Chief of Operations

Hawaii, United States
Salary Not specified
Jun 14, 2021
Employment Level
Employment Type
Full Time

The W. M. Keck Observatory ( invites nominations and applications for the position of Chief of Operations. The Keck Observatory is a private 501(c)3 non-profit organization operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and NASA and is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the aforementioned partner institutions.

 W. M. Keck Observatory celebrates the wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences of its local and global community. It is committed to building a culture of inclusivity where everyone is valued, respected and empowered. It strives to be an equitable environment that celebrates the contributions of each in our mission to advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries, inspiring the imagination of all.

 The Chief of Operations (COO) is responsible for ensuring that the internal functions of the Observatory are aligned and organized to meet the mission objectives effectively and efficiently. The COO serves to ensure that the vision and strategy determined by the Director are translated into action in a timely and cost-effective fashion. To this end, the COO provides the tactical leadership of the Observatory, supporting the Director’s focus on strategy, mission, and the board of directors. The COO is a member of the Director’s Advisory Council, chairs the Observatory’s Management Council, and joins the other executive leaders of the Observatory in engaging its board.

 The COO looks across the organization for opportunities, bottlenecks, shortcomings and inefficiencies and devises approaches to improve the overall execution effectiveness of the Observatory.  They champion a ‘one-team’ approach, convening groups and collaborating across departments, disciplines and functions to solve organization-wide issues.

 The position has a strong execution focus to solve problems and exploit opportunities and drives operational change initiatives across the Observatory, using a risk-based management approach to balance rigor with the need to execute expeditiously. The COO will also contribute to the development of Observatory strategy at a leadership level, especially in infrastructure renewal and risk reduction.

 The Operations function is currently organized in four units: Engineering, Operations & Infrastructure, Environmental Health & Safety, and Computer & Network Systems. Within the new COO’s first year, it is anticipated that they will assume responsibility for the Project Management group, which is currently under the direction of the Technical Development department. Together, these units deploy approximately 80 staff who ensure that, every night, scientists confidently and efficiently use the Observatory’s unique resources to advance the understanding of the universe.

 To be considered for this broad leadership role, candidates should possess at least 10 years of increasing responsibility in managing and leading a technology-based or technology-intensive operation with five years of senior-level experience in an engineering, scientific, or research organization. In addition, candidates will meet the following requirements:

  •  An undergraduate degree in engineering or a basic-science field related to the Observatory’s mission.
  • A record of leading projects and operations in a mission-critical technical environment.
  • Success managing technical teams and projects and managing budgets ranging from $5M to $50M.
  • Experience in and understanding of a variety of engineering disciplines.


For a full description of the role and the qualifications the Keck Observatory seeks, please see here.


WMKO has retained Opus Partners ( to support this recruitment. Craig Smith, Partner, and Chris Stadler, Associate, are leading the search. Applicants should submit a letter of interest and CV or resume to and Confidential inquiries, applications, and nominations should go to the same addresses.

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