Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce
Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce

Episode · 1 month ago

Building a Successful Career After the Military w/ Jorge Buergo-Hernández

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Our guest is Jorge Buergo-Hernández, Sales & Business Development Director at Thales. Having been brought to the US by his family in 1996, Jorge learned the value of hard work at a young age. When he joined the military, that early mindset propelled him to earn a position that gave him domain over an attack flight company of nine Apache helicopters.

Wanting to utilize his expertise to build something more after he left the military, Jorge completed his education and successfully transitioned his military experience into a career where he is known not just for his skills, but for his strategic thinking.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How Jorge pivoted his military experience into a successful career as a subject matter expert in flight avionics
  • The benefits of military experience for young entrepreneurs
  • How Jorge injects Purpose, Consistency, and Opportunity into all of his work

Uncle Sam’s Secret Sauce is hosted by Rafael Marrero, Founder and CEO of Rafael Marrero & Company, which helps small companies do business with the world’s biggest customer: the U.S. Federal Government.

You're listening to Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce, a Raphael Morrero and Company podcast. This is a show for US small business owners and decision makers looking to grow their business. You're about to hear a conversation with successful entrepreneurs in the fields of construction, janitorial, cybersecurity, and more. Here you'll learn how to sell to the government and what this secret ingredients are for effective marketing for small businesses. Let's get into the show. Joe Hernandez, Welcome to Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce. Thank you very much, Raphaie. I mean, it's it's truly a pleasure and an honor to get this opportunity to speak with you today and spend some you know, spend some time this afternoon here on the podcast. Is it truly is remarkable experience for me. Well, the honor and the privilege is all ours. Called. Hey, you bring a lot of experience to the table, and I know that as a military veteran, there's a lot you can you can share with our listeners, and so let me give you a little bit of background to our listeners about you and your professional experience. Joe Ernandez has nineteen years of professional experience in the aerospace industry. He has dedicated an entire career just serving this critical domain. Hold His career began in service to this country in the United States Army. His military service gave him the privilege of serving the United States of America and support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation and Enduring Freedom from two thousand four to two thousand and ten as part of wolf Pack First Battalion Attack in the eighty two Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade, maintaining a fleet of attack aviation aircraft and downed aircraft recovery missions. Joe, thank you very much for your service to this great nation. Let's start by talking about your family origins. Please tell me about your family origins. Where do you originally hail from? You know, my my story began in a suburb of Havana in Cuba. So I was born and raised in Havana. Um. I had as good as you can have a...

...life there, you know, wonderful family, lots of friends. I really enjoyed my childhood. However, there was a lot of things going on that I didn't comprehend at the time in that country, geopolitically and and and just socially economic and from an economics perspective, but in something happened where my life kind of got put on a different path, and that is my mother was was able to secure a migration visa lottery when which you know, again it's a stroke of luck, and we were able to come to the United States. You know. Obviously when when we arrived in the United States, we set up our home in Southeast Florida and Miami Dade area, and I spent the rest of my years kind of growing up in the Miami Dade County environment. You know, the Cuban culture is obviously very much alive there, so it didn't feel too far from home. But you know, it's the struggles of every every immigrant family, you know, income house. You know, you grow up and you do the best that you can, having to become a contributing member of the family very early in life. Which though all those lessons, you know, coming from coming from Cuba, being in Miami and having to understand, you know, what it takes to to to make life happen, it gave me some very very valuable lessons and it taught me very early on in life the meaning of purpose. And when I was a young impressionable teenager. At the age of seventeen, I found the best way to channel my purpose and that was by enlisting in the United States Army. So the United States Army for me was the life defining moment. That organization gave me an opportunity to be a part of something that coming from where I am, where I came from, was just and it's an impossible thing to even consider or or evaluate, right, So joining the U. S. Army and being entrusted to maintain our attack aviation assets that were you know, providing...

