Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



April/May 2011

Diversity/Careers April/May 2011 Issue

Women of color in IT
Aerospace & defense
Insurance IT
Manufacturing tech
Civil engineering
BEYA conference

Veteran-owned companies
WBENC conference preview
News & Views
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

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  Johns Hopkins APL

Changing technologies


Aerospace & defense: military & civilian sides need tech skills

"The lives of many of our warfighters are in the hands of the professionals in the defense industry." – Sanjuana Jaime, Northrop Grumman

"I get to launch rockets for a living; how cool is that?" – Rachel Morford, Aerospace

John Yuen of General Atomics Aeronautical has enjoyed thirty years in the industry.The past ten years of military activity have increased the demand for engineers at an unprecedented rate, and civilian aerospace growth is starting to stabilize after a recession-led decline. In commercial aerospace, there's an emphasis on building "greener" airplanes that use less fuel and make less noise.

Aerospace is currently outpacing most other manufacturing industries, and its growth this past year has been due in large part to the continued strength in defense, says Bill Chadwick, director of research for the Aerospace Industries Association (Arlington, VA).

Although the civil and defense sectors fluctuate, defense is currently outpacing civil in manufacturing activity, but of course that may change as the economy shows signs of improvement. "The last couple of years we've slipped a little but basically things are going extremely well," Chadwick reports.

Military aerospace spending doubled in the past decade and while the pace of growth may slow as missions are reduced and budgets tighten, the overall spending level should remain high for several more years, at least. "There won't be sudden changes in military spending for the next year or two," Chadwick says.

Civil sales are expected to go up in 2011. "With military flat and civil moving back up we're still at a record level for overall sales," Chadwick notes. Overall sales in 2011 are expected to hit $217.2 billion.

Focus on fuel efficiency
Historically, employment costs were higher than any other expense for operating civilian aircraft. But today fuel is the major expense and the near-future focus is expected to be on fuel efficiency in both military and civil projects. Boeing is a leader in that trend with the 787, a mostly composite, very fuel-efficient plane, and the military sector wants to do its own part to cut fuel consumption and pollution.

In the future the most successful engineers will likely be those who feel a passion for the aerospace and defense fields, and are able to transform their passion into innovative solutions.

John Yuen of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
As a boy John Yuen liked to take his toys apart and airplanes were the toys he liked most. "I thought I wanted to be a fighter pilot," he says, but as it worked out he's building planes for the current generation of fighters at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. "I feel very lucky to do what I do," he says with a smile. "My job is like my hobby."

Yuen received his BSEE from California State University-Northridge in 1981. He focused on digital electronics and circuitry. In school he interned with Hughes Aircraft Missile Systems, but when he graduated he joined the Hawthorne, CA office of Northrop Grumman, doing design work in data links.

In 1989 he worked on the cockpit instrument display for the YF-23 advanced tactical fighter airplane. In 1991 he joined the company's Brilliant Anti-Tank (BAT) weapons systems program, responsible for designing flight data recorder instrumentation and ultimately sharing a patent on the work. Part of the testing of that kind of technology requires the designer to fly in the jet, and that, he says, was something he really enjoyed.

In 1999 Yuen left Northrop Grumman but continued to work for the company as a consultant. He helped create the avionics design for the Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.

Five years later he joined General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) as a manager and engineer 8, working in the San Diego, CA office and responsible for high-level electronic and circuit design. Today his responsibilities have broadened: he has done design work for infrared cameras, explosives detonators, sensor electronics and actuators. He oversees a team of nine engineers, most recently working on the Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft for the U.S. Army and GA-ASI's developmental Predator C-Avenger unmanned combat aircraft.

His thirty years in the industry have been "a lot of fun," he says. He's pleased with the engineers on his team. The electronics industry changes yearly, he points out, and engineers need to stay up to date on the changing technology and be creative in solutions to problems.

To be sure his team is on the right wavelength Yuen holds one-on-one meetings with his engineers at least weekly, sometimes daily. "It helps me see what kind of direction they might need. I tell the engineers it's my goal to help them succeed.

