Defense contractors seek a skilled, engaged & diverse workforce
"The doors have been blown wide open! It's refreshing to see more young women excited about technical careers." – Kinda Eastwood, Pratt & Whitney
"I focus on long-term R&D, emerging technologies that are three, five and even ten years out." – Cantrell Simon, Textron Marine & Land Systems
By Dan Margherita
In a rapidly changing global environment, defense contractors are looking for a wide range of skills, from high tech to business savvy, to support their complex offerings. David Barrios, senior manager of recruiting at the Boeing Company (Chicago, IL), says, "Boeing products and services require an amazing array of technical, engineering and scientific skills. You name it and we have it here, from statistician to rocket scientist!
"We seek out and attract a skilled, motivated, diverse and engaged workforce to ensure we have a pipeline of talent and to meet our ongoing business requirements today and tomorrow. We also hire for critical skills to support our business in the near term."
Maria Schwartz, a recruiter for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL, Laurel, MD), adds that "We work hard to ensure that we have the right programs and processes in place to attract and hire the best and the brightest. Although much of our time is spent finding engineers, scientists and analysts to work on current programs, we also strive to hire and develop a diverse knowledge base which will be critical for future programs."
At Raytheon Company (Waltham, MA), John Malanowski, HR VP, says, "We need talent that will drive new ideas and innovative solutions for our customers. The more diverse and inclusive our environment, the more creative and productive we continue to be."
Customer focus is also critical at Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT), where Amy Liedke, HR operations manager, notes that "Diversity and inclusion are critical to our growth and prosperity and help to meet the needs of our global customer base."
Tolulope Fayanjuola: "revolutionary" software at GDEB
At General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB, Groton, CT), software engineer Tolu Fayanjuola is working on a project for electric control surface actuation, a new method that could revolutionize the way nuclear subs move.
"We're replacing the external hydraulic system with an electric actuator system," Fayanjuola explains. She is currently part of the team that's developing software to control the electric actuators that will move the sub's bow planes. The actuators are the interface between the controls inside the ship and the electric motors outside the ship that allow it to submerge and surface.
Current hydraulic systems are noisy, bulky and risk environmental contamination if their oil leaks. Using an electrical actuation system could eliminate all these concerns, Fayanjuola notes. GDEB predicts that the modifications could be ready for ships that the shipyard will begin constructing in 2014 to join the U.S. Navy fleet starting in 2019.
Fayanjuola has been at GDEB almost three years. She began her tech career as an intern for the city of Providence, RI. She was hired by the city's inspections and standards department to develop software, but "ended up working on day-to-day issues like fixing someone's printer. At Electric Boat it's a whole different atmosphere. The work is challenging, and I enjoy that."
Fayanjuola grew up in Providence, the daughter of parents who stressed education. "My father is a retired math teacher and my mother directs two federally-funded education programs," she says.
She's known since elementary school that she wanted a career in engineering. She earned her BS in CS and engineering from Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) in 2005 and expects to begin work on an MS in CS this year.
Her graduating class of fifty CS and engineering students at Bucknell included only four women. Still, Fayanjuola had support on multiple fronts. "The SWE and NSBE chapters were very active at Bucknell, and my associate dean, a woman, was very encouraging."
Fayanjuola is returning that support by participating in organizations that promote diversity at GDEB. She's currently secretary of the GDEB Black Engineering Council.
Moussa Koulbou: senior systems engineer at General Dynamics
Moussa Koulbou's family was driven from its home in Chad, Central Africa, by the civil wars of the 1970s and 80s. He lived in Africa, Asia and Europe before coming to the United States alone in 1996 with $200 in his pocket.
Today Koulbou is senior systems engineer with the national systems division of General Dynamics C4 Systems (Scottsdale, AZ). Koulbou and his team of seven engineers work on the mobile user objective system (MUOS) program for which Koulbou is integration and test lead.
MUOS is a third-generation DoD wireless communication system that will provide simultaneous voice, video and data communication using wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA). It accomplishes these cell-phone-like services with satellites acting as very tall "towers" to let warfighters on the ground communicate directly with each other and their commanders virtually anywhere in the world.
