A wise man once said that “Education is not a means to an end, but a process to be continued.” Perhaps nobody knows the meaning of that better than Jason Brock, a married United States Air Force veteran with four children and one grandchild.
As a full-time undergraduate student, Jason is a prime example of what it means to be a lifelong learner, and he is constantly looking for ways to apply what he learns.
“At the ripe old age of 42, it’s kind of interesting to be going to school with these 18 to 20-year-olds,” he says. “It’s a little bit different.”
Jason says that his life experience relative to his age makes it easier for him to decipher whether something is going to be useful to him. He’s looking to apply what he’s learned to his longstanding career as a Senior Maximo Functional Analyst.
Like many who walk winding career paths, Jason didn’t always see his career morphing into what it is today. In fact, his Maximo skill set was only something he picked up by chance.
Thinking back to the his “knucklehead” days of youth, Jason admits that when joining the Air Force, he would have the chance to figure out what he wanted to get out of life, while his military service would also sustain him until he determined his career goals.
And many of the men he admired in his family were Air Force men. “I realized that the Air Force was the common denominator in all of the men I respected,” he said. For Jason, it just made sense that joining the military was a logical step.
Jason loved the Air Force, but he had a hard time adjusting to the challenges. He had his share of the “junk jobs”—jobs that nobody else wanted to do—assigned to him.
However, he admits that being tasked with those junk jobs was important because he had the opportunity to learn from the ground up. In other words, it was a drop in the proverbial bucket of his growing set of skills.
While in the military, he was assigned to the Air Force Research Laboratory where he was afforded training in a variety of different industrial practices such as OSHA, HAZMAT, FAR / Acquisitions, Security, Facilities Management, as well as CNC machining and structural welding. He describes the Air Force as a "really great incubator to grow up in".
When he concluded his time in the Air Force, one of the few jobs he could find in the D.C. metro area that matched his particular skill set was at the Pentagon.
Jason joked that the biggest motivator for him to accept the position was that he wanted to eat and have a roof over his head. It wasn’t for the glamor of working as a HAZMAT and WMD (weapons of mass destruction) Technician, which he said isn’t quite as hyped up as in the movies.
“It’s not like the show 24,” Jason says, “But there are a lot of things that happen that you will never see or read about. That much is true.” He describes the work as being “nice, but hard.”
After putting in a solid eight months as a HAZMAT and WMD Technician, he decided that he wanted a change.
Jason’s introduction to Maximo was a rough, trial by fire, consisting of many sleepless nights. His supervisor at Battelle Memorial Institute, a government contractor, handed him a 400-page book on Maximo software, gave him a login code for Maximo 5, and uttered the words, “Make it happen.” Those words became a recurring mantra that would haunt Jason throughout his career.
Jason often jokes that the book was awful—so awful, in fact, that he would have nightmares about it. His tenure at Battelle was critical, though, because it was where Jason performed most of his Maximo work and received his Maximo “education.”
“It wasn’t easy, but it was always worth it,” he says.
The more Jason learned about Maximo, reading on through that beast of a book, the easier it became. He cited that he could take a 60 hour-a-week job and turn it into a 20 hour-a-week job. He performed work relative to his experience in commercial off the shelf (COTS) HAZMAT equipment repair and affirmed that it was “amazing how much [I] could get out of the system.”
Jason said the primary goal was to capture information in Maximo and generate reports with that information. He was also fortunate to work with an amazing developer. “That guy,” he says fondly, “saved my bacon so many times…”.
“The more I did with Maximo, the more I learned, and the more the client was happy. I was able to give them insights that they never had before. I was so successful at implementing Maximo in the warehouse that they had me help implement it in a medical warehouse for that same unit and then in a small engine repair shop. It wasn’t long before most of the unit’s equipment – both commercial off-the-shelf and military – was inside of Maximo. We were able to give them a lot of visibility and save them a lot of money.”
And Jason was able to do a lot of what he did in Maximo because of his maintenance experience. He knew that at the end of the summer, and then again at the end of the year, that his maintenance schedule had to be light because of the way the year cycles worked. Consequently, he would frontload his maintenance through Maximo. “I did a lot of planning on paper and then entered it into Maximo. This was before I learned that there were products that could help me with this. Third-Party IBM Maximo tools like those from Solufy.”
Beyond scheduling in Maximo, he used the software in many other ways, including inventory tracking. Jason says, “It was amazing how much I was able to get out of that system. I was the primary data entry person for Maximo, and we had enough gear to outfit over 400 marines and sailors with multiple capabilities. We had rebreathers, and SCBAs, and air purifying respirators. We had gas masks, and different Level A suits. The more I did with Maximo, the easier it was.”
