Following graduation, Whelan spent six years in a number of HR roles in a large telecommunications company where he worked in manufacturing and customer support divisions. He then spent four years in the semi-conductor industry in a small technology start up that had been acquired by a large European semi conductor company. He also led a major restructuring including preparing part of the business for sale and the transfer of technology projects and engineers to Italy and France to maintain critical skils and funding.
In 1994 he joined Matra-Marconi Space as HR director in the UK and was later appointed as overall HR director, based in Paris. He implemented a strategic people and organisational planning process tying HR plans to business strategy. The UK share of Matra Marconi was then acquired by BAE Systems following the merger with Marconi.
Whelan transferred to BAE Systems as Avionics group HR director at the end of 1999. He led the HR merger integration project and process for Avionics, exceeding all cost reduction and organisational targets.
At the end of 2001, Whelan transferred to BAE Systems Head Office as HR director, organisation development and learning, responsible for management development and talent at the plc level. He initiated a suite of leadership programmes and implemented the first BAE Systems schools’ programme aimed at building motiviation and interest in STEM in 11-13 year olds. He supported the nominations committee and managed the company succession planning processes.
In September 2007 he was appointed as HR director, Military Air Solutions. In this role he worked with the MAS Board to help implement the people and organisation plans in support of the strategy.
In December 2009, Whelan was appointed as HR director for programmes and support in addition to the MAS role; he worked with the programmes & support Board on cross-cutting organisational and people issues and UK employment policy and Employee Relations.
In February 2013, Whelan was appointed as HR director, programmes and support. He works with the UK board to focus on the HR priorities across the business especially in resourcing, talent management, leadership development, education and skills, diversity and inclusion and employee engagement.
In 2015, he put in place a new company-wide HR organisation with specialist roles working across the business, supported by common business processes and new HR information systems. He has also implemented a process of long term skills planning for the UK business linked to the business planning process.
Whelan sits on the CBI Employment and Skills Committee and the Women’s Busines Council.