Boeing Exec: For a Dream Career, Follow These Tips

Alumnus Tom Conard speaker series slide
The Presidential Speaker Series at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University hosted its first event of the season last week with alumnus Tom Conard (’85).

The Presidential Speaker Series at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University hosted its first event of the season last week, with alumnus Tom Conard (’85), the vice president for missile and weapon systems, global sales and marketing, defense space and security for The Boeing Company, as its featured speaker.

“It’s been quite the journey, and it all started here,” Conard said, reflecting on his time as a student and offering insight into his career working for the world’s largest aerospace company. “But my mission here tonight is to connect with all of you.”

Moderated by Master of Business Administration student Elijah Jenkins, who recently became the first student-athlete in Embry-Riddle history to be named the male student-athlete of the year by the Sunshine State Conference, the event segued in its second half into a mentorship seminar for students, who lined up to ask Conard questions about goal-setting and planning their own career trajectories.

For example, one student asked, “How were you able to lead so many diverse projects throughout your career?” and Conard reinforced the importance of outlining their own personal definitions of success, their own “flight plans.”

Tom Conard
Alumnus Tom Conard (‘85) is currently the vice president of missile and weapon systems, global sales and marketing, defense, space and security for The Boeing Company. (Photo: Tom Conard)

“I drove, I drove, I drove and I committed,” he said. “I asked to move. I raised my hand to volunteer. … Embry-Riddle taught me to keep pushing that envelope. Keep driving, and have a plan A, B and C.”

Initially when he arrived on campus, Conard dreamt of being a pilot, but poor eyesight forced him to pursue other plans.

“Just get airborne,” he said. “And be diverse in all you do.”

A recurring theme for Conard was what he called “airspeed.”

“How fast do you want to go?” he asked the crowd.

Every person determines his or her own airspeed, he explained. How much are you willing to commit, or sacrifice, to reach that next level in your careers? Are you willing to move out of state, try new things and continually learn?

Other imperatives to keep in mind once entering the workforce, Conard added, were the importance of teamwork, good physical and mental health, and the value of communication. Bad communication, he added, has been the No. 1 cause of the problems he has encountered in his 30-plus years in business.

“Own your career,” he said. “No one else will do it for you.”

That sentiment summarized most of Conard’s message to students, which highlighted above all else the importance of leadership — not just in the workplace but also in their own lives. Outlining one’s priorities and having a diversity of goals is the best preparation for facing future unknowns.

He called these unknowns “weather.” In his own career, two of the biggest storms that he never saw coming were the Covid-19 pandemic and 9/11, both of which transformed the aviation industry overnight.

“You must prepare for weather,” he said. “Bring a rain jacket.”

Finally, the landing.

“Make sure you define success,” he told the crowd. “Make sure your landing’s identified, spoken out in clear guidance — measurable goals.”

The Presidential Speaker Series at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus welcomes industry leaders, prominent alumni and important trailblazers in aviation, aerospace and related fields who will address our students, faculty and staff and the greater community. Check out recaps of past speakers’ appearances.

Posted In: Aviation | Business