you'd get the same qualification. He didn't get in. I did. They were clearly looking for someone for the Hawker first eleven.

I wasn't exactly ambitious, but I was nosy: what the hell was going on in the other offices? When I saw ways of doing things better, I set about it. That gets you noticed. It was an amazing place, with the complexity of the aircraft and the tanks - and the nuclear submarines, the most incredible machines. I'm probably most proud of running the Kingston and Dunsfold factories, where we ran the Harrier and Hawk programmes respectively. And, of course, my six years as chief exec, transforming BAE into a huge global defence player.

I walked straight into a major challenge: the Astute submarine and the Nimrod were in trouble, and the MoD wasn't prepared to budge on the terms of the contract. I went to the press to make our point. People say I'm not a diplomat, but I did that as diplomatically as I could. It was a stressful time, but it kept me alive. We had to put up with the Saudi bribery allegations. It takes a lot longer to prove you're innocent than to prove someone's guilty.

At 60, I still have 10 years for a non-exec career. I'm sleeping more now. Clearly I'm winding down, but not too much.

Mike Turner stepped down as chief executive of BAE Systems in August.

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