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August/September 2011

Diversity/Careers August/September 2011 Issue




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Diversity In Action

Workforce is stable at the federally funded Aerospace Corp

The company provides independent technical and scientific R&D; and advisory services to national-security space programs


One interesting sidebar at the Aerospace Corp is its firm commitment to STEM outreach, says diversity director Michael Valencia. The company has an eye on future talent, especially young people from diverse backgrounds.

"Our CEO, Dr Wanda Austin, encourages our people to be in the public eye promoting STEM, particularly at schools," Valencia says. "We have a lot of employees participating in mentoring teams, robotics competitions and science fairs."

Since 1960 the Aerospace Corp has provided independent technical and scientific R&D; and advisory services to space programs that impact national security. It operates a federally funded R&D; center for the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office. The company also works in the national interest on programs for civil and commercial space customers.

Employee expertise spans all facets of space systems; about two-thirds of the company's 4,000 employees are considered members of technical staff. Most of this year's hiring will fill positions that have become vacant, but there will be some new jobs associated with new program startups.

The company currently needs software development and architecture folks, software simulation, propulsion systems and systems engineering. "As you can imagine, industry experience is valuable," Valencia says, but candidates need to show they've worked in a matrixed environment. "We pull techies with different disciplines from a pool of folks and assign them to projects; knowing and understanding that environment is key," says Valencia.

Aerospace does hire people out of college, but they're mainly students completing advanced degrees, Valencia says. "The flip side is that we often pay for people to go on to more advanced degrees."

To stand out when applying for fulltime employment, recent college grads should show strong leadership abilities and involvement with organizations like SHPE, SWE and NSBE. Although grades are important, work in software development or simulation is even more so, Valencia says.

Valencia is currently heading up a cross-functional team to assess diversity initiatives and programs at Aerospace. "We're taking a broad look at how to keep the momentum going."

There's already quite a bit of diversity-related activity. The company has eight employee affinity groups; the most recent is Aerospace Military Veterans. The corporation is currently looking at partnering with the military to support exiting vets. "Their technical backgrounds are important and what they've learned about leading teams is also attractive," Valencia says.

Aerospace is starting to work with the Wounded Warrior Project. "This is a great group," Valencia says. "We're emphasizing both former military and people with disabilities."

A variety of mentoring programs support people in their Aerospace careers. Most affinity groups have informal programs; even in the formal mentoring programs, employees tend to build relationships organically rather than in a structured matching-up program.

The company's employees enjoy the "robust emphasis on training," Valencia says. The internal Aerospace Institute provides both technical and non-technical courses, many of which are also offered to customers and a few to the general public. The online and classroom courses range from instruction in high-tech areas like nanotechnology and miniaturization to human resource topics like dealing with and supervising people. There's even a brush-up on writing skills. "Our employees are encouraged to get into continuing education and given time off toward training," Valencia says.

Employees have perks like a 9-80 work schedule, an employee assistance program and access to a rotation program that offers both new hires and long-time employees a look at new roles. "It lasts about a year, and gives you the opportunity to see different parts of the company," Valencia says.

D/C




The Aerospace Corp
www.aero.org

Headquarters: El Segundo, CA
Employees: 4,000
Revenues: $912 million from contracts in FY 2010
Business: Federally funded R&D; center for the U.S. Air Force; comprehensive technical services for national-security space programs

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