"Always draw from the experience of those around you," Yuen advises them. "When I started at Northrop Grumman I was fortunate to work with some old-timers, and I just kept asking questions. If you have senior engineers around you it's okay to ask for help."

Sanjuana Jaime: Northrop Grumman embedded software engineer
Sanjuana Jaime considered both engineering and medicine in college, but she finally settled on a career in software engineering. She earned her 2005 BS in computer engineering at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and is currently working on an MS in product design and development at Northwestern.

As an undergrad Jaime did a co-op as a software engineer at Northrop Grumman Corp (Rolling Meadows, IL). When she graduated she was brought in as an embedded software engineer to work on the Intermediate Depot Automatic Test Station (IDATS) for the B52 aircraft. She was responsible for the development of the software component that monitors the B-52 IDATS instrument status and enables communication between the user and the test station.

One high point of those years was her work on a tool to detect software memory leaks, which has been useful on at least three software projects. She also worked on the signal processor component of the B-52 aircraft's electronic countermeasures system.

Just six years after earning her BS, Jaime is now responsible for designing, developing and testing the system control component of a countermeasures system to defeat heat-seeking missiles that's installed on hundreds of aircraft worldwide. "I am charged with providing a quality product to our military customers that will help save lives every day," she says.

Jaime was raised in a low-income neighborhood on Chicago's south side by parents who emigrated from Mexico. "The environment and surroundings provided very little opportunity for me to meet professionals who could guide and mentor me," she says. As a high school student she rented an apartment and worked full-time. "My days began at six a.m. and ended at one a.m. when I finally finished my homework," she recalls.

The road was hard but Jaime graduated as valedictorian. "My experience has made me a very strong person," she says. "I learned very early what it meant to work hard to achieve my goals and dreams."

She finds the work she does today very rewarding. "The lives of many of our warfighters are in the hands of the professionals in the defense industry. As engineers, we have to be very detail-oriented to ensure that nothing gets overlooked that could potentially weaken the quality of our products and put people's lives at risk."

Jaime views math and science classes as an important foundation for engineers, but notes that good communication is also vital. "Engineers constantly need to communicate in many different ways, with individuals one-on-one, with small groups on project teams, with customers and with an audience when giving presentations," she says.

Most essential are the creative thinking skills. "They let us generate the innovative ideas that advance technology to new heights!"

Kelly Feerick: at SPA, inputs from many different perspectives
Kelly Feerick works at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc (SPA, Alexandria, VA). "Working as a systems engineer, I would say that an aptitude for math and engineering has been a definite plus," she explains. "Additionally, strong interpersonal skills have helped me immensely. In my experience this is an industry that requires a lot of teamwork and coordination."

SPA provides engineering, analysis and program management services to the military and the departments of defense, homeland security and energy. The privately-held company also works with some industrial clients.

Feerick graduated from Loyola University (Baltimore, MD) in 2003. She has a degree in math with an operations research concentration and a minor in business admin. In 2007 she completed an MS in systems engineering with an operations research concentration at George Washington University (Washington, DC).

"Math was always my favorite subject in school, so when I got to college I knew I wanted to major in math," she says. "But I wasn't sure what types of careers would be available to me after graduation."

Her problem was solved at a career night hosted by the Loyola math department. She heard about the field of defense contracting and was immediately interested.

A few weeks before graduation a professor put her in touch with a friend who worked at SPA. "It's been such a wonderful company for me and I've been here ever since," she says.

She joined the Joint Single Integrated Air Picture System Engineering Organization (JSSEO), which was developing a computer model to provide a common air space view to all combat systems in a network. "This was my first real exposure to defense-related work," she says. "It gave me the opportunity to travel and see many combat system test labs firsthand." As part of the effort she drafted test plans and readiness reports, provided on-site test support and helped develop the final results briefings for JSSEO leadership.

In 2005 Feerick got involved in the military services' implementation and demonstrations of the computer program. She worked directly with developers and testers to make sure service requirements were properly implemented and would be ready to support the demo schedules.

The next year she oversaw development and maintenance of the computer model's interface description document. "This involved working out recommended changes with armed service reps as well as with the many design engineers, developers and testers of the computer model."

