As a proud member of the St. Petersburg Maritime and Defense Technology Hub and Innovation District, PVM focuses on engaging with the local community. We sat down with PVM’s St. Petersburg and Special Operations Forces team leader Christian Edwards to learn more about his role and his portfolios both in St. Petersburg and with Special Operations Forces.
Can you tell me about your experience in the military (rank/role/duties) and how that applies to your role with PVM?
I joined the Army in 2009 and I’ve had a couple of different jobs. For my first one, I was a Calvary Scout for a couple of years and then I transitioned over to an infantryman. After that, I was selected for the Special Forces and went through the qualification course from which I graduated as a Special Forces Weapon Sergeant. I did that for a number of years before switching over to being a Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant. That is my current role on my team.
Army Special Forces team operates in a 12-man team setting. We’re called Operations Detachment Alpha. Basically, we’re designed to work with partner forces at the battalion-size level. We train and advise 100 to 300 soldiers at a time. When I was in the Weapons Sergeant role, I would have multiple groups of different soldiers from a partner force that we were working with while deployed. I would be teaching, training and advising them on different tactics along with their roles and weapon systems. I was also managing their training plan and schedule for the day-to-day tasks and then worked with their leadership to plan those tasks. Along with that, we were usually working with an interpreter to translate the Points of Instruction (POI) that are given prior to going out and training. The POI is put into a PowerPoint or similar format in their language and presented to the group with the help of the interpreter.
That role set me up to be able to talk to people, find common ground with them, and make the information relevant to them.
What has helped me in the Special Operations side and military side more generally is the required leadership schools. I have been to multiple leadership schools as I have progressed in rank and it has given me presentation and communication skills. I’ve been through Special Forces instructor school and have learned how to teach people with various learning styles using various teaching styles.
Overall, that has set me up for success in my transition into the civilian world. I can understand what the problem is and have the ability to help them fix those problems efficiently while using my military experience.
What are the challenges and advantages of working as a public servant while holding a civilian position?
The biggest challenge is my schedule. Balancing time between work and military training can be tough. With the National Guard, there are requirements that have to be met every year. We drill quarterly and have annual training. In between that, there are professional development schools when you change rank or position.
The good thing about PVM and other military-friendly companies is that they are OK with that. I have been able to have this experience with PVM and serve at the same time. For example, I was worried about a work event that conflicted with a training event and I spoke with Marivic, Chief People Office at PVM, and she was accommodating to my training requirements. PVM has been awesome so far.
Tell me a little bit about PVM’s role in The Maritime and Defense Technology Hub and the partnerships that have formed with other tenants.
From what I have seen in the few months I have been with PVM is that we frequently contribute to Hub gatherings and events. We always have at least one person present from the company at events and have hosted our own.
PVM’s leadership emphasizes the importance of networking and collaborating with other companies, and I would agree with them. Building those relationships is the future of growing the company. There is a lot of opportunity for this at the Hub through the requirement of collaboration with other tenants in the building. I think that’s a good thing.
Additionally, we are currently partnering with fellow Hub tenant Pole Star Defense which is an awesome company. Everyone has been a pleasure to work with and we all collaborate to figure out a solution to a challenge. The projects we are working on for them are super important and I love them because they’re defense-related. Whether it’s the search and rescue system for the Coast Guard or the national tracking system they use, it’s something I am glad to be a part of.
How is it going with PVM’s other St. Pete client, Foundations for a Healthy St. Petersburg?
PVM’s relationship with the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg (FHSP) is great. What they’re trying to do for the St. Petersburg community is awesome. One of those things is trying to give less privileged companies and people the ability to grow and work with larger corporations. They do a lot with the community to put on job fairs and events. This ultimately supports their mission of achieving health equity through racial equity. FHSP uses metrics to track the progression of the city toward health equity.
PVM Founder and CEO Pat Mack is very intertwined with St. Pete. It’s where he’s from and he wants to give back to the city. Our relationship with FHSP is one of the many ways that we facilitate that.
How does your team work together to solve challenges for your client(s)? Can you give an example of a time when they went above and beyond to support your clients’ mission(s)?
I’ll use Pole Star as an example. We have two separate teams working on two different projects and I, as the Project Manager, oversee the teams and projects. We have daily stand-up meetings with Pole Star to go over our work from the previous day, our goals for the current day, and any issues we may be having getting those tasks accomplished. It’s the teamwork within PVM and with Pole Star that really makes it happen.
My team went above and beyond recently when I was asked to join a meeting with a client to go over a project. I asked Michael Jones and Michael Mclendon, a couple of our engineers, if they could also join in case there were any technical questions I wouldn't be able to answer. We joined the meeting along with the stakeholders for the project, and they were interested in seeing the dashboard and wanted a brief on what we had created so far. Jones and Mclendon pulled up the dashboard, talked everyone through it, and answered technical questions efficiently and professionally. Even though they had no idea that that was the direction the meeting would go, they executed it without a hitch. The client and stakeholders with extremely happy with the meeting. Having people like that on the team and in the company as a whole makes a difference, and really demonstrates the PVM way.
What made PVM stand out to you while job searching? What solidified that PVM was the right fit for you?
The people. Since I was hired, I have interviewed people for engineering positions, and I say, “It’s such a great company to work for. Everybody loves it, gets along and helps each other.” When I was in their shoes and being told the same things by PVM team members, I was thinking that it all sounded great, but they were pitching the company to me, and I wasn’t sure how much of a grain of salt I should take it with. I joined the company and found everything they told me to be true. So now when I interview people, I reassure them that it may sound too good to be true, but it really is 100% true. It’s crazy that there’s such a good work culture.
On top of that, Pat is down to earth and concerned about the happiness of each team member. He’d rather make sure you are comfortable and in turn, produce good work rather than have you in an uncomfortable situation where walking on eggshells is what makes you perform. That approach drives the culture of the company where everyone is provided with the opportunity to grow. This is especially important with the new 8(a) certification. Growth is inevitable and because the work culture is so strong, we are ready to take on those changes.