Is it tough to feel like you’re driving the company, as opposed to being driven by the company? I imagine that’s what getting the cadence ahead of time is all about?
That is what it’s all about, and I don’t feel like I’m being driven by the company, I feel like I am driving the company for that very reason. I set an agenda for the year, and I’m conscious of what only a CEO can do, versus what my team can do. I don’t micromanage because I think that’s not healthy for a company.
Now, when we talked about something like the F-35, I’m gonna be down and in on that program if I think I need to be, but on an ongoing basis, I look to my EVPs to be sort of like COOs. They’re running their lines of business; they are reporting out to me, so I can keep a beat and monitor how the business is going. Every week we have a staff meeting, all of us at the table, at this table. Some of them are based in Texas and in Colorado, but they’re on the phone.
Every week they provide a situational report on their business. It’s not an activity report; it’s the highlights of what we all collectively need to know that’s going on with the business. Each of the functional organizations does a similar thing.
So I’m not being managed by, but in fact I am leading the business and driving where my priorities should be. And my priorities are frankly around the growth of the business, growth in innovation in the business.
We hear so much from CEOs these days about digital transformation. How has business changed in the time you’ve been in business? And where do you see all this going?
I’ve seen a lot of changes come into the business. You think about being an industrial engineer with all the paper on the floor; today on the shop floor, there is no paper and everything’s electronic. It permeates all the way from design to the build to delivery and sustainment of the platforms we have. We’ve got this whole digital thread that we’re working through.
It’s moving so quickly, but we’re trying to stay ahead of it. We formed an office of digital transformation, a whole team of folks. We’re making large investments in this as a company as we continue to take advantage of it. If you look at things like our satellite manufacturing, we’re in the process of building a $350 million facility outside of Denver—all of the efforts we need to build small to large satellites in the same factory, much more efficiently, much more affordably, robotic capability, all of that.
How does all this digital transformation change what you’re looking for in terms of the leadership you bring into the company?
First of all, we’re going to be looking at not only who we bring in but the people we have today and reskilling them as our business environment changes. We’re already focused on “What are the critical skills?” Some will go away as we use bots and things like that. How do we reskill the people who are in those jobs today so that they’re doing more of the higher value-added work and letting the machines do a lot of the other work?
But hiring people in, we spend a lot of time identifying the kind of talent we need with data scientists, with folks who are into autonomy engineering or the whole range of advanced manufacturing capabilities. We’re already working on bringing that talent in. In fact, our chief technology officer is working directly with human resources on identifying those critical skills we need today, that are in demand today, but also for the future. And we’re aligning all of our teams around that.
You’ve been very public about your worries about STEM education in the U.S. What do you see as the gaps right now? And what do you think needs to happen over the next 20 years or so to make sure the country continues to have the people it needs?
Well, one of the gaps is that we just aren’t getting enough students to go into STEM fields. Not just at the university level but all the way down into high schools. I did some recent work with the [Trump] administration, looking at getting more computer science in high schools. There are schools that don’t even have a single course around computer science. We’re just not prepared.
I give the administration credit that there’s a focus on that, working with business. Of our philanthropy dollars, half of them go for STEM education, K-12, university and beyond. The other half is for military and their families because that’s important to us.
But my biggest concern is that gap we’ve got, particularly to get more women and minorities interested in coming into the field.
We’re not getting enough of them coming into STEM. You’ve got to create an environment that inspires them so that they see these are the kind of jobs they want.
I was engaged with the Institute of Engineers looking at this very problem back in the ’80s. We said, “We’re seeing this gap. It’s coming.” One of the things that was really compelling to me then, and it hasn’t changed today, is what our young people see in entertainment, whether it’s cable TV, whatever. Who are their role models? Are they engineers, are they innovators or are they in other fields?
Parents or teachers can encourage our kids to go into those fields, and we can try to get their excitement up. But if they’re watching some television show that has the role model of the engineer as some quirky person that is really smart, but, you know…