Alumnus leads engineering design in global defence industry
Western Engineering News | August 9, 2019
With over a decade of leadership at General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), a global leader in military vehicle solutions, Dave Crocker, BESc’86, has long been at the forefront of innovative engineering design in the defence industry worldwide.
Crocker joined GDLS 13 years ago, serving in multiple leadership roles, including Manager of Systems Engineering, Director of Engineering, Senior Director of Programs for GDLS United Kingdom, Vice President Engineering, and in October 2018, Crocker became Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
We caught up with Crocker to learn more about his role as CTO, discover what major advancements he’s seen in the field, and seek his advice for those considering a career in engineering.
Can you discuss your current role at General Dynamics Land Systems?
As CTO, I lead an innovative and highly-specialized team of professionals at General Dynamics Land Systems who are on the cutting edge of engineering design.
My role involves the coordination of three major functions within the enterprise, including the development of industry-leading capabilities, the streamlining and acceleration of GDLS’ processes and technologies, and the integration of the latest innovations from our team and global partners.
GDLS’ success depends on collaborating and keeping a strong partnership with our customers. Maintaining our communication means we are constantly evolving and improving the capabilities that our customers need today and in the future. Additionally, the feedback we receive from our soldiers and GDLS field representatives helps shape the design of future ground combat platforms and capabilities.
Can you share how your engineering education has benefited your career success?
My engineering education gave me the tools to design and develop amazing products. It also instilled in me the passion to always look for ways to make things better. But above all, it cemented the value of teamwork as a catalyst for extraordinary results.
What has been one of the largest advancements you have seen in your field, with respect to engineering?
There have been a lot of advancements in tools, processes and materials, but the truly amazing breakthroughs come from the combination of a number of them. For example, additive manufacturing is allowing us to build revolutionary parts that can be fabricated in a fraction of the usual production time.
When you design parts using a generative design tool that can create a part based on the loading scenario, you can create extremely efficient parts in a fraction of the design time.
By combining these advancements, we can create extremely lightweight parts that achieve incredible levels of performance.
What encouraging words would you give a young person considering a career in engineering?
It is a great time to be an engineer. By some estimates, the world shortage of engineers is in the hundreds of thousands. When you start out, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and work in other areas. It is important to experience how engineering interacts with the rest of an organization like supply chain, contracts, production in plants and sustainment. Once you have that knowledge of how things work from beginning to end, you will truly be able to meet the expectations of your organization and customer. My other advice is to use your time away from work to rest your mind and renew your spirit. Find activities that inspire you and keep the creative juices flowing.
Can you share a couple of memories from your time as a student?
Western will always be an amazing part of my life. I met my future wife there, and both of our children are Western graduates. When I look at my time in university, I think about the effort to finish and race the SAE Fuelathon vehicle and how the experience foreshadowed my career. Customer deadlines never move and you have to be ready for the starter’s gun.
The night before the Fuelathon, we had a media event and, naturally, we crashed the car. We spent all night in the garage, straightening the frame, scrounging for parts and rebuilding the car. We loaded it back in the van and drove through the very early morning hours to the competition, getting there just as the gates opened. Although we didn’t win, I will never forget the long hours spent with friends to achieve what others could not.