Ren Harman: Good morning. This is Ren Harman, the project director for VTStories. Today is September 29, 2017 at about 10:10 AM. We are in the Alumni Library in the Holtzman Alumni Center on the campus of Virginia Tech with a very special guest. If you could just say your full name, when you were born and where you were born.
Kevin Crofton: Hi. My name is Kevin Timothy Crofton, and I was born on March 28,1961 in Bethesda, Maryland.
Ren: What years did you attend Virginia Tech?
Kevin: From 1978 to 1982.
Ren: Your major?
Kevin: My major was in aerospace and ocean engineering.
Ren: You were born in Bethesda. Can you tell me just a little bit about growingup and your early life?
Kevin: Well, you know I really grew up in Fincastle, Virginia. You know that'sfarm country. You're surrounded by, well obviously you're surrounded by farms 1:00and it's a beautiful place, idyllic, just a wonderful place to grow up and to work and just kind of start your life. I loved it.
Ren: Yeah. Fincastle is it Botetourt County?
Kevin: Botetourt County, yeah.
Ren: It's a pretty small town, right?
Kevin: Oh it's like Podunk. It's Podunk, Virginia. It's a really tiny place butsuper nice.
Ren: I grew up in a small town in southwest Virginia, Richland, so we have alittle small-town connection. What can you tell me about your mom and dad?
Kevin: Oh yeah, let's see. My dad was educated at the University of Maryland. Hehas always been quite active in working with, initially when I knew of him when we were growing up he was involved in working with children that had disadvantaged growth and he was a bit of an educator. He was a musician when he 2:00was growing up. He plays the drums. He's an extremely active guy, and a gentleman farmer I would say, more as opposed to being a real farmer. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She spent some time at the university but she didn't get a degree. But I would have to say she's one of the most canny people I've ever met. She's well educated in her own right, an avid reader. You know they were great people, always encouraged us to go and do what we wanted to go do.
Ren: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
Kevin: I have an older sister named Lisa. She's also a former alumni of VirginiaTech. She's a veterinarian actually, was in the first class here in the Veterinary School. And I have a younger brother named Kelly. Kelly, he and I are best friends, more than just brothers, best friends, and a great guy.
Ren: Thank you. What kind of things did you get into growing up in Fincastle3:00with your friends and your siblings?
Kevin: Oh man, there's probably some things I probably can't talk about, but youknow, gosh, I was involved in theater in school. I was involved in wrestling and football. I can't say that I was a great athlete, but I tried. I was in the chess club. I just tried to get as involved as many things as I possibly could get involved it. Plus I enjoyed school. I loved going to school. I had some great professors or teachers there that you know basically, for example, Arlene Bell, she taught chemistry and physics and she was a great teacher. Actually she's probably what gave me the foundation and maybe a conviction that I could probably be successful from an engineering perspective.
Ren: What were the main economies of Fincastle at that time?
Kevin: It's a rural area and it's economically challenged. From my knowledge it4:00always has been. The opportunities to get out of Fincastle you know, were kind of far and few between. Many of my friends are still there. I feel like I'm one of the very fortunate people to have gotten an education and left and hopefully I could say that I've been successful.
Ren: Right. When did you first start thinking about college and how did VirginiaTech come up?
Kevin: I'm obviously quite a bit older than you. My heroes, I remember watchingNeil Armstrong walk on the moon. I remember that so vividly and at that point I just wanted to be an astronaut. My heroes were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Chris Kraft as a matter of fact, a former alumni of Virginia Tech. I wanted to be an astronaut and when you look at the pedigree of these individuals and what 5:00their school background was they were all generally naval air test pilots and they definitely were all aerospace engineers, and I wanted to model myself after them. The reason why I ended up at Virginia Tech is because while I tried to go to man of the academies I was never one of the first alternates to be selected. When I wasn't selected out of high school to go to the academies I started researching well where could I possibly go that still has that connection to potentially going into the astronaut corps, which schools in the best country had the best aerospace engineering schools. And it turns out that I had in my own backyard one of the best universities literally in the world in aerospace engineering, and that was Virginia Tech. I had to work like a dog to get into Virginia Tech at that point, because first of all I had put all my eggs in one 6:00basket, probably the wrong baskets. I had to do a little bit of community college just to be able to get into Virginia Tech to qualify to get into Virginia Tech, and that's how I ended up coming.