Feerick also led two small-scale analysis efforts on components of the design. And for the past two years she's managed a related research project under the Office of Naval Research. "My primary responsibilities include experimenting with various algorithms, particularly in the areas of track filtering and data registration, to determine their utility in other joint analysis studies," she says. As part of the effort she develops test scenarios, executes test scripts and analyzes the test output. Then she documents the final results to brief the team leadership.

"Probably the biggest challenge was that I didn't have any military experience before joining SPA, so I had a bit of a learning curve to understand all the military acronyms as well as the ranks of the military personnel I work with," she says with a smile.

But it all worked out just fine. Feerick learned to ask questions and look at problems from different perspectives when addressing a problem. "Both nonmilitary and military backgrounds play their parts in reaching the best solution possible. So while I found my inexperience a personal challenge, it has not had any negative impact on my work or career."

At most meetings Feerick finds she is either the only woman in the room or one of very few. But that status has its advantages: "Once you're introduced, people remember you."

She has lots of good advice for techies interested in careers in defense. "Be open to new experiences and meeting new people. Work well with the people around you and learn from them. And don't be intimidated if you don't have a military background."

Feerick wants to encourage more women to get into defense and aerospace. "The best solutions are developed with inputs from many different perspectives, personalities and backgrounds," she insists. "Women in engineering can offer unique perspectives that broaden the scope of the possible solutions."

Jerry O. Bamgbade: driving new technologies at CSC
Jerry O. Bamgbade is PMP director and CTO for the DHS DC1 program of the Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Division at systems integration and design company Computer Sciences Corp (CSC, Falls Church, VA). He completed his MS in technology systems management from the University of Maryland University College in 2007, and an MBA from Colorado State University in 2010. He was born and raised in Nigeria, came to the U.S. as a young man and became a U.S. citizen a few years ago.

"My career plans were based on moving from the technical frontline to management within the company and industry at large," he says.

In 1996 he began his first job in the U.S.; he joined CSC in 2003. He was principal computer scientist and technical lead on an IRS modernization program, managing a staff of twenty. He designed a functional development and test lab and integrated commercial off-the-shelf products for an e-commerce infrastructure, worked with cross-project engineers and architects and did career development planning and performance appraisals for his staff members.

In 2005 Bamgbade was promoted to infrastructure engineering manager, supervising a team of system architects and systems, requirements and performance engineers; he managed thirty-five of his own people and ten matrix personnel. He was also responsible for architecture and engineering work products for the contract.

About two years later he went into program management. He was a senior principal leader, guiding a team in the solution architecture office and helping to ensure compliance with best industry practices and the client's standards in software development.

Since 2008 Bamgbade has been director of engineering at CSC, part of the program management team responsible for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data center contract. He works with new technologies and expands the portfolio of services offered to DHS.

Throughout his career, Bamgbade says, "One particular challenge has been keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of our industry and the dynamics of our clients' environment." The mission of the client often involves security and safety with life-and-death ramifications, and "The culture of security-related programs requires the ability to develop mission thinking along with the client."

You also need to know how to align technology services with the client's mission and the company's business objectives, Bamgbade says. "There are often factors deep down under the surface that influence each program."

Mavis J. Machniak is a SPAWAR system center division head
Mavis J. Machniak is division head at Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center Pacific.

She received her BSEE from California State University-Fresno in 1985. Before graduation she had job offers from both the private and public sectors, and she joined the Naval Electronics Systems Engineering Center (Vallejo, CA), a small field activity with about 300 people located on Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California's San Francisco Bay area.

She started work as a junior engineer with a project team involved in the development and production of U.S. Marine Corps communications shelters. It was her job to review design mods, work with research equipment and parts specs, and do engineering evaluations and feasibility studies. She also worked on validation and verification of drawings and commercial and government technical manuals, ran training courses for system setup and operation, and saw manufacturing, production and assembly up close when she worked with the Sacramento, CA Army Depot.

In 1989 she became the in-service engineering agency lead of a Marine Corps command and control shelter system. She designed, tested, produced and fielded several engineering upgrades to computers, software, displays and even operator seating, and received a Commandant of the Marine Corps commendation for her work.

