Years ago, serving in the roles of a Marine Systems Engineering and Naval Architect with the Royal Canadian Navy, Darcy Byrtus was “fortunate” to work in the Canadian Patrol Submarine Project, the New Shipborne Aircraft Project, as well as, Ship Systems Manager in the Canadian Patrol Frigate project for the construction of the first 10 of the CPFs. After leaving the CPF project, he attended Defence College in Washington and did a posting in the ADM(Policy) organization.

“After 22 years in the Navy, I joined General Dynamics Canada where I spent 16 years working on several projects including Project Manager of the Hydra Underwater Warfare System Project, Acquisition Project Manager for the Maritime Helicopter Project and then took on responsibility for Business Development for Naval Programs,” said Byrtus.

Darcy Byrtus, President, Defence and Security, Canada, BMT

In 2014, he took on the role of President at BMT Canada, where he joined a global organization that supports large naval programs both in Canada and with their sister BMT companies around the world.

Darcy Byrtus was selected as a Game Changer for the October/November 2019 issue of Vanguard.

What is your role at your organization today?

It has been an incredible few years leading the BMT organization in Canada. I have come to appreciate what a small team of great people can do to make a difference in some of Canada’s most important and challenging programs. A big part of my role is to continue to make BMT a great place to work and unlock the potential of all those great people to find new and creative ways to help make customer projects successful. A big part of that role is also to continue to find new and interesting work for our team here and around the world.

What was your most challenging moment?

One of the most challenging moments was having to provide difficult advice to one of our customers that was having a hard time accepting the reality of a serious situation impacting the future of the program. The challenge was to have enough patience to be able to convey the importance of the issue without getting frustrated. Fortunately, there was an environment of trust between us and we were able to step back and agree on the best way ahead.

What was your “aha” moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our readers? Tell us that story.

Designing, building and supporting warships and submarines is one of the most complex enterprises in the world. I’ve had a number of “aha” moments in the last 30 years in this industry, but I think a key realization for me was that the greatest satisfaction and success comes from embracing the “why”, that is, remembering why we do what we do, supporting organizations like the Royal Canadian Navy in executing their mandate to enable our Forces to do their jobs safely and effectively around the world.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

It is a great time to be associated with the recapitalization of the Royal Canadian Navy. After not building warships ships for almost 20 years there is a renewed energy and buzz around the industry with the first of the AOPS being delivered. Very shortly, Canadian sailors will be sailing around in new Canadian built ships that will again be as world-class as the CPFs were – and Canadian industry will be working to find new and creative ways of supporting them and keeping them operationally viable for decades. BMT has been involved in all the naval ship projects in the NSS program. It is hard not to get excited about that.

What is the best advice you received

Look after the people and ensure they are challenged every day to be their best.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

I hope I identify and focus on the important things.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

BMT Canada is fortunate to be located in Canada’s largest technology hub – with over 500 companies and 23,000 employees working in some of the most innovative companies in the world. The speed of innovation and development of new technologies as well as the competitive spirit across these companies is embedded in the community’s culture and is something we continually learn from.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

Our main role with every customer project we undertake is to provide expert, independent advice across a wide range of requirements by working together to solve problems as an integral part of the customer team and not just as a contracted resource. Because of limited resources across the enterprise, cooperation and collaboration of everyone involved is an absolute necessity to bring the entire spectrum of the capability to bear. We see our role as helping customers to build and sustain those capabilities as we keep the NSS projects moving forward. I believe we are effectively changing the perception of a consultancy from an arms-length specialist to being viewed as an extension of the customer’s team. In doing so, this collaborative approach provides expert knowledge and continuity to projects as they move through the successive stages and provides support to DGMEPM across a broad range of initiatives. Over the last 10 years, BMT has evolved a way of doing business across our customer base that focusses on customer success.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

I don’t see that many impediments to innovation in the sector. While the maritime industry has historically been slow to adopt new and innovative technology the pace of adoption continues to increase. Companies involved at all stages of the sector – from acquisition to in-service support are seeing the tangible benefits of providing staff time to try new things and are allocating budgets to the creation of intellectual property and finding new ways to use data to improve traditional services. Programs such as the Canadian government’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) is a great example of recognition and commitment to innovation by not only making funding available but even more importantly, by pointing that innovation in directions that will solve real challenges for DND.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

BMT currently has employed a common global platform to capture, fund and execute innovative ideas across our group of Five Eyes defence and security companies. We have instituted a central innovation fund with a Dragon’s Den type panel to select and promote the most promising ideas. While this is new across the BMT defence companies, it has resulted in a great list of innovative ideas and several game-changing products that have energized the staff and show great promise to provide long term growth for the company.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

We’re starting to see more and more interest in advanced technologies. Things like smart ships – exploiting advanced navigation and communications with on-board sensors and intelligent systems, as well as future potential for fully autonomous capabilities in some areas. Even logistics and asset data from disparate sources are being managed using technologies like blockchain and others to provide faster, more secure data sharing and real-time information. By leveraging advances in technology in a forward-thinking manner, the maritime industry is transforming dramatically and affords innovative companies like BMT a strategic opportunity by integrating people, technologies and traditional engineering best practices.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Remain optimistic. On very large complex projects it is easy to become overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending challenges. It’s very important to recognize that each of those challenges is surmountable, focus on solutions and acknowledge and celebrate each success.