Transcript: Space4U podcast, Bill Gattle
Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team
This is Rich Cooper with the Space Foundation. And this is the Space4U podcast, conversations with aerospace leaders and the people who make space more accessible to all of us and enable us to better understand and utilize the universe of possibilities that this incredible community makes possible.
I’m joined today by Bill Gattle, the president of space systems for L3Harris technologies space and airborne systems segment the space since airborne systems covers an extensive portfolio of solutions in intelligence. Surveillance small satellites, electronic warfare, avionics, including carriage and release systems, wireless solutions and CFRI systems.
Previously, bill was the president of Harris corporation space and intelligence systems prior to the company’s merger with L3 Technologies this past June, he’s a board member of the Space Foundation. With the University of Florida’s Dean advisory board and the Astronaut’s Memorial Foundation and recipient of the outstanding alumnus award from the University of Florida.
Bill joins me on the phone today from his office in Melbourne, Florida. Bill, thank you for joining Space4U.
Bill, let me get right down to the crux of this and your experience in the space community. How did you get your start? That’s interesting because I started back in 1987, right out of college. I graduated from the university of Florida. I was looking around to see what opportunities there were. I had offers from the construction industry and the food industry, paper mill there in Georgia and Florida.
But it actually was one year after the Challenger accident, which was kind of understand because obviously a lot of people were recoiling from that event. But for me, it actually drew me to the industry because I could see that people were actually doing something, pioneering, something brand new, that I was drawn to it.
And so I joined Harris in 1987 and their space community. And, uh, I’ve been doing that ever since. Was there, you mentioned that, that the challenger tragedy actually attracted you to come into this. Was there a particular person that acted in sort of a, a mentor that helped inspire you to take roots here?
Well, it’s interesting, obviously Christa McAuliffe and the whole thing with teachers in space was a fascinating thing associated with the challenger accident, but it was actually many years before that it was, it was about eight years old. And I can remember being on vacation in Michigan and sitting in front of this little black and white TV.
I watched the moonwalk on July 20th, 1969. And it was, it was kind of amazing. You start to see the accomplishments the America had done in a decade. And I also lived in Florida from when I was a younger kid and I lived on what they call the space coast or creditor coast, and I saw how the industry was changing.
And so that excitement actually built from the time when I was eight years old, all the way to today. And it’s been interesting to watch all the different people who’ve made a difference. So we’ll talk probably as much on this call later, but it’s, I view as what we’re going through right now, almost like the Apollo era, we’re seeing that kind of change in the space community.
So it’s, it’s been a very exciting time. And again, the excitement for me has actually continued to build over the years just because what’s happened in space is just truly amazing. And that’s the new pioneers that are actually going into space. So let me ask you, when you go to start there, uh, you know, right after the challenger accident, what was like the first space project that you worked on?
Actually, it was interesting. Cause I, I was going to put a large deployable structure into space out of the space station day. So they were actually going to deploy this. It looked like this unfolding tower that you would see on earth, but they’d had to be compressed with a really mechanical. Interesting device.
Um, and they were trying to figure out how they could actually build things in space was one of the first, early times of doing that. And then I got into actually analyzing satellites. I was fascinated by the whole concept of how hot and cold it gets in space. So I got, I got to be an analyst in analyzing satellites and their temperature and how they get into orbit and put the orbit tology of them is so it was kind of a fascinating.
Career path to learn the basics of what space is all about. No, you just used a word. I have not heard use that often. And it may be something new for folks orbitology what is orbitology? Well, it’s interesting because people think, Oh, things just launch in the space and they could be in any rotation around the earth, but there’s actually multiple tiers.
Sometimes you’ll hear it called. Low-earth orbit, which is it flies a few hundred miles above the earth. And it’s basically goes around the earth about every 90 to 120 minutes. And so that’s an orbit and Orbitology is basically like a study of what orbit is best on the opposite end of the extreme is what they call the geostationary orbit, which is where a satellite basically orbits over in a single position.
It takes it 24 hours to go around and it basically hovers over one point on the earth. And there’s different benefits depending on what you want to do with the satellite, which again is a big topic today in the media about what orbits should you be using and which ones are the most beneficial for different missions.
And so for me, it was very early on, I got a very strong feel for what orbits worked for, what kind of satellites, uh, is a powerful part of my career and growing a mission, understanding of what happens in space. I was at one time, but I’ve been promoted into management. So I’ve kind of lost some of those brain cells, but I certainly know about.
