Hanscom's new SES underscores communication, creativity
The imagery behind Kevin Stamey, Engineering and Technical Management director, symbolizes how he never wants to forget where he came from, and why he aspired to be an SES. He’d always told himself if he were ever in a staff job that he’d find ways to best serve the programs. “If we’re not benefitting the programs, what’s the point?” he wondered aloud. “If we’re only benefitting our own personal interest as a functional, we’re missing the purpose.” (Courtesy Photo)
Posted 4/4/2013 Updated 4/8/2013
by Deborah L. Powers
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
4/4/2013 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Twenty-five years ago, Kevin D. Stamey entered civil service with unlimited ambition, yet at the time had no particular aspirations for the executive core. It wasn't until years later when a handful of mentors unequivocally predicted he'd one day be a member of the Senior Executive Service that his intention started to take form.
The foretelling just became reality: Stamey was selected as an SES in February, and now serves as the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's director of Engineering and Technical Management here at Hanscom.
After earning his mechanical engineering degree from Texas Tech University in the late 1980s, Stamey interviewed with several firms. While those paths also would have been financially rewarding, the allure of being part of the Air Force mission - particularly working with the B-2 bomber and other weapon systems - swayed him toward his calling.
He started out as an aerospace engineer at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and ended up spending 19 years on the base performing a diverse set of jobs - everything from working on the E-3 program, B-2, the Advanced Cruise Missile and B-52s, to standing up the Engineering and Technical Management Functional. But it was his final four years there as director of the 76th Software Maintenance Group that made a lifelong impression.
Because it was like running a small business, it was arguably his first real leadership challenge. He'd been a supervisor, but going from a group of 30 to nearly 600 - to include engineers, finance managers and software developers - was a huge step for him, Stamey said.
The magnitude of the group's challenge was to produce software products that met customer demands in a highly competitive, rapidly changing industry, all while evolving an organization. He likened it to riding a bicycle while changing one of its tires.
That make-or-break atmosphere made for an intense, but rewarding, time in his career. "You do a good job and you succeed, but if you fail, you could fail big," he said. "You could lose money and cause programs to slip schedules because you were late on a software delivery."
All's well that ends well: When Stamey left the organization in 2007, he and his team had delivered more than 300 products - over 99 percent of which were on time and on budget.
He credits his early management success in part to a handful of associates and supervisors who offered sound career advice and mentorship along the way. Their influence helped shape his current-day leadership style and opened his eyes to the possibilities of advancing far beyond what he'd imagined for himself.
"I had initially thought I wanted to be a civil servant. But I had no aspirations of being an SES at the time; I didn't even know what an SES was," Stamey recalled. "It wasn't until years later that some of these great mentors said, 'I think - in fact I know - you'll be an SES.'"
His position with Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, back in 2007 was the first step toward that objective - the beginning of becoming mobile. As the functional owner for EN policy, it afforded him an opportunity to effect change and to gain a broad perspective of the command.
Two years later he was summoned by a new challenge, hiring on as director of engineering for AFMC's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance & Special Operations Forces. He spent from 2009 to 2012 in ISR, which exposed him to Hanscom's programs and personnel.
"Hanscom was developing some of the payloads we carried on our Global Hawk, Predators and Reapers. So that was a good opportunity to work with a lot of people here," he said.
In the summer of 2012, a further opportunity arose for him as EN director at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. He and his family enjoyed Albuquerque, but a short 6 months later they headed off to New England eagerly anticipating the SES stage of his career.
He didn't get to travel as much as he would have liked in past TDYs to the east coast, so he's looking forward to fully exploring the area's history and the culture. As he gets to know his neighbors and colleagues, he rejects the stereotype of New Englanders as standoffish. "I haven't experienced that at all," he said. "People have been overly friendly."
Enthusiasm for his new role as SES is equally obvious as he described his first impressions of the base. "It's great to be in a place like this, because there are lots of really smart people - all trying to do great things with limited resources. There are some rock stars around here!" he said.
While he was at Wright-Patterson, they were beginning to put the engineering processes in place to design and test systems, and to make sure the requirements were in the acquisition process to deal with growing and persistent cyber threats.
"I know a lot of the expertise and knowledge of how to do that sits here, and so that's actually one of my goals: to make sure all of LCMC is leveraging the expertise that resides at Hanscom," Stamey said.
He plans to create stronger ties back to the rest of the portfolio to make sure they're doing "smart things" across the center, rather than, "here's how we do things at Hanscom, here's how we do things at Wright-Patt, here's how we do things at Eglin," he explained.
He stressed that cohesion among all EN elements of LCMC is essential to his leadership vision. "I want to ensure that our workforce management and how we treat the scientists and engineers under my shepherdship are beyond the boundaries of Hanscom," he said.
To accomplish that, his mentors' enduring lessons about communication come back into play - but with a contemporary twist. Today's fiscal constraints, including fewer available TDY funds, hinder more typical face-to-face exchanges among personnel at the various bases. But that's where creativity comes in, he said.
One of Stamey's own forward-thinking ideas was sparked by the younger generation. When he observed his children using electronic tools to build and maintain relationships throughout their many moves, he brainstormed ways to use technology in the professional world, and developed "virtual mentorship" - a concept he's now testing.
"The old ways of doing business aren't going to get the mission done," he said. "So you can't just continue to do more with less ... or less with less, for that matter. We all want to figure out how to get the mission done, so it's going to require more creativity and outside-the-box thinking."
But before he can expect that of his counterparts, "I need to figure out if I can make it work, then I can share those lessons with Wright-Patterson. I don't want them to feel like they're out of sight, out of mind. They all need the same tools, guidance and support."
Having had a foot in that camp, he's seen as a trusted agent. "They know my character, and that I don't have agendas. They know I'm looking out for the best interests of all LCMC personnel," he said.
Acutely aware that Hanscom's workforce faced a nearly year-long gap with no EN senior leadership, the new SES can now afford them a voice back to Wright-Patterson as well.
"It definitely facilitates the relationship to have somebody here who can be the eyes and ears for Hanscom but yet be a trusted bridge with Wright-Patt," he said. "I think it's good to have someone who's been both places."