This week’s Orlando Profiles in Tech features John Meyers, executive director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD).
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This week’s Orlando Profiles in Tech features John Meyers, executive director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD). Find out why he says Orlando holds the key to the modeling, simulation and training industry and the reason why he’ll always keep his windows in his zoom background.
Have you experienced an “only in Orlando” moment? If so, what was it?
Yes, it was during a Teams discussion with one of our industry partners. We were talking about data science and I was explaining that over the past four years we built up our data science group to almost 20 extremely talented personnel. The industry partner, who was from out of town, was awestruck that we were able to retain more than two data scientists. He went on to say that everyone has been challenged to retain these highly skilled and specialized individuals. That’s when it really struck me that this is one of the great advantages that Orlando brings – the tech environment and highly technical ecosystem of Orlando just naturally attracts talent that loves the type of work and solving the hard problems.
What brought you to the Orlando region? What’s kept you here?
In 2013, I was assigned to take on the Executive Director role for NAWCTSD in Research Park, right next to UCF. Most folks don’t realize that there is a Navy Base in Orlando that is home to all four services of the military. The Team Orlando ecosystem consists of a formal partnership between DoD , industry and academia that focuses on human performance, modeling, simulation and training. This mini ecosystem in Orlando collectively puts out around $6B every year in contracts for training products and services for our military. Every year, nearly 18,000 people come to Orlando from all over the world to the see the latest and greatest technology at the annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) at the Orange County Convention Center. What has kept me here is the sense of community, the collaboration and the cutting edge tech this unique ecosystem brings.
What makes Orlando the right place for your business? How does being in Orlando contribute to your business success or personal growth?
For our mini ecosystem, Orlando is the keystone of the modeling, simulation, training and human performance community. The key ingredient of this area for us is having all four military services, industry and academia located all in one place with a synergized focus. Having the entertainment industry and gaming industry who also focus in technology that gives you the ability to feel like you are in a different reality is the perfect collaborative environment for providing modeling, simulation and training products for our service members. The technical challenges and volume of work is tremendous here, so having over 550,000 students within a 100-mile radius is something that is absolutely essential, which I don’t think is replicated anywhere else in the country.
What makes the Orlando tech ecosystem unique?
The most unique aspects of the Orlando tech ecosystem are the extremely strong, collaborative mini ecosystems that exist in the area. The Team Orlando ecosystem is just one of many mini technical ecosystems in Orlando. Medical City is another great example of a highly collaborative mini ecosystem, with UCF, UF, Valencia, Nemours Children’s hospital, and many others focused in the life sciences. It is no surprise that the largest VA hospital in the world was built in medical city with a high tech teaching center that incorporated some of the latest and greatest in modeling, simulation and training products. The High Tech Corridor and the Space Coast with the ever-growing commercial space program are more examples. There are so many of these mini ecosystems, with connections running through and between most of them. The Orlando Tech Council Ecosystem Committee recognized this and focused on building tools to continue to foster, grow and showcase all of these micro and macro technical ecosystems in Central Florida. This is what truly makes the Orlando tech ecosystem so unique.
What’s one thing you wish Orlando had? What will it take to make that a reality?
As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, I do miss having four seasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love the five months of awesome weather we have here, but I’m still getting used to the other seven months of just plain hot. I strategically have positioned my computer camera in the office to ensure that the windows are visible in the background as a subtle way to let those on the other end of meeting know that I am very happy to be in Orlando. Even though I can’t change the weather, being in the tech industry allows for opportunities to explore the latest and greatest in virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality, making it easy to quickly forget the environment you are in. And even if you are not in the tech industry, you can always visit the entertainment industry here to escape from reality for a bit like many others do.
If you had to describe to an out-of-town friend what it’s like to live, work, learn and play in Orlando, what would you say?
The experience is very much like what most folks experience when they visit their favorite vacation spot, only it’s not just for a long weekend and I get to live and work here too! The technical community in Orlando is the best in the world as far as I’m concerned and because of that, coupled with the innovative and collaborative spirit of the ecosystem here, it raises the technical knowledge, skills and capabilities of the whole community. And when you have such a rewarding and fulfilling experience at work, amidst the backdrop of getting to experience your favorite vacation spot, why would anyone not want to live in Orlando? It is no surprise as to why so many people are moving to Orlando, making it one of the nation’s fasting growing cities!
The Orlando Tech Council is composed of private industry, resource organizations and public partners that work to develop new programs with the core objectives: strengthen the Orlando region’s innovation resources, create new opportunities for companies to scale, and to amplify the region’s success stories, raising the global profile of Orlando as a leading community for entrepreneurship and innovation.