What orbits can do what, but don’t ask me to do the equations anymore. Okay. I’m not even, I’m not even in that ballpark, so you don’t have to worry about me checking your math. Trust me on that. Now, did you have a mentor or a series of mentors that coached you in the early days? And I’m curious if you could tell us a little bit about what that mentor those mentors and what was the best piece of advice they gave you in the early portion of your career?
But, you know, it’s interesting cause all of us who’ve made it in our career. If you will, or made it this far in our career, recognize that there’s many people that touch our lives, the may people that make our careers success. And so over the years, obviously there’s probably no one single mentor that we all can look at, but there’s been multiple ones.
I would say that I mentor or whether it’s coming from a peer or whether it’s even coming from one of the employees that work from you. Information like that and information that gives you advice and wisdom. That’s just super valuable in your life and your career, but there’s a couple of areas to answer your question more directly.
I remember when I was even in high school, I had a junior high coach that basically really shaped me, which was. Don’t make excuses for the past, move on, get over it and use it as a stepping stone and not a tombstone. And the other part of it is I had people telling me don’t waste pain in life, learn from it.
And to me, that is one of the biggest areas I’ve seen as we go through things. Many of us would get these positions with a president of a company. It’s not because we did everything perfect. It’s because we learned from our mistakes and we learned to grow and not stop. When we made a failure or we had a problem.
And so that helped me a lot. The other pieces that I’ve seen over my years is when people offer you advancement in your career or offer you a new opportunity, like in the space community or do something different, don’t ever turn it down. If you have champions who believe in you, it’s really important for you to step into those things.
I see people get uncomfortable and they don’t want to take roles that look like risks. And I just encourage everybody to take risks because taking managed risks are what it’s all about. It’s where opportunity lies in life. Peter Drucker said, whenever you see successful business, someone had to make a really courageous decision to take a risk.
And so for me, it’s, it’s courage in your career. The last piece again, I tell my people all the time is know yourself. Be very self-aware of what you’re good at because God made you a certain way and you need people around you to support you. And if you’re aware that you need those people, you’ll be much more sensitive to empowering teams.
So those are sort of the big mentoring factors. As I think about my career, about what people have told me. Let’s move on a little bit here and talk about your role with a L3Harris and what’s going on now. L3Harris is a new company, but it’s built on the legacy of two significant aerospace companies, both Harris and L3 Technologies.
Can you describe how a merger like that works? And when you have, what were literally two competitors come together into one enterprise? How does that happen? There’s, there’s probably two pieces of the, what you’re asking. And one is, you know, when you have two companies come together and they may have the same capability, who’s going to decide which capability is better.
And what’s really important is that you get some independent thinking and you get people to come in, who can think about the different capabilities dispassionately and do an assessment and figure out who has the better solution and product and billing. Being able to make that courageous decision to say, I’m going to use this one and not that one.
Um, it has to be independent though. And it has to be where you don’t have. A lot of emotion in it because that’s, what’s key to getting the right answer. And so we didn’t have that many of them, but we did have a few within the company and we quickly made those decisions so that people weren’t confused as to what direction we were headed.
The other thing I would say about mergers in general, because they’re so prevalent right now in the space industry. So many companies are coming together. There’s some wise person told me one time, there’s four things you have to do. If you’re doing a merger and it to be successful, the first one is many times you promise things in a merger like you’re going to save money or you’re going to get more efficient.
Don’t ever let those results wane or delay, make sure that you get those savings and those synergies as staffed as possible. And it requires a dedicated team to do that. And we’ve created that. The second thing that people have to remember to mergers is you can’t forget about your customer. Sometimes retires, mergers cause you to look internally and you forget that there’s this external customer that actually needs to be served.
And so it’s very important to make sure that you separate the people who are working the internal restructuring in the company from those who are externally trying to meet the customer’s needs. The third piece is what I seen a lot. And that is culturally. You got to decide what you want to be. So it’s interesting with our two companies coming together because one was a holding company.
All three was basically a company that had a lot of diversity in different pieces. And Harris was an operational company. And so quickly you have to decide, are you going to become an operational company? Are you going to be a holding company? We quickly said, we’re going to be an operational company, which means we’re going to merge these capabilities together and we’re going to become one unit.
