Getting to Know Acubed’s Director of Engineering for ADAM, Adam Nagel

What were you working on before you joined Acubed?

After earning my B.E. in Computer Engineering and working at Vanderbilt University, I moved on to a software development startup where I learned the value of really listening to customers. It taught me how to understand their problems deeply and, at the same time, how to think outside the box to solve them. It was exciting to have that ability and to do it more rapidly than the companies could do for themselves.

I knew I had more to offer and wanted to increase my impact, so I joined a major aerospace company. I was an associate director of their digital thread initiative, working with several business units on everything from missiles to spacecraft and radars to jet engines. With such variation in initiatives and stakeholders, I was responsible for finding common challenges and helping to create solutions that each unit could customize for their particular set of needs. I gained exposure to technical issues and the more human dynamics of working with teams as part of 100,000-plus employee organizations.

Why did you join Acubed?

I was drawn to Acubed’s unique ability to address challenges that will impact the future of flight as one of the world’s leading aerospace companies. We have access to incredible resources, can move quickly and we’re encouraged to use creativity to discover new solutions, which is a unique combination.

I was particularly attracted to the Advanced Digital Design And Manufacturing (ADAM) team because of its focus on integrating technologies to streamline and digitize the industry, issues that have been at the center of my work for the last 15 years. The solutions that ADAM creates address valuable business problems, and those problems are incredibly complex. Designing aerospace products can take five to ten years, tens of thousands of the world's smartest people and thousands of tools and systems that often don’t work well together without our contributions.

At ADAM, we’re creating solutions to solve these complex problems in a way that is understandable and accessible to those who need them now. Although the problems may be big, we get started quickly with a smaller scope that reduces the risk of implementation delays, and then we iterate. The team also prides itself on designing solutions that people want to use, know how to use and are empowered to transform as new challenges arise. These are core values that you don't find everywhere.

What does your day-to-day work look like?

As ADAM continues to grow and new opportunities arise, I’m responsible for working with our stakeholders, creating the structure needed to support these opportunities and bringing on new talent.

Stakeholders: I work with our business stakeholders to ensure the solutions we deliver are compliant with all cybersecurity and export control rules, as well as any other potential issues that may come up.

Structure: Improving processes and creating efficiency is not only something ADAM enables our customers to do; it’s also core to how we operate as a team. As we continue to evolve, I work with our internal team to organize and prioritize the team itself and our work.

Recruitment: I evaluate and hire new talent to bring into our collaborative environment. These hires support the growing demand for solutions that will accelerate the Airbus transition towards digital design and manufacturing.

What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve encountered so far? “Iterate and learn, iterate and learn again and deliver value” is one of the core values in Silicon Valley. It can be tempting to run with the first design. I see my biggest challenge as maintaining those values as we design new solutions, making sure that we continue to iterate until the ADAM team uncovers the most transformative opportunities for Airbus.

What advice do you have for someone interested in joining Acubed?

Similar to what drove me to Acubed, there is an extraordinary opportunity to solve problems that impact one of the most important aerospace companies in the world, but in a startup environment where you are encouraged to be creative and explore new ways of doing things. It’s also rare in the aerospace industry to have the ability to operate autonomously, while still having access to work closely with your stakeholders and understand their problems on a deep level.

What surprised me about working in aerospace is that many of the software techniques that have been refined and learned over the years, like continuous testing, continuous integration and agile work are not specific to software. I’ve spoken with mechanical and aerospace engineers who want to adopt the same techniques. Some of the opportunities and products we're building today are, in many ways, adapting what is working for software into aerospace engineering domains. Given the cross-utilization, there is an excellent opportunity for people familiar with the tools and techniques, even if they don’t have experience in aerospace specifically.

What do you do outside of work?

I’ve lived in Nashville for 20 years, which naturally gave rise to my musical side. I have a room full of guitars and amps from playing in a band and touring in my 20s. Being in a band was an exciting time, and as I look back, so much of what I learned has translated into my professional life. I learned how to craft a memorable melody, rhythm and performance, which is a valuable skill I rely on as I craft messaging and build presentations that I want to be memorable and resonate with stakeholders today. I also learned a lot about the value of practice, preparation and testing after picking up my instrument on stage and in front of 1,000 people, only to learn it doesn’t work. Now, I always have a backup plan. When I entered my 30s, I put the guitar in the passenger’s seat and started backpacking and camping. My wife and I are now working to reach our goal of exploring every U.S. National Park; we’re about halfway through.

If you’re interested in joining our team and building the future of flight, do reach out via our open roles here.