He found himself outside of his comfort zone.
Andy Buchan, an engineer by training, was moved in 2013 by his employer, aerospace contractor Esterline, to mergers and acquisitions. Then, the company gave him the task of buying a competitor.
“I’m not a banker, I’m not a finance guy,” Buchan said. “I have never bought or sold a company in my life, but I was told to go do that and I had to go buy a $200 million business from a Belgian company.”
Buchan was happy the company’s leadership entrusted him with the job, but that didn’t make it any easier.
“I had to overcome that self-doubt that I don’t know what I’m doing,” Buchan said. “I can’t come across as the guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
Turns out, he did know what he was doing.
Esterline purchased the company, Barco N.V., which brought millions of dollars of new business and new jobs to Everett.
Buchan, who is vice president for strategy at Esterline’s Control &Communication Systems in Everett, is relatively new to Snohomish County. He had been coming here for five years and moved from California with his family to Mukilteo two years ago.
In his job, he works in government relations. He manages a team of four as well as four consultants, including two retired Air Force colonels, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and a seasoned Washington, D.C., lobbyist. Buchan has engaged himself in the community. He joined Economic Alliance Snohomish as a trustee.
“A month later, I think I was on four boards,” Buchan said.
He described himself as a passionate aviation enthusiast with a fascination with all things science. So it makes sense that he joined Everett Public School’s STEM advisory group to promote the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“If you talk to kids and say engineering, they say ‘Ugh,’” Buchan said. “‘I don’t want to be an engineer. Those are the guys with oily rags and the blue overalls.’”
That’s why he heads to the classroom with balsa wood, paper clips and bendy straws to get kids into a competition to build the fastest rocket car.
After a couple of hours, the kids all want to be engineers: “Rocket science is fun.”
Buchan praised the techinical know-how in this area. He points to unmanned systems, building machines with controls that can run rail, cars, ships and even planes autonomously without human intervention.
The Puget Sound region with Microsoft, Amazon and Google and the county with all of its aerospace expertise could be on the leading edge of this field.
“Why can’t Snohomish County pull on all of the aerospace talent and be the Silicon Valley of unmanned systems going forward?” Buchan said.
He sees this area as being his home for years.
“With a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old, I have plans of being around here for a long time,” Buchan said. “I want to keep that competitive edge that this county has. We’re not a big county. There are a lot of bigger counties out there, but, my God, there’s so much talent here.”