Dr. Emeka E. Egbogah is Technology Strategy and Product Portfolio Manager, General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada and our Game Changer for the December. He began his journey in Wireless Communications two decades ago as a graduate student at the University of Calgary. General Dynamics recognized his potential, offering him a pivotal role in researching and developing dynamic routing protocols for large-scale tactical networks.

For the past ten years, Dr. Egbogah has served as the Technology Strategy and Product Portfolio Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada. In this role, he spearheads the vision, market strategy, and roadmap for TacCIS products, playing a crucial part in delivering cutting-edge solutions to defence markets globally.

With a decade of dedicated service to General Dynamics and an equal number of years in the defence industry, Dr. Egbogah stands as a visionary leader, combining passion and innovation to shape the future of defence communication technology.

How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today?

Twenty years ago, I was a fresh-faced graduate student at the University of Calgary looking to pursue a Masters Degree in Wireless Communications. General Dynamics offered me a unique opportunity to collaborate with them towards the research, design, and development of a dynamic routing protocol for large-scale tactical networks. This opportunity early on ignited my passion for the defence industry and the company I have called home for most of my professional career.

What is your role at your organization today?

As Technology Strategy and Product Portfolio Manager for our Land and Joint Solutions Tactical Communications and Information System (TacCIS) line of business, my role involves building a vision, market strategy, and roadmap for delivering a portfolio of TacCIS products to defence markets around the world.

What was your most challenging moment?

When my daughter was five years old, she asked me what I did for my profession. I explained it to her, and her next question was “do you help harm people?” To say I was unprepared for this question from a five-year-old would be an understatement. I carefully explained the purpose of the defence and security industry then elaborated on how my specific role was to provide innovative solutions to one of the most challenging problems facing soldiers today: how to communicate reliably, efficiently, and securely in the most dynamic, turbulent, and disrupted environments, so they can achieve their mission of preserving our daily freedoms and keeping civilians like she and I safe. Suffice to say this explanation was provided with Legos and toy accessories rather than technical diagrams but she understood and appreciates it to this day.

What was your A-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story.

This past summer I visited the Calgary Stampede where I was able to tour inside several of the Canadian Army’s combat vehicles. During one of my stops in a Canadian Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV), a young soldier started explaining the different communication devices he used during his missions. As he spoke more and more about these devices, he vividly described the scenarios, where the capabilities afforded to him positively affected his mission. His passionate description of the capabilities and features we had designed for him, and his vehicle was a resounding reminder that yes, what we do really matters and makes a difference in people’s lives. Furthermore, the difference between a flawed and near flawless design could be the difference between life and death. Having the opportunity to connect with front line soldiers who make use of the technology we produce and have positive stories to recall about it is truly a special feeling.

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

A new law was passed in the UK where vehicle manufacturers were to be held liable for accidents traceable to the self-driving features of a car. With the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in commercial industries and soon-to-come widespread adoption in the defence and security industry, this new UK law is a reminder that while AI and ML have undeniable benefits, we must also apply great thought, care and diligence in determining how it is ultimately employed on the battlefield. Rapid advances in AI have given rise to a new generation of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) that can identify, track, and attack targets without human intervention. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with AI-enabled weaponry and autonomous navigation certainly reduce risk and loss of life to fighter pilots but what happens when a UAV accidently strikes an unintended target? Technological innovation is undoubtedly important to push the boundaries of our capabilities, but in the defence industry one must also consider a level of enforceable ethics alongside those solutions.

What is the best advice you received?

… Technology shouldn’t get in the way of mission success. The intent is not to over engineer a product, but to make a product that works when and where it’s most needed. The best advice I received would be to understand these principles and apply them through design concepts when devising new solutions.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

I’m surrounded by brilliant engineers, highly experienced program managers, and well-rounded business leaders who are always willing to impart invaluable knowledge. I make a habit of engaging these people as often as I can to learn things you can’t really pick up in a book.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Progress in technology is moving at an amazing pace. Keeping at the leading edge of innovation and finding ways to apply this to the defence industry will enrich the capabilities of our national defence, reduce fatigue on the soldier, and ensure Canada and its allies stay ahead of threats.

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

I consider myself a sports enthusiast, so I’m always fascinated by how professional sports leagues not only embody an innovation mindset, but clearly demonstrate that innovative mindset. The National Football League (NFL) implemented goal line technology to better detect whether players had scored a touchdown or not. The National Hockey League (NHL) has sensors deployed on players and equipment to determine how fast a player is skating and how hard their shot is. The National Basketball Association (NBA) employs real-time sensor technology to monitor the physiology and movement of players during practice and games.

FIFA has implemented Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology to provide another perspective on critical plays a human referee may not catch during a game. The results of these innovations are an enhanced entertainment experience for fans and improved safety and performance for players.

Questions regarding the ORGANIZATION

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

From a technology perspective, General Dynamics Mission Systems–Canada is integrating a diverse and complex set of new data sources into our tactical systems, allowing us to exploit big data to obtain a deeper level of intelligence on the battlefield and fortified situational awareness for a more comprehensive view of the common operating picture. Leveraging big data ultimately provides the modern soldier the ability to make decisions in a more optimized manner across the AIR domain using our Remote Pilot Assisted System (RPAS) for unmanned surveillance; LAND domain using our MESHnet® V6 TacCIS for voice and data communication between headquarters, mobile platforms, and dismounted soldiers; and SEA domain using our Underwater Data Management System (UDMS) to better detect and track underwater threats.

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

Speed versus cost is one area where the defence industry lags behind commercial innovators like Apple. They can deliver a product to market within six months, sometimes less, but in the defence industry, months are more like years. Soldiers need innovative capabilities that give them a tactical edge on the battlefield without delay. Finding a balance between cost, innovation, and delivery time will help ensure that Canada remains at the leading edge of technology.

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

Innovation has been at the core of General Dynamic’s business for over 75 years. We continue to drive innovation through internal research and development, collaboration with universities, partnerships with small and medium sized businesses, and participation in initiatives issued through the Department of National Defence (DND.) The company listens to employees and gives everyone an opportunity to voice their ideas, and follow them through, empowering each person with the resources to maximize their ingenuity and creativity.

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

What we have learned from the war in Ukraine is that a reliable and robust supply chain is key to delivering capability. Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products, like the inexpensive drones destroying multi-million-dollar military equipment, are being leveraged more than ever in the battlefield with the ability for militaries to buy what they need in bulk, with speed, and at a cost-effective price. This trend will continue over the next two years.