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Preparing for transition into the civilian sector after a 29-year career in the U.S. Navy, Captain Timothy “Octa” Hill, former commander of NAWCTSD and Naval Support Activity Orlando, considered a variety of options for the next steps in his journey. One of the first commitments he made to life after the military, was joining the advisory board for the Integrated Business (IB) Program at University of Central Florida.

What might seem like an odd fit for a former fighter pilot with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, stemmed from the IB Program’s commitment to developing well-rounded, multi-disciplinarians capable of wearing multiple hats within an organization and its focus on students’ soft skills development. As a leader of an organization, he was intrigued that all IB students take a required course in project management and that many of those students develop a strong career interest in that field.

“We have a need to go faster in order to out-pace our nation’s competitors and that takes leadership, something that we don’t always have enough of,” said Hill, now with Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation. “One of the ways to overcome such a shortage is to get more out of each individual and to do it sooner. I think the multi-disciplinary nature of the Integrated Business skillset and the emphasis on soft skills such as team leadership and critical thinking, make an IB graduate more productive on day one.”

The Integrated Business program is only six years old, but is now the largest major in the UCF College of Business, with about 1,450 students. Dr. Jim Gilkeson, founding chair of the department, is grateful to Hill and his other IB advisory board members for their willingness to serve, as he has seen a direct impact on the students who complete the program.

“Given the strong presence of the defense industry in the Orlando area, one of the opportunities I would very much like to better develop, both in terms of internships for our students and full-time employment for our graduates, is program management,” said Gilkeson. “To team with community leaders like Tim, who bring a wealth of knowledge about program management, specifically in the armed forces and the defense industry, is a wonderful growth opportunity for our program. These volunteers use their many connections, and have a lot of enthusiasm for the IB program and we are so lucky to have them.”

The talk about the future workforce has become somewhat of a buzz word, particularly in Central Florida, surrounded by Team Orlando and both the traditional and the non-traditional contractors that support them. Usually it is centered around STEM, but as Hill points out, there are other considerations when thinking about developing the region’s future workers.

“We [the armed forces/defense industry] have typically been somewhat haphazard in creating a pipeline for program/project managers,” Hill explained. “Historically, we have basically siphoned off proven employees from other fields such as finance, planning, or engineering, and taught them project management on the job. With a much more targeted set of skills gained in the Integrated Business program, we can be much more intentional with a PM talent pipeline and gain that critical leadership much earlier in employees’ careers.”

“Our students are quite impressive,” said Gilkeson. One example is Aden Martinez, a recent IB graduate, who secured a position with ASRC Federal Data Solutions as a buyer / project manager. Martinez works at NASA KSC supporting the KIAC contract and sees himself as, “a living testimony that you don’t have to have a technical background to manage a project in the aerospace industry.”

Duyer Primera served as a clinical/medical program manager in the U.S. Army before returning to school at UCF. He’s now working as a program planner in the CWEP program at Lockheed Martin Fire and Missile Control, and is a board member of the Knights Association of Project Management (KAPM) student organization. “When I applied to UCF, I thought I was applying to earn a degree,” said Primera. “What I found, through the IB program, is that the faculty isn’t preparing us for a degree, they’re preparing us for a future by teaching us hard and soft skills we can actually apply in today’s workforce.”

“When employers consider what they need for the future, they may want to think about how Integrated Business students and graduates can help fill their current and future needs for program/project managers,” said Gilkeson.

Email Dr. Jim Gilkeson for more information.
Photo provided by the UCF Integrated Business program.

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