A Wrap-up Discussion with Master Sergeant Amy Smith

Back in February, we wrote about why we were partnering with MD5’s Startup Innovation Fellowship, a program that offers immersive learning experiences at startups to mid-career enlisted, officer, and civilian service members. At that point, we had recently welcomed Master Sergeant Amy Smith of the United States Air Force to our analyst team in Washington, D.C.

Since then, the time has flown by, and Amy’s six week fellowship has already come to an end. Throughout her internship, she wrote a weekly post for the MD5 website about her learnings (we encourage you to give those a read via the links at the bottom of this post); we asked her to summarize some of her thoughts on the experience.

How will your experience at Predata help you in your military career?

My experience with Predata will add a new and fresh outlook to how I approach a lot of problems personally and professionally. The Predata team showed me an entirely new way to approach a problem and a clearer way to solve it by helping me ask more specific research questions. That will forever change the way I approach a task.

What were the biggest similarities you noticed between your military team and your team at Predata? Differences?

One difference that I noticed was the speed at which startups get things done. The first week at Predata, I had to take a step back at times in amazement at the efficiency of how this business moved without missing a step, which was very impressive to me.

I think the biggest surprise to me, though, was the passion that we shared towards making a difference in the world. I’ll be the first to say that the many people I’ve met have a tremendous commitment to making a difference, and I’m convinced that we rely on each other a lot more than we think.

What is one thing about your fellowship that you were not expecting?

This experience at first seemed like it would be a daunting task. I’ve been forced to put my guard down at a faster rate than normal, I believe, due to the numerous deployments, schools, and duty locations that I feel I need to adapt as quickly as possible. So, I was not expecting to form such a close bond with this team. I quickly learned though that I’ve met some lifelong friends, mentors, and mentees that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

What would be your advice to other service members who are considering MD5 or a similar program?

If you’re even halfheartedly considering MD5 for any of their programs, I highly recommend taking the time to work with your home unit and take advantage of this amazing program. They did a great job with pairing me with Predata based on my command-sponsored problem, and this whole experience way exceeded my expectations. I’m now back to work at my squadron, and it has already made a difference for my job. I thought I knew what I wanted to do when I retire in a few years, but the last six weeks have me questioning a lot about what my future might hold now.

In your opinion, how can the startup world and the military world better help each other moving forward?

I’m fully convinced that the military and the startup world cannot succeed without each other. I was able to debrief with my Colonel the other day and made a point to tell him that he does in fact have the best Airmen under his command — however, there is still a need to form relationships with startups to help fill the gaps and speed of production in order to find a current solution to the ever-changing world and mission.

My advice to the startup world is to keep striving to make a difference with your products, because the military needs your innovation yesterday. As my late grandfather liked to say, “Nothing succeeds like success!” I believe if startups continue on their path and find success in small milestones, the rest will fall into place. Predata is onto something really great, and I look forward to our continued friendship and watching this amazing company soar!

We thoroughly enjoyed having Amy on our team, and we’re grateful for all we learned from her. We miss hosting her, though we’re excited to keep in touch and see what she does moving forward.

Amy and the Predata team in Washington, D.C. with a piece of artwork Amy had commissioned by a local artist.

Amy’s Writings for MD5
Week 1 at Predata
Can we improve military planning?
Asking the right questions
Left of boom
Unvoiced concerns hidden in web traffic
Leveraging America’s Talent