Engineering a successful path

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Jonathan B. Hill

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Project Office, Program Executive Office (PEO) for Missiles and Space
TITLE: Chief, Performance Management Division
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in production, quality and manufacturing and in engineering; Level I in program management
EDUCATION: Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering (expected in fall 2019) and M.S. in engineering management, University of Alabama in Huntsville; B.S. in mechanical engineering, University of Alabama
AWARDS: Distinguished Departmental Fellow, University of Alabama Department of Mechanical Engineering; numerous awards for contributions to the IAMD Battle Command System, the PEO for Aviation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Management Office (UAS PMO), the Technical Management Division of the UAS PMO, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Engineering Directorate and the Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System

by Susan L. Follett

Jonathan Hill has received numerous awards over the course of his acquisition career, including recognition for his support of reliability growth for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System; critical contributions to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Management Office (UAS PMO) within the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Aviation; and contributions to improving alignment between UAS PMO and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC).

But it’s his first award that holds the most meaning for him: recognition for contributions he made in 2007 to improve the safety of the Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System. Hill and his team partnered with Defense Contract Management Agency personnel at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to reduce aircraft incident rates for the Shadow by 50 percent for two consecutive years.

“That award was meaningful for two reasons: It was the first time in my career that I was recognized for my work, and I learned that good work gets rewarded,” he said. “Second, but most importantly, it demonstrated that my work had a direct impact on Soldiers in the field. People often think that since the Shadow is unmanned, when it crashes, it’s not a big deal—no one gets hurt, and it’s only equipment that’s lost. But it is a big deal: Soldiers in urban operations rely on the surveillance information that the Shadow provides, and without it, they can find themselves walking into harm’s way.”

Hill is chief of the Performance Management Division within the IAMD Project Office within the PEO for Missiles and Space, responsible for the safety, reliability, configuration and data management, production, quality and manufacturing of the IAMD system of systems. “Being a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce provides opportunities to solve unique technical challenges every day,” he said. “Most people assume that engineers work nearly in isolation with little interaction, when in fact almost everything we do is done through teamwork. Working in a team environment allows us to develop better solutions to problems and requires the ability to work well with others.”

He oversees a team of approximately 18 government and contractor personnel. “For me, the hardest part of my job is the difficult conversations that supervisors often have to have with the people they lead,” he said. “No one wants to hear that there’s something they’re not good at or there’s a skill they need to get better at; even constructive feedback can be hard to hear. But those conversations are necessary. They’re an important part of growth and improvement, both personally and for our team as a whole.”

Hill became part of the Army Acquisition Workforce as a co-op student after his freshman year of college; he alternated semesters between working and attending classes throughout his undergraduate years. “The diversity of work assignments appealed to me as an engineer in training. I saw that I could work on a wide variety of products and technologies throughout my career with ample opportunity to transition to different projects.”

One of the most important points in his career came about 10 years ago, when he was competitively selected for a developmental assignment as executive officer to a Senior Executive Service (SES) member. Originally assigned to work for Patricia Martin in AMRDEC’s Engineering Directorate, Hill ended up working for Randy Harkins, who had become the acting director after Martin was named acting director for AMRDEC’s Systems Engineering and Support Division. “That assignment helped me get a much better perspective of how the Army works at a much younger point in my career than is typical,” said Hill. “It also broadened my view of possible career paths and helped me to form relationships with senior leaders that have mentored me throughout my career.”

Hill now tries to pay that forward by mentoring others. “The most important advice that I have been given and that I try to pass on to junior personnel is to have a plan for how you want to achieve your career goals. You will not achieve your career goals by accident or without deliberate action. Also, be proactive in managing your career. Do not assume your supervisor will do it for you.”

In that vein, he volunteered to help with an effort undertaken by the Army Career Program 16 Proponency Office to update the career map for occupational series 0801, general engineering. Hill was one of 13 people selected as a subject matter expert for that effort, based on his experience and his supervisory and technical expertise. “It’s a really comprehensive map of the functional competencies, training and certifications from GS-1 all the way up to the SES level. It’s helpful even for someone at my level, and it’s even more beneficial for someone just starting out, to know what degrees and training and experience will be needed to advance.”

Now in the 17th year of his career, he’s seen several big changes come his way. “The change from the abundant funding that we saw during the global war on terror to the budget challenges and sequestration was big. Budgets got a lot smaller, and we were asked to do as much or more with a lot less money. The biggest change I’ve seen recently is the push to get capabilities fielded faster.” If he were in charge, he said he would “look to streamline where I could—cut review times, speed up the contracting process. I’d also look to make changes in the budget process, specifically when it comes to the continuing resolutions. We could get a lot more done if we didn’t have to spend three or four months wondering about funding.”


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This article will be published in the January – March 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635.

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