When Mike Campanelli attended his first USGIF function, a speed networking event last summer, at the suggestion of a colleague, he won free admission to the GEOINT 2011 Symposium. Ever since, Campanelli, a senior systems engineer with RadiantBlue Technologies, has become increasingly more involved with USGIF, in particular the Young Professionals Group (YPG), which brings together GEOINT professionals under the age of 35 or with 5 years or fewer experience in the Community.
Most recently, Campanelli, 31, was elected to one of two YPG-designated positions on the USGIF Board of Directors. Campanelli said his dedication to USGIF and the YPG stems from his strong alignment with the foundation’s mission and goals, and he considers the board position to be an incredible opportunity.
“I think it’s a testament to the foresight of the board to want to have the voices and opinions of the young professionals on it,” Campanelli said. “I think it says a lot about their knowledge of the community.”
Campanelli, originally from Rahway, N.J., began his career as a double major in aerospace and mechanical engineering at West Virginia University. While most students in these disciplines pursue jobs designing rockets, missiles, and airplanes, Campanelli said he graduated just as jobs with airlines were becoming scarcer. He interviewed for and accepted a position he didn’t know much about, but that “sounded pretty cool,” with Lockheed Martin, and was assigned to work in operations and mission planning at ADF-East.
“It was very dynamic, it was changing, it was challenging,” Campanelli said. “I quickly realized that even though I wasn’t designing rockets and airplanes, my degree was very applicable, and that got me hooked. I didn’t want to transfer and go do what I thought I was ‘supposed’ to be doing with a degree in aerospace engineering.”
He credits his experience in mission planning for setting up the rest of his career thus far. After a couple years at ADF-East, Campanelli went to work for The SI Organization, which was then still part of Lockheed Martin, supporting the National Reconnaissance Office. There, he worked exclusively in moving target intelligence (MTI), which is the study of analyzing imagery, radar, and video to derive intelligence from things that may or may not be moving.
Today, he works at RadiantBlue, a software company, but Campanelli doesn’t write code. He bridges the gap between customers and developers of MTI software, or, he jokes, “between layman and geek.”
“I transform the needs and wants of the folks using our software into requirements that the developers can understand,” he said.
When it comes to mentorship, Campanelli said he has gathered an “amalgamation” of knowledge from various mentors.
“It’s important to know who to listen to, who to know, and who not to listen to,” he offered as advice to other young professionals.
Campanelli is also in the process of completing post-graduate work in geospatial intelligence through Penn State University, to complement the M.S. in systems engineering he received from George Washington University while working at Lockheed. In his free time, Campanelli enjoys learning about photography with his wife, Katie, golfing, custom woodworking, and improvement projects at his home in Herndon, Va.
After two years with RadiantBlue, a seven-year-old company, Campanelli said he is enjoying working for a smaller company and is inspired by its entrepreneurial spirit.
“What’s exciting to me is staying on for the foreseeable future, for as long as they’ll have me, and seeing where this crazy ride takes us,” he said. “It’s fun to be part of something that you really feel that you own a part of.”