And so that creates its own challenges, but at least you make that decision to make it very clear. And the last one that I’ve seen, I think a lot of us within the space industry have seen is be very careful when you shut down a facility or move a facility because many times people lose the recipe, especially with space hardware, and so hard to build.
In many cases, there’s art to it. And you got to make sure that you do not lose the recipe when you start to consolidate. Describe that lose the recipe. What does I like to peel the onion on that a little bit more? What does that mean in losing the recipe? Because again, there are, obviously, there are only certain things that can be done at certain places, but what does lose the recipe mean?
Space is a difficult enough environment. And obviously what we build is. Pretty complex. What it means is many times that information is we’ll sometimes call tribal knowledge or it’s in the engineer’s head. It’s only people who actually have built it for years. There’s an art to it, as well as a science to it.
And when you lose a facility, let’s say you say, I’m going to close down an East Coast facility and I move it to the West Coast of the United States. Sometimes those people don’t move with it. And what happens is, is that just the documentation may not be enough to truly build something. And so when you put it in a new facility, it may be, you can’t actually build it anymore, or it, doesn’t not very successfully.
I’ve seen it across our industry of space for many years where companies just lose the recipe. So it’s very important to you. You’re very conscious about when you move things and how you’re moving things and make sure that the knowledge base moves with it. What’s the biggest change. The L three and Harris merger has brought to the space community.
That’s an interesting question because we have become the sixth largest aerospace and defense crime. And, but you look at what, you know, what are we different than a one of the bigger primes and how are we differentiated from the smaller ones? I think the biggest positive is we now have scale. We can invest.
At a much higher rate because we can have the combined resources of these two companies. So we want to focus somewhere and we have double the amount of investment we could put towards it. The other benefit would be, we can now put complete solutions together. We’re first was before there was still basically components, or sometimes people call them widgets, but they were basically component sales.
And then with the combined entity, we can bring more complete answers to our customers from find different parts of it. Um, I think what’s unique about L3Harris and that we’re going to try to keep something I’ve affectionately referred to as, or small enough to be agile and margin have to be trusted that we’re still a small enough company that we can quickly pivot.
And we’re also not completely dependent on one or two jobs. We have a very diverse portfolio, so that agility and affordability and ability to be trusted at this agile level, I think provides us quite a bit of strength in the space comedian. L three serves a number of infrastructures in the defense community, communications, transportation, maritime, the environment.
How does a company like your satisfy, so many different demands and requirements you mentioned in your previous answer about not losing sight of the customer. You guys serve a lot of different customers with a lot of different demands. How do you satisfy all of that? That’s an interesting question, because I’ve seen a lot of companies go out this differently.
Um, I’ll give you what we’ve done, but it’s many companies aligned surely to a customer, or are they aligned surely to a mission or are they aligned purely to a technology, but a company like ours because we have such a broad range of technologies. We’ve taken a different approach. I call it a layered approach.
And the first is the customer level. You need to have people that are directly aligned to that customer, which is typical. I mean, you’ll have a customer base or a product line base that’s directly aligned and they own that interaction. And they really are the listen to the customer and they become the voice of the customer into the organization.
So that doesn’t change. They’re also those at the lower level, if you will, there’s all these building blocks. This technology. And so what we’ve decided to do over the last few years as a company is don’t allow each individual group to develop their own technology in an Island or a silo we’ve done is we basically coordinate it and review it at the corporate level, which may sound like it’s burdensome, but it really hasn’t been, but it makes sure that we one don’t duplicate investment.
And second we’re creating reference architectures that we can plug and play. So we’re making architectures and technology. Are we going apply to different mission sets? And different tiers in your land, sea air and space. And we know when to apply them. So you have those two big pieces, the biggest. If you will transformation for us was we put in a layer of what we call translators, or sometimes they’re called architects, but people who can take the voice of the customer and marry it to the technology and those, we have been multiplying those groups to where they can take the technology from across the company and poll from different pieces and apply it to the different mission sets.
And they are basically marrying technology to mission across the whole company versus in silos. I can go back a decade and say, when we were doing it in silos, we had lots of duplications and we really couldn’t effectively address our customer’s missions very well because we didn’t really integrate if you will.
The whole company. So that’s been a huge focus for us and I won’t, I won’t sit here and say we’re perfect at it, but it has been pretty transformational for us as a company, because we are actually able to partner better across our different divisions and segments. And that’s very helpful. It’s helpful to our customers too, that they can actually talk to one central person at the company, but get the power of the enterprise.
