Mark Mele doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to do his job. But ATK ̶ an aerospace, defense, security, and sporting products company ̶ benefits from the vast business expertise he brings to the launch pad.
Mele, who earned his MS in management (a degree that evolved into the MBA) from Georgia Tech in 1986, is now senior vice president of communications and investor relations for ATK. The world's top producer of rocket propulsion systems, ATK is also a leader in providing missile components, aircraft structures, satellite systems, and ammunition to government, military, and commercial customers.
Mele wouldn't have guessed he'd go into the aerospace industry while he was earning his bachelor's degree in finance from Tulane University. But after graduation in 1979, he joined Hercules Aerospace Company, based in Utah, where he held a series of accounting, finance, and planning positions until he started to pursue his master's in management at Georgia Tech in 1984.
Leveraging Master's Education
"One of the reasons I chose to go to Tech was the quantitative approach of its management program," Mele says. "I've been able to leverage that education in the various jobs I've had over the years, from finance to mergers and acquisitions to strategic planning."
After graduation from the master's program, Mele returned to Hercules and was soon promoted to assume responsibility for strategic planning and business development. After ATK acquired Hercules in 1995, he was named director of business planning. He held vice presidency roles over strategic planning, investor relations, and corporate strategy before his promotion to his current position in 2010.
As senior vice president of communications and investor relations at corporate headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Mele manages messaging and relationships between ATK and its shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders. "One of the key challenges of the communications function is being able to tell the strategic story through the media as well as shareholders," he explains.
ATK is a Fortune 500 company with 18,000 employees and roughly $4.8 billion in revenue. As the era of the Space Shuttle comes to a close and military budgets flatten, the company is strategically positioning itself for continued growth, Mele says. For example, the company recently opened offices in key international markets to expand sales to U.S. allies and partnered with the French company Astrium on a two-stage launch vehicle that would be able to deliver crews and equipment to the International Space Station.
"These are exciting times in the space propulsion business," Mele says. "I wouldn't have guessed I'd stay in the industry as long as I did, but my career progression has made it interesting. I've gotten to do a lot of different things. It pays to move around a lot, even within the same company. It's important to get broad experience."