This summer, WashingtonExec reached out to successful leaders in government and government contracting to learn more about their habits, experiences and perspectives.
Ed Swallow is senior vice president of the Civil Systems Group at The Aerospace Corp. A graduate of the Air Force Squadron Officer’s School and Air Command and Staff College and the Defense Acquisition University’s Systems Acquisition Management for Flag Officers course, Swallow also holds degrees in electrical engineering, physics and astronomy, and systems management.
WashingtonExec: What did you read this summer?
Swallow: I read “Freedom’s Forge” by Arthur L. Herman. It was a recommendation by the deputy secretary of defense to all the officers and trustees of the company that I work for. It’s about how the U.S. manufacturing base rose to the occasion leading up to and at the beginning of World War II, but it’s also about how people innovated throughout the production cycle to significantly increase productivity, to increase throughput and reduce the cost per item.
I found it really fascinating because I think we’re at a point now in the space business where we’re just moving from each satellite being a custom piece of work to an environment where we’re going to start mass producing them. I believe it is going to herald a whole new age for mass manufacturing, rapidly reducing costs and rapidly increasing capabilities. I found the book very informative as a way of looking at how things happen in the past and therefore how do I get ready for the changes in my industry.
I just picked up another book also, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
WashingtonExec: Tell me about a time in your life when you had to really stretch yourself in order to learn and grow.
Swallow: I have an algorithm when I look for a job, and rule No. 1 is the job has to be fun, interesting, and I have to be able to learn something new every day. Rule No. 2 is I have to be able to make a difference and be respected for making that difference. The third rule is I have to like the people I’m working with.
The job I’m in right now stretches me every day. I get stretched to do a whole range of very interesting projects. I’ve done some internal projects, most of which are proprietary so I can’t talk about. As an example, the deputy secretary of defense gave our company a challenge in March and wanted an answer in June. I helped with the team to put that together, and it was really a stretch that took me outside of my core skill set and really expanded my knowledge of a whole range of different activities.
WashingtonExec: If you could go back and give your younger self career and/or life advice, what would you say?
Swallow: Don’t worry about rule three (above) so much. With the help of a career coach, I developed those rules for selecting a job when I had about 10 years of experience, but there were times I kind of self selected out of opportunities because I didn’t think I was going to like the people I was going to be working with. That slowed my growth a little bit in some areas I probably could have done better in had I taken on a different assignment.
WashingtonExec: What is your favorite city to visit? What do you enjoy doing there?
Swallow: I have two ways of answering that. One of them is, my favorite city to visit is the next one I’m going to go to. I always look forward to visiting a new city and learning something new and getting to try something new.
That said, if you had to pin me down to one that I’ve been to, London is by far my most favorite city in the world. I just love being there. I enjoy walking around. The history is really interesting. Seeing historic sites and going to the museums is always fun. When I have a business trip, I go over on the Saturday red eye flight so that I have all day Sunday to get acclimated to the time zone but also to go do something new in the city.
WashingtonExec: Tell me about an app, device or type of technology you personally love and why.
Swallow: I’m an early adopter of information technology, and enjoy personal productivity devices writ large. I have two iPhones, an iPad, a Surface and a Macbook Pro. I have a Windows laptop and then I have a desktop, and I use different ones at different times for different things because there are some that I need the power for.
I’ve been using an app called MyPlate, which is a nutrition and exercise tracker. I credit that app with being a big part of the success I’ve had with losing weight this year. I’ve lost 20 percent of my body weight.