If you will. Again, we’re not perfect at it. And I don’t think anybody would be, but it feels like we’re on the right path as we go through this. Your company is also taking a big leadership role in the development and deployment of smallsats. Can you share how you and L3Harris see these tools serving so many different missions and customer requirements?
Okay. It’s interesting that I mentioned earlier, we see a pretty big transformation in the industry right now with space industry in the past. It’s been all about the very large exquisite systems. If you will. Uh, sometimes they’re a Swiss army knife, sort of, they’re just hugely capable. And we’ve seen this augmentation layer now with responsive satellites.
And so we personally don’t believe that small satellites will ever replace all the large satellites, but they do provide a lot of augmentation and they’re much more responsive and resilient, which is sort of you’re in this perfect storm because that’s exactly what the tactical warfighter needs. They need things that are more.
Augmentation. They need them to be responsive, resilient. They need to be available on shorter timelines. And that’s what small satellites are providing for us. And they can fill in gaps in coverage of the large satellite. They can provide quick enhancements and performance, typically the fraction of the cost on a per satellite basis.
But we’ve really seen the transformation the last few years. For us, we saw a small satellite community, but around the 1990s or before, but the problem was they weren’t very useful and they couldn’t do a lot on orbit. They didn’t do a lot of mission value we’ve seen in the last five years is now it has really become.
Strong mission utility with these. And it’s why is that? You know, why did we, why what’s the transformation? One is just sheer need. I mean, the government and the market is looking for this and there there’s a poll on it. Um, the second one is there’s a huge amount of emphasis of the commercial industry and the investments that are being made in the space X’s of the world and those folks.
And then the last one for us, it was really transformational for us. Called additive manufacturing. Those who may or may not be familiar with that set subtractive manufacturing, as you take a block of metal and you cut away the metal that you don’t want. And it creates the part. Additive is basically you are building it up.
That’s almost like you’re printing it or spray painting, spraying it at the two. A piece though, is you can make a much smaller, you can make a much faster, you can make them cheaper. You can do things you can’t do with subtractive. So this has really been transformational and what used to be just the communication industry.
Now you’re seeing it come through the imagery part of space. You’re seeing a numerous missions for situational awareness. Tracking. So we truly believe that this is a transformational time. And I think what you’re hearing now, also in the space market is the next key step for small satellites in space in general is how do you network everything?
Everything’s gotta be interconnected in order to get real time information to people on earth. It doesn’t help. If it’s all in the space, it’s got to get to humans here on earth. You talk about the transformational aspect of these things, but was there a particular moment? And this goes to a line that you used earlier about hearing the voice of the customer, but then also being able to gain the trust of the customer so that they can engage one person and engage the enterprise.
Was there a particular transformational, the moment that you saw that had, uh, whether that be the defense department? Or communications companies that they were like, wait a second. These small set things are real. These things really can do what some of the larger systems have done. Was there a particular sort of Eureka moment or mission or, uh, application that really sort of snap the fingers for people to say they were confident enough to try small sets and make the bigger investment in those systems.
It was sort of a perfect storm that has occurred in the last three or four years. And part of it was, there was a Schriever war game that occurred a couple of years ago, where warfighters from across the nation come and they fight simulated war battles. And out of that came the basic statement that if you don’t have space in place, but a general heightened Cinefest who were fighting in the 1950s, you need to have space there.
So all of a sudden it became a real mission. Need. It became space. Infrastructure is absolutely critical. And general heighten also talked about our exquisite systems or juicy targets for our enemy that treated this real mission needs. That was the first part of the perfect storm. The second one is they needed to get mission value at an affordable price.
At the time we were coming out of sequence station, so they needed something that would somehow change the cost structure. And so those two combined to be, it became a, if you will, a Greenfield, if you’re familiar with that term, it’s just, it became an opportunity rich environment for who could provide mission utility at it, wholly wholly different price and schedule profile.
So that really opened this up for us personally, at our company. We needed to change agents who would believe in us and the government. And we got some of those folks in the intelligence community, as well as the department of defense. And the last piece was we really weren’t known as the small satellites company.
