Episode 24 – Mike Martin talks about his career pivots and his current position as a Drone Pilot Instructor
Mike Martin made a career pivot after 30 years in industrial sales, first as a volunteer instructor and substitute teacher. Mike realized that instructing had a very fulfilling feel to it. Night college courses in teaching seemed the next logical step. This eventually became full-time aviation school at a college in Killeen, Texas, then two years of rail operations, instructing train operators on the new light rail extensions on the Harris County Metro line.
Wanting very much to use his pilot experience and passion for aviation, Mike joined Dart Drones in 2016 as a commercial drone pilot instructor. Dart is growing, and Mike is also helping Dart develop specialized curriculum aimed at target industries, and he even got to write a blog piece on the FAA knowledge test given to pilot candidates. Mike is very happy now, and says he has found a good place, and the future looks bright. Dart Drones has been on Shark Tank. Please see the link below.
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[:56] Marc reads a listener review from M11395 on iTunes, and invites listeners to write their own reviews.
[3:16] Mike’s early influence was wanting to do anything big, noisy, and loud, and usually something moving. He wavered between train engineer and pilot. He took flying lessons as a teen, hoping to fly commercially, but that didn’t happen.
[4:22] Mike went into industrial sales after a series of warehouse jobs that paid for his flying lessons. He found he was good with parts. His cousin suggested he should sell parts, instead of warehousing them. He opened a dialog with the CEO of a parts company he respected, and was offered a job in their electrical parts company.
[6:13] In the late 80’s, purchasing became automated, competition was tougher, decision makers became hard to reach, and commissions were cut. When expenses reached income, it was time for a new career. Mike enjoyed his time in sales, until it was no longer sustainable. He wishes he had focused more on aviation.
[7:49] Mike’s present employer, Dart Drones of Scranton, Penn., was represented on Shark Tank by CEO Abby Speicher. She got $300K from Mark Cuban for 10% of the company. She will use it to build the curriculum into more specialized areas, such as fire departments, and search and rescue.
[8:22] Besides training classes with Dart Drones, Mike also has an agreement with another company, Drone Ascent, for on-call commercial assignments as an operator.
[9:14] Mike’s first pivot came at a moment of clarity doing volunteer work at a school science olympiad, teaching the students meteorology. That led him to substitute teaching, and he went back to school for a certificate — during a big teacher layoff. He applied his certificate towards a bachelor’s degree in aviation, and worked at an airport.
[12:42] Lacking flight hours, Mike looked at other transportation, and found an opening for train operators in Houston, passed the test, and aced the interview. He was hired, and sent to train operator school. Then he tested and burned in trains, and trained rail operators for two years on the new lines, until they opened, before returning to Austin.
[16:42] Mike found a lot of activity in the drone industry, and found a place there, training people for FAA drone operator registration. These are drones weighing more than 250 grams, and less than 50 lbs.
[17:23] Mike learned from trains, that he could take on something big, with great responsibility involved, and train someone new, in a matter of hours, to running it up and down the line in a competent way.
[19:16] Mike’s pivots were all about piloting, which applied to driving a train. He took his piloting skills and applied them to the rail industry, and then added his training skills, and applied them with his pilot skills, to the drone industry.
[20:20] Mike needed flying hours to fly drones and train others on a prosumer drone. So he bought a drone and put in 25 hours. He got the job at Dart Drones, after impressing the CEO by talking about the science olympiad, and the need for more females in technology.
[23:01] Mike gives his advice to listeners. Don’t give up your dreams. One avenue might not be your thing, but you might find another avenue, like the training part of drones.
[25:34] Marc’s Notes: Mike is a really interesting guy, and his journey has taken a lot of twists and turns. Mike is very persistent, and has a very supportive spouse. Do not discount either of those attributes.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Contact Marc, and ask questions at: Careerpivot.com/contact-me
Mike’s email: MPM660@gmail.com
DartDrones on Shark Tank Article on TechCrunch
Mike Martin’s post about driving on the Houston Metro Line
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