Ren: How close is Fincastle from Blacksburg?
Kevin: I can make it in an hour.
Ren: Wow. That's pretty close.
Kevin: That's very close, yeah. But you know, while it's a short waydistance-wise, it's a long way away from say Fincastle re Botetourt. You're coming to this enriched environment with multi-cultural experiences. I can't remember what the size of the school was when I was here, maybe 20,000, something like that, from so many different economic and diverse backgrounds is fantastic, just wanderlust for me.
Ren: Yeah. Do you remember your first memory of campus, what it looked like,what it smelled like maybe?
Kevin: Well that's a great question. I remember walking onto and seeing the7:00Drillfield and thinking my gosh, what a massive piece of property this is. And then beyond that though, even to this day there are still certain smells. There's the smell of the autumn. There's the Christmas of the winter days. It's the brutality of the winds in the middle of the winter. I remember those still today and they stick with you, but they are great memories as well. There are things that come back to you. When you come to campus it just kind of hits you, oh, I feel like I'm home again.
Ren: Let's talk a little bit about your freshman year at Virginia Tech. That was 19...?
Kevin: It would have been 1978.
Ren: Where did you live on campus?
Kevin: Gosh, I can't even remember anymore.
Ren: Pritchard, Vawter, Johnson?
Kevin: I want to say it was... I honestly don't remember. One of the guys, Carl,8:00and I were talking about that yesterday. I still don't remember specifically. Then I remember living off campus and that was over in Drapers Ghetto, or Drapers Meadow as it probably should really be called. For a while I rented a bit with my sister, and then had another roommate. Another friend and I found another spot and we kind of carried on from there.
Ren: What was the campus culture during that time in the late 1970s and in theearly 1980s?
Kevin: Well, I think it was really, I guess the culture was very competitive. Ithink that most of my peers I would say were extremely driven. The engineering school was quite a challenge to get through. I think it always is. It always will be, but it was really challenging for me in particular, I thought it was 9:00anyway. There's a huge esprit de corps. I mean we loved all the sports teams. We weren't very good in basketball. We were pretty okay in football at times. You know there's a lot of good spirit, you know, I enjoyed it. It was a welcome environment and it was a positive experience for sure.
Ren: When you entered in your freshman year did you come in as an engineering major?
Kevin: I did, I declared right up front, that's right.
Ren: That was the major you finished with?
Kevin: Correct. Through a lot of perseverance by the way.
Ren: [Chuckles] I was going to say. In this perseverance I'm sure there had tobe a lot of influential professors and advisors that you had here during that time. I'm sure you have many stories that you probably would like to share.
Kevin: First of all, probably my best professor that I can remember always being10:00encouraging and wanted to absolutely teach was Dr. Richard Goff. He was a fantastic professor. I had him for structures class. I had him for kinematics class as well, and I would say he was really inspirational as a teacher. I had a couple of other teachers who literally came into the classroom and told us that their objective is to fail at least half of the class. That's, particularly as a young man or a young person to have an adult come in and basically tell you that his objective is to cull you out, that's a tough feeling. So, I've had really positive experiences. I've had a few negative experiences, but when you blend it all together the schools is rife with really good teachers that really wanted to provide a good education, and at the same time make sure that you were a well 11:00taught engineer that could go out into the world and contribute. So it was discipline-oriented, and I know that I got a great analytical capability as a result of being here. So I would say the mission was accomplished at that point.
Ren: You talk about good experiences and bad experiences. I want to dive intothose a little bit. What are some of your favorite memories or experiences that kind of stick out that you most remember?
Kevin: Oh man, I loved working in the, for instance, I loved the lab work thatwe did in the wind tunnels. It was great. I mean every single one that we went into, whether it was the subsonic or the hypersonic wind tunnel, the whole experimentalism was really really enriching and fun. For me, the theory side of my education was always challenge. The lab worked definitely helped to cement 12:00what the theory was, but man, I really enjoyed that. They were really great. I liked doing the chemistry labs. I did appreciate the count courses, so it was a lot of really good fundamental educational experiences. The things that I really was challenged with was thermodynamics. I had to really struggle to get through my senior project. I would say that was the good and the bad. The good part of the senior project is that I had a great team to work with and we all knew what each other's capabilities were. We knew that, you know, I was pretty good at structures and at propulsion for example, and a couple of other guys were great at air foils and control surfaces. You get a team together and you are able to actually get a project and deliver it and that was hugely rewarding, and great to get it past you. You knew you had to get that grade to be able to get out of the school and it was good. 13:00
Ren: What kind of social clubs or events did you take part in?
