Meet one of our Speed Mentors: BGen Steven Moritsugu

As an Army Signals officer for more than 33 years, WiDS member Brigadier-General Steven Moritsugu has certainly had his fair share of career management. The Director General Military Signals Intelligence and the Deputy Commander of Canadian Forces Intelligence Command has commanded Army and Joint Signal units at every level, from Lieutenant to Colonel. He also has a very strong appreciation for education, having successfully completed numerous military courses in addition to earning a Bachelor of Science Degree (from Royal Roads Military College) and three Master’s degrees in Defence Technology, International Service and Hemispheric Security and Defence.


And, just in case one were to think that he had an over-abundance of theoretical experience and not enough practical “boots on the ground” time, Moritsugu has also deployed to Iran and Afghanistan. Fortunately for WiDS, BGen Moritsugu will share his experiences and insight as a mentor in our inaugural Speed Mentoring professional development event on Monday, April 10th.


While guidance is valuable in every career, defence and security in general - and the Canadian Armed Forces in particular - lend themselves well to mentorship. “Looking after your people is a core value of the Canadian Armed Forces, and that includes equipping future leaders with the knowledge, skills and experience to be ready for bigger and better things,” he says.


One of the defining factors to a life in uniform is the frequent moves - from base to base, house to house and, inevitably, job to job. Among the many different posts BGen Moritsugu has held, he credits two separate stints as Executive Assistant to very senior officers as key to his development.  


“Value is in understanding what senior leaders do to influence their organization, what information they need, what factors they consider to make decisions, observing who has success in their interactions with the senior leader and who doesn’t – then analyzing why.” In his view, we are currently in a period of transition - “the changing of the guard” -  and his advice to those currently in or planning a career in Canada’s defence and security industries is to “take every opportunity to reach out and learn from people who have ‘been there and done that.’”


At 23, then-Lieutenant Moritsugu found himself in charge of 80 Canadian UN peacekeepers in Iran, an experience which undoubtedly reinforced his belief in coaching others who are younger and newer in their careers. Not surprisingly, Moritsugu does not mince words when it comes to the value of mentoring, whether formal or informal. “Every boss and every Troop Warrant Officer and Sergeant-Major that I’ve served with has gone out of their way to give me good advice.”


Moritsugu is keenly aware of the increased capabilities afforded by technology - especially sensors, data processing to extract useful information automatically, analytic tools to create intelligence, and presentation tools - to impart knowledge. However for him, our ever-increasing reliance (or ‘dependence’) on technology also highlights our vulnerabilities. Referencing author Arthur C. Clarke, who cautioned that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” Moritsugu notes that technology eventually becomes the tail that wags the dog; that humans will lose the ability to function without it, communications and information systems will be subject to cyber attacks that will deny availability or compromise integrity of electronic data, and that increasingly complex systems will require an equally increasing number of supporting resources to make them all work together.


Still, despite the many technological advances, Moritsugu is a firm believer in the benefits of people connecting, working together and sharing information - and experience - from one generation to the next for the benefit of all. “Self-improvement requires deliberate analysis.  ‘Learn from your mistakes’ is common advice, but there isn’t enough time to make every error yourself, then to figure out what happened. Plus no boss can afford to be patient enough to let you make too many mistakes.”  


In other words, rely on mentors to help bridge that gap. Learn from their mistakes and take advantage of their experience in dealing with myriad people. “Technology changes, but success [still] depends upon human interactions,” he says.