Diverse pros are key players on the defense contractor team
"I am always confident that I can be myself and present my perspective and contributions and be respected for them." – Maria Campelo, Raytheon
"There are more opportunities than ever for people of diverse backgrounds in aerospace and defense. It makes for a better workplace and a better world."
– Harsha Rayapati, AAI Corporation
By Angela M. Hutchinson
The talent pool of engineers and IT pros is growing in diversity at many defense contractors. "We strongly endorse the need for a diverse company with an inclusive work environment, where everyone feels valued and able to contribute to company success," says Jacy Haefke, director of diversity and workforce effectiveness at Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA). "Together, diversity and inclusion enable a more engaged workforce that helps the business serve its customers better."
According to Linda Weiss, VP of talent acquisition at BAE Systems, Inc (Rockville, MD), this strategy helps companies capitalize on a global front. "Promoting a culture that values diversity enhances our competitive position and growth," she declares.
Defense companies are tapping a diverse talent pool at conferences of societies like SWE, SHPE and NSBE, and events like the Black Engineer of the Year and the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference. These conferences are considered important annual recruiting events by most of the nation's defense contractors.
Maria Campelo leads and guides programs at Raytheon
Maria Campelo is director of program management for a set of integrated technology programs (ITP) at Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems (SAS) business (El Segundo, CA). She started at Hughes Aircraft Company, Raytheon's predecessor, in 1993 as a summer intern. After graduation she joined full time as a junior radar air-to-air mode analyst, and moved up to lead programs that develop technologies for warfighters.
Today she works with other program managers and senior engineers, as well as program customers and other involved parties. She also coordinates tactical issues with other directors and upper management. In fact, "I spend most of the day solving problems and talking to people," she says.
Campelo's grandparents were born in Spain and emigrated to Cuba. "My parents were born in Cuba, but the entire family left Cuba for the U.S. as political refugees in search of freedom," she says with pride.
The family valued education and hard work. Campelo's sister is an engineer and her father an accountant. "I grew up with them as role models for a successful career," she says.
In 1995 Campelo completed a BSEE at Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA). Her 1996 MSEE is from the University of Southern California, and in 2004 she completed an MBA at UCLA.
At Raytheon, "I had to adapt to the fact that there weren't many Latinas, or even many women, in key industry or government defense roles," she says. "But this is changing now, and it's exciting to see the changes in the years since I've been in the workforce."
From time to time she still may find herself the only woman in a meeting of senior execs or a group of fighter pilots. "But if so, it often turns out we have a lot more in common than appearances would suggest. I am always confident that I can be myself and present my perspective and contributions and be respected for them," she says.
Campelo has been VP of the El Segundo chapter of Raytheon's Women's Network for the last two years, and develops mentoring programs for young women at the company.
Edgardo Alvarado works in logistics at Northrop Grumman
Edgardo Alvarado has been a logistics system engineer at Northrop Grumman Corp (NGC, Los Angeles, CA) for the past two years. His responsibilities are in areas of integrated support planning, performance-based logistics, logistics support and other analyses.
"Every day is something different," he says. "One day I'm doing a maintenance task analysis to decide how to maintain a piece of equipment, the next day I'm deciding what spare parts are required for a certain system, or I could be figuring out how much it will cost to maintain a system through its lifetime."
Alvarado was raised by his grandparents in the mountains of Cayey, PR. He worked two jobs to pay for college, and got his BSEE from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico.
"I grew up opening my toys to figure out how they worked and trying to fix anything that had a blinking light on it," he says with a smile. Today, his projects are definitely not toys: they include a radar system for the B-1 bomber.
Alvarado served four years in the Army's 82nd Airborne division, sometimes using Northrop Grumman equipment. When he finished his military service in 2009 he found that "Northrop Grumman truly welcomes veterans and people with all kinds of diverse backgrounds and nationalities." He notes that the company believes employees can and should reach their professional goals. "This is an amazing place to work that provides quality products to our customers."
Nora (Wong) Shriner works in R&D; at Boeing
For the past twenty-three years Nora (Wong) Shriner has been working for Boeing (Chicago, IL) in Seattle, WA. Today she's a software engineer in Boeing's research and technology division. Boeing, she notes, is the world's largest manufacturer of military aircraft and commercial jetliners.
"A large company like Boeing offers a lot of training and opportunities," Shriner says. "I am constantly learning new software languages, tools and methodologies, and meeting new people."
