Career Notes 3.7.21
Ep 39 | 3.7.21

Stephen Hamilton: Getting the mission to the next level. [Military]


Stephen Hamilton: My name is Stephen Hamilton and I'm a Colonel in the United States Army and I am currently working at the Army Cyber Institute as a Technical Director and the Chief of Staff.

Stephen Hamilton: Computers have fascinated me since I was probably in the second grade, I had the VIC20. I wrote some BASIC programs. I had the old Compute magazine. It was difficult back then. We had I had one computer class, I think by the time I graduated high school, and I obviously did well in that class. But my whole goal was to do computer science and the military became a different part and it was mostly because I went to go to my brother's dorm at the University of Texas at Arlington, and it just seemed it seemed chaotic and I just felt like I needed more order. So I ended up applying and then coming to West Point. So that's what got me started. And then, of course, when I was at West Point, computer science was was my degree of choice as soon as I hit the ground. After I graduated, I had a difficult time choosing a branch because there wasn't any branch that directly related to computing. The one thing that I did hold on to is that is the fact that I already had my ham radio license. I was interested in radio, and so I decided to branch Signal. And I think that that made sense at the time.

Stephen Hamilton: Then after that, there was this kind of a funny story, but it was somebody that came to the motor pool and they said, "Hey, we heard that you're a computer scientist. We have this thing that's written in ColdFusion and nobody knows how to operate it." And I was like, "Oh, no, ColdFusion. That's terrible." And they're like, "Wait a minute, you've heard of it?" And I was like, "Oh, yeah, I used it when I was coming up or when I was at West Point." And so and they're like, "Oh, well, you know, you're our guy. You're coming up." So I immediately moved to the G6 and I started programming a ColdFusion web application called tack web. It was it became evident to me how important it was when I when I met with the Commanding General. And he's like, "So you're my tack web guy." He's like, "This is what I want you to do. Like, I need this over override status on this specific report." It was very, very detailed. And General Sharp was absolutely amazing with telling me exactly what he wanted and so I I spent a couple about two and a half years probably just working on that website.

Stephen Hamilton: Code it first and realize what you're trying to do, understand the nuances of it, throw that code away, and then just code it again, and then you'll have that elegant solution. And I even do that with my writing as well. But I think that that's sometimes your brain has to just understand what's going on. And there's you can design and plan all you want, but when you actually write the code at the end of the day and I'm not I'm not knocking design, believe me, not at all. But I'm just saying that that sometimes you'll write it and you'll realize that there was just nuances that you didn't plan for. And and once you've done it, though, and you've walked down that lane, you can go back and say, just like you said, you could say, oh, there's a there's a way, better way of doing this.

Stephen Hamilton: When I left Fort Stewart, I ended up working on another website for like a battalion tracking some more of a tactical level at Fort Hood. And that was just because word of mouth in the Army happens. And I had a battalion commander who was like, hey, I heard you did a bunch of cool Web stuff at Fort Stewart. I need you to to fix this. And it was like our training slides and tracking our soldiers. And that became super fascinating. And I worked on that. I also worked on a bunch of communications equipment because that is when I deployed to Iraq. And I I was kind of working two pieces. One was I was like the automation training person, but I was also the operations person for for the networks and trying to figure out how to monitor them efficiently. And then I will say as a as a junior officer or even even a junior Major, I guess as a senior Captain, you know, I did my company command, but I, I really got to a point where I felt like I was getting burned out. I had to two kids and I was gone all the time. I was working weekends and I really hit a burnout point so I was planning on getting out of the Army. And my last ditch effort was I applied to teach at West Point and the computer science department. I thought that would be a cool thing because first it would get me to advance my degree. I could go back and learn more about computer science. It was it was a challenging and rewarding assignment that gave me pretty stable hours to for the family as my kids were young at that point. So that's kind of what happened there. And then basically, by the time I was leaving, we were in a high deployment time, 2011. But this cyber was just kicking off and General Alexander personally came up to West Point and he pulled us all into Cybercom. So that's how I got my CYBERCOM assignment working in the J5.

Stephen Hamilton: One of the things that's helped me become successful is that the first thing I would do is start with why if you you just got to be flexible and you just got to be positive and then and you've got to have your why. Like, do you feel like you're doing what you do? Like, is it important? Is the mission getting done? Or if you understand what the organization is trying to do, your heart should be in getting that organization there. It's not it's not a selfish thing. It's not about you improving, but it's all about getting the organization to that next level.