Kevin: Well, I was primarily involved in KA. I was a Kappa Alpha here. I had agreat bunch of friends. Actually most of them were also in the engineering school, so a lot of us had to study together and play together. We tried to do good works in the community together when we could. They were a great bunch of friends.
Ren: Some things, difficult experiences with coursework, and were there anymissing home kind of things that happened or any personal struggles you remember?
Kevin: Truthfully, I didn't really miss home ever. I've always had wanderlustand that's why I live in the UK now. I've always looked to kind of expand my horizons. I'm a risk-taker by nature. I think, gosh, I lost my train of thought. 14:00Sorry. Could you give me the last part of the question?
Ren: Just difficult experiences and were there any personal struggles.
Kevin: There were several times when in school where I was very close to givingup and changing majors. If I revert back to the story I told you about the one professor who declared his intention is to fail half the class. Well, I was fortunate to be in the half that failed, and to stay in the progression at that time if you stopped and had to retake that class you were out of the progression and therefore you would probably be another year here at the school. And so what I ended up doing is doubling up the following sequence in the calculus class and 15:00took the same calculus class again and got an A in both of them. But that was the first time that I had had any struggle at all with anything that had to do with coursework. High school was easy. It was a breeze, and to get a failing mark here was first of all stunning. Second of all, I thought oh my God, I'm not going to be able to get through this. And as I already kind of alluded to, there were other parts of the aerospace engineering classwork that I struggled with, which was primarily theory-based, and I remembered long nights thinking man I'm never going to get this. I just remember, I kind of reflect at that time my parents basically said, "You know you've taken this on, you're going to finish it. You've got to go do it." And they kind of instilled that with no matter what you were involved in through life. And also it's a personal drive. I didn't want 16:00to fail. To be a failure would have been an awful experience, and so you just suck it up and go at it.
Ren: Had you changed majors do you know what major you would have went to?
Kevin: Oh man, not a clue. I really didn't have...
Ren: Was there a back-up plan?
Kevin: I was just getting ready to say that, I had no back-up plan, none. Youknow I had been telling everybody for my entire life I'm going to be an astronaut, and there was no way that I was not going to finish becoming an aerospace engineer. That's just kind of how things went.
Ren: Looking at the time that you were here were there any major events thatwere playing out on the national stage in terms of news or politics that you can kind of remember how that was received in Blacksburg?
Kevin: You know, I think the one really that pops out is I remember... Okay, so17:00the deal with my parents was that as long as I kept my grades up they would help me with paying through school, because I alluded to A) I was [a KAB] that had a couple of classes I didn't do that great in, my grades suffered. And so I was put into a position where I had to find ways to pay for my schooling, and I did anything. I sang a lounge lizard act. I sold blood. I sold furniture.
Ren: You sold blood? [Laughs]
Kevin: Blood, yeah. You go down and sell blood so they can make plasma thatcould then be used for various forms of treatment. If I remember correctly I think you would get $15 for I want to say it was a pint. I think that's what it was, and that was a huge amount of money then, right. But anyway, I ended up getting a job in the, because as I mentioned my sister was part of the vet school, she got me a job in the veterinary labs and I'm sitting there washing 18:00Erlenmeyer flasks and test tubes and thing that use collectibles. I remember listening to the radio and I distinctly remember when Ronald Reagan got shot. That's probably, at that time during my tenure here at school that's the first thing that I absolutely remembered right then. And I can reflect back, I know exactly what I was doing at the time I heard that news and it was just an absolute shock, and it was a shock to the country. And I think the other thing I would say is also I remember watching the space shuttle land for the first time ever. It had already gone into space, and I remember sitting in one of my aero classes and we stopped the lecture and they turned on the TVs and you could 19:00watch the space shuttle land, and that was huge. So those are probably the two most extreme events. One is of such an awful feeling that the President has been shot, and the other one is this huge euphoria of seeing something that's occurring in my lifetime in the aerospace industry. It was fantastic you know.
