Annapolis Grad A "Boone" to Hartford's Economy
A 2002 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Eric Boone’s goal was to one day command his own ship.
“One of the things I was attracted to in the Surface Navy was ‘Patrol Craft (PC) command,’ which is command of a small ship,” Boone says. Gesturing around him, he adds, “This is, in a way, essentially a non-floating PC boat.”
He’s referring to the Hartford Parking Authority. Boone, now 34, became CEO of the organization in 2013.
The Parking Authority’s board of commissioners chose Boone for this important role because of his strong operational and project management experience, and because he was someone they felt they could trust.
“They could teach parking to anybody, but leadership, integrity and the ability to integrate all facets of an operation are skills you can’t easily teach,” he says.
Boone sees the top job with the Hartford Parking Authority as an opportunity to take a leadership role in driving economic development in Connecticut’s capital.
“You get to work for the betterment of something bigger than you, and that’s something you can’t always find in the civilian workplace like you can as a Navy leader,” he says. “Parking feeds the local economy and I get to be a key component of that. I can have a direct impact on improving it.”
For his achievements both while serving and after transition, Boone is being recognized as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Military for 2014.
As a high school student in Connecticut in 1996, Boone had never heard of Annapolis. Fate intervened when his class trip to Washington D.C. was derailed due to something completely unanticipated: The federal government was shut down. Scrambling to come up with an alternate plan, his history teacher contacted a friend at the U.S. Naval Academy and was able to arrange a tour. By the time the tour was finished, Boone was sold. He applied and was accepted. As a midshipman, he studied mechanical engineering and rowed for the heavyweight crew team.
After graduating, Boone became a Surface Warfare Officer. His first duty as an ensign on the USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79), a guided missile destroyer, was a proving ground where he developed the leadership skills that would set his course for success in the Navy and beyond. The USS Oscar Austin was a brand new class of ship. The crew was responsible for establishing the procedures and setting the standards for later ships to follow.
“I got to work with that crew of top performers coming out of Annapolis,” Boone says. He understood that to become a good officer, he would have to meet their high standards and earn their respect.
The USS Oscar Austin’s Captain put him in charge of a variety of functions unrelated to his background in engineering.
“That gave me my first taste of the importance of integration, how understanding the big picture of how something operates is critical and not just looking at an operation from your tiny little perspective,” he says. “As a manager you have to understand, A) the specifics of what you’re managing, and B) what it takes to do the jobs of those you manage.”
At 22, Boone was the youngest person in his division, in charge of people who were older and more experienced.
“It was awkward. You have to be humble,” he says. “The way I looked at it was my job is to ensure that you can do your job. We’re one team, we all have our roles, and my role is as the team captain.”
He learned the importance of being approachable and open to feedback. “If you’re not approachable, then people are not going to provide you necessary feedback,” he says. “That has saved me throughout my whole career. One person is not able to think about every single implication of every decision.”
Boone went beyond the standard requirements needed to move on to another ship, qualifying to be Officer of the Deck, Engineering Officer of the Watch, Command Duty Officer, Surface and Undersea Warfare combat watches, and Search and Seizure Boarding Officer. On his second ship, the USS Philippine Sea (CG-58), a guided missile cruiser, he led more than 100 search and seizure missions in the Persian Gulf. He was also the Damage Control Assistant responsible for any kind of emergency scenario including mass casualty, toxic gas, a nuclear attack, flooding or fire.
When Boone was ready to leave the Navy and transition to a civilian job, he decided to work with Bradley-Morris, a recruiter specializing in military job placement. “I love Bradley-Morris,” he says. “They were great.” The recruiter worked with him to define his career goals and then set him up for interviews. He had 13 thirty-minute interviews in one day, received several job offers and accepted a position at Westinghouse.
The Westinghouse division that hired him was looking for someone who could manage welders and repair crews, operate independently and manage projects.
“Being in the military, you have a lot of project-management experience, but you just don’t know it – you just have to civilianize the words,” Boone says. “It’s the way we operate; military order is project management in civilian terms.” He quickly went from managing small projects to large multi-million dollar projects including one to repair a nuclear power plant overseas. His last position at Westinghouse was as division manager, transient design and analysis. He credits his rise in the organization and increasing responsibilities to his training in project management and integration gained in the Navy.Boone’s current role as CEO of the Hartford Parking Authority fulfills his strong desire to lead a team and chart his own course. “It took me, in my mind, essentially six years at Westinghouse to get to where I was in the Navy when I left, in terms of responsibility,” he says. Taking a big leap forward, he now commands the people and resources to make a difference to an entire community.
Jane Brubaker is a freelance writer and an ongoing contributor to Military Transition News.
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