So we had a credibility issue and to get over that hump, we started to build things on our own. We partnered with the Iridium company who built a communication satellite. We built 230 hosted payloads for them, and then we launched. Our own satellite with our own money to prove we could do it. So those things all conversion a perfect storm and allowed not only the market to accept us, but also for us to gain credibility.
Space is as much a critical infrastructure today as financial institutions and the roads and bridges and public safety and healthcare and agriculture. How should we be protecting our space assets and ensure the resiliency, uh, for space access and connectivity? Yeah, it’s interesting for me because I’ve watched Eastern rhetoric that I hear out of the government to say, Hey, we’ve got to do something about the space.
So we have to. Do more coordination in the last couple of years, it’s new from just interesting ideas and rhetoric to almost a mandate to protect the space layer that has fundamentally changed. That’s one of the reasons why the space force exists. It’s also one of the reasons why something called proliferate and lower orbit is now existing.
Maybe it was the things like the GPS constellation basically dictated millions of dollars of economic values to our world. And it was critical to the war fighting capability. But all of a sudden, now you were seeing communication infrastructure. You’re seeing all these things come in, that basically said, this is absolutely critical for our world.
And if you didn’t have GPS, it’s not only that you can’t get around with your car, all the timing of the financial systems, wouldn’t be able to take place. You basically collapse our economy. So, and in addition, none of our war-fighting missiles and things like that would work because they all operate off GPS.
All of a sudden, you start to realize just how critical it was. We realized we had to protect it. Then the last few years, I mean, it’s become more public that other countries are taking, trying to take a lead in space and also putting some of our assets at risk. And so for us, it’s our response. Again, there’s responses that are descending versus sponsors that are protecting.
Also again, proliferating different architectures out there too, to create another layer. If you will do it, protect us. So you use the term proliferated, low earth orbit. That’s a phrase that may not be familiar to a number of audiences. Can you explain that? So what’s happening in there is proliferate. It just means there’s a lot of them.
Low-earth orbit was that orbit I talked about earlier that is Orbitz about every 90 to 120 minutes. And it’s basically the government. The industry is thinking one, it’s a lot cheaper to get to that orbit. It’s only a few hundred miles above the earth and the satellites are less expensive when you launch them there.
So the idea is we could put a lot of satellites and the proliferated. Leo architecture, which is a lot of them in this lower orbit architecture versus putting them up at geostationary, which is 22,000 miles away. So it’s a big difference between launching something into the 300 to a thousand miles above the earth versus 22,000 miles above a year.
But the big benefit of doing this is the launches are cheaper. Satellites are a lot less expensive. And also because you can do this, you can launch a lot of them. And so the listeners probably have heard of the star link off of space X, and they’re launching many, many of these small star link communication satellites.
But if they lose a few of them, they’re not that worried about it. They don’t sweat it because they’re not that expensive and failures. Okay. That is completely different than we’ve had the last five decades in space where everything had to work. So it’s fundamentally shifting the thought process of it to the good enough architecture versus everything has to work all the time.
And it’s because we have the commercial investments and things. You’re expendable. There’s a thought process that says we ought to proliferate that architecture because we can put a lot more of them up. There’ll be more resilient. And quite honestly, if you have hundreds of them in that orbit, it’s very difficult to jam them all.
It’s very difficult to attack them all just because there’s so many of them. So you basically overwhelm the attack function with quantity. And basically said, yeah, you can take one or two of them out, but I still got hundreds up there. So you mentioned the creation of space force and the movement from in protecting space assets, moving that from rhetoric to application.
How does the creation of the space force change? What L3Harris and other members of the aerospace community doing operate? Yes, it is a tectonic shift. In my opinion, I think it was either general Raymond or general heighten. It says a past space used to be the land of engineers and scientists. And now it’s the land of the war fighter.
It’s basically created several new missions for us. That is fascinating, actually, but it’s a little bit scary as well because we know we have to do this to protect our, our globe and our national security. And the first one was, we already talked about the poll protect and defend. You’ve got to protect and defend the assets we have and fundamentally a space force.
That’s their number one goal is protecting defense. The second piece though, is they’re bringing in a warfighting construct. It’s a whole different language. It’s a whole different way of thinking. If you have to be both offensive and defensive in space. And so that whole war fighting domain is changing that thinking of the space community that deals with the government.
It’s, it’s a, again, it’s a tectonic shift of thought process. The other thing that a space force is doing it’s, it’s not just another standalone force. It’s got to integrate in with all the other battle spaces. And so this is very different. Where you get all the different battle spaces from land and sea air and space, all interconnected into a full, integrated, full picture.
