In this monthly column, Defense Daily highlights individuals from across the government, industry and academia whose efforts contribute daily to national defense, from the program managers to the human resource leaders, to the engineers and logistics officers.
Gregg Skibicki is director of Defense Sales (Army and Air Force) for Systematic, Inc., a company that offers integrated command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) software solutions and services to defense customers.
How did you get involved in the defense industry or community?
While I didn’t grow up in the defense industry, my father was a state trooper who instilled in his three sons the need to serve our community and give back – a core value that my wife and I have embraced in raising our sons and one that has been a constant throughout my entire career.
I was in uniform for 31 years, 27 of them on active duty as an Army infantry officer and four years at West Point. For the last decade or so of my military career, everything was centered around trying to get the best resources to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in the fight. After war college, I was assigned to the Pentagon where I worked on the Joint Staff in the J-8 Joint Capabilities Division then on the Army G-8 staff where I was in charge of current equipment operations – an interesting job as I had the opportunity to work with industry, government agencies, academia and other entities on solving problems, including how to improve command and control and situational awareness on the battlefield. After retiring from the Army in May 2014, it was a natural progression to continue supporting the mission in defense.
When I was offered the position at Systematic, Inc. I saw tremendous value in the C4I capabilities that Systematic provides to warfighters and since joining the team, have leveraged my military experience to provide them solutions not just for force protection but to help them do their jobs safely and more effectively.
What are some challenges you faced working through your career?
One challenge is changing a perception that the main value military retirees provide is their network of contacts. Veterans bring not only our operational and tactical experience but also our experiences from working on a wide variety of issues and projects. We can provide a unique perspective, and when we collaborate with engineers, the result can be a win-win for our men and women in uniform.
Did you feel like you always had sufficient mentors and leaders to help guide you? Why/why not?
I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors throughout my career. In fact, I still stay connected with mentors in the military – former retired general officers in the Army and on the Joint Staff. Mentors don’t always have to be people who outrank you. As I transitioned into the defense industry, I found that peers can be equally as effective in mentoring roles. I had a great experience with a group of peers I befriended while on activity duty. Upon retiring from the military, we used to meet regularly to talk about how we were doing with our respective companies, share our challenges, and help each other with leads and resume writing – a collaborative peer-to-peer mentorship that I found to be helpful.
How do you work to be a mentor yourself to younger counterparts?
I think it’s important to help particularly our early career employees at Systematic, Inc. understand the value that they bring to our organization and to our customers. I like to put our software engineers in a field setting to work side by side with military users so they understand our customers’ problems and the necessity of getting the right solution to those users before they deploy into a theater of operations. That engagement and collaboration with warfighters really helps our engineers realize that the work they are doing is more than “ones and zeroes” associated with software coding but truly has an impact on our military men and women.
What does it mean to be successful in your career field?
To me success is putting advanced capability in the hands of our Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines but also helping our employees understand the value of the product they are making for those individuals. When employees see our product in the field and hear users talk about how our technical solution helps them do their jobs, it motivates people to work harder – you can see that spark, that “ah, now I get it” reaction when they interact with units. I think it’s important those in industry experience that interaction in order to better understand what’s going on. I really believe that is success.
What are some of the under-appreciated positions in the defense field, the unsung heroes or essential cogs in the machine that help the job get done with less recognition?
When I did equipment fielding in Army G-8, I would go to depots and watch the integration of equipment before it goes over to theater. People often have no idea that there are welders and others who try to make the equipment better. Likewise, in industry the software engineers who make things talk and share data with command posts, or designers often don’t get the recognition they deserve. A lot of times they get looked at as just doing a job when in fact they are doing a critical job.
What is your advice for new entrants to the defense/military community?
First, they have to have a passion for understanding the requirements and needs of the end users and developing technical solutions that give those users not only the capabilities they need today but also those needed to meet their next challenge. There are always unforeseen circumstances on the battlefield. The ability to meet current needs while giving warfighters additional capability to counter those unforeseen threats on the battlefield is important. While I was on active duty, regardless of whether on the Army staff, on the Joint Staff or in joint commands, it was the same – senior leaders all shared a passion for making sure soldiers were protected – a philosophy that transitioned with me from my life in uniform to my life in the civilian community.
Second, never settle for an easy answer; always look for the right answer to solve the problems needed by the warfighter even if those problems are particularly complex.
Last, veterans in particular shouldn’t be afraid to share their experiences from when they were in uniform. They have unique skills to contribute to the workplace and to the defense industry as a whole based on their past experiences, different jobs they’ve held and challenges they’ve dealt with — especially from a command perspective.
What do you see as the future of your sector in national defense?
The focus in defense is shifting from U.S. service-specific to more of a focus on the joint and coalition battlespace. We in industry can no longer come up with a solution for one service branch and a separate solution for another. Like software, we have to find solutions that talk and share information across all entities. That is the way our armed forces fight and how they are organized. The United States will never fight alone — we’ll always be with coalition partners and will need to adapt accordingly.
Who are the Force Multipliers in your community? Let us know at email@example.com.