...close air support bringing effects down on on the on enemy combatants. For me, that was that was my super Bowl. And you know, I enlisted in two thousand and four, so three years after happened. So I was in high school when nine eleven occurred. So that that event in our in our country's history was a it held significant weight on all of us that you know, I want to say, as as a country, as a nation, and I I felt an obligation to give back to the country that had given me so much, me and my family so much. So in two thousand and four, I enlist, you know, and being part of of the eighty second Airborne Division, which is you know, one of the one of the elite units in the conventional army. Immediately as soon as I showed up at four Bragg, North Carolina, I was, you know, hey, deployments are coming. And very shortly thereafter, we deployed to Iraq for a fifteen month deployment. And nine months after that fifteen month deployment was over, we we turned around and deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan and support of operation and during Freedom. So those two active duty deployments where my trial by fire. You know, I was nineteen years old when I was in Iraq. I was three years old when I was in Afghanistan. And as a young twenty three year old, you know, to have domain over an attack flight company of nine Apache attack helicopters, having you know, twenty something maintainers managing the health of that fleet so that our pilots can then you know, deliver those platforms effectively in the battlefield. It is a trial by fire, Raphael. You know, it's it's definitely it's a sink or swim scenario, and you know sinking is not an option, so we have to you have to deliver on time, on schedule and with precision every time. So I you knows as I don't know if it's coming through. But I take great pride in my service. It completely change my life. All of the intellect and...

...experience that I gained them the service attributed to my success in the civilian sector. It is it is, it was the catalyst for my success in the civil sector. Now, as an honorably discharged combat veteran, you've continued your dedication in military or to military aviation, supporting the United States defense programs around the world, serving as an APACHE attack helicopter maintenance subject matter expert in Kuwait, Ran and the United Arab Emirates, along with supporting the cnt p O, the Counter narco terrorism programs, and Government Solutions program in Afghanistan. From attack helicopters to tactical unmanned vehicles u a v s, General aviation aircraft or executive jets. You've spent almost two decades with organizations like the United States Army, DINE Corps, Boeing, textron Ava, DINE, and most recently tell us about your recent journey. You know, so I I spent probably about fifteen sixteen years focus on the aviation military aviation maintenance side of of of the industry, and I diversified myself across different verticals. So I went from you know, the military rotocraft to tactical onman systems, and then I wanted to diversify my experience in the civils in the commercial aviation sector with the executive jets and general aviation markets. But I came to a realization, you know, after fifteen years of successful career, that I wanted to do what needed to be done to execute my career goals. And my career goal was to move away from the from the technical subject matter expertise side and over to the business side. I wanted to take command and take you know, get into a position where I can start taking charge of business decisions within the industry. And that that motivated me to drop everything I was doing and enroll in higher education studies. So inside of three years, I obtained my undergraduate degree in aviation...

...mainance management and immediately rolled that into a Masters in Business administration from the Florida Institute of Technology here and in the Space Coast. So at year fifteen, I made that decision and that commitment. Obviously I couldn't have done it without the support of my family, you know, my wife and my kids. They were wondering where's Daddy, and and I'm locked away in my office, you know, writing papers for my m b A. So that sacrifice has paid individends because most recently I've I've now my current role is I'm the sales and business development director for US Military Programs for a company called Talis. So I in many ways lead our our business development activities in support of the U S Military US D O D programs and everything that has to do with flight avionics. That's fantastic. And so you've been able to successfully bridge the gap from the military active service to government contract the programs that most most patriots tend to follow. Right after military service, they become contractors. They pick up a couple of extra dollars doing work, okonis and pick up travel duty or danger pay right going oconis um and you decided to take that next step, which was to really polish up your educational skills, get a professional not just a bachelor's but a master's of business. And now you're a full on business development executive for this corporation. What's next for Joe Hernandez in your evolution as a as a bad professional. Now are you involved on the capture side or just on the bad side of the business right now? Currently? I I am involved on the capture side. So you know, for a lot of the different initiatives that we have currently ongoing with the different branches of the Department of Defense, I act as the captured leader for a lot of our different pursuits looking at what's next. As I in like I mentioned and in the...

