Vice Admiral Michael Connor addresses Technology Leadership Class of 2024

As students commenced their professional master’s program at Brown, keynote speaker, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral shared lessons learned from the whiteboard to the water — innovation, advocacy and achieving the impossible.

students walking with bagpiper


Providence, R.I. [Brown University] On a brisk January morning, the familiar sound of bagpipes reverberated through College Hill’s city streets as the Brown University School of Professional Studies (SPS), program leadership and Dean Shankar Prasad welcomed 47 new students to the Master of Science in Technology Leadership program.

In the time-honored tradition, students embarked on their journey at Brown by passing through the iconic Van Wickle Gates during the program’s 7th convocation ceremony. The program’s director, Peter Chomowicz, commended this momentous occasion, one that represents the culmination of achievement and great professional success. He started, “Congratulations on beginning your journey. In 16 short months, you will be walking through these same gates the other way, signifying the completion of your hard work and studies at Brown.”

For the opening keynote, Chomowicz introduced Vice Admiral Michael Connor, the founder and CEO of ThayerMahan, a world leader in autonomous maritime surveillance. Connor has a wealth of training and knowledge in undersea operations and ocean activity. With over 35 years of experience in the United States Navy, Connor has held various positions and commands at the ship, squadron, and task force levels, rising to the rank of Vice Admiral. He is globally recognized as an authority on undersea operations and has been instrumental in driving the US Navy's move into robotic undersea systems, achieving key milestones and breaking new ground in undersea communications and technology. 

As a thought leader and sought-after speaker on undersea warfare topics, Connor shared his insights and experiences directly to the newest class. “If you want to do something in technology, you can’t just have the technology and expect the world to find you. You need to go out there. No sales, no business, no innovation.”


If you want to do something in technology, you can’t just have the technology and expect the world to find you. You need to go out there. No sales, no business, no innovation.

Vice Admiral Michael Connor CEO, ThayerMahan
Michael Connor speaking

Other noteworthy lessons he learned throughout his career include how to deal with setbacks, why you must invest in people and provide them the right environment to excel, and how to unlearn in order to do the impossible.

He elaborated, “We’ve found the best customers are those that don’t have 30 years of experience on what is impossible. Getting people to unlearn what they know to be impossible, so they can reexamine what is possible, is a hard part of the job.”

Connor’s speech concluded with an opportunity for students to ask questions. 

After the early morning events, students reconvened in the classrooms at 225 Dyer Street, home of SPS. Here they kicked off their first academic portion of the program with Professor Barbara Tannenbaum’s course on Persuasive Communication. The remainder of their first residential week in Providence is filled with courses on Effective Leadership with Robert Allio, Technology Leadership in a Changing Environment with Donald Stanford and guest speaker Anne Washington, a public interest technologist and assistant professor of data policy at NYU.

This impressive class of 47 — the largest since the inception of the program in 2017 — includes professionals with an average of 15 years of experience from various sectors such as aerospace and defense, manufacturing, finance, cybersecurity, and transportation. Over the 16 month, hybrid program, Master’s in Technology Leadership students transform from technical experts into strategic and impactful thinkers prepared to manage technological change in today’s global economy. Students learn from outstanding faculty from Brown’s School of Engineering as well as highly accomplished practitioners. The program’s capstone, the Critical Challenge Project, allows students the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to address a real-time challenge related to their field and interests.