Before he was integration and test lead, Koulbou was air interface lead on the same project. "Just three years out of college and in charge of twenty engineers," he says with pride. "It was a leap of faith for the company but I had a good reception and good mentoring. They took my hand and walked me through everything I needed to know."
Koulbou got his BS in software engineering and CS from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2004 and immediately joined General Dynamics. This spring he completed his MBA from Arizona State University.
His interest in engineering grew from his childhood in Chad. "We couldn't buy any toys or games so we had to salvage whatever we could to make them." He dreamed of being an inventor, "But I knew that if I wanted to pursue engineering I would have to come to the United States."
Koulbou is a member of IEEE, the Project Management Institute (PMI, Newtown Square, PA) and the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE, San Diego, CA). He also works with Engineers without Borders (Phoenix, AZ).
He's the tenth of eighteen children and the first and so far the only engineer in the family.
Lynn Brown is a subject matter expert at LogiCore Corp
Lynn Brown, with more than twenty years experience in engineering analysis, recently joined LogiCore Corp (Huntsville, AL) as a logistics analyst supporting Program Executive Office (PEO) Aviation, which is the U.S. Army manager for the Apache helicopter, several other helicopters and unmanned aircraft systems.
LogiCore is a woman-owned business certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a small disadvantaged business. It was created in 2002 to provide technical services and solutions to the DoD and the federal government. Brown's team provides logistics program support to the U.S. Army.
"Logistics involves analyses to increase efficiency and effectiveness and reduce lifecycle cost at the same time," Brown explains. "Our role is to determine how to improve existing processes and procedures for a weapons system."
Brown has a 1986 BSEE and a 2007 MS in software engineering from the University of Alabama in her hometown of Huntsville. She continued learning at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH). "They really opened my eyes beyond just the local area. It has enabled me to become a subject matter expert in software engineering, although when I got my BS back in '86 there was no software engineering!"
Before joining LogiCore, Brown worked as a contractor. She met Miranda Bouldin, president and CEO of LogiCore, at a Joint Integrated Air & Missile Defense (JIAMD) conference and was impressed with the company and its commitment to community involvement. She joined LogiCore last year.
Among other professional and community-oriented activities, Brown is a member of Executive Women International (EWI, Salt Lake City, UT), which brings together key people to promote member firms, enhance personal and professional development and encourage community involvement.
Robert Verastiqui: aerospace culture at Rockwell Collins
Born into a military family on an Air Force base in Mississippi, Robert Verastiqui saw much of Europe and Asia before returning to the U.S. at the age of fourteen. This year he's celebrating ten years with Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA), where he's senior ME for the Navy E-6B program, working at the company's Richardson, TX facility.
The E-6B aircraft is used to conduct "take charge and move out" (TACAMO) and U.S. Strategic Command airborne command post missions, providing reliable and survivable communications between the U.S. president, the secretary of defense, the U.S. strategic National Command Authority (NCA) and strategic and non-strategic forces during times of crisis.
"Our team oversees modification and implementation of systems to the E-6B aircraft from creation through installation," explains Verastiqui. "We conduct structural analyses and thermal analyses as well as environmental testing. We also visit the various military installations where the planes are housed."
Verastiqui was always interested in math and science; a high school physics teacher turned him on to engineering. "He told us that science could explain why things happened the way they did," he remembers.
He started college in aerospace engineering but switched to ME. He got his BSME from the University of Texas in 1996 and later earned a 2007 MSME from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX).
He started as a drilling engineer for Shell Oil Co, but missed the involvement with military aircraft. Rockwell Collins offered a return to aerospace culture on the communications side. "When I came here in 2000, there were only about 300 employees at our Richardson facility. Today there are almost a thousand people here and diversity has really picked up."
Verastiqui is a member of Rockwell Collins' Latino Employee Network and also chapter president of the Rockwell Collins Leadership Association.
At Boeing, Jessie Juarez tracks risks and mitigates them
Jessie Juarez is a systems engineer at the Boeing Company. Working in Arlington, VA, she supports Boeing's chief engineers on the company's SBInet.
