Transitioning to the Civilian Side of Service
After nine years in the Army and achieving the rank of staff sergeant, Crosby decided to try things on the civilian side, joining Lockheed Martin to continue his work on the Matrix Switch project.
“It was a really tough decision to get out,” he said. “I had a great time in the military. I learned so much and it helped shape who I am.”
But Crosby added that joining an organization like Lockheed Martin, which has strong military ties much like Empower AI, made it an easier transition.
“I moved from doing that job in the military to doing it on the civilian side,” he explained. “Everyone spoke the same language, had the same experiences as me. So, that was an easy transition.”
Today, Crosby’s job at Empower AI is anything but easy. He manages the company’s largest contract – the General Services Administration’s Digital Innovation for GSA Infrastructure Technologies contract, known as “DIGIT.” In this role, Crosby oversees the program that helps GSA drive the adoption of digital technologies such as intelligent automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning across the entire agency.
“Everything I’ve done before – the military, my education, my career at places like Lockheed Martin and Leidos – has prepared me for this role at Empower AI,” he said. “We are six months into the program, and I am so excited about what we are doing – true digital transformation. In an important way, we are still serving the country.”
And while such a large, significant change is challenging, Crosby said he uses his military training daily, especially when it comes to leadership.
“People say it all the time, that the military produces some of the best leaders in the world, and I stand with that,” he said. “The military’s definition of leadership is, ‘the power to influence others to want to do what you know must be done.’ I try to hone that craft every day, trying to be a better leader. The military gave me that foundation to know how to do that well.”
Crosby continues to stay in contact with his military colleagues, and also enjoys supporting veteran causes, such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the Boulder Crest Foundation, an initiative he discovered when he joined Empower AI. And of course, as a veteran on Veterans Day, he will do his part to reflect on the service and sacrifice of the millions of veterans across the country.
“Veterans Day means a lot to me,” he said. “All of that service, and all of that hard work with what those people do for all of us. It’s all so we can have freedom to express our political views, our religious views. All of those feelings are protected by the military, doing that hard work.”
He continued: “What I learned in the military, it’s that you are part of One. There’s no color, no party affiliation, no religion. All of that is set to the side. It’s about all coming together for a common mission. In the Army, we were all green. People rallied together to serve. It helps with diversity. Why can’t we do that in other parts of our lives?
“That’s what I would ask others to think about this Veterans Day,” he said.
U.S. Army Veteran, and now Vice President, Deputy General Manager,
GSA DIGIT Program Manager for Empower AI
Since he was a boy growing up near Charleston, S.C., Empower AI’s Clayton Crosby always knew he was going to be in the military.
“It wasn’t a matter of if I would join, it was simply a matter of which branch,” said Crosby, who joined Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) at 15 years old, and eventually served in the U.S. Army for nine years. “I always knew the military would be a part of my life.”
Crosby said the military life was something he saw all around him growing up, with several relatives and neighbors who had served in the military. But it was his uncle Louis Crosby who had the biggest influence.
“My uncle had served in the Army and he had been to Germany, Korea and several other places,” Crosby said. “He had all these stories exploring the world. So, he had a big influence on me getting into ROTC in high school. He taught me a lot about military history and what it meant to serve.
“All of that compounded for me, and the more I learned, the more I knew I was going to join,” he continued. “It was in me. I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.”
By the time Crosby joined in 1991, he explained that basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., “wasn’t that big of a deal,” noting that in addition to being a leader in ROTC in high school, he had also completed a junior ROTC boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., with the Marines, which was a great steppingstone.
“I was prepared, and I was already a leader, so it was a natural fit,” he said.
After completing his training and becoming a platoon leader, he signed up to be a cannon crew member, which meant having to learn a lot of technical details on how to fire and control the “big guns,” including the powerful self-propelled “Howitzer” cannon. And more important, the cannon crew also had a much better college tuition incentive attached to it.
“I had already made the determination that I would go to college after my service to continue to learn, and the cannon crew had a higher tuition benefit,” he said. Crosby eventually earned a bachelor’s in Computer Engineering, and master’s degrees in Technology Management and Business Administration, combining his love of technology that started in the military, with his passion for service and leading people.
And like his uncle before him, Crosby got to explore plenty of places around the world during his time in uniform, with assignments in Germany and Kuwait, and plenty of places across the United States as well, including Fort Gordon, Ga., and Fort Bragg, N.C. That’s where he decided to “reclassify” from being a master gunner to a more technical role – in this case, satellites.
“It was a very technical job, working the big satellites in the sky,” he said, noting that the assignment at Fort Bragg led him to three of his proudest achievements: Winning the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Award at Fort Bragg, being the government lead on the “Matrix Switch” project to connect electronically all worldwide Army communication commands, and most important, meeting his wife of 18 years, Yong.
“I’m a family man, first and foremost,” Crosby said. “All these things on the professional side, that’s what I do, but my family focus defines who I am.”