Editor's note: The Daily Transcript is running a series of articles focusing on former military officers and their leadership and management skills. The following is another article in the series.
Anthony Nufer’s former commanding officer became his program management mentor when he hired Nufer just out of the Navy.
Outside the Navy, their relationship was more casual.
“It was still professional, but more casual because in the Navy, the relationships between juniors and seniors are sometimes very formal, and sometimes just the rank separates you just a little bit,” Nufer said.
His former commanding officer educated Nufer on how to manage programs as a contractor.
“We developed kind of a friendship beyond a professional relationship. It was easy to establish the business professional relationship because it was founded on professional mutual respect for the roles we had in the military,” Nufer said. “He understood the gulf between people who do one thing as a career and then transition to another.”
Nufer now works as a senior program manager for the Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) Navy and Marine Corps Technology Center in San Diego. He was also the 2010 president of the San Diego Military Advisory Council.
Nufer retired as a lieutenant commander from the Navy after eight years in enlisted service and 13 years of commissioned service. He said in the Navy he was called a “mustang,” the name for someone who has been enlisted and then commissioned as an officer. Prior to commissioning as an officer, Nufer served as an enlisted torpedoman and achieved the rank of chief petty officer.
He focused on operations while in the Navy and worked topside while aboard the ship — meaning he didn’t spend most of his time down in engineering, he said.
Nufer said he thought he would go on to be a teacher after leaving the Navy, but with two girls heading to college, he thought he’d find a job that could bring in a little bit more money. His last position in the Navy exposed him to industry, making it easier for him to transition after retirement.
His former commanding officer helped him in the beginning, and he picked up other mentors on the way. Nufer said it’s also important to seek education, both formal and informal.
“After you start a job, if you don’t, you’re just going to be stale,” Nufer said.
Nufer earned his master’s degree in business administration in Europe, but said the education and the application of the education are “two different worlds.”
“Education is not training, it’s education, and there’s a difference. Education teaches you about something, and training teaches you how to do something,” Nufer said.
Training is available at CSC, and Nufer said there is an “incredible” education support program for employees pursuing advanced degrees.
“In the military, you don’t look at your sailors as just sailors. You look at them as people and you have a common purpose, a common mission. And I find that, in industry, that’s not always prevalent. I try to develop a sense of a common purpose,” Nufer said. “Military people, when they transition into industry, can be a little bit more professionally demanding on their people to perform because, in the military, you expect people to grow. You don’t expect people to have a job and just do that job — that’s not a foundation of growing experienced people to become leaders.”
Nufer has been surprised by employees who are given the opportunity to grow and advance and choose to stay where they are. He said he has learned to bypass those people and focus on those who want to advance and who want to develop a product or service.
“It’s always exciting to try to lead people to grow,” Nufer said.
He does this by offering them opportunities to move to other projects and chances to take on more responsibilities.
The most important thing Nufer can do as a leader is “keep them informed and be honest,” he said. “Keep them informed and be honest when they’re doing well, help them when they need to do something better, keep them informed with what’s going on as far as contracts and federal contracts. Keep them informed with [whether] we expect upturns and downturns. Let them plan their lives,” Nufer said.
If he doesn’t keep his employees informed and attached to the company (because many employees work off-site) then Nufer said CSC can be nothing more than a name on a direct deposit notice.
He said managing his employees is about the mechanics of the job, while leading is working with the employees.
“Leadership is working with your people to give them that sense of purpose and that sense of belonging and that sense of pride in their job and that desire for them to do more for themselves or for the customer or company,” Nufer said. “Management is just making sure things are proper and done right and you don’t make dumb decisions on contract bids and you don’t make dumb administrative decisions on the personnel aspects.”
Nufer said while leadership and management is easy to talk about, he’s not always successful.
“I have my own personal challenges. I have a hard time sometimes — I get frustrated sometimes with the processes of business and sometimes let that get in the way of attitude,” Nufer said.
Part of Nufer’s job is to be between management functions of the company, to manage the regulations and laws that filter down to his employees, and to make sure there is little effect on customers.
“You can get so internally focused on management that you lose sight of the purpose of what you’re doing,” Nufer said. “I think when you apply good leadership and good management it’s a win-win for the company side, for your employees and for the customers. … You can’t be just solely focused on being the ultimate leader because you’ll mismanage things. You can’t focus being 100 percent on management if you don’t apply it through leadership — it’s a balance.”
4045 Hancock St.
San Diego, CA 92110