SBInet is a critical component of the Secure Border Initiative, a comprehensive plan by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to gain operational control of the U.S. border. It is designed to provide frontline personnel advantages in securing the nation's land borders through effective integration of current and next-gen technology, infrastructure, staffing and response platforms.
"We identify risks and mitigate them," Juarez explains. "My job is to track issues, write them up and create a plan to bring them to closure."
Juarez is Chinese-American, born in Binghamton, NY. Her father is an EE; "We were always tinkering with stuff and I asked him a lot of questions," she remembers.
Juarez got her BSEE from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY) in 1999. In 2006 she completed an MS in systems engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
"I had been doing software and hardware engineering, but after 9/11 I decided that I wanted to do something that would make a difference in people's lives," Juarez says.
"Boeing was doing exciting missile defense work in 2002 and they had the kinds of jobs I wanted."
On the SBInet team, Juarez finds that her educational background is helping to broaden her perspective. "Supporting Boeing's software engineering team puts me on a critical path to experience new areas of the business," she notes.
Juarez says she has embraced her diversity in her personal life and tried to share her culture with others. "It's never been a hindrance to me, but I'm not sure I would have noticed if it helped me," she says.
She belongs to several company affinity groups in the Potomac region, including Boeing Women in Leadership (BWIL) and the Boeing Asian-American Professional Association (BAAPA). They promote networking, professional development and social resources.
Senior recruiting manager David Barrios notes that Boeing "actively encourages people to cultivate their diversity. We have seven company-wide affinity groups that collectively have more than ninety local chapters."
Haley Kim looks for clean-cut answers at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
"I enjoy getting clean-cut answers," says Haley Kim, ME, of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI, Poway, CA). That, she says, is why she majored in ME in college. Haley works in GA-ASI's propulsion group of about twenty engineers and designers.
Their project is the Sky Warrior UAS, a multi-mission unmanned aircraft system for U.S. Army ops. It provides long-endurance intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and tactical strike capability.
"The propulsion group handles issues related to the engine, fuel and cooling systems on planes," explains Kim. "We support manufacturing, overseas field deployments and ground and flight testing. Sky Warrior is pretty far along in production, so our role right now is mostly troubleshooting and handling unforeseen issues."
Kim calls herself an "Air Force brat." She is Polynesian, born on Guam, but went to school in California where she earned her BSME from the University of California (San Diego, CA) in 2005 and her MSME from Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA) in 2007.
"I started out in environmental studies but found it too opened-ended," Kim recalls. "I like ME for its cleancut answers: right or wrong."
There were very few women in her classes: only about ten percent. "I learned that men in groups work differently from women, and knowing that has helped me here at GA-ASI."
After graduation Kim spent a year at MWH Global, Inc (Broomfield, CO) as an engineering intern before moving to GA-ASI in 2005. "GA-ASI has a very strong military presence, and since I grew up in the Air Force I am very comfortable with that," she says.
Outside work Kim is involved in several professional and community groups. She's an industry advisor to Botball, an all-girls robotics team.
Cantrell Simon focuses on long-term R&D at Textron Marine & Land Systems
Cantrell Simon has been director of advanced special projects at Textron Marine & Land Systems (Slidell, LA) since 2008. "I focus on long-term R&D projects to fill the company's pipeline with new products; emerging technologies that are three, five and even ten years out."
Simon managed the model test program for the T-Craft, a science and technology project of the Office of Naval Research. He was responsible for an integrated product team to design, build and test scale models of a craft capable of transforming from catamaran to surface-effect ship to fully amphibious 240-plus-foot hovercraft.
"It has implications not only for defense but also for humanitarian relief efforts," Simon says. "If this ship had been available at the time of the Haiti earthquake, we could have delivered hundreds of tons of food and medicine exactly where it was needed, bypassing the unusable ports and the overcrowded airport." Textron plans to have a prototype ready soon and hopes to deliver a prototype demonstrator in 2014.
Simon was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. "My parents were practically illiterate," he recalls. "I had to read them the mail, pay the bills and stuff like that." He's the youngest of nine children and the only one to go to college.
