AUSTIN, Texas – Until just a few years ago, Brance Hudzietz had never really thought about working for the Army – at least not as a civilian.
Upon graduating high school, he briefly considered joining the military to learn how to fly helicopters but decided it was not the right fit. Instead, he headed off to college at Arizona State University, receiving degrees in physics and mathematics before moving to Los Angeles to co-found and run a film production company.
It was not until life later took him to Austin – and specifically to a job with the city’s multi-functional Capital Factory, a tech startup accelerator, venture fund and coworking space – that he learned more about all the unique ways Department of the Army (DA) Civilians can support Army activities.
He actually learned about the opening for his current position, Entrepreneur in Residence at the Army Applications Laboratory (AAL), during an elevator ride at the Capital Factory, where AAL is housed.
“I bumped into two Army guys in an elevator, and I overheard them talking – ‘You know, we need to hire somebody who knows technology, knows how to build innovation programs, and they don’t need to speak Army, but they need to know how large organizations and small organizations can work together’ – and I was like, ‘That’s me,’” Hudzietz recalled.
Now, Hudzietz helps run the Corporate Ventures section at AAL, managing relationships between industry and private capital markets with the Department of Defense (DOD). He finds the work both challenging and hugely rewarding.
“I don’t need to be the person wearing combat boots, running through the dirt and the mud. There are people that are going to be way better at that than I am, and I’m OK with it. But my skills, whatever they are, can be of value to the Army,” Hudzietz said. “I’m a geek at heart, and I love looking at hard and challenging problems.”
His previous experience building a film company that “specialized in helping early-stage creatives get their first projects up off the ground” proved beneficial when it came time to apply for the role, which he ultimately was offered.
Since becoming part of the AAL team in 2020, Hudzietz has been amazed by how much change and innovation the Army is embracing through organizations like AAL.
“We’re an innovation unit for the Army, and we particularly look at how can the Army leverage tech that’s being innovated or developed on the commercial sector in order to solve Army problems better, faster, cheaper,” he explained.
As a hybrid employee, he generally works from the office – a modern space in a high-rise building overlooking downtown Austin – three or four days a week. A typical workday can include participating in video and in-person conference calls, meeting with external parties, conducting market research and engaging on long-term strategic initiatives.
“I’m always trying to learn a little bit more about something that I didn’t know when I started the day,” Hudzietz said.
One of his primary tasks involves assessing overlap between public and private sector research and development, and then exploring how the Army can harness or learn from existing efforts.
“As an example, let’s say the Army is looking for a better battery, right? I’m going to say, ‘OK, where are the battery companies in the commercial sector, and how much do the commercial problems overlap with the Army property here?’ And so, I’m trying to identify where that pool of innovation is happening, and how can we, the Army, tap into that,” Hudzietz said.
As part of his work, Hudzietz frequently reaches out to – and fosters relationships with – cutting-edge companies, universities and tech accelerators, in addition to private capital networks with specialized experience in encouraging the development and growth of promising ideas.
“We’re able to leverage not just the innovation that’s happening in the commercial sector, but the market intelligence, or the insight that’s on the commercial side, to benefit the Army, and ultimately get to a point where we can put better products into the hands of Soldiers faster,” he said.
The work is critical because the differences in operational norms and product development timelines between large military organizations and smaller companies can sometimes make the process of partnering on projects confusing or difficult.
Detailing how AAL approaches forging new partnerships, Hudzietz asks, “How do we meet industry halfway, make it easier for them to do business? So instead of looking at the DOD as a black box – like ‘Uh, I don’t know what they’re doing over there behind barbed wire and guarded gates’ – meet them halfway and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot in common, let’s tag team something and let’s do it together,’”
“There’s a lot of value to be had, on both sides of the fence, for large groups and small startups, when you can matchmake them together and align their problems,” he asserted.
Hudzietz appreciates that his job with the Army is not only interesting and productive, but also offers stability, a competitive salary, the opportunity to travel and the chance to participate in professional development initiatives, such as the Army’s Greening Course for civilian personnel.
“The organization is very open to career development in a variety of ways, which is really cool.”
He also views living in Austin as a major perk.
“It’s just a fun city, it really is. There’re such great people and so many things to do,” Hudzietz said. “Working downtown, you’re sort of in the middle of it. You’re already downtown for work: go check out a restaurant, stay late for an event. There’s no shortage of things to do here.”
Mostly, though, Hudzietz is motivated by the chance to contribute meaningfully to Army aims.
“I love being able to help make a difference and help make things better daily.”
“I never really considered myself a patriot, but it was a little bit like that,” Hudzietz said of his feelings around transitioning from a private sector position to a public sector position. “Like, here’s a way that I can help build a secure future for our country.”
His role and organization are part of a broader ecosystem of Army transformation happening in and around Austin, where Army Futures Command headquarters and the similarly innovative Army Software Factory are located.
“Everybody’s laser-focused on a common goal, which is exciting,” Hudzietz said.
“For the Army, they’re working on hard problems with a vision for national security,” he added, noting that he has found the shift in mission, compared to the private sector, to be refreshing.
“I do care about our country, and I do want to make sure that our country is safe and secure and is the best possible version of itself that it could be,” Hudzietz said.
“I don’t need to change who I am, I don’t need to learn a new skillset, per se. I can keep progressing my individual career, but I can do that serving a mission that’s going to impact a pretty significant portion of the world.”
To learn more about careers with Army Futures Command, visit our website.
Information on the Army Applications Laboratory is available here.