Leaving Lockheed Martin

I’ve left to join APS Healthcare as a manager of software development. My last day at Lockheed Martin was September 20.

In nearly two years at Lockheed Martin (and Aspen Systems prior to its buyout) as a combination project manager, systems analyst, and lead developer, I learned many different lessons about myself–some painful, some not.

The necessity of diplomacy

When I first arrived at Aspen Systems, I was blunt in discussing areas I felt needed improvement (code quality, process, etc). Because I wasn’t always diplomatic in the way I talked about what I saw, some people responsible for the work took offense. It was irrelevant that I was describing standard industry best practices. Co-workers who were offended became far more difficult to work with. Being more diplomatic would have made life easier.

The importance of corporate culture

My experience at Aspen Systems led me to conclude that corporate culture is as important as profitability. It affects the quality of work, the caliber of employees, how co-workers treat each other, how management treats staff, and employee retention. I had a lot of disagreements with how things worked in all of these areas (which is probably why I only lasted two years in a company that had an average tenure of seven years). Two other people who joined Aspen after I did ended up leaving before I did. Corporate culture played a role in their departures too.

Project management is really personality management

I didn’t manage difficult personalities very well on my projects. To succeed at project management, it’s vital to have that ability. Being able to put together realistic work breakdown structures, project plans, and budgets is important–and I did all those things well–but being more able to persuade others to do certain tasks would have made my job much easier. When the people assigned to your project(s) don’t actually report to you, persuasion is the only tool you have. Being more diplomatic would have helped me. Beyond that however, the role of project manager needed far more support from the organization than it received.

While the skills are useful, project management is not something I’ll take on as a full-time role in the future. I’m better at other things.

Aston-Martin & Jaguar Changing Hands

There’s been quite bit of buzz in the press about the possibility of Aston-Martin (and possible Jaguar and Land Rover) being sold lately. It interests me not because an Aston-Martin has usually been what James Bond drives in the movies, but because of a negotiation assignment in business school. My final assignment was to lead a team of my classmates (we represented Ford) in negotiating the purchase Jaguar (another team of classmates). As it turned out, our negotiations failed (Ford and Jaguar stayed separate).

The negotiations failed because we I didn’t account for the interests of a few of the Jaguar execs who would be “redundant” in the new organizational structure (they wanted their golden parachutes). But a few of us, myself included, thought the numbers in the case study alone were a sufficient argument against Ford buying Jaguar. It’s been a couple of years since that class, but the recent sales talk feels a bit like vindication.