...last three years of reinventing my portfolio, I guess you know my resume and what I could bring to the table to a two different organizations. I'm actively trying to grow what would be my own personal brand in the business development domain as it pertains to to the military aviation industry. And my passion is strategy. That's that was the main focus of my of my m b A was you know, strategic marketing, strategic planning. And you know, I I just really enjoy looking at a market, looking at a specific subset of customers and and being able to develop a strategic plan to be able to you know, grow that and be able to capitalize on that. And you know, for me, one of the one of my main priorities. Whenever I look at a strategy, especially in the context of military aviation, and specifically in the context of US military aviation, is making sure that we as industry are equipping our war fighters with the technology and the capabilities that they're gonna need to succeed in the battlefield of tomorrow. You know, the world is becoming a very complex place very quickly, and that means that are are our men and women in uniform who are going to be asked and they're gonna do it with honor and they're gonna do it with integrity to go fight. Our wars have the absolute sharpest cutting edge when they go wage that war. So it's again, you know, a lot of passion. I I believe that as a nation we can deliver on that. So it's it's incumbent on us, all of us now in the civil sector that war a uniform before, to do everything that we can to advocate for that mission. That that is in many ways our mission now is giving our men and women in uniform the tools to do their job and do it to the best of their ability. So it's something that I planned to commit my life to for the rest of my years. Now that I'm no longer in a uniform, that's fantastic, and you're...

...doing a great job there. Your current employer, have they faced any challenges as a result of the manpower shortage and the supply chain constraints that the nation is experiencing stemming from COVID nineteen yees, So, I mean it's I think it's a safe assumption that everybody is kind of feeling the pressure in their own way. You know, my current organization being a multinational Just for some context, Tallas is a company that originates from France, an enormous presence here in the United States. Um, we're an established innovative and technology leader in the different domains that we that we service. When you're working in the technology space and you encounter a supply chain crisis like we have in that domain, companies have to become very, very creative at conducting their business so as as your supply chain and and a global pandemic restricts your employees ability to you know, to do their job to the best of their ability. It's all about intentionality, and I feel that the greatest asset to any firm during COVID nineteen and during this you know during the supply chain pressures that that we were all feeling its agility that is the most important lever to be able to be able to capitalize on. And the firm that I currently work for, Tallas, has such diversified book of business across so many different critical domains, you know, whether it's healthcare, transportation, or defense, that it's being able to leverage the agility of success in one domain to ensure that we're implementing the necessary you know, economies of scale for example, to be able to try to mitigate those pressures that that COVID nineteen and the supply chain have put on the industry. What are some of the key technologies that you're currently promoting right now as a business development executive for your firm in the defense sales ARENA. I operate in the flight, avionics, and and artificial intelligence domain. So we're an...

...innovative company. So the key capabilities we're bringing right now is that the United States Military currently has launched several different initiatives across all of the different branches to build what in many ways, or I guess to be able to simplify, is the future generation of aircraft for our war fighters. One of those examples is the United States Armies Future Vertical Lift Pursuit. So these aircraft are new, novel, novel aircraft. Key integrators in the United States are bringing these capabilities to reality. There's you know, they're proposing their platforms. But with new platforms come new capabilities that the warfighters actually asking for. And one of those capabilities, and I'm I'm using an arbitrary example here that relates to the U. S. Army is a concept called MOSA, which is modular open systems approach. So the United States Army has understood that in order to be able to deliver cutting edge technology in an agile way that is easier and more cost effective to sustain over the life cycle of of a of a platform, they need to change how they are procuring or they're how they're acquiring this technology. Being able to be open and modular and and be able to satisfy the the U. S. Army's requirements has forced industry to reinvent how we go to market. So the government and industry right now are we're in a very exciting period of defense acquisition because it's government has completely adjusted how they're how they're procuring they're completely adjusting the type of technology they're procuring, and its industry starting to get very, very creative and aggressive at how they're bringing that capability to the war fighter, which is creating a lot of opportunity in the market for for companies. So your your choices either as a member of industry is to either get on board and adapt and you know, pay attention or be forgotten.