Battlespace that is very different because of the past, the last 50 or so years satellites basically talk to the ground in their own individual ground site. They were commanded to be in their own link. They didn’t really talk a lot to each other. It was very revolutionary ones. The Iridium constellation went up where they had all these cross-links.
They could talk to each other. But networking in space is going to be absolutely required and not just networking things in space, but having it talk to all the other tiers, like plan and air and sea, that’s where this is going, it will completely change what’s happening. And what it’s really doing to the space industry is we sit there and we always want to talk about the satellite.
Cause it sounded like the cool thing. It was always built. Now it’s all about connectivity into the entire infrastructure of the world and the globe. How do you get information, right? At some point, it’s going to look like that. Those satellite, you’re just another piece of a network there. Another note on it now is that part is kind of fascinated as we watch this.
I mean, there’s actually, and what keeps me coming to work every day is speed at which this is changing space force is right in the middle of the general Raymond and his team are be right in the middle of this transformation about how we think and where we’re headed. None of what you are. L3Harris does comes easy.
And in fact, it’s a lot more than rocket science. I mean, you made the point in your last response. There is space has moved from the scientists and engineers over to the war fighters and a lot of other, uh, disciplines there that all comes down to people and having really, really smart people. What is L3Harris looking for in its prospective hires and talent pool?
I guess I just agree with your question for a second, because this is all about the people and the people make this place work. I mean, it’s easy for me to talk about these things in the business that I run, but the reality is it’s all about the people in our businesses and it’s not just mine. It’s across the space industry.
These are people doing powerful, innovative things that are just amazing. Quite honestly, it’s stunning every day to work with some of these folks who just are transforming what we see. But when we look for fundamentally right now is we need people who are constant learners and are teachable. I think most of us know that the jobs that exist today probably won’t be the same as the jobs that exist 10 years from now.
We’re seeing this dramatic change. So what it’s really all about is we look for people who. Are agile who are willing to learn and can be innovative. They need the traditional engineering skills, but what’s happening. Right, right now with machine learning and different artificial intelligence is some of the things that engineers have traditionally done on a regular basis.
They aren’t going to have to do any more. The machine will do it. But what the difference is is you have to have people who can actually shape the future and. Think about a mission and work with our customers to perform these missions faster and more affordably and more innovatively, which just means they’re going to have to be teachable and flexible and good listeners.
I know that sounds strange, probably because most people tell you they got to have really strong technical depth, but some of the softer skills are becoming more and more important because the basic skills of engineering are known. But these, the, the world is such a rapidly changing place. The value that agility, that innovation and that ability to learn quickly.
So with that as with that as sort of as a preamble, let me ask this, what’s the most undervalued skill that you want your new employees to have and the skill that you’d like to see your current colleagues get even better at? Yeah, it’s interesting. As, as you say that question, probably three things. Try to get them out quickly, but the first is communication.
It’s amazing how many smart engineers and smart people can’t get their idea out. Learning how to speak in analogies and stories and translating your thoughts is a huge deal right now because everything is new and it’s innovative and where the industry is changing so fast, people are having trouble grasping everything that’s happening.
So the ability to communicate and frame things in a way that people can digest the information that’s coming at them is absolutely key. The second piece is many of our technical folks were not trained in any business skills. Like they didn’t learn about cash flow and they didn’t learn about things that you would normally learn with a business administration degree.
That’s becoming more and more important because of the affordability aspect it’s driving the engineers have to understand that. Just a cool idea. But can that cool idea be implemented in a much more cost-effective way? And the third piece to me is we’re asking people to be able to not just say what they’re doing, but why it matters.
Sort of the bigger picture because you’re sitting there and you can talk, tell me all about the details of the widget, but if you can’t tell me why it makes a difference and why it matters to our world, it’s not as valuable. And so those three things have become, those were undervalued skills for the last two decades, but now they’ve become at the forefront because of the speed of innovation.
You have to be able to communicate those things differently. You have to understand things a little differently than you used to. With those three things in mind, if you could speak to school teachers of the world today, what would you tell them to help prepare for the unfolding space economy and what you and L3Harris and other companies are looking for?