For a while he considered a biomedical career, but switched to EE in college. He received his BSEE from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 1982.
Before Textron, Simon worked for OSR, Inc (Huntington Beach, CA) where he was an engineering consultant, and AAI Corp (Choctaw, MS), where he spent eight years as director of engineering before Textron acquired the company in 2007.
Amy Vaduthalakuzhy: "limitless opportunities" at Johns Hopkins APL
Amy Vaduthalakuzhy is new to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), where she's an associate staff member in the wireless communications technology group of the applied information sciences department (AISD).
APL is a not-for-profit division of JHU. Organized just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the lab solves complex research, engineering and analytical problems that present critical challenges to the U.S. It's working on more than 600 programs related to homeland security, national defense and space science.
Vaduthalakuzhy's wireless communications group includes some fifty engineers concentrating on a variety of communications issues facing the U.S. Navy. "We do so many different things," she says with enthusiasm. "Most of my work involves problem solving, creating simulations, analyzing results and drawing conclusions. A lot of what I do is lab work, including creating prototypes and demos."
She was born in India; her family came to Florida when she was in high school. She completed her BSEE from Georgia Tech in 2007, then went to the University of St. Andrews (St. Andrews, Scotland) on a fellowship for her 2008 MS in optoelectronics.
Vaduthalakuzhy is a member of the APL Young Professionals Network, one of many affinity groups and clubs at APL.
Christine Pollock, JHU/APL's employment manager, notes that the lab is an active participant in national and regional conferences and career fairs sponsored by SWE, NSBE and SHPE.
Alan Bermudez develops algorithms at Raytheon Company
Alan Bermudez is a senior physics engineer at Raytheon Company, working in the Dallas, TX office. "My job is to develop algorithms based on mathematical and physical models and apply creative solutions to complex problems," Bermudez explains. "We want to increase performance of our products and implement new features."
Bermudez has been with Raytheon for seven years. He holds top secret security clearances and is necessarily cautious when discussing his work. "Most of what I do is proprietary to Raytheon but I work on all types of defense applications," is about as far as he will go.
He grew up and went to school in McAllen, TX. "I was always a math and science person," he recalls. "In junior high I was bussed up to the high school to take advanced math courses and in high school I took college-level courses at the university."
He got his BSEE from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2003. In 2006 he completed an MSEE at Southern Methodist University (SMU, Dallas, TX). He hopes to complete a PhD in EE with a research focus on automatic target recognition and classification at SMU next year. "I'd like to be the CTO someday, and help decide what technologies we should invest in and grow."
Bermudez belongs to several professional associations and employee resource groups inside and outside Raytheon, including the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of SHPE which he joined back in college, the Hispanic Organization for Leadership Advancement, the Raytheon Asian-Pacific Association, the Raytheon American Indian Network and the Raytheon Women's Network.
"Having all these different resource groups attracted me to Raytheon," Bermudez says. "They provide tremendous networking opportunities."
Kinda Eastwood: sidewall system responsibility at Pratt & Whitney
Kinda Eastwood came to Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT), a United Technologies company, from the U.S. Air Force. She moved from being a customer of the company, as she was in the Air Force, to representing it to the Air Force as program manager for Pratt & Whitney's F-22 aircraft-mounted nozzle sidewall system. The system protects aircraft flight surfaces and fuselage from intense heat generated by Pratt & Whitney's F-119 engine.
"I now have cradle to grave responsibility for the Pratt & Whitney system, from design and manufacturing to field support," she notes with pride. "I'm involved in all the business processes including proposal management and negotiations, quality, production, delivery and field support. I am an advocate for our customers to Pratt & Whitney and also from our company back to the customer," she adds.
She doesn't have any direct reports, "so our team has to have a shared vision as to how our work is to be completed and supported," she says. "It's built on consensus."
Eastwood is from Oregon. She followed in the military service footsteps of her Navy father and Army brother, but she joined the Air Force because "They had more opportunities and better travel locations." The Air Force trained her as an aircraft engine mechanic, working on F-111, F-15 and F-16 jets.
