Employee Stories: Michael Hawke

Michael Hawke

Michael Hawke, Southeast Operations Director

Michael Hawke

Southeast Operations Director

I went through basic training at the Nuclear Power School in Orlando, FL and was stationed at a Nuclear Power Training Unit just outside of Saratoga Springs, NY for about three-and-a-half years, first as a student and then as an instructor. Next I was stationed on the U.S.S. Newport News fast attack submarine for four years in Norfolk and made port calls (visits) to England, France, Italy, Israel, and Greece.

It has been more than 20 years since I joined Praxair as a Standard Plant Technician. I worked my way through the ranks to become the Southeast Operations Director responsible for the production and distribution of bulk atmospheric gases and liquid hydrogen in the Southeastern U.S. My team safely operates the production plants and delivers products to our customers, making an average of 3,200 safe deliveries each month.

The Navy and Praxair have a lot in common. Both have a relentless focus on operational discipline. In the Navy, all personnel are trained on the reason behind every step when using equipment, allowing them to make a decision to deviate from a procedure if required for safety (for example, during a ship's casualty). The Navy laid the groundwork for how I expect my team to operate at Praxair.

In both the Navy and at Praxair, you control your own destiny. Praxair employees are given wide latitude in performing their jobs as long as they meet safety standards, inspiring creativity and efficiency. Upper management doesn't question how I do my job. I am expected to manage each situation in the most effective manner.

When it comes to career development, I believe it’s up to me to perform my job the best way I know how, while looking to expand my skills. For example, early in my Praxair career I went to college and earned Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in business administration, which helped me secure future positions. By seizing opportunities to advance yourself, you control your own destiny within the company.

In the military, you are taught to stay cool and apply a defined approach to crisis management that I have used many times over at Praxair. You learn to depend on your training and your team, take step-by-step actions based on what you know at the time, and evaluate and adjust as more information comes to light.

For example, a hurricane once threatened our Mim's facility in Florida and two large production facilities in the Carolinas. Information and the status of plants and roads changed by the minute, so we had to prepare for what we thought would occur. We delayed deliveries because it was unsafe to continue trucking operations. As the information changed, we adjusted. Shortly after the storm, we restored distribution and production. All employees were safe and business impact was minimal.

I definitely think I’ve put my military experience to good use at Praxair. It has helped me reinforce a culture of operational discipline, accountability and success.

By seizing opportunities to advance yourself, you control your own destiny within the company.