As a working mother Shriner appreciates the supportive, family-oriented culture at Boeing: perks like flexible work schedules and leave to care for aging parents or sick children make it possible for women to keep their careers, she says. She also likes the variety of projects she's been able to work on. Currently she's on an integration team that helps Boeing's customers manage their maintenance, logistics and support service processes.
Shriner began her education with a BS in kinesiology, and went on to a 1988 BSEE from the University of Hawaii. Both her parents "fled to Hong Kong when China fell under Communist rule," she says. "Two of my sisters and a brother were born in Hong Kong before the family immigrated to Hawaii." Shriner was born in Honolulu, where all six children went to college. "My parents encouraged us to read and stressed the importance of an education as a way out of poverty," Shriner says.
Her years at Boeing have been rewarding, even though "I am often the only female developer on the team," she says. When she first joined the company she had to work hard to prove she could handle her job, and also learn to be more assertive.
"It's great when we can bring together a team where our different strengths, interests and experience complement each other. I think we work more efficiently and make a better product," she concludes.
Jennifer Richmond supports hiring and acquiring at Rockwell Collins
Senior engineering manager Jennifer Richmond has worked at Rockwell Collins, Inc (Cedar Rapids, IA) for fifteen years. She oversees embedded software engineer hiring and on-boarding of new employees across
twenty-four engineering development teams, and she's the focal point for
pre-approving purchases of engineering software tools in the government systems business unit. She also supports activities like development of engineering process best practices and lean value-stream initiatives across
She screens job applicants, mentors people and coaches them on their assignments, works with internal customers on software tool purchases, and manages a variety of process improvement initiatives to help make the engineering teams more efficient.
Richmond grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and completed her 1996 BSEE at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. In 2002 she completed both an MS in systems engineering from Iowa State University and an executive MBA from the University of Iowa. She decided Rockwell was the right place for her career, and so it has been.
"The focus of the department I work in is embedded software communications products for the U.S. military and some international customers," she explains. "I like seeing the new technology developments and I really enjoy the variety of smart people I work with. The teams I've worked on have been very collaborative and open to hearing my ideas." She has also developed relationships with several good mentors.
"Rockwell Collins values diversity and supports a wide variety of cultures and personal differences to help fuel innovation across the company," she says.
Elsie Lam works in logistics at BAE Systems
Elsie Lam is a logistics engineer at the Santa Clara, CA location of BAE Systems, a global defense contractor that develops, delivers and supports advanced security and aerospace systems.
She has been with the company four years. "I do logistic support analysis and assess the logistic impacts of design alternatives and decisions that affect supportability, operating support and program costs and schedule," she explains. "I use logistics tools like Slic2B, Relex, COMPASS and more. I influence design to support logistics system performance and reduce lifecycle cost." She's currently working on various projects connected with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Lam is Chinese American; her family is from Hong Kong. In 1997 she received an associate in fine arts degree from Ohlone College (Freemont, CA) and in 2001 she completed a BS in aviation maintenance from San Jose State University (San Jose, CA). In 2003 she received an MSME from Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA).
Diversity is vital in the technology industry, Lam thinks, and especially in the Silicon Valley where she works. "I enjoy working with my dedicated team to develop products that protect our men and women in uniform," she says. "Working for BAE Systems brings me the satisfaction of knowing that my company's products make our nation stronger."
Marcia Noel: software at GDEB
Marcia Noel has spent sixteen years in the defense industry at General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB, Groton, CT). GDEB designs, builds and supports submarines for the U.S. Navy. It has a workforce of more than 11,000 employees.
Noel is a software engineer, testing software functionality, incorporating software requirements and developing documentation. She's also responsible for developing, documenting, refining and evaluating system and software requirements.
She's had a variety of other roles at the company, including work for the process improvement program that applied Lean Six Sigma techniques to achieve savings in labor and material cost for upcoming submarine construction projects. She's a Six Sigma Green Belt.
Noel was born in New Haven, CT; her family background is Jamaican and Haitian. In 1993 she completed a BS in industrial technology from Virginia State University. Then she worked as a designer at GDEB while acquiring a 2005 MSCS from the University of New Haven (West Haven, CT). She also got an MBA from the University of Connecticut.
She's currently working on the next-gen integrated product development environment (IPDE), a collection of business processes and associated computer systems that help the company's teams enable, design, build and sustain work efficiently together. IPDE capability, she explains, is vital for reducing risk and efficiently meeting the objectives of the next-gen submarine, an Ohio-class replacement, as well as the Virginia-class attack submarine currently in production.
Connie J. Buynacek: manufacturing at Moog
Connie J. Buynacek is director of manufacturing engineering for commercial aircraft at Moog, Inc (East Aurora, NY). She's been there for two years.
