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Vanguard Game Changers: Jake Jacobson

Babcock’s Jake Jacobson is featured in Vanguard Magazine’s Game Changer series:

Below is an excerpt of the interview:


As vice-president for business and corporate development of the company, it is Jake’s responsibility to explore how Babcock can make a difference in the defence and commercial space in Canada and help the company develop corporately as a growing business.

Jake describes himself as “a man who cannot keep a steady job.”

He has been with Babcock for more than two years now but he has amassed some 45 years of experience in the defence and security sectors – that includes 29 years with the Navy, six with Lockheed Martin, three years with General Dynamics Canada and five with DND.


Q: Vanguard Magazine: How did you get started?

In addition to time at sea and on the waterfront, much of my time in the Navy was spent contributing to or managing major programs: naval engineering, above-water weapons, underwater warfare, ship repair, and shipbuilding.

It was a natural transition to move to industry to contribute to the management of maritime helicopter programs, and then further shipbuilding, underwater warfare, and advanced air and naval programs…I later moved back to DND to oversee National Procurement, help wherever I could with respect to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, and support the development of the Canada First Defence Strategy.

Joining Babcock has given me an opportunity to again focus on the challenges of sustaining complex platforms and systems, and to expand my horizons further.

Q: Vanguard: What was your most challenging moment?

Some that come to mind are: “successful” missile trials on the pre- Tribal Update & Modernization Program IROQUOIS Class that were really a failure; defending the East Coast Combat Engineering organization from well-meaning but misguided efficiency cuts; developing the rationale for growth and prioritization of our always-short National Procurement budget; and, most recently, helping Babcock as a very willing student-of-Canada to understand how Canada is different, and the many ways in which it can make a positive difference.

Q: Vanguard: What was your ‘a-ha’ moment?

This is a story of when working even harder was not going to achieve the desired result.

As the Navy’s and DND’s lead for the above-water warfare solution for the Tribal Update & Modernization Program, I went into the office on a quiet Saturday to spend a couple of hours working out how large a complement of conventional “Standard” missiles each ship should have to defend itself and accompanying ships from the expected threat.

My “aha!” moment came when I realized that the answer to how many missiles each ship should have was zero. That is because the planned system configuration would simply never be fast enough to deal with a modern threat.

Many briefings later, the industry, Navy and DND leadership re-cast the program into the first-ever deployment outside of the USN of the vertical launch Standard Missile System.

Q: Vanguard: What gets you fired up today?

Looking through a different lens at how the CAF and DND can realize even greater improvements in the sustainability, afford-ability and, importantly, predictability of their equipment.

Q: Vanguard: What is the best advice you received?

“Be yourself.” (This advice was given to me by my father, a man of few words, following a disastrous evening out as a 16-year old buzz-cut military cadet trying to “fit in” to an early-70s dance scene!)  The advice instantly resonated with me, and has guided me through my life.

Q: Vanguard: What has contributed to your success?

Listening: I enjoy people, and whenever possible I surround myself with people who are smarter, better experienced, and more capable than I am.

Q: Vanguard: How is Babcock changing the game in the industry?

Babcock has taken an approach of aligning completely and genuinely with the customer’s operations mission and the customer’s cost or affordability needs. This brings new perspectives, empowers people, and results in solid engineering and smart technology use to bear on solving the challenges of sustaining complex and mission-critical platforms and major systems.

Q: Vanguard: What are the biggest impediments to innovation?

The biggest impediment to innovation is not a lack of money or talent: it’s personal. People have to feel empowered to bring forward their ideas – big and small.

Q: Vanguard: How is innovation ingrained in your organization?

Innovation becomes ingrained when, through leadership and openness at all levels, it becomes a natural behaviour and an integral part of the organization’s culture.

Q: Vanguard: What parting advice do you have for our readers?

Enjoy what you do – or change what you do. Life is too short to do otherwise.

See the full interview on Vanguard Canada’s website: