No ‘I’ in Team

However, meeting that challenge requires more than engineering expertise, an innovative spirit, and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. It also takes the right mindset that Schreck has valued since his high school football days. “I always try to focus on teamwork. Everybody has a role to play. Everyone should know what their role is and how it fits in with the overall team mission. That mission is the priority, and sometimes team members need to subordinate their own personal desires to focus on the greater team. My high school and college football coaches really drove teamwork into the core of how I work and interact with others.”

Schreck believes an essential ingredient for teamwork is effective communication. “I’ve known people who could walk into a conference room of 15 people and in 10 minutes have 14 of those people mad at them,” he says. “On the other hand, there are others who are much rarer, who walk into a room and win everybody over to work together and align on a common objective. When I look back on a great team leader, nine times out of 10, the trait that made them stand out was that they communicated effectively. Communication is key, both internally within a team and externally with our customers. Part of effective communication is listening to learn people’s needs.”

A Flexible Future

Schreck and Collins Aerospace are currently spending a lot of time trying to meet the U.S. military’s needs on what Schreck sees as his current team’s biggest challenge and opportunity: the U.S. Armed Forces Future Vertical Lift program for the next generation of vertical-lift aircraft. It is a rather open-ended program, and his business is participating in it from an integrated flight-deck perspective. Schreck says, “Even the name ‘Vertical Lift’ hints at the size and scope of this generational opportunity, as the military didn’t want industry to be constrained to only rotary- wing concepts. It’s not just one program, but a combination of several programs that really challenges how we think about vertical lift and meeting the warfighter’s challenges. It’s a suite of capabilities that require technical innovation from our teams in order to meet the needs and requirements of our customers in a very challenging environment. It’s an area in which I think our Collins team is exceptional. What’s really interesting is that the architecture we’re building, a ‘digital backbone’ if you will, creates an open environment designed to meet a rapidly changing threat environment with more timely and effective solutions.”

The military may have intentionally been flexible in its broad parameter of “vertical flight,” but Schreck keeps one clear,

definite goal in mind. “In all of this we try to keep the pilot’s eyes up and out. We don’t want to just throw more and more data at the pilot and consume every last brain cell. The pilot will eventually become more of a mission commander and let the aircraft do a lot of the flying on its own by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning. Today, we’ve got a lot of the technology that’s maturing rapidly, and in parallel we now have to focus on the psychology of how we implement that technology safely.”

It is interesting to hear an electrical engineer and by-the-book military man whose decades-long career has been bolstered by hard data use a general word like “psychology.” Yet, the more one listens to Schreck, one senses that he is also a multifaceted man whose interests lie beyond technological inputs and trajectories. This is reflected in one of his favored hobbies. “I like to read autobiographies and biographies to learn about how people lead,” he reveals. “One I recently started is not exactly a new release; it’s The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.” A tried and true classic of a once-young man who ventured from humble beginnings to travel in ever-expanding circles of distance and influence. It’s a story that the young man from Coon Rapids reprised and made his own — and it’s a good one.

Left: Offensive guard Schreck makes the block. Center: Schreck loses his helmet blocking Texas Tech defensive lineman Gabe Rivera. Right: Schreck celebrates the first-ever Air Force win over Notre Dame, 30-17.

18 July/Aug 2019

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