Reg Carruthers joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1981, graduating from the RAAF Academy in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science. After graduating as a Navigator, he flew the P3C Orion completing numerous operations and exercises nationally and internationally. He completed a three year exchange program flying the CP140 Aurora in Canada, and completed numerous commands including 28 active reserve squadron, the 92 Wing detachment in Butterworth Malaysia, 10 Squadron RAAF Edinburgh and the AP3C Operational Task Group on active duty in the Middle East Area of Operations. His last military command was as commander of the Aerospace Operational Support Group (now Air Warfare Centre) responsible for Electronic Warfare, Cyber, Intelligence, Aviation Medicine, Aviation publications and Flight Test, Weapons and Engineering squadrons, as well as the Woomera Test Range, and he was the Senior Australian Defence Representative in South Australia.

Reg has completed staff positions in policy and Plans and as staff officer to the Chief of Air Force, as well as an instructor on the Australian Command and Staff College. He is a graduate of the Australian Staff Course and a Distinguished Graduate from the US National War College conducted in Washington DC; and has Masters Degrees in Defence and Strategic Studies and International Relations.

After 31 years in uniform, Reg accepted a transfer to the Public Service as Director of the Woomera Test Range, responsible for the conduct of Defence trials in the Woomera Prohibited Area; oversight of the formation of RAAF Base Woomera and the progression of Project Air 3024, the upgrade of Woomera range systems. With the formation of the new Air Warfare Centre, Reg was appointed the Program Director for Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) and Ranges Air Force in Jan 2016.

In 2016 Reg transferred to State Government as Director Aerospace, cyber and the SA Space Industry Centre (SASIC) within Defence SA. Reg works with industry, academic institutions and Defence to support the growth of the defence industry in South Australia with a focus on cyber and systems, unmanned systems, new space and data analytics including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Reg remains an active member of the Air Force Reserves and as a Group Captain is Honorary ADC to the Governor General. Reg accepted the position of Director Aerospace in Oct 2016.

Why are you participating in the IMNIS program? Why did you want to be an industry mentor?

I am keen to give back to the next generation of thinkers, academics and business leaders who are the future of this country and world. I have had a varied and rewarding career but am still constantly amazed by the people I meet every day in the aerospace, space and cyber sectors and anything I can do to support and develop their leadership and business skills is paying back all the support I have received over the years.

What is the most crucial aspect of this professional relationship for you?

The personal relationship to complement the professional skills and studies is the most important aspect to me. Developing personal relationships, networks and leadership skills is the area I can assist with most, not trying to be the subject matter expert (which I am not!). Separating leadership development from management skills is my passion and an area that needs as much development as professional skills and technical knowledge to be successful.

When you meet with your mentee, do you work together on a set of goals or do you go where the conversation takes you?

I like to take a couple of sessions where the conversation is free ranging and open to get to know people, then develop more formal goals and objectives for later meetings. I also like to tailor each program for the individual as all people are motivated by, and respond to, different approaches.

What are the key skills PhD students need to successfully engage with industry or work in industry?

An understanding of the requirements and motivations of industry is essential to assist transition from pure research to something that relates to people in the industry sector. Taking often complex and specialised concepts and creating a narrative and being able to communicate a story to people who for the most part will not have the in depth knowledge of the PhD student is critical. Being able to explain the ‘so what’ of a concept or idea is one of the hardest but most important skills in communicating.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you so far?

Meeting inspiring people who are our future. Social and main stream media thrives on why things have failed or don’t work and can paint a rather bleak picture of the future. 10 minutes with any of the students working in aerospace, space, cyber or most areas is enough to restore faith in the future and knowing that it will work out as long as we guide, lead and mentor our youth to achieve their potential. It motivates me to get on and do my own work and push myself to achieve more than I would likely have otherwise done. It is one of the most enjoyable parts of my weekly routine.