Charlie Adams of SSC Atlantic ensures TCI projects sail smoothly
This manager oversees exciting efforts, including the installation of state-of-the-art tactical afloat networks on every Navy ship. He also mentors future leaders
'I believe in having a strategy, and I work to instill this same thinking in my direct reports,” says Charlie Adams. “The most important thing we do is execute. We must always get the project completed on time, on budget, with the right performance.”
Adams is transport and computing infrastructure (TCI) business portfolio manager with Space & Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center Atlantic (SSC Atlantic). He is the senior manager of a broad spectrum of projects for U.S. Navy and Department of Defense (DoD) customers, leading and managing an engineering workforce of more than 565 engineers, scientists, and administrative and technical specialists. These men and women provide communications, computing, information assurance and IT solutions.
SSC Atlantic is an element of the Navy’s “information dominance” command, responsible for hardware and software for Navy missions. The command includes SSC Pacific and several partnerships with other Navy entities.
“I’m responsible for ensuring that all assigned projects meet the required metrics,” Adams explains. “One of our more significant efforts is the engineering and fielding of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise System (CANES), the installation of a next-generation state-of-the-art network on every ship in the U.S. Navy.”
CANES consolidates five legacy networks into one. It’s designed to enhance operational effectiveness and provide a better quality of life for deployed sailors.
Adams, who reports directly to the SSC Atlantic commanding officer and executive director, has ten direct reports. Their duties range from managing daily operations and planning strategy to finance and business analysis. He also has five additional reports who guide the execution of projects assigned to fifteen integrated project team (IPT) leads. His administrative assistant develops the calendar for the team’s portfolio of responsibilities, coordinates events, and manages program reviews and action items.
“The IPTs are responsible for delivering a fully integrated solution to the warfighter, and are organized into groups responsible for sub-portfolios of related work,” explains Adams.
With the team, he reviews customer requirements, conducts progress reviews and assesses each IPT’s performance. “I think team members would say I’m an engaging, energetic thinker, easy to talk to; someone who seeks advice from others and who tries to challenge individuals to achieve their full potential.”
Big role models in a small town
Adams grew up in rural South Carolina in a small town outside Columbia called Gadsden. “The town is so small, the only traffic light is for the railroad crossing,” he says with a chuckle.
“I was always interested in engineering and liked to see things being built. I initially wanted to go into architecture and building construction. My first role models were an uncle and a neighbor who were brick masons: very respectable and hardworking men committed to their families and the community,” he recalls.
“As a young kid, I was amazed at the buildings and houses they constructed. But after working for them one summer, I quickly gave up the idea of being a mason. I wasn’t tough enough for that. These men inspired me to get an education, work hard and give back.”
Adams graduated from the University of South Carolina (Columbia) in 1983 with a BS in electrical engineering. “USC had an accredited engineering program and offered an EE degree, my preferred area of study,” Adams recalls. “It was also close to home and I grew up a fan of the Gamecocks. Once I was accepted there, I stopped considering other schools.”
In 1979, during his freshman year in college, Adams joined the Army National Guard. He started as a private, and became a field wireman and radio operator. “My first experience with IT was pretty low tech,” he admits. “I had one field telephone for all forty people in my platoon and there was no calling home. You could only call the company commander who gave you verbal orders; no e-mail or even a text message back then.”
Adams served in the Army National Guard for thirty-three years, retiring as a colonel in 2011. He spent the majority of his non-work time commanding three different Army units and completing military courses required for retention as an officer.
But Adams was concurrently working for the U.S. Navy. “Once I completed my initial commitment to the Army, I went to work for the U.S. Navy in 1983 as a civilian. I started out doing satellite communications engineering, and was part of a team responsible for fielding satellite communications systems on Navy ships. This was a priority for the fleet so there was plenty of excitement, and they were very visible projects,” he says.
Much has changed
Adams has always worked in command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) for defense, and he has seen many changes over the years. “The organizations and industry have completely transformed. When I started, it was a three hundred-person organization, and now Navy C4ISR involves four thousand employees around the globe,” he explains.
“The technology and capabilities we provide to the Navy were not even imaginable when I started. I’ve seen our communications go from low-data-rate teletype circuits to high-speed Internet with video teleconferencing.”
Getting out there and giving back
Adams participates in a Navy mentoring program, community speakers forum, and a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program. “The mentoring program lets me impact the careers of our next generation of leaders and keeps me connected to their issues,” he says enthusiastically. “The community speakers forum and STEM programs allow me to give back to the community and share the story of the great work we do at SSC Atlantic.
“Eventually I’d like to move into a position where I can share my experience as a manager and first-line supervisor,” Adams continues. “I believe it is important to move around within the organization to get a perspective on the challenges of other organizational areas.
“A leader’s goal should be to make the organization better and help the members of his organization reach their full potential.”
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