CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) -- A Fleet Readiness Center East engineer recently earned national recognition for his work in data analytics, NAVAIR Fusion and advanced predictive analytics.
Farron Rucker, an electronics engineer supporting the V-22 Osprey platform, received a Modern-Day Technology Leader award during the Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM Conference Feb. 14 in Washington, D.C. Rucker accepted the award – which recognizes an individual’s commitment to shaping the future of science, technology, engineering and math by developing cutting-edge technology or doing research for leading industries – during the conference’s Technology Recognition Luncheon.
“I’m truly humbled and honored to receive this award,” Rucker said. “This is the 34th BEYA conference, and 957 Modern-Day Technology Leaders have been selected, out of 10,000 nominations. I was definitely taken aback. This is big time: You’ve got Lockheed Martin, Boeing, corporate and military entities, and I was just taken away that I was selected. It speaks volumes.”
The 2014 East Carolina University graduate started his engineering career in private industry, and began his government service at FRCE in fall 2016. In a little more than three years, Rucker has taken on responsibilities as program manager for the depot’s pilot of Udacity data analytics training products, co-chair of the depot’s Data and Digital Community of Interest, team lead for FRCE’s cohorts in the Naval Air Systems Command Data Challenge in 2017 and 2018, acting lead for the Digital Innovation Accelerator Team, and both instructor and FRCE remote team leader for NAVAIR Fusion, the command’s suite of products designed to increase readiness through digital integration.
Rucker gravitated toward engineering as a career because it appealed to his way of thinking. His interest in data analytics grew as a natural extension of that, he said. His appreciation for data analytics as a problem-solving tool really blossomed when he competed in the 2017 NAVAIR Data Challenge.
“Engineering is a mindset of understanding systems, troubleshooting, problem solving and critical thinking,” Rucker explained, adding that data analytics can be employed in any discipline. “Regardless of the system, the same methodologies apply. It just so happens that in my particular case, I’m using data analytics to solve problems. Data analytics shouldn’t be just an area of specialty, it shouldn’t be under a specific job series; it’s just another tool to solve problems.”
Rucker’s work in pioneering innovation efforts at FRCE has been replicated at other sites across Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, including developing a data-driven, automated process to determine workforce demands based on the depot’s projected workload. The original process took almost 400 man hours to complete; the new, automated process takes about 30 minutes. COMFRC leaders hope to implement this system at other sites, saving a total of almost 3,000 man hours across the system.
Rucker’s accomplishments in the data analytics field has put him in high demand at the depot and across NAVAIR, said Jewel Wall, Rucker’s former supervisor and head of the Avionics Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing (VSTOL) In-Service Engineering Branch at FRCE. Although Rucker’s official position is electronics engineer, he has become a subject matter expert in more than that through his work in data analytics.
“National NAVAIR leaders recognize him as the FRC East NAVAIR Fusion/data analytics expert, and they routinely seek his input on matters pertaining to it,” Wall wrote in a letter recommending Rucker for the BEYA Modern-Day Technology Leader Award. “I continually get requests for Mr. Rucker’s help – from the senior civilian to (Fleet Support Team) retrofit managers, to other FRC East leaders, in data analysis.”
In addition to his electronic engineer workload and his data analytics projects, Rucker also serves as a mentor for junior engineers at the depot. He experienced some rough periods during his transition into FRCE, until a mentor helped him set his course. Michael Moore, an electronics engineer and director of Continuous Process Improvement at FRCE, took Rucker under his wing; now, Rucker wants to provide that same assistance to his junior counterparts.
“I didn’t have any clear direction, or those talks about career aspirations or career planning,” Rucker said. “I was actually on the verge of going back to private industry, and through a series of events I met Michael Moore. Hands down, he was my turning point at FRC East. He was my mentor, he provided guidance and resources, and he was very keen on trying to understand my career aspirations and what made me tick.”
This experience made Rucker realize what a difference good mentorship can make. Working with Moore, Wall, and other mentors and seniors leaders at the depot – including friend and colleague Owaski Parson – have helped Rucker sharpen his focus. Providing mentorship to up-and-coming engineers allows Rucker to share his experiences.
“I sit down with people, to the best of my abilities, and talk through it if they’re having issues, because I was in that place not too long ago,” Rucker explained. “I feel I can help and, if I cannot help, I can direct them to someone who can, because I’ve had exposure to those resources.”
The most important thing to realize is “nobody cares more about your career than you do,” he added. “Once you realize that, you’re looking through a different set of lenses. It’s important to understand the resources available to you that will help you grow. Again I’m truly humbled by this recognition and experience from attending the BEYA STEM conference, in addition to the opportunities offered by my leadership at Fleet Readiness Center East.”
For more news from Fleet Readiness Center East, visit www.navy.mil/local/FRCE/.