The Department of Philosophy is pleased to present an alumnus profile featuring William Mandrick, PhD. He graciously agreed to answer our inquiries about his experience with our faculty, and perspectives on his personal life, academic path, and professional career as an ontologist for the United States Army.
Attending my first ontology lectures with Barry Smith, Thomas Bittner (et. al.) brought my future into focus... I realized that ontology provided the formal intersection of all of my military training and previous philosophy courses. It was time to pursue ontology as my full-time career."
—William Mandrick, PhD
JOBS FOR ONTOLOGISTS: As of Summer 2020, the Payscale website indicates that the average U.S. salary for an ontologist is $81,813 within the salary range is $51k to $160k (range includes industry bonus). To learn more visit payscale.com
I grew up in Rochester, NY where I enlisted in the U.S. Army immediately after graduation from high-school in 1984. My Army training taught me to analyze terrain, read maps, plot grid-coordinates, calculate angles, and report events unfolding in space and time. I realize now that these skills formed a solid foundation for my ontology training many years later.
After Basic Combat Training I was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma (1984-1986), where I filled my off-duty time with college courses in psychology and philosophy. These courses drove my desire to go back to New York and attend college full-time.
Upon my return home, I immediately enrolled at SUNY College at Brockport where I majored in philosophy. I especially enjoyed courses on Aristotle, Descartes, and Wittgenstein. However, at this point I still didn’t see how all of this would lead me to a career in ontology.
While attending college I was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army Infantry, so that right after graduation (1990) I would ship off to Fort Benning, GA for the Infantry Officer Basic Course (IOBC). After a year of training I was assigned to the 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Ft. Hood, Tx. After two long overseas deployments I married Mary Jo, my college girlfriend, on 09 January 1993. Mary Jo was born and raised in South Buffalo and continues to support me to this day.
Upon completion of my commitment to the Army we moved back to Rochester NY. Knowing that I wanted to attend graduate school, my wife encouraged me to start driving out to UB to attend courses on a part-time schedule. During a series of lectures (1998) by Barry Smith, David Mark, Randall Dipert, and Thomas Bittner I realized that I wanted pursue a career in ontology, but I had more to do in the Army.
From 2002-2003 I was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where I started to assemble my dissertation titled The Ontology of War. After graduation from UB in 2004 I was back in uniform heading off to war-torn regions of the world. While on deployment in 2008, I received an e-mail from someone in the Intelligence Community who wanted to talk to me about a possible position as an Ontologist. As helicopters flew overhead in an austere location, I had my first interview for an ontology job on a tactical satellite phone—another pivotal moment in my life.
I can honestly say that I loved my time in the UB Philosophy Department (1997 – 2004). Attending my first ontology lectures with Barry Smith, David Mark, Randall Dipert, Thomas Bittner (et. al.) brought my future into focus. While attending those lectures I realized that ontology provided the formal intersection of all of my military training and previous philosophy courses. It was time to pursue ontology as my full-time career.
What specifically generated this insight? It was the combination of interesting readings and classroom lectures including:
For me, these readings and lectures clearly demarcated the three orders of reality (see Roger Penrose’s “Three Worlds and Three Deep Mysteries”), and sent my mind reeling. I didn’t care that ontology was becoming a highly sought after skill-set; I was going to study ontology simply because I was fascinated by it.
The highlight of my time in the U.S. Army Reserves was commanding soldiers in training and during major combat operations. When not in a command position, I served as a Senior Concept Developer (2015 -2016) at the Institute for Military Support to Governance within the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Ft. Bragg, NC. While there I helped develop the plan to build Governance Advisory Teams (GATs) to support worldwide stability operations, foreign internal defense, and security cooperation with host-nation governments.
I finished my military career (retiring in 2019) as a Senior Research Fellow at Joint Special Operations University where I conducted research that was considered critical by the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. My research focused primarily on Economic Intelligence and Terrorist Links to Transnational Organized Crime.
My inspiration comes from my faith, my family, and my Band of Brothers. I also love to travel around the world with Mary Jo and our sons, learn about different cultures, eat local food (Persian / Afghan food is my favorite), and meet interesting people.
I plan to continue on with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Defense Intelligence Community, where my work is focused primarily upon semantic integration across disparate information systems through the application of ontologies that are compliant with ISO/IEC 21838-2 Basic Formal Ontology (BFO).
Conduct a clinical (honest and unemotional) self-assessment to identify your strengths and weaknesses. From this, find what you are most passionate about and make that the foundation for a life-plan. Be the author of your life-plan that includes short, intermediate, and long-term goals (both professional and personal). Be prepared to deviate from and revise your life-plan, but make sure you have one. Pursue every goal with focus and determination, but do not worry too much about failures; they are just part of your education process.