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Who Knows Where Operations Research Will Lead You?

One of the nice aspects of working in operations research is that you can end up working in practically any field. I know a lot about the United States Postal Service, Major League Baseball, auction design, voting systems, and many other areas because that is where my research and reading in operations research took me.

Compared to Ronald Johnson, however, I am hopelessly narrow in my skills and interests. Major General Johnson was, until recently, the number two engineer in the US Army, as reported in the New York Times (thanks to Barry List from INFORMS for the pointer). His responsibilities were described as follows:

Before retiring from the military, Johnson was the deputy commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, the second-highest-ranking engineer in the Army. He supervised $18 billion of reconstruction projects in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 and commanded the 130th Combat Engineer Brigade in Bosnia from 1996 to 1998.

Now, however, he has a new job: he was hired by the National Basketball Association to be in charge of their referees.

While Johnson readily acknowledges that he does not know anything about refereeing, he knows quite a bit about difficult rebuilding efforts.

Why was he able to make this sort of career change?

N.B.A. officials are highlighting Johnson’s management and analytical skills.

And where did he get those analytical skills? Operations research, of course.

Unquestionably, Johnson did not take the typical career path to the N.B.A.’s executive suites. The commissioner’s office has generally been populated by lawyers and basketball people. Johnson, a 1976 graduate of West Point, studied mathematics and mechanical engineering. He later earned a master’s degree in operations research and systems analysis from Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial Engineering, and a master’s degree in strategy from the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies.

This is a great example of the flexibility analytical skills provide in one’s career.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Greg Glockner | July 10, 2008 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the places you’ll go! (with a degree in OR). Sorry, couldn’t resist!

  2. Pete | July 22, 2008 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like you’ve learned a lot from your research. It’s great that you get to meet so many people and learn so many new things. I wish I had a job like that.

  3. L. Thayer | July 29, 2008 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    The comic strip Tank Mcnamara (sp) is having fun with the idea of a military person being in charge of a sports organization. Based on the drawings, it is based on this story.

  4. Michael Trick | July 29, 2008 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    You can check out those comics at Go Comics (around July 29, 2008).

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    Who Knows Where Operations Research Will Lead You?…

    One of the nice aspects of working in operations research is that you can end up working in practically any field. I know a lot about the United States Postal Service, Major League Baseball, auction design, voting systems, and many other areas because …