Stuart MacCormack, M&A Program Manager at JDSU

Stuart MacCormack is a Mergers & Acquisitions Program Manager at JDSU in Milpitas, CA.  He has a B.Sc. and a Ph.D. in physics from The University of Southampton in the United Kingdom where he specialized in nonlinear optics.  After graduate school he continued research in this area through a post-doc and subsequent Research Faculty position at the University of Southern California (USC).  After USC, he accepted a position as a Staff Scientist at SDL Inc. (later acquired by JDS Uniphase) developing high power fiber laser technology and optical communications products.  Aside from a one-year stint at the laser company Spectra Physics, Stuart has spent his entire industrial career with SDL/JDSU.

I worked with Stuart on a number of occasions during my tenure at SDL.  He has always impressed me with his broad skill set and the wide diversity of opportunities he has had in his career is a testament to the usefulness of this breadth.  Here is an excerpt of my interview with him:
You have had some great opportunities to do exciting new things within JDSU.  Can you describe some of these?

One good example was getting to work on the Critical Accounts Team.  This was a small team of project management ‘fire-fighters’ created by the CEO with the directive of engaging with a project team or business process that was failing to achieve its goals. Our objective was to work with the existing team to develop a recovery strategy that would get the project back onto the right trajectory.  This group would tackle problems in nearly every area of the company, covering several business units and many different product lines. Our high visibility to the CEO and Executive team allowed us a great deal of flexibility and gave us access to resources from other projects and different parts of the company. This was a great learning opportunity and very fun, but it is the type of job that you cannot train or plan for.  You just have to be in the right place at the right time and stumble upon it.

Another example was being asked to be the program lead for the divestiture of our manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China. At the time, this facility employed approximately 2,000 staff, so this was a major initiative for the company. The repercussions of failure would have been significant to the company, customers and management teams involved.  Had they advertised for a Divestiture Program Manager, I would never have applied since I had absolutely no direct experience with a project of this type.  However, the Management team had developed sufficient confidence to offer me the role of managing this project. In this case, they were prepared to overlook the lack of direct experience, but base their decision on the prior demonstration of the more generic program management and organizational skill They were looking for someone with good program management skills who understood the technology and the people involved, and they knew that I had been successful on the Critical Accounts Team.  It makes a huge difference just having established yourself with your peers.  People look at you as more than just a resume and a set of skills on a piece of paper.

During the last year I’ve been working with the Mergers and Acquisitions Team, exploring companies that we may want to purchase.  It’s a very fun environment with lots of new things to learn.  The most rewarding thing is the continued variety of things I get to work on, never getting to the point of being pigeonholed in a particular area.  The price you pay is that you end of becoming a generalist and know a little bit about a lot of things, but give up being a functional expert in any one area.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, read more in my book “Turning Science into Things People Need,” available in paperback and Kindle.

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