"I have global responsibility for manufacturing and product engineering across commercial aircraft products and programs," she explains. That includes the work of some 150 manufacturing and product engineers at five main manufacturing sites. They concentrate on flight control actuators, using hydraulic, mechanical, electromechanical and electrohydrostatic technologies from development prototypes through full-scale production. "This includes component fabrication through complex milling, turning and grinding of aluminum, titanium and steel alloys, plus gear shaping and cutting, heat treatment, plating and coating operations and actuator assembly and test," she explains. Buynacek is also responsible for circuit card assemblies, cables, and box build and test.
Buynacek's German grandparents immigrated to the U.S., and she grew up near the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, the oldest of four. Her mom stayed home until the kids were in high school and then went to work as an administrative assistant. Her dad saw active service in the Navy and Air Force, then was a civilian engineer until his retirement, she says.
Buynacek got her 1994 BSME and 1997 MSME from the University of Dayton (Dayton, OH). She took a job at General Motors where she found the same key elements she's now enjoying at Moog: "a diverse, intelligent and dedicated team in a global environment working on complex technical challenges."
VP Sarah Coburn: a portfolio of projects at SRA
Sarah Coburn, with a BS in math and a CS minor from James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA), has worked for SRA for seventeen years. She's currently in the firm's Arlington, VA office.
SRA provides a full range of IT services and solutions, and Coburn is VP of homeland protection and immigration solutions. She notes that SRA is dedicated to solving complex problems of global significance for clients in civil government, national security, intelligence and global health, and describes her job as "a business program manager three times over.
"I am responsible for the successful execution of a portfolio of projects. I grow the business by winning re-competes, adding to our existing contracts, and identifying, pursuing and winning new opportunities," she explains. She also focuses on career development for employees within her business program.
A lot of her time is devoted to securing business. "I meet with customers or teammates to discuss potential opportunities. I can also be found in the proposal tank working on a storyboard, writing a response or working on pricing," says Coburn. "A large part of my job is problem-solving. I frequently talk to project and division managers about their problems or challenges and work with them to identify potential solutions."
She usually works on several proposals at a time. Two current ones "require me to work on solutions across much of the Department of Homeland Security," she says. "I love understanding customer problems and figuring out how to put solutions together that provide the flexibility to support required change."
As a child Coburn lived in many countries including Spain, Fiji and Italy, since her father was a foreign service officer in the State Department. "I went to school with kids of all nationalities and religions and we all played together," she says.
When Coburn thinks about diversity, the first thing that comes to mind is "the diversity of ideas." Divergent thought challenges her and she believes it's a critical ingredient in success. "At SRA I've always found that employees and leaders foster environments where ideas are welcome. This is one of the reasons I've been at the company so long," she explains.
Brian G. Schneider: the lifecycle of software development at APL
A senior software engineer with eleven years at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL, Laurel, MD), Brian G. Schneider has more than twenty years' experience in hands-on design, development and deployment of complex software and hardware systems.
"I do everything that falls within the lifecycle of software development,
like project planning, requirements, design, analysis, quality assurance and test," he says.
Schneider has several jobs. First, he's a systems and software analyst, spending much of his time in a lab working with warfare system simulations. "I have to evaluate how those simulations might fit within an environment used to verify and validate the requirements for the Joint Strike Fighter program," he explains.
He's also a section supervisor, directly responsible for the careers of four people and indirectly for many others. He spends time every week discussing the needs and concerns of the people in his section, and takes time to informally interact with other staff members.
Schneider grew up near Reading, PA. His mother's parents were from Mennonite and Jewish communities in Pennsylvania; his father's parents immigrated from Germany and Norway.
He got his BSCS from Millersville University (Millersville, PA) in 1983. Last year he completed an MSCS at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD).
"I think my background helped me to be a person who seeks to be of service to others," he says. "I have observed and experienced what it means to work hard to make a living and that has had a profound effect on my own work ethic."
As a senior member of his group, Schneider mentors others, both formally and informally. "I am truly glad to come to work every day," he declares.
Schneider is gay, and he's working to organize a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) group at APL. It's important to have such a group, he believes, because the defense industry can raise a particularly high barrier to accepting people who appear to be different. "Sexual orientation in particular can be difficult in a military environment," he notes.
It has always been his goal to create an environment where everyone is valued. While it may take more effort, it offers more rewards, he says.
"I have been extremely fortunate to find an employer that not only recognizes the unique perspective that diversity brings to the workforce, but provides a safe environment for that diversity to be celebrated," he observes. "I have worked in companies where diversity is not valued, and have seen people leave the companies because of it."
