10 Questions to my Mentor Dr. Michael Bachmann, RADM/USN(RET)
Key Cyber Solutions (KCS) is committed to developing future leaders interested in pursing careers in technology. As part of our outreach and development activities, we are featuring a series of interviews from experienced mentors who work with students and persons new to the Information Systems industry. In this article, we are excited to have Dr. Michael C. Bachmann, Scientific Research Corporation (SRC) Vice President for Enterprise Solutions, provide insight on preparing for and paving a pathway to a successful career. Please check back regularly for new features and updates regarding Key Cyber Solutions mentoring opportunities.
1. How did you get started in your profession or what sparked you interest in your career path? Well, actually, I didn’t know what I was going to do when I was in grade school! However, I was simply blown away and amazed when on a school trip to visit a Grumman Aerospace facility, I saw these technicians in what appeared to be ‘space suits’ building what I soon learned, was the Lunar Excursion Module, or, LEM. We all know now, that it was the LEM that transported our astronauts to the moon. So, from that visit, I was soon trying to identify what college curriculum I would have to pursue in order to gain the skills to design & build such a system as the LEM. It was then that I learned that Aerospace Engineering was the career path that I needed to pursue to work in the aviation and space fields. From there I started looking for a college that offered this curriculum, and that I could afford. 2. How big of a role does having a formal education play into working in your field? From my perspective I am of the opinion that a formal education is still important in today’s science, technology and business world. With that said, it all depends on your life’s goals. That is, if you want to be the CEO of Google and/or any other company, you have to be well versed in both the technology as well as the business of running a company, and a formal education will provide you with a good foundation. On the other hand, if you want to stay ‘technical’, then it may be less important. However, if you follow this path, it is critical to stay in front of the curve as technology is changing rapidly. 3. Are there any certifications and/or degrees would you recommend for entering your line of work or to help further advance a young professional’s career path? Regardless of the field that one chooses, it is critical to continue to pursue certifications and degrees that will enable you to advance in your respective fields. Using myself as an example, I chose to pursue Aerospace Engineering, as I previously referenced. I also elected to join the military and I was fortunate to be accepted into the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland that offered a degree in Aerospace Engineering. This led me on a career path in the Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO) community that provided me with many growth opportunities. Along that path, I acquired two masters and a doctorate degree, as well as DoD certifications that enabled me to compete for more challenging assignments. In addition, I took specialized courses to remain relevant in my field. 4. What are some learning resources that you would recommend? Most companies that you will join will offer and pay for you to pursue advanced degrees, and/or take courses toward various certifications. I was fortunate in that our United States Navy paid for all of my educational pursuits that I referenced earlier. In addition, there is a plethora of universities offering free online courses. As, just one example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a great resource. There are many other opportunities offering free courses, that are available. 5. Are there any important interdisciplinary skills you find to be relevant or transferable in your field (ex. interpersonal skills, scheduling, language/writing)? As the eldest in a large family of 8 siblings, my ‘mother’ ensured that we took 4 years of every discipline in high school. While I was not ‘crazy’ about ‘literature & English, and writing’, I realized that once I went to the Naval Academy, and pursued follow-on degrees, that writing skills are essential! As I entered the U.S. Naval Academy, I was also subjected to ‘personal speaking’ sessions which contributed to public speaking. Now, ‘engineers’ are typically ‘introverts’, so this was not the easiest skill to learn! However, speaking skills are paramount if you desire to move into technology, managerial & business positions!
