By Laura Almaraz
White Sands Missile Range Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin was one of the senior leader speakers at a TRAX International leadership summit July 15 at the Frontier Club.
Coffin shared experiences about his career and gave career advice to 14 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics summer interns.
“Engineering degrees give you a great foundation, but it’s only a foundation. Knowledge is changing rapidly. Maintain a cutting edge on where you’re at in the mission and stay abreast on what’s going on,” Coffin said.
Coffin was one of several senior leaders in attendance at the summit. The purpose of the meeting was to provide the interns with career examples and advice to help prepare them to become senior leaders in the future.
The interns represent five universities from around the country. The group has been receiving hands-on technical experience working on several projects on the installation since June.
Coffin began his Army career in logistics. He said he was discouraged from participating when he showed interest in space programs.
“Half the things I wanted to do, I got told ‘Sorry, you can’t do that,’” Coffin said.
He did not have an engineering degree, which put him in a different position from others who did have such a degree and were also interested in space programs. He did not let that stop him from pursuing space, however.
Coffin said that many would not have expected it, but prior to his assignment at WSMR, he served as the Deputy Commander at the Joint Functional Component Command for Space at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. JFCC Space is the single point of contact for military space operational matters to plan, task, direct, assess, and execute space operations.
“There’s always a set of doors and opportunities that are open to you,” said Coffin.
He added that those opportunities may not always be the obvious choices.
Coffin’s career was not always what he planned. He said he did not get his first choice internship during his early career, but the internship he did get turned out to be a good experience.
Coffin also shared with the TRAX International interns that he did not always know what career decisions to make.
Before making tough decisions, Coffin said he prayed and consulted with his leadership and family for guidance. He advised interns to take time to discuss things with people they respect before making tough decisions.