Ren: When Reagan was shot do you remember how your classmates and other peoplearound campus, there was a real, you know, a lot of people didn't know maybe what would happen, right?
Kevin: We were stunned, absolutely stunned. Of course some of us were old enoughto kind of remember when Robert F. Kennedy was shot. We all probably remembered when Martin Luther King was shot. We kind of alluded to when JFK was shot, but in our real memory this is probably the first pivotal event, and you didn't know what was going to happen for the leadership of the country. At one point you didn't know who was really leading. Was the President going to survive? It was a 20:00huge turmoil at that point, quite scary actually.
Ren: Absolutely. So once you graduated from Virginia Tech in 1982, a bachelor'sdegree in aerospace and ocean engineering, where did your career kind of take you after that?
Kevin: So I worked in the Department of Defense. I was with the Marine Corps andwas responsible for their 2.75 and 5-inch Zuni rocket programs. I also was then assigned to the Naval Air Test Center and worked on some of the test protocols for the Harrier jump jet. It was great and really thrilling. I did that for about 31/2 years and then went directly into basically working in industry for United Technologies, still in the aerospace industry. I was fortunate to be part 21:00of the propulsion team for the standard missile program, which is used to provide carrier air defense. And then subsequently became what was the foundation for the Patriot Surfaced Air Missile which was used quite effectively in Israel to knock down incoming missiles. And then I was the program manager for the, it's called inertial upper stage propulsion system that's used to, at the time used to take satellite systems using the robot arm from the space shuttle out the arm then releases the satellite and then the booster motors then either place it in geosynchronous orbit, or into planetary missions. So I was 22:00the program manager for the booster motors that are used to launch that satellite system. So the Magellan Probe for example and Voyager were all part of products that were released using my, I call them 'my', my rocket motors into space.
Kevin: I tell this story quite often. I told you my desire was to be anastronaut. Of course I never became an astronaut, but a couple of friends of mine and I we did cut hair off of each other's head and we spackled it to the side of one of those rocket motors, so we do have DNA in space and we're quite proud of that you know.
Ren: Oh, wow. That's so cool.
Kevin: Could have gotten in trouble for it, but it turned out quite harmless atthe end.
Ren: That's awesome. You mentioned before the interview you live in the United23:00Kingdom. How did you end up there?
Kevin: That's a good question. So the first part of my career roughly nine yearswas in the aerospace industry. When I worked at United Technologies I actually was living in California. And if you reflect back on what was going on in the Silicon Valley at that time in the late 80s or early 90s, it was the start of the growth of the semi-conductor industry as we know it today. It was also when the human geno experiment was going on, and it's also really when the first real biomedical programs are going on. Being in a slow growth industry at that time, remember all the defense cuts were being incorporated, so the spending for defense programs was down. The spending from just commercial air development was 24:00down. So you could see that the, at least at the time you felt that the industry itself was probably in a long long decline. And yet, literally just over the hill you can look down into the valley and you can see all this incredible growth in these other new industries. I had a review with my boss at the time and basically said I was doing great, here's your raise. And I asked him, "Well, what do I need to do to be at your level?" His comment to me was, he says, "Well Kevin we haven't had a vice president of your age since 1964 in technologies." And so my next question is, "Well does that mean all I have to do is get older?" 25:00Of course he regretted that, and he said, "Oh no, no, no, we know that we need to do something for yourself and a couple of others and we're going to put you on that path and it will be in a couple of years."
Kevin: Well for me that was like a light switch and I realized that probablyit's time for me to make a jump. So why the semiconductor industry, and I know this is a long-winded answer, but I jumped into the semiconductor industry because it was a high-tech industry with fairly little engineering discipline, great science, great innovation, but really no product and technical discipline. I started working for a company at that time that was a market leader in their space and the management team there taught me how to run a successful capital 26:00equipment business in the semiconductor industry. And then several years later I had the opportunity to go join a company in the UK. They had great technology, great products, a great engineering team. Terrible product management, terrible product marketing, absolute inability to operationally control themselves, but I knew that they had a basis of something to build upon. And I had been going through some other challenges in my life at that time and I had an opportunity to go. And by the way, that's a euphemism for I got divorced, and I needed a change and I decided to go do it. Here we are 12 years after that decision, 13 years almost, and it is one of the most successful businesses in my industry. 27:00People thought I was nuts for making that change. Why would you leave this company, Lam Research and go to this other company? Are you nuts? And you know maybe I was.