In 1993 Machniak did a six-month tour at SPAWAR Systems Command in Washington, DC as the U.S. Navy commercial satellite acquisition program manager. She learned how the HQ program sponsor, Navy resource sponsor and Congress all work together to fund and execute programs. She helped develop DoD program planning, budget submissions and acquisition documentation.

In 1995 Machniak was promoted to supervisor of the Meteorological and Oceanographic systems branch. Her first major challenge was to move the Vallejo field activity programs, equipment and personnel to San Diego, CA. Relocation of lab, production and sustainment activities took a year, and the operation eventually merged into SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, which has more than 4,000 people.

In 2001 Machniak became manager of the Command and Control Fleet Engineering division. Her programs included Navy command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems; submarine electronic support, tactical data links, IT tools, cost engineering and more.

Since 2006 Machniak has managed the Joint Integrated Systems division. She oversees C4ISR in-service engineering and sustainment support for a number of systems. Her division has about a hundred civilian and military people, and includes engineers, scientists, info and admin specialists.

Her most recent work includes homeland and force-protection security projects with the Navy, Coast Guard and DHS, as well as the evolution of distance support with the C4I Customer Support Knowledge Center.

Throughout her career she's used managerial and analytical skills and her ability to grasp the bigger-picture perspective, she says. "I've always set high standards for myself and others.

"Being ambitious in your career is fine, but job satisfaction is the real key. First and foremost, enjoy what you do," she advises. "My satisfaction comes from working on all the cool programs and projects, and knowing that my team is supporting the warfighters."

Rachel Morford is a senior member of tech staff at Aerospace
Rachel Morford.Rachel Morford supports the aerospace industry as a senior member of tech staff at Aerospace Corp (El Segundo, CA). She earned her 2007 BSEE at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, focusing on satcomm and ICs, and completed an MSEE the same year.

She went on for the MS because she saw that the market demanded it, she explains. "It was obvious that an MS was something companies valued, and I realized it would be a challenge to try to balance work and school later."

In school Morford completed an internship at Raytheon working on radar programs, and did some analysis work for the government in Washington, DC. A third internship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (Pasadena, CA) involved mission concept design work for earth satellites.

Equipped with the MS, Morford found a job at Aerospace as a member of tech staff in the launch directorate group. She was involved with launch systems for the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets that service satellites; then she took responsibility for supporting the chief engineer. "When a technical issue came up I worked with him to evaluate and develop a solution," she says.

When she first worked for Aerospace Morford traveled to contractor sites to view rocket hardware. "I have learned an incredible amount since I came here," she says. She has several mentors and also attends programs at the Aerospace Institute, an in-house education program.

"I'm grateful my manager took a chance and hired me right out of grad school," she says. "I enjoy my work. I get to launch rockets for a living; how cool is that?"

Debra Aubrey is a member of tech staff at General Dynamics
Debra Aubrey, member of technical staff at General Dynamics C4 Systems (Scottsdale, AZ), completed a BS in engineering with a concentration in CS in 1983 at the University of Connecticut and a 1989 MS in management engineering at the University of Bridgeport (Bridgeport, CT). Software engineering "looked like a field that could take me places!" she says.

She found her first job at Perkin-Elmer (Norwalk, CT), a company that makes scientific tools, lasers and mirrors. She was a software engineer working to develop embedded software for spectrometers. She did her programming in C, which she says laid a foundation for software process that she's built on throughout her career.

In 1989 Aubrey moved to Tektronix (Wilsonville, OR) as a senior software engineer, this time providing embedded software for color printers. She eventually led a team developing a multi-platform software toolset that shipped with the printers.

In 1994 she joined Philips Consumer Electronics (Knoxville, TN) as senior project leader for one of the first cable set-top boxes with embedded software. The work was being done at two different engineering sites and she acted as liaison between the locations and teams.

In 1996 Aubrey moved to the Netherlands. She was brought in to work for the digital video systems group of Philips as a systems engineer on projects including satellite set-top box development. She worked on end-to-end systems development projects, collaborating with the European engineers. She learned new languages and met new cultures, as well as industry experts from all over the world, and presented a paper at a European software conference.