Yeah, ind or dat right, adapt and overcome, yeah exactly. Now, you mentioned a couple of key points there that really caught my attention. Was one of them is avionics components, the other is artificial intelligence. Both fields, as we very well know, are highly targeted by foreign nationals and our enemies. Right then our National Industrial Security program, right they try to target our industrial trade secrets and through social engineering, through hacking, and China is is literally watching everything we do, specifically with some of the aviation technology these days. I imagine that your firm is taking precautions to ensure that the Chinese bad actors are not stealing your intellectual property and is investing a ft sum specifically as it pertains to artificial intelligence. What are some of the initiatives on the AI side that your firm is involved in so and and I'm very glad that you asked that. So my firm has been in the AI space for over thirty years. So it's you know, on a global scale, Tallas has been kind of leading the way in in bringing novel artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to fruition and and and it's it's a multi domain pursuit. Um. It's not just in the aviation space. It's you know, in in healthcare, and in human machine teaming and autonomous ground transportation, you name it. So one of our primary differentiators is that we have a capability. It's a it's an artificial intelligence development ecosystem that leads the way right now into into spaces. That one being scalability, the ability to deploy that artificial intelligence framework across multiple applications, and and most importantly, it's something that we call formal verification. So what makes our methodology of developing AI cutting edge is the...

...fact that it can be mathematically proven to adhere to specific that levels of I would say, specifications that the program dictates. It's in the realm of AI, you know there there are there's a lot of innovation happening right now and the use case lists is endless. But being able to develop an artificial intelligence that is trustworthy and explainable, it is easier said than done. And that's where our capability comes in. And and and actually we have developed the means by which a an artificial intelligence developer can not only bring their technology their use case to life, but can also prove with accuracy that that artificial intelligence is adhering to the specifications that it's designed to adhere to. And if it does not adhere to those specifications, it will exactly let you know where where it went wrong and you can you can go then go back and make the necessary adjustments to it. That's fantastic. Just to kind of round out our conversation, now, let's switch gears and talk about Joe Hernandez and as someone who has transitioned from the military, right, what was your specific MOS in the military? It was Romeo, So I was on Apache attack helicopter maintainer. Okay, from that to becoming a subject matter expert and then earning your m b A. Think of this the following way. I want you to reach out and touch the hearts of your brethren and the armed services currently thinking about exiting the military right their separation from the military and transitioning to becoming a city now and potentially looking at contracting in the government space as a resource, just like you've done. What would you say, is, Joe ernand this is secret sauce, right, give me three ingredients that you would share with them...

...of tips that you would urge your brethren to follow in your footsteps and to learn from you and some of the things that you've learned during the past twenty years. The mic is all yours. Well, yeah, thank you very much. And that's a great question. And if I could list my personal three ingredients that led me from where I where I started to where I am today, it would be number one purpose, Number two opportunity, and number three consistency. So that is my recipe for success right there. You know, when I look at my life and my career, coming from a third world island in the middle of the Caribbean that's oppressed by communism, coming to a you know, a city like Miami that's so diverse and full of life, and and then trans going from that to being what what would be a lower enlisted soldier in the U. S. Army. You know, I I I wasn't a a you know, a sergeant major in a Special Forces ODI A or or a you know, a colonel in charge of a brigade. I was a sergeant. I was a platoon sergeant. So for all intensive purposes, one could say, how did this How did this young Cuban kid end up where he is today? And and and Rafael, you know, purpose, opportunity and consistency. I when I got out of the military, I had a decision to make Again, I was twenty three years old, so at that point in time, I was I was looking at things from a from a financial perspective almost exclusively, which is a mistake that I made. And I look back, and you know, I acknowledged that mistake now. But I saw I had an opportunity to go make make money, and that was my only priority. And it was, you know, that pivot in my eyes to go contract and I would say geographically undesirable places that maybe even dangerous places as as a civilian, but looking back at that experience and and just looking at that transition from a mechanisms perspective as a veteran of...