It helped, he explains, that he took the correct, ground-up approach, too. He built the proper item master, item assembly structure, job plans, and he set up nice PM schedules. “Our inventory was fantastic. We even had people who did purchasing on-site, and we set them up to use Maximo for their purchasing. If I’m honest, it was almost seamless.”
Management was so confident in Jason’s abilities, and what he could do within Maximo, that it was eventually decided that Maximo would be used on additional global contracts that Battelle had with the government.
“My team and I were able to really help the business side, as well as the client side of our logistics contracts in areas such as cost savings, cost efficiency, and cost avoidance. We were eventually using Maximo to manage worldwide operations and logistics. Maximo saved them millions in inventory and labor utilization.”
After more than a decade at Battelle, Jason made a change once more, taking on a short term contract with Genesis Solutions working at the Kennedy Space Center, a division of NASA. Jason confesses that they took a gamble on him. All they knew is that they wanted and needed someone of Jason’s expertise.
He was pleasantly surprised at the culture at KSC. Jason gained a sense of empowerment knowing that he had the expertise to get the job done.
“My favorite part (of Maximo) is designing the tool and implementing it so that it works the best it can for a business’ needs,” Jason says. And that is what KSC needed.
KSC was in the market for a functional guy to come in and work with the logistics people who would manage the ordering and the supplies.
“No one who is kicking boxes and working hard wants to fill out their work order information, and I get it. I told them I was going to make the Maximo software as easy as possible for them to use. There was going to be as few keystrokes and mouse clicks as possible.
I was going to get as much information set up, so the software will do what you want it to do, and the reports will come out with good clean data. That was my goal at the Kennedy Space Center.” He goes on, “The less time they spent in Maximo meant more time churning the wheels of supply. Being strategic with how we use Maximo increases efficiency on the shop floors.”
Since Kennedy Space Center was only a 2-month project, he went on to Celgene, a pharmaceutical corporation. At Celgene, he worked on the User Requirements Specification, Functional Requirements Specification, User Acceptance Testing documentation, the potential installation qualification (IQ) documentation, and the business process mapping, before going back to the Pentagon. This time as a Senior Maximo Subject Matter Expert.
When asked what prevents companies from using Maximo, Jason suggests that, because senior leadership tends to be of an older generation which is less likely to embrace new technology, many don’t understand the advantages that Maximo offers.
"The next-level type of business improvement is in a company’s CMMS. Data Governance, Leading and Lagging indicators that mesh with Balanced Score Carding, and Reliability are the key to fine-tuning logistical processes.”
Jason thinks that these people assume that what worked for them in the past, will work now. Companies want a maximum amount of output at a fraction of the cost, but they don’t realize that they are only holding themselves back. “Quite a few companies don’t understand what the capabilities of Maximo really are, so it’s hard for them to commit to a system like this and some of the really powerful third party add-ons like Solufy’s Planning and Scheduling products.”
Jason understands the potential with Maximo, and explains, “I had all of the problems. I had all of the disorganization. I was literally given a warehouse with folders upon folders of printed Excel files. When I read that 400-page book, I was able to understand how Maximo could solve all of my disconnected and disorganized warehouse problems."
"Maximo gives everyone 100% visibility all the time. You can forecast out and know what your maintenance burdens are going to be.”
Leaping from a salaried IBM Maximo Subject Matter Expert position to a Senior Maximo independent consultant, Jason received calls from interested companies as he continued his business prospecting efforts. He enjoys the flexibility of being able to develop the contract he signs with companies.
Finding the right independent consulting jobs can be a challenge now and then. “Sometimes they want you to know everything functional and technical, and you have to set realistic expectations based on your experience and skill sets. The two are very different although equally important. Also, some companies don't want to hire an independent consultant. I prefer being an independent consultant but that isn't always realistic."
Finishing his undergraduate education is incredibly important to Jason, which is why working as an independent consultant is the perfect fit for him at this time.
When asked about why he chose to study computer science, Jason said that he was intimidated by the abundance of options when enrolling. He plans on majoring in Business Information Management Systems and varied coursework to further enrich his understanding of that space and to increase his knowledge base.
Jason is enjoying his classes and when learning something new, he often thinks, “Wow! I can do that in Maximo!”
Jason’s favorite aspect of his longstanding career path has been the people he’s met and worked with over the years. A marked shift from his opinion of people from his youth.
“People are the most important thing in our careers and personal lives. Every single job you will ever do is to serve people in some way.”