Sean Diening, Associate Director, Program Management and Business Development for Raytheon ELCAN, was selected as a Vanguard Game Changer for the April/May issue.

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

My father was in the Canadian Air Force and I grew up around the military – it’s always been a part of my life. I have a deep respect for the men and women who serve. The work we do at ELCAN helps provide allied forces around the world with world-class capabilities that enable them to achieve their objectives and get back home safe. This is very meaningful for all of us at the company.

Throughout my career I have always looked for opportunities to contribute more to the business, to support those around me and to develop my leadership skillset. ELCAN has consistently provided me with that training ground and over the years the opportunity to take on new challenges and broader responsibilities. 

What is your role at your organization today?

My role as Associate Director of Business Development and Program Management is to support the team. I provide my team with clear objectives and ensure they have the tools and resources required to meet those objectives.

I started my career in Business Development and it’s fantastic to return to the function in a leadership role. I love representing Raytheon ELCAN, listening to our customers and determining how we can best provide value and evolve our capabilities to better meet their future needs.

What was your most challenging moment?

When I was Program Manager for our Specter line of Rifle Sights, we were competing for a large international procurement that was pushing our technology into new and challenging domains. We had a short turnaround time to provide a range-ready prototype and a significant amount of work to get through in order to compete. The Rifle Sight team, fully supported by the rest of the organization, pulled together and after several extremely challenging months, and many late nights, shipped our prototypes on time and ready to perform.

We lost this particular opportunity, which was very difficult for all of us, but to me it showed what we could accomplish as a team when we have a clear objective, strong leadership and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

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

Early in my career at ELCAN I was shown an email we received from an active duty US Marine. He was deployed overseas and carrying one of our SpecterDR rifle sights. He was engaged in a gun battle and an incoming round directly struck the front of his optic. Not only did he credit the sight with likely saving his life but he described that despite the damage it received, he could still actively and accurately engage the enemy. For me, this story brought home the importance of what we do. That lives are literally at stake and that it is our duty to make the most rugged, high quality and high performance products possible.

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

This team… the whole ELCAN team. The culture that we’re building here at ELCAN, the values that we’re demonstrating and the potential that this company has to influence the industry and ultimately impact the end-users.

The pieces are all in place now – we have the people, the technical expertise and the manufacturing capability – we just need to execute.

What is the best advice you received?

That in a leadership role, you work for the team, not the other way around.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

Discipline, and by that I mean self-discipline. I have realized that being motivated and driven gets you most of the way but discipline gets you through. Discipline is the fuel that enables you to meet your ultimate goals.

To me, discipline means doing the right thing even if you don’t feel like you have the time or motivation to do it; consistently showing up, especially when it’s hard, is the only way to be truly successful.

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

SpaceX and the culture that Elon Musk has built there inspires me. When you look at their story, where they started and what they have ultimately achieved it is a testament to that culture.

Elon’s willingness to set massive, bold objectives and his willingness to try, fail and try again. Innovation is not the pursuit of perfection, it’s the willingness to fall down 100 times and get up 101 learning and improving along the way.

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

Our objective is to be a strategic partner-of-choice for our key customers. We are aligning our technology road map, our manufacturing capabilities and our engineering capabilities, around our customers’ needs.

We have established a Customer Experience Team that is focused on developing authentic customer intimacy to ensure we are investing strategically to maximize the value we can offer.

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

We are actively investing in innovation. The challenge is ensuring that we are aligned with our customers and end users.

We want to ensure we are investing in the right technologies and capabilities at the right time to be ready to meet our customers’ needs in the future.

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

ELCAN has a long history of being at the forefront of innovation, from our early days being founded by Leitz through to today. We have always strived to be at the cutting-edge of optical technologies.

Our Business Development team is closely aligned with our Engineering and Operations teams. We work together to drive market needs into our technology road map and our capabilities development plan.

We are also leveraging our supply chain. We use force-multiplying sub-tier suppliers to partner existing technology for integration into our products.

We are constantly looking for ways to do things better, to develop disruptive processes and products while optimizing the tradeoffs between performance and cost.

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

It’s clear to all of us at ELCAN that the work we do in the defence sector is critical and that innovation, affordability and reliable performance are paramount. Demand for our products and capabilities will continue to increase over the coming years and ELCAN will do whatever it takes to ensure we are supporting our customers and ultimately our end-users. Part of this will involve investment in the digitization of our factory, partnering with sub-contractors who offer a technological advantage and nurturing a culture that develops and maintains high performance teams. This culture will drive future disruptive solutions.    

What is your parting piece of advice?

Put your team first and there is no limit to what can be achieved.