Ren: You mentioned you are a risktaker, do you think that kind of played intotaking that risk?
Kevin: For sure it did. Yeah, and wanderlust. I always wanted to see the worldand participate in the world and this gave me that opportunity and it's been wonderful.
Ren: President chief executive officer of SPTS Technologies?
Kevin: SPTS Technologies, that's right.
Ren: And they are just a global semiconductor and micro electronic devicemanufacturing headquartered in the United Kingdom, so there you go.
Kevin: That's it, exactly. Yeah.
Ren: I do want to mention MBA in International Business for American University.
Kevin: Yes, that's right.
Ren: What was the impetus to pursue that degree?
Kevin: That's a great question. So the reason why I decided to do that is I felt28:00like while I had a great engineering degree, of course I did, but the understanding of business and the skillset that one needs to be able to run a business, and the finance people they can intimidate you if you let them, right, so I kind of felt like I needed to get some of the business skills into my repertoire. And in insight I chose to go to the American University and get an MBA in International Business and it was great. I found the coursework quite easy. I think it's also for by virtue of having spent so much time here at Tech studying and studying and studying relentlessly. It was quite an interesting and easy degree to go achieve, and it gave me a broader more well-rounded view of various other disciplines in business. It was great. 29:00
Ren: Kind of get back, ask you a couple of questions here about Virginia Tech,which is obviously why we're here and why you're here on campus. If someone simply says the words Virginia Tech what's the first thing you think of?
Kevin: Always the first thing I think about are the wonderful people, the staff,not just the faculty but the staff and their desire to participate in the world. That's the first thing I think of. The second thing I think of is the human spirit that's here, and Tech has gone through a number of challenges. Anyway, it's overcome a lot of difficult times and has always stuck together as a community and I really appreciate that as a former, or as an alumni, as a former 30:00student. I think that's probably the first thing I think about. The second thing I think about is how great the fundamentals, the education fundamentals are outstanding here. I've got a very very good education. It has allowed me to leave Fincastle, Virginia. It has allowed me to go see the world. It's allowed me to achieve most of my dreams, and that's purely down to having gone to Virginia Tech. I'm sure of that. So those are the first two main thoughts that come to mind for me.
Ren: Are you involved with Virginia Tech in ways? So there was a Gallup study acouple of years ago and it said Virginia Tech in comparison to other universities their alumni-base has this high high dedication to the University. And I know in the past few years gifts to engineering and to Student Affairs, 31:00what kind of spurred your interest into donating and giving back to your alma mater?
Kevin: Well, it's a little bit to what I alluded to a few minutes ago. Myeducation and my experience here at Virginia Tech allowed me to probably go places that I wouldn't have gone before. I could easily still be in Fincastle, Virginia for example and this afforded me the opportunity to go do that and I am forever grateful for that. Even when I couldn't afford it I've always for the past 30 more years have given monetarily back to the school. I just happened to have been fortunate enough to be able to give more later. That's certainly one 32:00aspect of it, but I also from a philanthropy perspective that's one part of it. The other part of it is I like coming back here and interacting with the students. I like hearing what they are doing. I like encouraging them to go try and doing different things. I've been fortunate enough to have been asked to give a couple of lectures here to the students and I find it exhilarating. I mean it's fantastic. I don't want to just give monetarily. I want to give in many other ways as I possibly can, so I've been able to do that.
Ren: As a faculty chair in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering andthen the Department that bears your name from this, that's wonderful, thank you. I want to ask you kind of changes that you've seen over time. When you graduated 33:00in 1982 this campus looked much different than it does today. What other changes have you seen maybe both big and small?
Kevin: Oh man, there's so many. Obviously, the infrastructure is so much better.There's so many how do I pick them? Okay, when I heard that Virginia Tech was rated as the best food university in the world or in the United States or something like that, all I could think back was that can't be true, because the food that we had was pretty much gray matter that was served on a tray. You know so I'm thinking that must be some sort of fictitious rumor. And then I had a chance to go and eat in some of the places and you go, "Oh, this food is really good," so that's one thing. That's a huge change.
