Meet Team Kadant – Aaron Hickman, Business Development Manager

Business Development Manager
Worked at Kadant Solutions Division Since: February 2013

Tell me about your career path and how you got to Kadant.
aaron hickmanI was an active duty Naval Officer prior to working for Kadant Solutions Division.  I served all 8 ½ years in the Submarine Force.  After finishing my training program, I served on the USS Tennessee, a ballistic missile submarine like the one profiled on 60 Minutes, making two strategic deterrent patrols and then the Nuclear Refueling Overhaul.  After that, I moved to submarine operations and worked at Commander Submarine Forces Atlantic.  I was responsible for the real-time operations of all submarines in the Atlantic ocean.  I am proud of my career in the US Navy and continue to serve as a Naval Reserve Officer.

Deciding to leave active duty, wasn’t easy. However, I had earned a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, and I had lots of experience working with people in a technical problem solving environment. So, when the opportunity to work with Kadant Solutions Division as their Business Development Manager for new industries came up, I saw it as the perfect marriage of my technical abilities and desire to work with people! Walking into factories, learning how they make the products they make, and helping the process managers overcome their problems is really an ideal fit for me.

What are the biggest lessons you learned during your time in the Navy?
While relying on your rank or seniority is an acceptable and sometimes necessary form of leadership, building relationships you can rely on to accomplish the goals and objectives of a unit tends to result in the greatest level of job satisfaction.

What is your favorite aspect of your job? Learning how things are made. Since I’ve joined Kadant Solutions, I have visited snack cracker manufacturing facilities, steel and aluminum plants, roofing shingle plants, and various textile production facilities. It truly amazes me that a finished product portfolio as diverse as these all can benefit from the products and solutions we provide.

How did you develop an interest in engineering?
Lego’s and Nintendo! As a kid, I loved building with Lego’s. Some kids feel constrained by the building guides and prefer less structured, creativity. I loved knowing that if I followed the guide, I would get the results shown in the pictures. Then along came Nintendo and I was hooked on video games. I also enjoyed taking apart the games and controllers to clean out the dust to make the games work better. This was my own way of troubleshooting. As an engineer and in my role in business development, the value I offer new customers is knowledge of that road map to process improvement that we have previously implemented elsewhere, and a willingness to troubleshoot issues when they arise.

In your words, an initial sales conversation should feel…
Exciting – all the hard work is done. The customer we are sitting in front of has problems they want resolved. They are hoping we can solve them otherwise they wouldn’t have agreed to the meeting. The manufacturing world is filled with smart people so really all that is left to do is explain what our products can do and the problems they have previously solved, and then get out of the way.

What do you like to do in your free time and why?
Fold laundry and watch sports. That’s ironic, because it seems like that all I do in my spare time is fold laundry while watching sports! I’m married and when our third child was born, we had three kids under 3. So, we do a lot of laundry in our house, and it’s hard for me to justify doing anything during my free time other than being a dad. Good thing for me, I have the best wife and kids in the world!

Where would you like to go on your dream vacation?
I love sailing! The moment you secure the engine or your outboard and are under sail power alone is like taking the weight of the world off your shoulders. So, a dream vacation for me would be to sail to the Bahamas or cruise around the Mediterranean with my family and a few friends with their families (so it would have to be a pretty big yacht).

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