It’s really kind of aligned the way to said that’s. One of the things that we really want people to do is sort of learn how to learn. If you will. We want them to be lifelong learners. There is no such thing as you come out of school and you just are going to be applying only what you did in school.
It’s really about teaching people, how to learn and get information. You think about what we have today that we didn’t have 15 years ago, the world wide web and all those things. The world is changing so fast. You need to be able to ingest information quickly and figure out how you learn what your learning style is because the job you have today, most likely won’t be the job you have tomorrow.
It will be migrated. There’ll be different. The second thing that I always think about for teachers is sometimes kids don’t necessarily enjoy school. It’s trying to create the love of learning and the wonder of creating those spheres are huge. No, it used to be that we were we’d have a wonderment of that space.
So we’ve just loved the aspect of learning about it. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the mechanics of what we’re learning. We don’t see the wonder of what we’re creating and what we’re doing with the world changing so fast. I think it’s just, we’ve got to create that wonder in students again, and many times it’s bringing, and I know the space foundation, others do this.
And create these scenarios, if you will, of what’s interesting. And what difference things can make. It’s not just about learning a math problem. It’s about what difference it can make in our world. I think some of the things that space foundation has done to link those two is very powerful. And teachers actually can leverage some of these tools to make sure that people understand the world is big.
And it has a lot of opportunities for us to learn and apply our brain power to, you know, it’s interesting. I was, as I think about your question is. The world is like a big word problem. You know, none of us like work problems, probably what we’re going through. No, no, we did not. What this is. It’s like, all these word problems are out there to learn how to create and we go after it.
And so many of us, certainly in engineering, I went through engineering school. I was like, what? What’s the right answer? How do I get to the right answer at the bottom? And so somebody thinks today there’s not necessarily a right answer. It’s more of how do I innovatively shape what’s going to happen in the future.
Machines are going to continue to grow in their ability to do common engineering tasks or common tasks. Um, I know the university of Florida, uh, Dean’s advisory board as well. And they’re looking at how does engineering college actually change over the next few years as machines do a lot of the basic tasks and it really comes down to the, how do you instill the learning?
How do you make sure that people are looking at the bigger picture? Make sure they understand why and not just the, what. So you talked about that’s. If you could talk to the teachers, understanding the, how, as well as the, what there. Now, if you had a chance to speak to the students of the world, based upon what you just shared, that you want the teachers to do, what guidance would you give those students so that they are ready for day one of joining a team like yours in the space economy.
Yeah, it’s really interesting. And I’ll use myself as an example of what not to do. I didn’t really get hands on when I was in college, I went through and went to basically the book study kind of stuff we’re seeing today is you really need to take on projects that are group projects that actually do something tangible.
Um, we’re rewarding people who can work in teams and respect other groups and other disciplines. It’s not just about being the mechanical engineer, Southern mechanical, working with the software, working on the electrical, all those disciplines working together. It’s not just engineering. You have to figure out how to work with the finance people, the human resources, people, it’s a respect and a diversity of thoughts, and it’s working in much bigger initiatives.
So if you can be part of something, That allows you to get some hands-on experience. And most of those are those extracurricular things. Like then you all the space foundation do, or there’s even special projects people do at universities. That’s a big deal. Can you engage in that? We look heavily at that stuff.
And we view that very highly. Again, you have to learn how to communicate with impact, which you’ll get on one of those teams as you breathe. And again, I talked about learning why, and not just what. It’s interesting. I did a study with us here internally to the company and looked at who are the best performing engineers, four years out of college.
And what we found was all our highest rated engineers and the ones that were their most valuable in our company right now went through an experience when they were in college or it was a multi-discipline team that had to create something. Well there, it was one of those dune buggies you created, or a boat.
Those people Rose to the top because they knew how to integrate together. And they knew how to work together as a team and produce something greater than themselves by combining the efforts of the whole group. There’s a lot going on in the world today, right now with the Corona virus pandemic and all the challenge that that’s creating.
I’m curious to get your thoughts on how you think this challenge that every country, every continent, every community is dealing with. How do you think Corona is going to change this? You know, it’s an interesting comment because I think there’s two reactions I’m seeing in the community right now. One is people who are just flat out reactive.
You know, it’s like what what’s going to happen today. And they’re staring at the news media and what’s the next piece of news. That’s going to come out. They’ll shape what they have to do next. I think there’s another group that’s starting to emerge. I know we’re trying to push on pretty hard as what is this going to create three years from now?