Ren: Hibachi and everything, right.
Kevin: Yeah. What else? Okay, the idea about that I May Serve, the motto of theschool. It's always been there, but it's actually being lived now. That wasn't 34:00really the way it was when I was here, so that whole enriching environment didn't exist when I was here in the late '70s and early '80s. To see that really in motion and as a body of work is awesome. That's another thing, and I think the third thing is when you look at the educational experience that the kids get here today, I know from the sophomore, if I'm thinking about the engineering school, I know from the sophomore year onwards, and in some cases the freshman year onwards, they are already working in teams. They are already learning how to interact together and identify what he or she is good at, where are their particular skills, what can we take advantage of, how can we deliver a better product. And that's a very different experience than what I had. And I think 35:00maybe the fourth thing I would say is that I think the kids and the faculty are far, the faculty in particular are far more oriented towards helping the students to be successful and wanting to make sure that they actually learn, as opposed to having to learn it for yourself and get by. And those fundamentally changes, it changes the entire experience that kids have today. I wish I could come back. That's how I feel. I wish I could be a student again today.
Ren: If you ever get any free time.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly. Right.
Ren: I'm sure we would welcome you back. Yeah, the ethics of care and teachingand with faculty that really care, students see that they care, that means the 36:00world obviously. You kind of mentioned a little bit about some changes, but are there any kind of changes that you would like to see, or any advice that maybe you could give to the deans and the president provost or whatever?
Kevin: Yeah. I think there's a couple of things that I would say. First of all,no disrespect to the... I should say it this way, the outreach to alumni has gotten better and better over the last say five to ten years. For the first 20 years that I was out of the University I never heard from the Alumni Association, never. It was my giving as opposed to somebody soliciting or asking me, "Hey, would you be willing to give?" That's different, and I still think that is something that Tech can continue to improve upon." I think the other thing is that I personally like to see, I would like to see that there's an 37:00element of a requirement for the faculty, all of them across the board to have some level of service factored into the way they are rated for tenure for example. I think that that will be an interesting extra push to the organization, to live the whole Ut Prosim motto that I May Service, and I think that needs to be embodied across the board. So those are the two things that I would say, but the trajectory of the school is incredible. I'm ever so proud of it. I'm really proud to be a Hokie, and I'm also proud that I found an industry that actually people know more about Virginia Tech than I would have expected them to know. It has immediate credibility. It is equally good as some of the 38:00biggest schools that are in the nation, and the reputation is suburb.
Ren: I want to ask you this, and I'm sure you are probably asked this a lot,what advice would you give to those sophomore or juniors or seniors, AEO, right, students, what kind of advice would you give to them?
Kevin: I think the first thing I would say is don't give up, persevere. Juststick with it. There are going to be tough times in it. There will be really fun times. Just press on. And then I would also tell them, beyond that I would say if you're struggling the faculty you have here wants you to be successful. Don't be intimidated by them, ask them for help. Ask your peers for help because they will help you too and it never hurts to say, "I don't get this. I don't understand this particular feature that we're trying to teach." I would 39:00definitely recommend that the kids go do that. I didn't do that and I should have in retrospect, so that would be the first thing I would tell them to do, never give up. Go ask for help.
Ren: In your time and in the industry and after you graduated did you have a lotof experience working with Virginia Tech graduates, and was there a common thread you saw throughout?
Kevin: You know, I would say in the aerospace industry, yes. There are a numberof Hokies that are out there clearly and it's a very small community. The aerospace industry in itself is a small community generally and you run across Hokies and of course from Purdue or whatever, but we're everywhere. And, you find yourself gravitating towards each other and you compare stories about who did you have for the professors and what classes were good and all this, and you 40:00basically immediately have a bond. I found that quite effective and quite good. When I switched over into the semiconductor Capital Equipment industry in particular, there are virtually very very few, very very few Virginia Tech grads that are in my industry. It may be rare and you can probably count them on a couple of hands. What I've tried to do and we've had a few, I won't say it's a lot, we've had a few Hokies that have come and worked at SPTS on a student experience activity. I would like to see that happen more and more, and I would like to foster that, because it isn't an area of focus for the school at this point.