While in the military she went to night school and community colleges, earning her BS in management from Park University (Parkville, MO) in 1996. Two years later she joined Pratt & Whitney after meeting with a company rep at a job fair.
"Up until the mid-1990s I was one of only a few Air Force women in the aircraft maintenance field. Today the doors have been blown wide open! It's refreshing to see more young women excited about technical careers," she says.
Eastwood helps that excitement along at P&W as a leader in the Pratt & Whitney women's council, one of several employee groups within the company.
Today she's still a maintenance officer in the Air Force Reserve. Speaking about her own career path, she says she has "a lot of runway left." She sees her future moving along a business path as well as a technical one. "Engineering isn't my only passion," she admits. "I like the business side of what I'm doing now."
Elizabeth Adams leads tech teams at ITT
"I work on some of the coolest things going, and I get to work with lots of smart people," says Elizabeth Adams, program manager at ITT Advanced Engineering Systems (Herndon, VA). She's the systems integration lab lead, working with the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
"I don't really consider myself a technical person but I know how to lead technical teams," she says. "I view my job from the customer perspective, managing expectations from the executive to the developer level and seeing to it that our systems are in place to achieve our goals."
JIEDDO supports the Department of Defense, Adams explains. "Our work helps military personnel access seemingly disparate information and data sources to create actionable
intelligence information vital to JIEDDO's mission."
The systems integration lab is a branch within JIEDDO that develops and maintains a variety of systems in support of its mission to attack the network. Adams leads teams of more than 120 people including engineers, scientists, software developers, researchers and analysts. They are responsible for planning, developing and executing strategic, organizational and technology efforts within the systems integration lab and across the Joint IED Defeat Organization.
Adams is from St. Paul, MN. She worked for several years as an IT contractor for clients including Best Buy, Inc (Eden Prairie, MN), Sprint Nextel (Reston, VA) and Fannie Mae Inc (Washington, DC) before joining ITT in 2008. She earned a BS in business management through an adult education program at Bethel University (Minneapolis, MN) in 1999 and a graduate certificate in leadership from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) in 2000.
"It's hard not to notice that I'm often the only woman in the room," Adams says, but she doesn't see it as either an advantage or a disadvantage. "The important thing is to show that you can execute and lead a team. Your skill sets have to match the job."
ITT, she reflects, "has a strong sense that diversity is not only important but necessary." Adams is a member of Women in Defense (WID), an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), both headquartered in Arlington, VA.
DEFENSE CONTRACTORS LOOKING FOR DIVERSE PROS
See websites for current openings.
|Company and location
|Boeing Company (Chicago, IL)
|Commercial jetliners and military aircraft
|DRS (Parsippany, NJ) www.drs.com
||Defense electronic systems
|General Atomics Aeronautical
Systems, Inc (Poway, CA)
|Unmanned aircraft systems, tactical reconnaissance radars and surveillance systems
|General Dynamics C4 Systems
(Scottsdale, AZ) www.gdc4s.com
|Secure communications, information systems and technology
|General Dynamics Electric Boat
|Nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy
|Harris Corp (Melbourne, FL)
||Communications and IT company serving
government and commercial markets
|ITT Corp (McLean, VA) www.itt.com
||High-tech engineering and manufacturing
|Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory (Laurel, MD)
||Not-for-profit center for engineering, research
|L-3 Communications Corp (New York, NY)
||Prime contractor: C3ISR systems, electronic systems, aircraft modernization/maintenance and government services
|LogiCore Corp (Huntsville, AL)
||Logistics and engineering services for DoD, government and commercial clients
|Northrop Grumman Corp (Los Angeles, CA)
|Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT)
||Aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines
|Raytheon Company (Waltham, MA)
||Technology for defense, homeland security and other government markets
|Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA)
||Communications and aviation electronics for aerospace and defense companies
|SRA International (Fairfax, VA)
||Solves complex problems of global significance for government organizations
|Textron Marine & Land Systems
|Design, production and support of advanced marine craft, light armored combat vehicles, turrets and related subsystems
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