The Smith School’s
executive education programs give executives
in the workplace access to thought leadership from the superstars of Smith labs
Matthew O’Brien has had something of a stellar career. O’Brien is vice
president of Business Operations and CFO for Sandia National Laboratories. He
manages its supply chain operations as well.
Sandia, a US Department of Energy facility, is one of three national
laboratories that contributes to national security, supports the national
nuclear weapons complex, and engages in a variety of engineering and technology
activities for US government and industry. Sandia has an annual revenue of $2.3
O’Brien has had a long career with Lockheed Martin, the management and
operating contractor for Sandia. He began his career at Martin Marietta working
on Titan launch vehicles and satellites in the early 1980’s. Martin Marietta
later merged with GE Aerospace and then Lockheed to become Lockheed Martin.
O’Brien has been with the company through every transition. “It’s like having 10
careers all within the same corporation,” he says.
Last summer O’Brien participated in the Executive Leadership Strategies
Program (ELSP), a custom executive education program created for Lockheed Martin
by the Smith School. It was a fantastic experience, he says. It brought together
theory and practice in a way that was relevant and meaningful.
O’Brien found the session on planning for the future, taught by Gerald
Suarez, associate dean of external strategy and executive education fellow,
particularly useful. “Putting in place deliberate strategies that will help
shape the future you hope for is so hard to do, but Gerald laid out a great
taxonomy for understanding how to accomplish it,” says O’Brien.
“The week after that class I began our annual Finance and Business Operations
strategic planning at Sandia, and I found that having spent the time in class
really framed what the agenda for that meeting should look like,” says O’Brien.
Suarez uses a tool called “The Implications Wheel,” which shows people how to
think in a non-linear fashion. O’Brien was so impressed with the presentation
and the Implications Wheel that he is planning to bring Suarez out to New Mexico
to present directly to his team. O’Brien expects these tools and strategies will
be very useful as he deals with his unique workforce — a group of men and women
who are highly educated in scientific and business fields and who don’t always
think in a linear fashion.
The second week of the course consisted of assessments designed to provide a
basis for individual coaching sessions. “Without even talking with me, my coach
was very perceptive in terms of interpreting and providing a description of how
I’d work best. I thought she must be clairvoyant,” O’Brien says.
Interacting with Smith faculty was a highlight of the course. “You sometimes
hear that academia can be out of touch with the reality of the business
world…this was not the case with the Smith School. They were really valuable to