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In the Nation's Interest

2017 Awards Dinner Spotlight: Mike Petters

by CED August 11, 2017

Mike Petters is the President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries. You can read his bio here. He is the recipient of CED's 2017 Owen B. Butler Education Excellence Award. 

What has been the best career advice that you’ve received?

There are actually two pieces of advice I’ve received and over the years I’ve found that I pass on this same advice to people who come to me.  The first is to treat each job you have as if it’s the very best job in the world.  Too many people are consumed with the “next job” or the “next title,” but, in my experience, if you wake up every day excited to go to work and be part of something bigger than yourself, your performance will reflect that enthusiasm and the next job and next title will organically happen.

The second piece of advice I’ve found to be very valuable is to be the person who makes everyone on the team better.  This can be in a position of leadership or as an individual contributor.  This means being the person who inspires his or her team members to do better work and to bring out the best in everyone.

Has your company spearheaded a particular philanthropic or societal initiative that you would like to share?

At HII, we make a significant investment in workforce development.  After all, no one applies to us with a degree in shipbuilding.  We have two Apprentice Schools and invest more than $100 million annually in developing our very talented and dedicated workforce.  A few years ago we decided to expand beyond our employees and we created the Huntington Ingalls Industries Scholarship Fund.  This fund is administered and managed by Scholarship America and provides scholarships to the children of employees at both the college level (four-year and two-year programs) and the pre-school level.  Early childhood education is often overlooked and I believe it’s the critical opportunity to help children become lifelong learners.  Additionally, there are many studies and statistics that indicate participation in early childhood education helps children perform better in elementary and secondary education. In the first two years of the HII Scholarship Fund, we’ve given out 138 college scholarships (two and four-year degree) and 82 pre-school scholarships to children of our employees.

Which aspect of your company’s culture has made the biggest contribution to its success?

I believe this business attracts and cultivates leaders who care more about the institution than they care about themselves.  We are a 131 year-old company, with a rich history, and there is a common awareness of this and a deeply-held belief that we need to do our very best to help perpetuate this legacy.  This translates into our leaders making much more thoughtful and strategic decisions than they may have otherwise.  Sometimes this means a decision that, while not the most obvious one for the department or even the division, is the best one for the overall HII enterprise.  I think this is unique and I am very proud to be part of this kind of culture.