In 2000, as the project neared completion, Aubrey moved to Philips Semiconductors in Tempe, AZ where she led a team designing crypto software. But business dwindled at Philips and Aubrey was laid off. She worked as a trainer and also did contract work for a small company developing cockpit display software.

In 2003 she joined General Dynamics C4 Systems, working on software-defined radio technology for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit (HMS) radio.

In 2009 the company asked her to go to Ontario, Canada for a short-term assignment on a maritime helicopter program. But the next year she came back to the JTRS-HMS, and added lead work with the product deployment team. "I like to have a lot of different things to do," Aubrey says. "I like to look across a field and see how things are interconnected."

She also likes to solve puzzles, and her job gives her plenty of puzzles to solve. "In defense, the difference is that they are really, really big puzzles and everything is a top priority!"

Aubrey has been flexible and adaptable throughout her career. It came naturally to her: when she was a child the family moved every few years and she got very good at blending into new cultures and environments.

"You have to embrace risk, continue learning and challenge yourself," Aubrey advises. "Be aware of the impact you have on your environment and know how what you're doing affects those around you."

Lois Jennings is chief of staff at a CIA directorate office
Lois Jennings.The CIA's Lois Jennings earned her 1975 BS in applied science at Miami University (Miami, OH), with a major in pulp and paper engineering and a chemistry minor. She did internships in the paper industry at Kimberly-Clark, Champion Paper and Georgia Pacific. In 1977 she completed an MS in pulp and paper engineering at Miami U.

The next year she joined Champion Paper (Hamilton, OH) as an engineer, then moved to the Defense Mapping Agency where she stayed in a similar line of work with specialized pulp and paper.

Then her career took a series of turns. She joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a technical writer and then the Department of Defense as a technical editor and geodetic engineer.

In 1980 she returned to the EPA as a technical research writer, working on effluent guidelines for the pulp and paper industry. Three years later she began a series of interrelated jobs as technical editor, cartographer, geodetic photogrammetric engineer, system engineer and program manager at the Department of Defense, Defense Mapping Agency and National Imagery and Mapping Agency. In all these jobs her main focus was on supporting the armed forces with mapping products.

In 1996 she moved to the CIA as intelligence community program manager. She continued to apply her mapping skills as she managed development of software tools for products derived from sensitive imagery.

In 2001 she combined her government and engineering experience to become a CIA project manager. In this job she managed tasks and developed classified tools for the directorate of science and technology. Despite her considerable experience, "I had tons of 'wow's when I began to familiarize myself with CIA technology!" she says.

"The CIA employs savvy and expert people. I've had a high-performing team tackling very hard challenges." Today she is a resource manager and chief of staff for an office in the CIA's directorate of science and technology, with about thirty-five people reporting to her.

She makes recruiting trips to colleges several times a year. "I tell the kids, 'Have a plan for your life and work backwards: envision your life as you want it to be and then map out the course to get there.'

"At the CIA we are seeking the best of the best, so start striving for excellence early," she advises. "Don't just have a job, be a contributor." The CIA receives 10,000 applications monthly, "So you have to do your research. Be an expert, and if you want something, go and get it!"

Mike Gomez is a chief engineer at the NRL
Mike Gomez is chief engineer on the ground-based microwave spectroscopy project in the atmospheric physics branch of the remote sensing division of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

He was already working at the NRL when he completed his 1991 BS in physics at George Mason University (Fairfax, VA). In fact, he started there when he graduated from high school in 1986. He was with the atmospheric physics branch, programming a Commodore 64 computer in Basic; at that point he had already been programming for several years.

After that summer job he went to New Mexico State University (Las Cruces, NM), majoring in physics, and put in another summer at NRL investigating rocket-triggered lightning, using the computer software he wrote the summer before. "It was a tremendous opportunity and it was then I knew where my career was headed," he says. He transferred to George Mason University to participate in a co-op program where the lab paid for his tuition and books.