...the United States Military, whether you are a lower enlisted soldier, or or or a senior officer. The civilian sector needs your skills and your talents. And and when I got out, I approached every single opportunity that I that was given to me, and I evaluated that opportunity against the purpose it served for my life in that moment, and if it's served the purpose that I had from my life in that moment, I said yes to the opportunity. And then I consistently delivered good results while I was there. And it's incredible when you when you arrive on a location and you consistently deliver positive results, how many opportunities will come knocking at your door. So again, purpose, opportunity and consistency. When I got out of the military and I got my first overseas d O D program contract and Kuwait, I showed up. I gave that job my absolute all. I consistently tried to deliver to my maximum capable ability, and that led me to be able to get an opportunity and a better I would say geographical expatriate friendly location, which is Abu Dhabi. I mean, we all know of Dubai. Abu Dhabi are our tourist destinations. So I got an opportunity to go perform the same role I was doing in Abu Dhabi and it was great. My my wife came was living with me in Abu Dhabi. We were having an excellent experience. And when I got the call to go to Afghanistan, one would think, why in the world would anybody leave Abu Dhabi and go work, go back to Afghanistan and go back to working and being in harm's way. Well, there was an opportunity presented to me that served the purpose that I had from my life in that moment. At that time, I didn't have any children yet. Um, it was just me and my wife and I was seeking that diversification. So it allowed me the opportunity to go to Afghanistan and perform that role. And how do I get out of Afghanistan and come back to Abu Dhabi now under a new capacity. Well, I had people that I had interacted with...

...and worked with in the past that knew what I was about. And when a need came up to build a highly effect highly fund highly functioning, highly effective team, these key decision makers and leaders that I I whose respect that had earned in years prior, they started picking up the phone and calling and calling their team, calling the people that they had rubbed shoulders with to fulfill that function. So again, it's protecting that consistency. And no matter what you're doing is consistently being dedicated to it, whether it's sweeping floors or whether it's fixing helicopters, or whether it's leading a capture in a business, it's irrelevant what it is that you're doing as long as you're consistently doing it well or at least to the best of your ability. So, you know, I get called out of Afghanistan and and and I go do this job that was It was an incredible experience where now instead of teaching Apachy maintenance, I was teaching Apachy theory of operations. Two Apache pilots or soon to be Apache pilots, I'm interacting with the aircraft that I built my career around on another level, and I'm becoming even more of a subject matter expert on not just how to fix the aircraft, but what makes this aircraft actually tick? You know what, when when the pilot pulls the trigger, what are all the switches and transducers and pumps that are turning on the back of the aircraft. And again, opportunity. That opportunity gave me that experience that I needed. That when you know, when Boeing needed a subject matter expert on the Apache, which Bowing manufactures the aircraft automatically, I I stood out amongst the rest when competing for that position because not only did I have the maintenance experience, I also had experience teaching aviators the theory of operations of the aircraft. The beauty of it is that every single career transition that I've had has been intentional and it has always been a building block heading up to the previous opportunity.

So it's not luck. I don't believe that it's luck. I don't leave my success to chance. It's hard work and being being willing to sacrifice your your discretionary time to continue building yourself up to accomplish that purpose that you have for your life. That's why, you know, at the age of thirty, thirty three, thirty four and thirty five with two kids, a full time job, and you know all the responsibilities that come with life. I said, every single night, instead of being you know, watching the football game, instead of watching the Formula One race, or going to get a beer with my buddies, I'm gonna be have my face buried in these books. It's it's not necessarily that I thought an NBA was gonna be my ticket. It's just that I had a legitimate and authentic interest in learning what it takes to make a business successful and understanding all of the theories and concepts that are expected of a senior leader in a in a fully in a in an efficiently functioning business. And I didn't know those things. I didn't have those tools in my toolbox. So it was incumbent on me to go out there and do it. And with my higher education, just like I did with my career progressions, it's again consistently dedicated to making it happen. It's not different. It's no different. You know, going to get a degree, and some people might say, well, you know, do I really have to go to college? Well, I mean, if it all depends on what your purpose is for your life, so be you know, I would say, And and for what it's worth, be honest with yourself, lay out what the goals and objectives that you are looking to accomplish for yourself, and and envision where it is that you want to be. And you know, going back to step one, being honest with yourself of what it is, what are you lacking in your in your in your toolbox to be able to accomplish that, and then actually going going out there and doing it. So I had unique, unique opportunities that I earned. So you know, obviously we all were. We all know that veterans have access to the to...

