BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS

By September 8, 2020Faces of the Force
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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Product Manager for Network Modernization, Project Manager for Tactical Network, Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical
TITLE: Product manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 30
AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management, engineering, and test and evaluation
EDUCATION: M.S. in systems engineering, George Mason University; B.S. in electrical engineering, Virginia Tech; Senior Service College Fellowship, Defense Acquisition University; Computer, Information and Software Intensive Systems Certificate, George Mason University; Chief Information Officer and Information Assurance Certificates, National Defense University; Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Distinguished Graduate
AWARDS: Civilian Service Achievement Medal; C5ISR Team of Second Quarter, Fiscal Year 19 Award; Superior Civilian Service Award; Commanders Award for Civilian Service; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Certificate of Excellence; Superior Civilian Service Award; Army Team C4ISR Outstanding Personnel of the Year
HOMETOWN: Lexington Park, Maryland; Havre de Grace, Maryland


 

Matthew R. Maier

 

by Teresa Mikulsky Purcell

 

One of the first civilians to be selected for an acquisition leadership position, Matthew Maier is the first to say he did not get to where he is today on his own. “I view Army acquisition as a long road of stepping stones, and with each step there is someone guiding you, providing oversight, mentoring and urging you to take the next step,” said Maier, who is the product manager for Network Modernization (NetMod) within the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T).

Maier manages more than 130 acquisition professionals in procuring expeditionary, resilient and secure networking technology for Army Soldiers. His portfolio consists of 13 product lines valued at $1.7 billion over the next five years. His team’s expeditionary capabilities focus on mobile transit case-based networking technologies, specifically for the mid-tier tactical network. “I provide technologies that include secure tactical wireless and cellular systems for Army command posts, secure mesh radio networks for at-the-quick-halt and on-the-move communications, high-capacity line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight backhaul,” Maier explained. His team also provides network connectivity for the intelligence and coalition partner communities as well as tailored network systems for the Army’s Immediate Response Force, security force assistance brigades and the Army National Guard.

Even with increases in defense spending in recent years, Maier said the Army typically receives the lowest percentage of funding and allocates the smallest amount to modernization, forcing it to carefully assess its modernization priorities. He has seen an increased emphasis on modernization, especially since the Army established its modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense and Soldier lethality. He also noted that the Army has increased its emphasis on evolving technology over time by delivering capability set network modernization enhancements every two years to achieve the goal of multidomain dominance by 2028. “At PEO C3T, we are fully nested with our partners at the Network Cross-Functional Team and Army Futures Command, neither of which existed five years ago.”

Maier started his federal career in 1989 as an electronic warfare, electromagnetic pulse and lightning engineer in the Navy. He tested aircraft survivability at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, Maryland, and was in charge of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance simulation systems at the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, Florida. That is where he was exposed to Army acquisition, building simulation systems and capabilities to train Soldiers before deployments. “I think acquisition was just a natural progression of my interests as my career evolved,” he said.

Until 2015, Centralized Selection List (CSL) positions were reserved for high-achieving military officers at the lieutenant colonel and colonel levels, Maier explained. “For my current assignment, I was proud to have competed and been selected on the military board, which is very competitive, and civilians are not often chosen,” he said. In total, Maier has been selected for three back-to-back commands: product director for Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care within the PEO for Enterprise Information Systems, product manager for NetMod, and a primary project director position that is not yet slated.

“I think everyone has a very clear understanding of a military officer’s career progression, what assignments can be expected and when and how long it will take before promotions. This is not clearly defined for DA civilians,” Maier said. “Our career progressions are largely up to ourselves. It was unusual for civilians to even compete on military boards five years ago. This perception is changing for the better with the success the Army has had with centrally selecting a variety of civilians into key leadership roles in the last few years.”

The Army provided Maier with many career-broadening assignments and educational opportunities. “I did not realize at the time that my civilian career trajectory would be altered and shaped in so many ways by key supervisors and leaders, who provided opportunities and placed me in positions of increased responsibility,” he said. Maier also acknowledged that the wealth of information and guidance he received at National Defense University, the Army War College, Defense Acquisition University and the Senior Service College spurred his career.

Maier has this advice for those who are interested in applying for CSL positions or assuming a role as a product manager, product director or product lead: “Broaden your horizons. The expectation for Army officers is that they have held a variety of different positions before assuming command. As a civilian competing with them on the same boards, you have to have completed a variety of job assignments and duties. This is much harder for civilians, who will often career-track themselves into a defense acquisition workforce field like logistics, test and evaluation, contracting or resource management. If you stay in the same types of assignments your whole career, there is no doubt that you will become an expert in your field. However, it will ultimately hurt your chances for competition in CSL positions because you won’t have had the exposure to other types of challenges you might face in command.”

He’s also a big proponent of being your own career manager. “While the Army does have acquisition career managers, civilians do not have access to some things that military officers do, such as placement officers, cohort groups and promotion boards in the Army Human Resources Command. You have to explore what opportunities are available to you and actively seek them out. If you are unsure, ask your supervisor or get advice from a formal or informal mentor,” he said, offering his personal support to his civilian colleagues.

 


 

“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 go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.

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