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Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



June/July 2010

Diversity/Careers June/July 2010 Issue

African Americans in IT
Communications jobs
Semiconductor careers
Intell & cybersecurity
BDPA comes to Philly
Grace Hopper in Sept
Great Minds in STEM

Energy M/WBEs
Supplier diversity

News & Views
Regional roundup

Diversity in action
News & Views

Telephonics Intel
National Radio Astronomy Observatory Ford

Diversity In Action

L-3 Communications: this huge company has lots of jobs to fill

L-3 is looking for EEs, MEs, design engineers, test engineers, systems engineers and “many, many software engineers,” says the company’s HR VP

Corporate HR VP John Hill in the L-3 antenna lab: “Our primary client is the Department of Defense and we’re on the space station and space shuttle, too.” Technical solutions provider and prime contractor to the defense industry L-3 Communications is preparing for what it calls “the silver tsunami:” a growing wave of baby boomer retirements which it expects in the not-too-far future. But even before the wave hits, the government defense contractor lists 2,000 open jobs on its website, most of them technical positions.

Divisions in Texas and Salt Lake City are hiring robustly: “They hire a person per day out there; they’re really busy,” says John Hill, corporate HR VP. Jobs are also open at sites around the Washington, DC Beltway.

“Recruiters check out every minority organization with a website for hiring, and we cross-post on as many Internet sites as possible,” Hill says. L-3 is delighted to talk to experienced techies; the company is active with SWE and NSBE, and recruiters attend NSBE conferences each year.

Emphasis on college recruiting is increasing. L-3 seeks grads from top engineering schools with diverse student populations. So far it has formal partnerships with the University of Maryland and the University of California-San Diego.

Several of L-3’s divisions have excellent relationships with schools near them. In Texas it’s the University of Texas, Baylor University, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. An office in Salt Lake City works with the University of Utah. L-3 also partners with the University of Illinois and Rochester Institute of Technology. “Our human resource professionals spend a lot of time cultivating those relationships!” Hill says. L-3 is also active in MESA/STEP in Utah, a consortium of public education, higher education and industry organizations collaborating to encourage minorities and women in high school and college to enter engineering careers.

What kinds of jobs are there to fill? L-3 hires design engineers, test engineers, systems engineers and “many, many software engineers,” Hill says. About a third of L-3’s technical employees are EEs; MEs and manufacturing engineers are also in demand.

“We’re a very technically diverse company, and we need a lot of smart engineers,” Hill stresses. “Every one of our divisions needs good systems engineers to put the whole product together, make sure it fits, things move correctly, and you can repair it and maintain it quickly and easily. Systems engineers do those things.”

Most products involve software. The Global Hawk unmanned vehicle, which uses L-3’s secure communication devices, is “a workhorse of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and flies totally on software,” Hill says. “It can fly around the battlefield to collect data, and then it comes home, all driven by software.”

Another important software-driven company product is the whole-body imager used in airports.

“Our primary client is the Department of Defense, but we’re on the space station and space shuttle, too,” Hill notes. L-3 equipment keeps the space station oriented in space.

“We need smart engineers to figure it all out,” Hill says. “When techies come to L-3 they’re going to use every technical skill they learned in college, and I’m not sure every company can say that.”

Each site has its own mission. In Salt Lake City there are a lot of EEs. Texas, which handles aircraft refurbishment and modernization, needs MEs and systems engineers. A division in Sarasota, FL, makes “black boxes” for various types of aircraft. A big part of L-3’s work is communications, so it also needs communications and electronics engineers.

“Many of our employees on defense-related contracts have security clearances. But if a new employee doesn’t have a clearance, most facilities are big enough to give that person work for the twelve to eighteen months it takes to get one.”

Two-thirds of the company builds things, and the other third is in “services.” Employees write software and maintain and test it for customers. “There’s also a lot of repair activity, and we maintain spare parts and logistics depots for different products. Employees are keeping up databases and running warehouses, and you need technical people to do that kind of work,” Hill says.

Exiting military people are major contributors to L-3’s services businesses. The company also supports Wounded Warriors, and a division in Texas trains disabled veterans for air traffic control positions.

New employees at the company go through online training in ethics and diversity in the workplace, with follow-up training every eighteen months.

Most divisions have a formal employee appraisal system, related to career goals and career development. Some of the large divisions have formal mentoring programs: “We put a new hire with a seasoned employee to show them the ropes,” Hill says.

Work-life balance is also important at L-3. Most divisions have liberal policies for time off to go to the gym or check up at day care. In most facilities employees can opt to work nine hours for four days each week and get alternate Fridays off. Some divisions allow telecommuting: “We can set up someone’s computer to work nicely at home,” Hill says.


L-3 Communications
L-3 Communications

Headquarters: New York, NY
Employees: 67,000
Revenues: $15.6 billion in 2009
Business: As a prime contractor, supplies a broad range of products and services used in aerospace and defense platforms

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