Growing up in a small town just north of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Todd Hack had visions of working in the software industry when he graduated from college.
But, little did he know that mere months after graduating and starting a new job with a defense contractor, his work would take him to Iraq in support of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, helping to stand up a program called the Dismounted Leader System in the middle of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
You're right there, living and breathing along with the soldiers. The only difference is that you're not wearing the uniform, says Hack of his early experience at General Dynamics C4 Systems.
I was right out of college and had only been with the company for a few months, so it was a pretty eye-opening experience. It gave me a realization that this is what our soldiers deal with, that this is their job. It was cool, but also really scary.
It also sent Hack on a new career path. Hack attended the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University while working full-time at C4 Systems. It was challenging, he says. You'd put in a full 40 hours, then get in your car and drive up for classes on Friday night and all day Saturday. It was a lot of work, but the company was very supportive.
He became a Project Manager in 2008. My role is to plan out work and oversee the engineering of projects. I work with the business to make sure we are hitting all of our milestones, financial targets and benchmarks. We also support the business and all the goals and their execution.
Hack was assigned to work on the Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) software system, which was then a research project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). His mission was to take the system and bring it forward into program status, which is not an easy process for any new program.
It took a lot of flexibility and remaining agile, said Hack. Your intent is to create something brand new that has never been done before. Taking a research project and morphing it into a full-blown Army program of record, with all of the process and rigor that the Army expects, you have to always look at best practices. You have to always try to find out what right looks like and what will work.
And work it did. Under Hacks leadership, the TIGR program developed into a full-scale Army program, which now has upwards of 96,000 daily users.
Looking back, Hack says he takes great pride in the TIGR program and the other products that C4 Systems creates, particularly given the critical situations in which the products are deployed.
Seeing the stuff you make in action is rewarding and is what motivates you to excel, he says. Its a pretty cool feeling that the stuff we do has a direct impact on the warfighter.
As a Project Manager, Hack also speaks very highly of his colleagues at C4 Systems, giving praise to the people he works with day in and day out. For me, the best part of working at C4 Systems is the people. Our value-add is our people and our processes.
In particular, Hack says he is always impressed by the depth of talent spread throughout the business at C4 Systems, which helps him coordinate projects across multiple facilities and employee groups. Communication is key when you have a dispersed team of employees to work with. Fortunately, no matter what we need, we are able to tap into the talent we need to get the job done.
Last year, C4 Systems President Chris Marzilli recognized Hack for his professional accomplishments by selecting him to receive the 2013 Presidents Award. Its a pretty cool honor, but its also a shared recognition because its the team I have that does a lot of it, Hack said.
Currently, Hack is working with others at C4 Systems to take the best aspects of the TIGR program and apply them to develop other new products. For example, he is working with C4 Systems employees in Orlando, Florida to transition certain TIGR gear into combat training materials. With the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania facility he is working to serve up TIGRs best practices as new applications that could be used by the Army.
More About TIGR
The Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) system is an information-centric solution that empowers soldiers to collect, share and analyze data using a Google Earth-like interface backed by network distribution that is resilient to the tactical network challenges. It was developed in line with what soldiers operating at Company and below needed to increase combat effectiveness across the full spectrum of operations.
TIGR breaks from the traditional hierarchical, bottom-up filtered information flow of reporting, and instead builds on the successes of direct peer-to-peer collaboration. Its collaborative environment provides a unique multimedia solution using graphics, high resolution imagery, line of sight tools, and a searchable database to support the full spectrum of operations (plan, prepare, execute and assess).
Since its initial fielding in November 2007, TIGR has not only strengthened information sharing between Company Commanders and platoon leaders, but has allowed a common operational picture to be shared between units on the ground.
The system supports network awareness and policy flexibility by providing the ability to share and distribute data from geographically-dispersed Companies through an application overlay on to the tactical network.
The TIGR footprint also now includes operations overseas and requires little training time to learn how to use the application.