6. How has technology changed your job in recent years? In my case, technology has not really changed my personal role and/or job since I graduated from College. However, it has forced me to ‘stay ahead of the technology curve’ by remaining current in the technologies that I work with. I have been fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to lead ‘technology commands’ where our job was to develop technologies for both the Navy and the Armed Forces. At the same time, in my ‘early years’, I was fortunate to transform Naval Aviation, as an example, from paper to digital business processes in the early years of the digital transformation. I led a team that literally converted paper processes in managing Naval Aviation Maintenance and Supply commands. This aforementioned transformation had a profound effect on both our administrative as well as technical personnel. We are assured that technology will continue to accelerate over our lifetimes. Ray Kurzweil, a recipient of the 1999 National medal of Technology and Innovation, wrote a book in 2005 entitled ‘The Singularity is Near’. This book has clearly illustrated that technology will continue to grow exponentially at the same time that disciplines start to converge. Hence, there will continue to be a necessity to stay abreast of technology advances as you continue your career path. 7. How do you keep your skills current and remain abreast of the latest technological advances? Over my career in Naval Aviation, I took advantage of the Navy’s opportunities to advance my technical skills. In most cases, the only cost was my ‘time’. In my post-military career, as I have previously mentioned, many companies will offer educational benefits for pursuing advanced degrees, and/or certifications. And, you definitely want to do this in order to stay relevant in your career path. In addition, at this stage in my career, I participate in various ‘Associations’ such as Object Management Group (OMG), Association of Old Crows (AOC), National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Armed Forces Communication Electronics Association (AFCEA), etc. Any of these associations will provide you with educational opportunities. Other free resources such as ‘Google Scholar’ are a great resource for staying current in various technical and scientific fields. 8. What advice would you give someone who is interested in a technology career for entering the workforce? My advice would be to identify someone who is working in that field that you are interested in. Maybe it is a family member, relative, or friend’s parent. They can provide you with valuable insights as you commence your technology career. If you are graduating from college and/or a technical program, work with the school and identify recent graduates who have moved into the workforce. Reach out to them and ask them how their transition has been, and any recommendations that they might have for you, as you move into industry. Another great vehicle for reaching out to people in your chosen technical career path, is LinkedIn. It is rather easy to join (it’s free!), and it will enable you to look at peoples career path in your chosen technology area, and this may provide you with additional contact points as well as insights from these individuals. 9. What are some challenges you faced when first starting out in your career, and how did you overcome them? Wow! In my case, my first fleet assignment was onboard the USS Ranger (CV61), an aircraft carrier. I was initially told that I was going to be assigned as the Quality Assurance & Data Analysis Officer, responsible for Production Quality processes as well as Data Analytics for a major department supporting our various onboard Naval aircraft platforms. After joining the carrier in the Philippines, I was subsequently informed that I was being elevated to head up all of the aviation production repair activities of a division consisting of more than 150 personnel with technical skills ranging from jet aircraft engines, to x-ray/ultrasound/NDI, hydraulics, oil analysis, composite repair, etc, etc. Many of these aviation technology areas I was not familiar with. My solution was to sign up for every aviation rating manual associated with my Division, and take the same courses that my sailors were required to take for advancement. I did this such that I knew what they were responsible for. I then proceeded to complete the course curriculum for the higher level ratings. The lesson learned is, be prepared to go the extra mile, and learn everything you can about the fields that you will be working in. 10. What is one thing you would want someone to know who is thinking about entering your profession? My recommendation for someone entering any given profession would be to ask yourself, “what do I want to be, and where do I want to be, as I journey forward in my chosen career path”. Do you want to be a world renowned technologist such as Ray Kurzweil? Do you want to be the head of a company like Google, or Apple, or Tesla? Do you want to develop a new technology and grow your own company with a great technical idea that you have – such as Uber, Amazon? That is, look at what you aspire to. Once you have done that, then look at the career path of some of these folks. It’s easy to find resumes, and biographies of these individuals. And, at the same time, find a ‘Mentor’ in your chosen career path. No career is necessarily the same from one individual to another, but you can nonetheless, learn much from a mentor. And, most importantly, ensure that you are passionate about the career you have chosen, and that you really enjoy the field that you have entered. And, if you discover, that this first career path journey is not right for you, then don’t hesitate to identify that path that will bring you fulfillment! Remember the quote from Thomas S. Monson: “You can’t direct the Wind, but You can adjust the sails”. And, Enjoy the Journey!
Dr. Michael C. Bachmann
Scientific Research Corporation (SRC)
Vice President for Enterprise Solutions
Dr. Michael C. Bachmann is the Enterprise Solutions, Vice President at Scientific Research Corporation (SRC) where he collaborates and assists SRC Leadership and Business Unit Vice Presidents in advancing strategic planning initiatives and goals.
Dr. Bachmann has over 35 years of Aerospace Engineering experience and throughout his career he has provided engineering, scientific, management, systems integration, and a wide range of specialized technical support services for the U.S. Federal government and agencies.