Ren: Yeah. In doing some research, I read that you were talking about yourparents and you said, "They instilled in me the values of hard work, 41:00perseverance, and the importance of education." Is that the advice that you give to new engineers coming up and working with even your company? Do you try to kind of instill those same values?
Kevin: For sure. You know for me there's no real substitution for hard work.Instantaneous gratification, that's really not something that happens in real life generally speaking. It takes work and you've got to stick with it, and you've got to work together. You have to be educated about a particular topic, but you have to stick to it. You have to persevere, and I think there's no substitution for that.
Ren: What would you like people to know about you that maybe they don't?
Kevin: That's a tough one.
Ren: You can throw humility out the window right now.
Kevin: Well, I would hope that people would identify me as a leader, somebody42:00who helped them do better in whatever they are doing. If I think about the work environment I would hope that I would inspire them to do better than they think they can be. I don't know that I'm identified that way, but I would like to be, and I aspire to live up to that ideal.
Ren: What do you think makes a good leader?
Kevin: Well, I think there's a couple of different things. I think one is thatyou do inspire other people to do better than they can and they think that they 43:00can. The other is you're not going to ask anybody to do anything that you're not willing to do yourself. There's this whole adage about leading from the front; I absolutely believe that. You have to be somebody who leads from the front. You can't be behind the scenes generally speaking and be successful, because if you're asking people to work enormous hours and sacrifice their personal time and lives to be successful for the business and you're not willing to do that too, I think that's just not a proper example. So I would like to be identified that way. I hope that people know that I drive. I'm a driven person and I drive for success, but I think I'm fair and I would hope everybody would say, "Oh he's 44:00a fair guy," and never did anything to advantage of them, that sort of thing.
Ren: What are you passionate about?
Kevin: Man, I love...gosh, there's so many things that I really enjoy. I lovepersonally to scuba dive. I love to run. I like doing adventure sports. I've got a great partner and we've got a little boy and he's a joy. You know that's a hobby, more than a hobby, that's a life. Yeah. I get up every day, I enjoy going to work. I like working. It's like I look forward to whatever challenge is going to happen that day, because there's going to be some you know. I'm pretty blessed that way.
Ren: Can you walk us through kind of quickly like a normal day, someone in yourposition and with your job title? What time you get up. Walk us through a basic 45:00normal day.
Kevin: Yeah, a basic day for me, I'm normally up around 5, 5:30 in the morningand I go for a run. That's the first thing I do. That's my win, or do some sort of workout in the morning. That's my win for a day. That way I know I've done something successfully for the day. I tell a lot of people, "Get your win. Whatever it is, get out of bed. Make your bed. Do something to get your win." And then, because there could be forward steps and backward steps during the entire day, so I'm up at 5:30. I do try and get about an hour's worth of a run in. I'm usually at the office no later than say 7:30 to 7:45. My normal day lasts until 6, 6:30-7. Depending upon the day, I still enjoy getting involved in the engineering projects and understanding what is happening on a particular 46:00project. I will find a way to do the whole Hewlett Packard management by walking around. I spend a lot of time asking people what are they doing, what are they working on, why are they working on it and what do they think. Is it going to work, is it not. I still find that quite interesting. You know there will be some operational things. We will be doing some meetings with the finance teams. We will talk about what the revenue generation looks like, but those are some of the tick box sort of activities of the day for me. Also, I constantly have presentation material that I'm preparing either to take to customers or for internal work as well. I spend a lot of time with our customers, a lot of time with them. They are the bread and butter of the company and without them we just wouldn't be a company, so I spend a lot of time dealing with them. And then I 47:00would say late in the evening before I leave work typically I'm on the phone with the sales team in America. If I think about the hours you guys are minus 6 for me, or minus 5, depending on where I am. So I can spend time with them in the evenings and talk about what interactions they have, what do they need from the company, what do they need from my engineering team, what do they need from the operations teams. So some of it's firefighting. Some of it's trying to kind of trying to plan for longer term events. That's a very typical day for me, but it's pretty much go go go from the start of the day. I beg for my cup of coffee. I need that in the morning. Lunch time, I guess I do take lunch. I find various people within the cafeteria to sit down with. Sometimes it makes them 48:00uncomfortable, but that's a way for me to understand what's going on. You know, more so than here in the US. In the UK it's quite clickish, so you will see the guys that are in one engineering team we're sitting together and another from a different product line sitting together, and the operations guy are in a completely different area.