How will our world be different? How can we be opportunistic about where this is headed? And I think as you look at the sun, I saw somebody on the news media the other day that said, we’re going to be different the next flu season, in terms of how we protect people, how we do sanitary, disinfectant, all those things will be different because of what we’re going through today.
I think, well, beyond just that is how has work done. I think what you’re gonna do see in our community is obviously we have factories and factories. Are going to need to be there to work. I think you’re going to see work, being able to be moved to people’s homes. I think work from home, the ability to do remote work ability to have teams work in groups when they’re not in the same location, those will be powerful things that will change the entire workforce and how we do things.
How do you. Actually do inspections on hardware floors without actually physically being there. I know people are doing virtual reality already and we are too. I just think you’re going to see this massive acceleration of not having to have huge facilities that are all in the same location. Doing work.
But that it will be more distributed and people can basically keep themselves safe if you will, in a distributed architecture. The other piece of it is I think that this is showing us how important data analytics is and how you know right now, I think everybody would like to know. How are things spreading?
What is happening here, who were all these people and how does this work? It is a ripe environment for continuing to apply machine learning and data analytics to data sets like this. How does a disease like this spread as a pandemic? And as they have some of it and they’ve done some of it, I think it’s just going to take it to a new level.
You know, it won’t be the same. This will be a nine 11 kind of events. I think today, you know, COVID companies are really worried about cash and all those kinds of things. But I think in general, we’re going to see long-term companies who can be agile, who have a really strong balance sheets will survive their way through this.
And on the other side, we’ll see a completely different work structure and work environment. My final question for you. You talked about as a kid, being able to watch the moon landing, and you talked about how the challenger accident, uh, actually attracted you to the industry and, uh, despite all the really great opportunities that were being put in front of you, what’s the big space mission that you want.
The L3Harris team to be a part of. That’s going to change history. This is a transformational time. I truly believe people are gonna look back to. This time period that we’re going through right now as just like the Apollo days. And there’ll be able to pick off companies and teams and people that made a difference in this time period.
And we want to be part of that, obviously where your customer is coming from. Well, we want to be in the center of the fact that we’re a key company that made the world a better or safer place. And there’s, there’s really three areas that are huge for us. First one is this whole concept of responsive, small satellites.
Good enough augmentation machines. That’s a key part for us because we believe that we are bringing technology to bear that is showing what the art of the possible is, where things could be and what they could do. And we believe we are shaping them because we’ve had the government and our voice of our customers tell us that we’re doing things that are very innovative and very different than they’ve ever seen, because we’re able to put a lot of mission utility in the very small, affordable tabloid.
Um, the second piece of it is I truly believe that what’s going to happen over the next few years is space will be networked the whole environment’s gonna be network. And we want to be part of it. We may not be the leader in that, but I think we have this ability to network this world and allow for information to flow in a way that it’s never done before globally.
And I think we can look back and think that’s very strong. And the last piece is we already do this, but it’s a, it’s a huge driver for our people. And that is we produce satellites, provide a lot of meaningful information for our world. So if you think about when you see a hurricane and you see that goes our satellite label in the lower corner of the picture, Our people take great pride in knowing that they built that satellite.
They know that they build a lot of the pictures you see on Google earth. They know they do these things. And so for us, I usually like to tell our people, we’re not making snow cone machines here. We’re doing some that matters every day. And so for us, there is big spacious and catheter from deep space exploration, all these things.
But I want us to believe we shaped something different on the planet because we existed. And even though we were, we’re not the biggest company. I believe we have a lot of innovative people who are going to make a long-term impact in this time period, which again, I believe is truly transformational.
We’ve been joined today by Bill Gattle of L3Harris, who has, this has been a great conversation. Uh, very illuminating on a number of fronts. Uh, Bill. I want to thank you for your time. I want to thank you for your energy and certainly your commitment to the Space Foundation, but also the, uh, candor and wisdom that you shared with teachers, students.
And I will say space economy members that insight like yours certainly is very, very valuable as we all work our way through, uh, this most challenging of frontiers that space offers the Space4U team is very grateful for all the time and energy you’ve given to us. Uh, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure to host you again for another Space4U podcast.
Please stay tuned to the Space Foundation, website and social media platforms for even more details on great Space4U conversations that we want to share because at the Space Foundation we always have space for you. Thank you.
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