Harsha Rayapati is a systems engineer at Textron Systems' AAI Corporation
Textron Systems (Wilmington, MA) provides innovative solutions for the defense, homeland security and aerospace communities. Harsha Rayapati works at AAI Corp (Hunt Valley, MD), an operating unit of Textron Systems, on unmanned aircraft systems. He's a systems engineer in the ground control technologies area of the business.
"Specifically, I'm assigned to OSRVT, AAI's One System Remote Video Terminal. It's a system that lets users in the field remotely downlink live surveillance images, full-motion video and geospatial data from various aircraft," he explains.
In the two years he's been with AAI, his work has involved integrating OSRVT with several unmanned aircraft systems, from smaller ones like AAI's Shadow tactical unmanned aircraft system to the large, armed Gray Eagle from General Atomics. "I've been involved in flight testing and OSRVT system integration for some twelve different unmanned aircraft systems," Rayapati notes with pride.
Working with customers is a large part of the job. "My colleagues and I conduct extensive testing and work together to crunch performance data," Rayapati notes. He also works closely with engineers from other companies. "I learn a lot from them. Each company has its own lingo, and I get the experience that comes from working with so many people."
Rayapati was born in India. He visited the U.S. for a couple of years as a small child when his father, a scientist, took a job here, then went back to India. In 1999 the family returned to the U.S. and Rayapati graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008 with a BS in aerospace engineering. While employed at AAI he's also attending Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD), working on an MS in systems engineering.
AAI's U.S. Army customer is planning to demo a manned/unmanned systems integration concept at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah this fall. "It will include several manned and unmanned aircraft, and the OSRVT system I work on has a significant role," Rayapati reports.
He's been assigned as point of contact for integration of OSRVT with the Gray Eagle, the Army's newest unmanned aircraft, and, "We're currently working toward the goal of OSRVT users being able to control the Gray Eagle's payload."
Rayapati notes that diversity brings something new to every discussion, "and AAI values that," he says. "The company will continue to need people who understand and can work well with new customers and new cultures. There are more opportunities than ever for people of diverse backgrounds in my industry. It makes for a better workplace and a better world."
Lakyetta Campbell works on NASA systems at ITT
Lakyetta Campbell has been a systems engineer for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programs at ITT Corp for five years now. She's worked for defense contractors since she completed a BS in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland-College Park in 1999.
She provides technical systems engineering support to NASA programs throughout a system's lifecycle, from the first step of developing system requirements right through to testing and deployment, and is currently supporting a NASA Space Communications Network contract. She's leading ITT's work on the maintenance and training facility component of a large ground-system replacement, the Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment (SGSS) project. "The SGSS effort will determine how to sustain NASA Space Network operations for another twenty-five years," Campbell explains.
Campbell is African American, the first of four children born to a single teenage mother. "My early years were spent in Portsmouth, VA where we lived with my grandmother, and I later moved to Upper Marlboro, MD to live with my aunt and her family," she says.
According to Campbell, diversity is vital in the technology industry. "I don't believe you can have true innovation without diversity in thought and in people," she declares.
On the job Campbell focuses on being open to new ideas when looking for solutions. She likes the technical diversity of her SGSS project and the opportunity it's given her "to be creative and use the technical and organizational skills I've gained over the years."
DIVERSITY-MINDED COMPANIES IN DEFENSE CONTRACTING
Check websites for current openings.
|Company and location
|BAE Systems (Rockville, MD)
|Products and services for air, land and naval forces; advanced electronics, security, IT solutions and
|Boeing (Chicago, IL)
|Commercial jetliners and military aircraft
|CNA (Alexandria, VA)
|In-depth analysis and results-oriented solutions
|DRS Technologies (Parsippany, NJ)
www.drs.com and www.drs-ds.com
|Defense technology solutions and services leader
|Eaton Corporation (Cleveland, OH)
|Electric, hydraulic, aerospace, truck and automotive components and systems
|General Dynamics C4 Systems
(Scottsdale, AZ) www.gdc4s.com/jobs
|Designs and manufactures products and systems for the U.S. Department of Defense, federal civilian
agencies and international customers
|General Dynamics Electric Boat
|Lifecycle support for U.S. Navy submarines
|ITT Corp (White Plains, NY)
|Technology, engineering and manufacturing
|ITT Defense and Information Solutions
(McLean, VA) www.defense.itt.com
|Mission-critical products and services that
support the U.S. military and allies
|Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (