Maneesh Jain finds a rewarding career in defense at BAE Systems
Today he oversees a team of 120 engineers spread across the country, working on various programs in BAE System's US Combat Systems division
A gift he didn't ask for sparked Maneesh Jain's interest in technology.
"My brother and I begged my father for a new gaming system, but instead he bought us an Apple II," he recalls. "We thought he was crazy to spend so much money when all we wanted was a game."
But it turned out the computer was even more captivating than the game. By sixth grade Jain could program in BASIC and by high school he was working in Fortran. Today Jain is a senior engineering manager at the Santa Clara, CA facility of BAE Systems, where he has grown his career for the past seven years.
"Turns out my father made a good decision," he says with a smile.
Jain has a 1994 BSME from the University of Michigan and a 1995 MSME from Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA). He began working at United Defense after he got the MS, and BAE bought United Defense soon after.
An emerging leader
Two years ago Jain was selected by his VP from among the company's 45,000 employees to be one of a group of twenty-five promising engineers in an "emerging leaders" program. Participants are mentored by BAE leaders. His own mentor was a director of performance excellence.
The program also included a special project sponsored by the CEO and senior VPs, exploring the vital relationships company execs need to develop. "We asked, 'Who are the most important people that the CEO and his staff should be focused on," whether it's the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of the Army or other key people," Jain says. "It was a great opportunity to look at the business from that angle, to meet those executives, look at what they do, and think about where I want my own career to go."
Jain entered college thinking about aerospace engineering, but a respected professor urged him to go into ME instead. Growing up in Michigan and Indiana, Jain was surrounded by the auto industry and opportunities abounded for MEs, so he selected that track while continuing to develop his software skills working on an independent study project.
"My professor asked me to use my Fortran knowledge to create computer models on the theoretical benefits of hybrid technology," he recalls. "We took the EPA driving cycle, models of engines and batteries and made some very simple computer models. I became very interested in hybrid technologies through that project."
At Stanford Jain pursued this study farther. United Defense sponsored a project on motors and other hybrid technology geared toward combat vehicles and commercial apps, and "With my interest in hybrid technology it was a perfect match," he says.
After he completed his ME, Jain's work with United Defense on the hybrid project led to his job there. "The job sounded cool," he says with a smile, "and it was, but I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew nothing about defense and all the challenges associated with contracts there, as opposed to the commercial world."
Following a trend
After a few years at United Defense Jain felt pressured to cash in on the tech boom in California.
"A lot of my friends were on my case, saying I wasn't getting the benefits of stock options," he recalls. He joined a biotech firm in San Jose in 1999, but "We didn't do much but watch our stock go up," he recalls ruefully. "I lost interest because I like to get things accomplished at work."
He applied to rejoin United Defense, but the company was unable to take him on at the time, so in 2001 he moved to Software Engineering Inc (Santa Clara, CA), a United Defense contractor.
By 2003 Jain was back in the United Defense fold as a project lead and systems architect, moving back into defense work.
Program manager and more
In 2004 BAE Systems acquired United Defense and the company underwent some reorganization. Jain took the opportunity to grow in management and leadership positions and steadily progressed from software lead to program manager to team leader.
In 2006 he became program manager for a project working with ground vehicle chassis. Then he helped manage a vehicle development and prototype effort, and is now firmly established on the management track.
He oversees a team of 120 engineers spread across the country, working on various programs in BAE Systems' Combat Systems division. About a third of his staff supports the Bradley program, an Army combat vehicle.
"We do a lot of reset and remanufacturing," he explains. "We take older versions and upgrade them, and we take vehicles damaged in Iraq or Afghanistan and remanufacture them to be like new.
"We learn a lot from what's going on in the field. If we realize a product could be more reliable we upgrade it to make it better."
The work has new meaning in times of conflict, he says. "At the end of the day, these vehicles serve a dedicated service. You hope they are being used to save lives, and better the lives of people across the world."
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