Michael and Paul Swartz, Troop 660, Cypress
Michael and Paul Swartz are both from the City of Cypress and graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Michael earned a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering; Paul, earned bachelors and masters degrees in mechanical engineering. Both spent several summers as camp counselors at the BSA camp located at Emerald Bay, Catalina Island. Interestingly, Mike Eisner, the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, stated that being a summer camp counselor was the best leadership training he ever had.
Professionally, what are you doing to today?
Michael: “I am a project engineer for an industrial refrigeration controls company. I am primarily responsible for front-end project management and development for a variety new construction and retrofit projects focused on energy-savings for food and beverage industrial customers.”
Paul: “I am a mechanical engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, working on critical and confidential national security projects for the United States.”
Why was achieving the rank of Eagle Scout meaningful to you?
Michael: “Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout was something that I had been striving for and working towards in some way since I was in elementary school. Being able to reach that goal helped me build confidence in myself. All the experiences, relationships, and memories I made along the way are just as important and are all things I still look back on fondly.”
Paul: “Earning my Eagle Scout rank required persistence, strong interpersonal skills, and a constant appreciation for the big picture. Looking back on it, possessing those tools from a young age has already paid me back in spades, and I expect to continue to sharpen them for the rest of my life.”
Michael: “In order to achieve the rank of Eagle, I had to learn how to be disciplined and persistent. With so many requirements and objectives to be completed, it was necessary for me to be self-motivated, especially as I got older and had more things competing for my attention. I had to continuously set aside time to work on things like merit badges and my Eagle Project. This sort of long-term objective is essentially the same as any goal or task in school, work, or personal life.”
Paul: “The leadership opportunities afforded to me in Scouting taught me early on the value of confidence in problem solving. While it is rare for me to immediately know exactly how to tackle an unfamiliar problem, knowing that I am capable of solving it empowers me to work toward a solution. Furthermore, already having self-confidence enables me to focus on helping the other members of a team build confidence of their own (and so forth), rapidly multiplying the functional capability of the team as a whole. This is evident to me as I reflect on my various involvements in long-term technical projects of all sizes, from teams as small as 3 people to teams of over 50 people. Scouting projects the professional and personal challenges you will experience (and solve) in the future.”
What did you learn from Scouting that impacts your everyday life, personally or professionally?
Michael: “Throughout my Scouting experience, I had plenty of opportunities to develop my ability to speak publicly and present myself or things I had worked on (Boards of Review, being the Senior Patrol Leader, and teaching merit badge classes, just to name a few). Being able to prepare for and perform these sorts of tasks was crucial for my academic and professional development. This experience travels with me everywhere I go and some of these skills have remained second nature to me in my adult life.”
Paul: “Scouting made it clear to me that emotional intelligence is an important skill, both in leadership roles and in personal relationships. Whether it be reading [the audience in] a room, observing an individual’s body language, or unpacking my own frustrations, the ability to understand and react to human emotions is a communication skill I first discovered in Scouting activities that I use every single day.”
Looking back, how did Scouting help you to get to where you are today?
Michael: “Being an Eagle Scout is still an achievement I have on my resumé, and in some way has affected my ability to get into schools, enhanced my qualifications for jobs, and colors the way I conduct myself in my day-to-day life. In the interview process for the job I have right now, several of my supervisors and managers asked me about my experience in Scouting, as well as my Eagle Scout project. Even several years after I had completed these things, my employers are still impressed with my achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.”
Paul: “Scouting forced me to be develop responsibility from a young age. That helped me excel in high school and college, where my ability to execute tasks effectively charted my course for success in classes and on engineering project teams outside the classroom. Building a strong portfolio in college, enabled by skills gained during my experiences in Scouting, in turn opened doors for me when I looked to join the workforce upon graduation. For example, the success of my undergraduate senior project and my master’s thesis were heavily dependent on my ability to organize priorities, execute project scope, and meet deadlines on my own and as part of a team, skills not unlike those required for a successful Eagle Scout project. My apparent strength in those areas subsequently made me an attractive entry level candidate during job interviews, which is how I got to where I am now.”
What was your one best memory of Scouting? Why?
Michael: “I most fondly remember my summers working on the staff at Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island. I am very grateful for the ability to have spent weeks at a time teaching about the ecology of the island, hiking around the far end of the island, and participating in all kids of aquatic activities. Some of the most interesting and inspiring people I had the pleasure of meeting in my entire Scouting career I got to work with on the camp staff.”
Paul: “Working at Camp Emerald Bay, beginning at age 14, was a singularly formative experience for me. It was one thing to interact with the various members of my troop, each with a different level and source of motivation, on a somewhat frequent basis, spread out over several years. Spending every single day of several summers shoulder to shoulder with individuals who were not just involved in Scouting, but who were similarly goal-oriented and who shared the same enthusiasm for empowering others that I did, was another experience entirely. It was not just my favorite experience of Scouting; it was one of the most important experiences of my lifetime.”
What else would you like to add about your experience in Scouting?
Michael: “I am so thankful that my parents understood the value of Scouting and that they were dedicated to making sure my brother and I were as involved as we could be. Some of my best memories and oldest friends are from my several years in Scouting.”
Paul: “Without a doubt, I am only able to look back on the positive impact of Scouting in my life today because of the constant support and encouragement of my parents and my various adult leaders over the years. I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for their patience and guidance, without either of which I am certain I would not be where I am today.”
What advice do you have for a Scout who aspires to achieve the Eagle Scout rank?
Michael: “Something my dad taught me was to try and do something every day that will get you closer to your goal. That could be completing one requirement towards your next rank, meeting up with your Eagle advisor to discuss next steps, or getting started on your next Eagle-required merit badge. Some days you will be able to get more done than others, but if you cross something off the list every day, soon enough you won’t have anything else to cross off!”
Paul: “Apply to work at a Scout camp as early as possible – it’s both fun and an incredible training experience. Find a place that is interesting to you and jump in with both feet. That action alone will surround you with a subset of the most highly motivated individuals the Scouting community has to offer. If your objective is to meet the high goals that you set for yourself, what better strategy is there than to surround yourself with people who share your ambition?”