Executive Spotlight

Our Executive Spotlight series features interviews with accomplished business leaders from around the world and puts a focus on insights, ideas and perspectives that shape organisational culture and performance across key industry sectors.

Mark Aslett, President and CEO of Mercury Computer Systems Inc

We spoke with Mark Aslett, President and CEO of Mercury Computer Systems Inc. (NASDAQ - MRCY) for his views on leadership, innovation, what emerging leaders must be mindful of in order to accelerate their careers, and more.

Mark, could you offer a brief thumbnail about Mercury Computer Systems and its positioning in today’s defense and commercial electronics market?

Mercury was founded 30 years ago. Public on the NASDAQ since 1998. I joined November 2007 to complete a financial turnaround and transformation.

Today, Mercury is a best-of-breed provider of commercially developed specialist sensor processing subsystems for the defense ISR market. Our high performance computing subsystems power many of the advanced sensors on some of our nation’s most important military programs platforms. We employ approximately 750 people around the world and are headquartered in Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Mercury has grown from Massachusetts across the United States and globally to places like the United Kingdom and Japan. To what extent has globalisation impacted Mercury and what opportunities or obstacles does that open up?

One of the things we did very early on in the turnaround was to segment our market differently than we had in the past to open up avenues of growth. We focused on the globalisation of defense electronics, which has greatly increased our total addressable market.

As an OEM provider of specialised sensor processing subsystems the opportunity around globalisation for Mercury has been to develop new technologies and capabilities that enable our customers, the large US Defense Prime contractors, to export more of their goods overseas.

In the defense industry, however, this can be somewhat of a challenge as a lot of the technology is sensitive in nature and requires special export licenses, protecting our intellectual property as well as ensuring that our technology can’t be tampered with when deployed overseas.

These are all items that we are now pretty good at in terms of globalisation and we have successfully grown defense revenues by over 60% organically in the last four years. Going forward, we’re now looking to accelerate that organic growth through acquisitions.

A lot of people are talking about the need for innovation. What does innovation mean within Mercury Computer Systems and do you have any observations on how to be a catalyst for innovation?

Innovation is one of the keys to our success. Our marketing tagline is: Where Challenges Drive Innovation. We solve very difficult sensor processing challenges that can’t be solved with off-the-shelf commercial computing and we spend approximately US$40-50 million per year on R&D doing just that.

A recent development that has added to the speed and level of our innovation was the formation of a new customer-facing unit. This is a consultative engineering services business that employs some of the smartest people we have. They work collaboratively with our customers to solve their most difficult problems – so, in essence, it’s really a customer-led innovation model.

A recent success story is that one of our customers needed a very dense digital storage subsystem for a particular next-generation airborne surveillance application. Our team came up with a ruggedised 92TB digital storage subsystem that they developed at one-fifth of the price and in one-third of the time as compared with our customers’ in-house engineering groups. To put this feat in perspective, the entire collection of the Library of Congress can be stored in 9TB. We developed something 10-times larger in less than a year. This area has now become a pretty successful product line for us.

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