Military Leadership in Action: A Q&A with Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Dale P. Bennett
Article Sponsored by: MilitaryResumes.com
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Dale P. Bennett is executive vice president of 2016 MVE honoree Lockheed Martin and their Mission Systems and Training (MST) business area. In this role, Mr. Bennett oversees the execution of programs for the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, as well as for international military, civil and commercial customers. MST employs approximately 17,000 people across the globe, including more than 2,000 in Australia, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and other countries. MST’s portfolio features more than 1,000 programs, such as the Aegis Combat System, Littoral Combat Ship, MH-60 helicopter avionics, ocean energy, and military and commercial training systems, including for the F-35 Lightning II.
Mr. Bennett served honorably in the U.S. Air Force. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of South Carolina-Columbia, a master’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from the Sloan Fellows Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
To help commemorate the Most Valuable Employers for Military issue and Armed Forces Day, MTN caught up with Mr. Bennett and asked him for his advice for transitioning military and veterans.
Q: You served in the U.S. Air Force. What were some of your best experiences? What were some of the challenges?
A: I entered basic training just a few weeks after I graduated high school. As you can imagine, my four-year enlistment was a growth experience, and I still value the lessons I learned. When the safety and security of others are at risk, you begin to understand accountability and integrity in ways you hadn’t even considered before in civilian life. I also understood what it really meant to deliver on your commitments - to carry out what you have pledged to do.
Q: What was your transition/separation like? Anything you would change?
A: I went from the service into college, courtesy of the G.I. Bill. At the time, there was little in the way of preparation for reentry into civilian life, let alone college. However, I believe the maturity and self-confidence I attained in the Air Force really prepared me for success in college and later life.
After graduation, I was hired by Martin Marietta, which later merged with Lockheed to become Lockheed Martin. At the time, there was no orientation or on-boarding process. I just showed up on my first day and they put me to work. That has all changed now, of course, but at the time I remember it felt a little like being in the service - you showed up and did what you were expected to do.
Today, our country pays a lot more attention to the transitioning process. At Lockheed Martin, we are committed to helping transitioning veterans and their families reconnect to civilian life, and we are a part of the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative. In 2014, we signed on to the Philanthropy Joint Forces Impact Pledge to commit $25 million over five years to support military and veteran-focused organizations, so we sponsor a number of organizations that have this mission in mind. For example, we actively support The Mission Continues, which helps veterans build new social and professional networks, among other activities, and also work with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, which has assisted more than 25,000 veterans find quality employment.
Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of rigorous research surrounding the effectiveness of transition programs - that is, how do we know what really works? So, in 2015, Lockheed Martin entered into a $300,000, 5-year commitment to support the Henry M. Jackson Center for the Advancement of Military Medicine’s Center for Public Private Partnerships. The Center will lead a study called The Veterans Metrics Initiative (TVMI), which will track 7,500 veterans from all branches of service and all ranks over a three year period. Through the study, the Center hopes to get a better understanding of which resources veterans are using and which common program elements create the most impact.
Q: As executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training (MST) business area, you are actively engaged with the U.S. Military. How would you compare and contrast the training and skills of the service members who are transitioning today versus those from when you transitioned?
A: The U.S. Military is undoubtedly the world’s leader in technical training, and every branch of the service produces highly skilled, capable men and women. As a result, veterans have skills that are keenly in demand in the civilian world - the trick is that many employers do not know much about how readily military training translates into civilian expertise.
They often do not know how, for example, a quartermaster might revolutionize your logistics stream. Or they may not be aware of how a radar technician might be your next electrical engineer or data security analyst. Of course, that’s not Lockheed Martin.
We are committed to helping veterans transition back to civilian life. We believe it’s the right thing to do, and from our perspective, it makes good business sense. The military and Lockheed Martin share many of the same values. The military teaches and instills important qualities, such as accountability, empowerment, integrity, delivering on commitments and leadership. Veterans have a lot to offer a private sector company, and for Lockheed Martin, qualities instilled in veterans during their service fit extremely well with our culture. They respond well in high-pressure situations, are strong leaders and solid team players, and are focused on mission success.
That is why we actively recruit veterans and have built a dedicated Military Relations team to support recruitment. Each year, this team meets with more than 10,000 transitioning military and veterans at about 200 military job fairs and transition assistance events at military bases.
Q: Lockheed Martin has proven its commitment to the men and women of the U.S. Military by hiring a substantial percentage of your workforce from their ranks. How does having a big part of your workforce that is military-experienced affect the culture of Lockheed Martin?
A: Lockheed Martin employs more than 22,000 veterans, and in 2015, 36 percent of the company’s external hires were veterans. We were recently recognized as one of 139 semifinalists for the 2016 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award given annually to employers for their support of National Guard and Reserve members.
From their time in the military, veterans bring a unique perspective to the business. As an end-user, they understand better than any engineer what works and what doesn’t out in the field. This is a tremendous benefit to our business. By incorporating their thoughts and insights into our solutions, we can provide our customers with better systems and services to help them successfully complete their mission and return safely.
Q: It appears from your bio that you advanced your education over your career. Why did you feel that was important?
A: I consider myself a lifelong learner, and encourage everyone to seek education in the pursuit of new skills. After gaining my engineering degree from the University of South Carolina, I continued my education once I began working. I received a master’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from the Sloan Fellows Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This training, as well as lessons learned from my mentors, most of them being veterans, has been invaluable to my career. Whether that’s through a formal program, an online course, or simply seeking out a mentor, there is really no downside to expanding your knowledge base.
Q: MTN reaches 200,000 transitioning military and veteran job seekers every month. What advice do you have for them as they seek a civilian career?
A: First, look into building a strong social and professional network. Seek out those who have already made the transition and try to get a better understanding of what worked - and what didn’t - for them. Lockheed Martin partners with American Corporate Partners (ACP), a national non-profit organization dedicated to establishing one-on-one mentoring relationships between transitioning veterans and business leaders.
Second, look us up. Veterans make up a substantial part of Lockheed Martin’s employee population, and for good reason: we actively seek them out.
I encourage your readers to check out the site we put together for transitioning veterans at http://www.lockheedmartinjobs.com/transitioning-military.asp
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