...the g I Bill and Raphael. I mean when I when I finished my m b A, I had literally negative six dollars left in my g I Bill. I went to the state that again because there are people out there wanting free college, and I tell him there already is a free college program. It's called joined the military. Pull your fair share of the weight. Help this great nation right, pull in the same direction that we're all pulling in. And guess what, your student alone will be picked up by the taxpayers. Absolutely, So I I encounter this often, you know, coming from the from the Hispanic community, I oftentimes encounter and and I'm sure you can relate off you know, as as I know that you mentor a lot. It's you know, I'll encounter a friend of my mom's that has a teenage son that's unsure about what you know, what he wants to do with his life. So they'll ask me, hey, you know you, you seem to be succeeding, so can you speak with my son? And I always tell tell these young Vashonable kids, what whatever idea you have in your mind of what military service means, you need to remove that and actually go and learn what it means to serve in the military and be a part of an organization that's going to give you a purpose that's greater than yourself. And it's gonna give you lifelong friendships. It's gonna give you mentoring opportunities unlike any anything you've ever encountered before. It's going to teach you to be responsible. But not only that, it's going to empower you and enable you to achieve an increasing amount of success later on in your life by giving you access to these tools and these resources. Today, you look at the g I Bill, you look at the veteran Preference for hiring and and the veteran benefits for borrowing. If you want to embark in an entrepreneurial pursuit. Likewise, you look at programs like the d D Skill Bridge. It's an incredible program that the Department of Defense launched all these resource is that are at your fingertips as...

...a member of the United States Military, and to be able to say that I went, you know, as as a fifteen sixteen year career professional. You know I have my f A A air from my power plant license. You know, I I have all the required qualifications to be a aviation maintenance professional and and earn a very decent salary. I've earned a very decent living doing that. But that's not what I wanted for my life. So again I looked at my toolbox and I said, I have this g I bill money that's just literally burning a hole and and it and at the for me, it expired. So I I looked down and I said, I have to do something about this. And I deployed those tools consistently to accomplish again that purpose. You know, I I look at where where I started. I mean, I think about it sometimes and I reflect on this with some personal friends. Is I try to explain to them because because they don't understand, I think inc often of what my life would have been like had I never left Cuba. Who would I be today? A bus driver, a thief, a communist, a soldier in the in the Communist Army of of Cuba. I mean, who would I be today? I would be a completely totally different person. And instead I look at what I've been able to accomplish that I'm just grateful. I'm so so grateful to this country. I'm grateful to all the mentors I've had throughout my life, and and I'm more importantly to my family for all the sacrifices they continue to make to allow me to keep this pursuit moving forward. And uh raise that bar of my family's history as high as I possibly can, because you know, now I have I have two children, and my daughter's life looks nothing like mine, and I'm excited to see what they're going to be able to accomplish oday. That's a great journey. It's a it's an inspirational journey, and that's why I wanted to have you on this show. I have a feeling we're gonna have...

...you back soon because you're going places. Folks, keep your eyes and ears open for Joe Hernandez, this very talented and passionate young veteran and his journey. I have a feeling that we'll see him on the cover of Fortune Magazine or a great business publication for Hispanic leaders. Until next time. This is Rafael Marero with Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce. Based in Miami, Florida, Raphael Morrero in Company is a management consultancy founded in two thousand eight by Dr Rafael Marrero. The firm helps other veteran owned, minority women and small businesses break into the federal marketplace and do business with the world's richest and most powerful client, the US federal government. To learn more, visit Raphael Marrero dot com. You've been listening to Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce, a Raphael Morrero and Company podcast, keep connected with us by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player and giving us a rating that helps us to keep delivering the latest in business growth strategies and ultimately learn what Uncle Sam's secret ingredients are. Thanks for listening. Until next time.

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