On graduation in 1991, "I had to decide whether to take a career track into science and management or into engineering and development." Engineering clearly won out, since "I was always good at designing and building things and I definitely preferred not to be behind a desk all the time!" His mentor at the lab agreed with his decision.

He was hired into the same microwave spectroscopy project he works on today, but now he's its chief engineer. Gomez is responsible for development, construction, deployment and maintenance of ground-based microwave spectroscopy instrumentation as well as for all the data the system produces.

He oversees four water-vapor millimeter-wave spectrometer instruments deployed in California, Hawaii and New Zealand, and is working to develop ozone and chlorine monoxide instruments as well. The instruments measure profiles of each molecular species in the stratosphere and mesosphere in parts per million by volume, Gomez notes with pride. The data is used to monitor the earth's climate as part of NASA's Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change project.

"One of the challenges in working at the NRL is that you are often confronted by the edge of knowledge on a particular subject," says Gomez. "When you run into a problem or see something new there's no one to ask for answers because no one has done it before." So Gomez and his colleagues consult with experts, perform experiments and work it out for themselves.

"Another challenge in my career is obtaining and retaining knowledge," Gomez says with a smile. His knowledge bank includes engineering areas like motor and motion control, computer interfaces, programming and control, electrical design and layout, radio frequency analog pathways, antennas and cryogenics. It requires nearly constant study, he notes, to keep up with the pace of these technologies.

"Without a doubt the experience I got working with the scientists and engineers at the NRL has been more valuable than any PhD I could have obtained by staying on at a university," Gomez says.

A career takes a long time to develop, Gomez points out. "Start early and stick with it," is his advice. And be a self-starter! "If you don't have the answers, go find them," says Gomez. "Never stop learning."

Marcia Sorknes is a component engineering manager at Aerojet
Marcia Sorknes, component engineering manager at Aerojet's Redmond, WA facility, earned her 1985 ME at the University of Washington-Seattle. As soon as she tried her hand at technical work at the school, "I loved it; I was fascinated!" she says.

Her first job after school was as a manufacturing engineer at Alliant Techsystems (ATK, Mukilteo, WA). She worked on the manufacture of torpedoes for the U.S. Navy, and learned the basics from which all her other jobs developed. That foundation was built from seeing the manufacturing process firsthand, from engineering roles in manufacturing materials and processes, product development and quality, she says.

In 1995 she went to Siemens to develop and manufacture medical ultrasound machines. She had never been in healthcare before, but "There are parallels in jobs across all the highly regulated industries, aerospace, defense and medical, and I like to be challenged," she explains.

In 2001 she discovered Aerojet at a career fair. "They were assigning engineers to work with suppliers on complex custom components. It was an interesting concept and I wanted to do the job, so I moved to Aerojet and into aerospace."

Sorknes began at Aerojet as a procurement engineer. Today, as an engineering manager, she oversees about ten people responsible for the engineering of purchased components at Aerojet Redmond. The engineers specify recs for heaters, valves and electronic components, and also qualify new products.

The components Sorknes specifies and qualifies are very exciting, very high-tech. They go into products like Aerojet's new high-power Hall Thruster propulsion system for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Space Vehicle #1, launched on an Atlas V rocket last year. The products are generally part of five to ten other programs at various stages at any one time.

Sorknes is not building torpedoes or ultrasound machines any more, but her experience gave her the foundation to build a career in space propulsion systems. "Don't be afraid to try something new or different," she says. "You go on one step at a time, and get into fascinating areas that are really exciting and challenging!"

Taiwo Olorunniwo: project engineer at Rockwell Collins
Responsible for Navy aircraft design, Taiwo Olorunniwo of Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA) is a project engineer in the government systems area. He was born in Nigeria, moved to the U.S. at the age of ten, and went on to a 2005 BSME from Tennessee State University.

In school he interned at Parker Hannifin Corp (Ft. Wayne, IN), working on fluid motion control and air conditioner systems using fuel cells. After graduation he became a project and process engineer at the Kentucky location of Grupo Antolin (Burgos, Spain), a company that makes internal components for vehicles. His focus was on the manufacturing process, ensuring efficiency, quality and safety and overseeing improvements to eliminate waste.

