Marc Sklar is the director of Communications leading a team providing communications and marketing support to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, and the Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, Maryland. Prior to joining the Museum, he worked in corporate communications for The Boeing Company supporting rotorcraft, advanced systems, governance and supply chain organizations. Before joining Boeing, Sklar was a broadcast news producer with CNN based in Washington, D.C. including time covering the Clinton administration, and worked as an online business news reporter. He holds a BS in international economics from Georgetown University and an MBA/Aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Tell us about your career path.
I had plans for what I would do upon graduation. I was going to work on a presidential campaign that unfortunately imploded a few months before I graduated and left me up in the air. My dad had a couple of small companies and I did multiple jobs working on inventory and computer systems, while figuring out what was next. The turning point was a conversation with a welder at the company who was doing an internship with a radio station as part of a community college class he was taking. I asked him for the list of internships he had and was soon working nights and days off for a local TV station’s news program.
I was hooked on my first day and after taking some training classes, and working part time at night for the local station, I applied for an entry level job with CNN. I started at Headline News in Dec. 1991 and moved up thru several jobs, and then on to the D.C. bureau by 1995 as a weekend assignment editor. In 1996 I got a job that included weekend producer at the White House, and in 1997 was a full time White House producer. It was the most exciting and exhausting work I ever did. Weeks were often seven day and days were on average 10 hours, and often 14 and more. But, I saw history up close and found myself in places like Bangladesh and Pakistan that I’d never have visited otherwise. However, looking for a change of pace to enjoy more family time, I took a job reporting in Phoenix for a dotcom business news site, which was a bad idea in 2000.
I spent a few months reporting on failing dotcoms before our company failed itself. After a year of freelancing, I saw a listing for a job with Boeing, which I didn’t even know had a plant in Arizona. I got a communications job at the Apache helicopter plant there, and had a wonderful 16 year run with Boeing. I worked in several positions, including editing the defense and space sections of the company magazine, working in the Phantom Works advanced products division and ending up back in D.C. working for the trade controls department.
After five years, I saw the job opening at the museum, which I’ve loved since I visited with my family as a kid. It really is my dream job, being able to share the amazing history of flight and space exploration and apply the communications skills my journalism and communications background provided. I kind of feel like the serpentine path I took to get here, remarkably, prepared me more than anything for this very job. I’m loving going to work every day.
How did you land your current position? What do you think helped you to stand out as a candidate?
As I mentioned, without any grand plan, I ended up with a combination of skills that really positioned me well for this. I had management experience from my early work for my dad that included running one small business in the evenings while I worked at CNN. I added to that with the formal training from Embry-Riddle with my MBA/A, which came up in my job interview. My time with Boeing and overall AvGeek passion showed I understood and cared about the subject matter. And, my journalism and communications background gave me the general job skills to work in communications.
What is your favorite thing about working for the Air and Space Museum?
I love coming in in the morning when it’s quiet and just staring at the Apollo Lunar Module and the Spirit of St. Louis hanging above it. Sometime I’ll also get off the elevator on the way to my office to check out the Wright Flyer for a minute. The thing is, it’s also cool to come down when it’s crowded and watch kids looking up in awe and wonder like I probably did at their age, and knowing I’m part of preserving and sharing that history.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
While I kind of had followed that advice already, a former Air Force general who spoke to a group of young Boeing employees said it well, when he said he “never made a mistake accepting an opportunity.” He explained that there were times when he was offered new posts that didn’t fit with what he thought his plan was, but each actually did more to move him toward career fulfillment then the road he had mapped out.
My bit of advice is, “scare yourself.” I don’t mean you have to do something physically dangerous, but do things that push your limits to where you’re nervous you can’t do the job. In the first couple of weeks after I was promoted to writer at Headline News, I was working the overnight shift when hurricane Andrew hit Florida. I wrote the lead story for the 8a newscast and had completed the 2 minute script for the anchor around 7:58:00 a (in the news business seconds count).
Then in the next 30 seconds we both got the first daylight damage video and President Bush made remarks about the disaster. In the next 90 seconds with an editor over one shoulder and executive producer shouting “that’s your video” and “that’s your soundbite” across the newsroom, I re-wrote the piece hitting “print” to send it to the teleprompter crew at 7:59:55a. Thankfully the show open takes 15 seconds, so the script runners had 20 seconds to rip the scripts off the printer and get them to the anchor and teleprompter operator. My hands were shaking when I was done, but I’d done it. And, the term “last minute” never had the same meaning for me again. I also learned just how long a minute can be. To be frank, time frames for projects in any other job have seemed slow by comparison.
What advice do you have for students who want to intern or work for the Air and Space Museum?
Everyone I work with brings two things, a passion for the subject and for their particular duties. As a complex organization, there are a wide range of skill sets we always need from historians to planetary scientists to business and operations specialist to IT and technical to designers, artists and conservators to, of course, communicators. So, having skills and education in the field you love, and loving things air and space are the key.