Ren: Like a high school cafeteria.
Kevin: Totally. Totally like a high school cafeteria. That's a perfect analogy;I'm going to use that, and so I just kind of barge my way into each one of those groups and just start a conversation. At first people are a little uncomfortable, but then afterwards they are like, "Oh okay. What do you want to tell him now?" You can see them kind of thinking what are we going to tell him today? It's great. That's what I look forward to. I like that human interaction.
Ren: What time does your day usually wrap-up?
Kevin: I usually leave the office typically around 6:30 would be a normal dayfor me. I get home and we're all tied to these damn electronic devices, right. 49:00So you still get home and you eat dinner or whatever, and the next thing you know you're back on your smart phone and you're on your PC. You're back to the email treadmill. That's what it feels like you know. Yeah. Hopefully in my case I get to go to bed around 10:30 or 11, something like that.
Ren: Wow. Awesome. An interesting life.
Kevin: By the way, I'm not a good role model for that. You know all the studiesnow are saying that no matter who you are you need to get at least 7 hours of sleep. It's true, and otherwise it leads to so many health issues, and that's an area that I'm personally trying to maybe reset my own internal expectations for.
Ren: I was having a conversation with my wife a couple of weeks ago, I have a 10and a 7-year-old, we were talking about hours of sleep and trying to get as much sleep as we can and trying to be a little healthier, even at our younger age I 50:00guess you could say.
Kevin: It's hugely important.
Ren: Yeah, it is. Last few questions and I'll let you go because I know you haveother events to attend to. I really appreciate you sitting down with VT Stories and talking with us. What does Virginia Tech mean to you?
Kevin: Virginia Tech for me, for me, if I look back on when I was starting to goto school Virginia Tech for me was hope. Sorry [emotional]. And today it still 51:00is, so I think that's a good word, because that gives you the idea you have a chance to achieve your goals, your aspirations. You can achieve and it's a wonderful community that particularly today, that you can take that with you in life. That's the way I look at it. That's why I like coming back. I have a huge affinity for the school and I'm quite emotional about it actually as you can tell.
Ren: Yeah. I share that you're saying emotions and feelings as an alumnus and52:00someone who works here now. I feel the same way, and that's why I love asking that question, because that's when you get to the core of how much this University means to you as a student and as someone who has been philanthropic and has been successful in their career. It all points back to the same place and that's what I love about this place.
Kevin: For me I'm so proud to have been here. I'm so proud to be associated withit. I proudly display my degree from Virginia Tech. You know, I'm forever grateful to have had the chance to come here. The truth is maybe I probably in this day and age I probably would not have been able to qualify to come to school here. At least that's the way I feel right now. And when I look at the kids that are here they are so smart. They are so accomplished. Wow, I'm just so impressed by them.
Ren: You said that you are inspired by the school motto and a gift that you gave53:00to the University about Ut Prosim, I think engineering students and other alumni can look at your story and hear this story and be inspired by you, and I really appreciate you taking the time to sit with us. The last question is is there anything you would like to say that I didn't ask or anything? It's an open floor for you to say whatever you like.
Kevin: No. I would say, look, to anybody who does listen to this, enjoy theexperience here for sure. Take everything you can away from it, every experience possible, not just the academic side. Be part of the Greek movement or be part of the marching band. Take advantage of all the things that are here that you can participate in, that's #1, because it's such an enriching experience and you owe it to yourself, because you will never have that chance again, ever. So 54:00that's one thing, and then I would say for folks that have already left the University I hope that they can reflect upon what a great time they had here, and maybe the lessons, again, not the educational lessons, but just the human life education that they received here, and I hope they can carry that with them all the way through, and just enjoy their careers, have a great career.
Ren: Thank you.
Kevin: Thank you.
Ren: I will say Kevin Crofton, class of 1982. Thank you so much sir.
Kevin: Go Hokies.
Ren: Go Hokies. Thank you very much.
Kevin: Thank you very much.