It was a great job. He worked hands-on, interfacing with people on the production line, creating tests and programming robots. "It was high-pressure work," he remembers. "You're on call twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes you just get home when you're called back in."

In 2007 Olorunniwo moved to Rockwell Collins as an engineer 1. He started in commercial systems, working on the simulator for 737 airplanes and on flight controls.

Two years later he moved into government systems, designing visual product displays and equipment racks. He worked at the company's Binghamton, NY site where he designed outer shells for the maintenance trainer for Sikorsky Aircraft.

Last year Olorunniwo moved to his current job on the E-6B Navy airborne command post and communications relay project, doing upgrades to aircraft and designing hardware replacements as well as planning, analyzing, and mentoring junior engineers.

With government projects, he notes, he can be working on a single project for months. "The rules are different for government," Olorunniwo says, and many can be much more stringent.

"When you go into a new job you can never know everything, but you have to be ready to go at a hundred percent," he advises. "It's important to take advantage of the knowledge around you."

And be sure to act professionally, both on the job and outside work. That definitely includes social-media interactions, he points out.

Good advice from a Rockwell Collins senior manager
Dawn Charleston, senior engineering manager at Rockwell Collins simulations and training solutions mechanical engineering, oversees the work of Taiwo Olorunniwo and many other engineers. "A good engineering candidate needs traits like initiative, problem-solving skills, analytical and teamwork skills and leadership," she says.

"My advice is to attend career fairs at conferences like NSBE, SWE, SHPE and others. These career fairs give you an opportunity to put a face and personality with the words on your resume. There is definitely a need in industry today for engineering, so go for it!"

Rockwell Collins has a clear strategy to foster an environment of inclusion, collaboration and ownership. The company offers several employee networks: Pride, Disability, African Americans of Rockwell Collins, Friends of Asia, Latino, New Hire and Women's networks. People from all backgrounds are encouraged to participate in an employee network for access to knowledgeable employees as well as valuable corporate resources and support.


Check website for current listings.

Company and location Business area
Aerojet (Sacramento, CA)
Aerospace and defense
The Aerospace Corp (Los Angeles, CA) www.aero.org Launch vehicles, satellite systems, ground control systems and space technology
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp (Boulder, CO) www.ball.com Imaging, communications and information systems for government and commercial entities
Central Intelligence Agency (Langley, VA) www.cia.gov Federal government intelligence
CSC (Falls Church, VA) www.csc.com Consulting, systems integration and design
Defense Intelligence Agency
(Washington, DC) www.dia.mil
Government intelligence
DRS Technologies (Parsippany, NJ) www.drs.com Defense technology solutions and services
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (Poway, CA) www.ga-asi.com Unmanned aircraft systems, tactical reconnaissance radar, surveillance systems
General Dynamics C4 Systems
(Scottsdale, AZ) www.gdc4s.com
Network-centric command, control, communication and computing solutions
L-3 Communications East (New York, NY) www.l-3com.com Aerospace and defense products
Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, DC) www.nrl.navy.mil Research for the U.S. Navy
Northrop Grumman Corp (El Segundo, CA) www.ngc.com Military aircraft, weapons and electronics
Raytheon Company (Tewksbury, MA) www.raytheon.com Defense technology, training systems, cybersecurity
Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA) www.rockwellcollins.com Aerospace and defense products and services
Textron - AAI Corp (Hunt Valley, MD) aaicareers.silkroad.com Unmanned aircraft systems; test and training systems; logistics services
Textron - Overwatch Systems (Austin, TX) www.textron.com Multi-source intelligence, geospatial analysis and custom intelligence solutions
Textron Defense Systems (Wilmington, MA) www.textrondefense.com Smart weapons; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems; protection systems; directed-energy weapons
Textron Marine & Land Systems
(New Orleans, LA) www.textronmarineandland.com
Light armored combat vehicles, advanced marine craft
Space and Naval Warfare
(SPAWAR, San Diego, CA) www.navy.mil
Advanced information technology for the Navy fleet
Systems Planning & Analysis
(SPA, Alexandria, VA) www.spa.com
Professional services

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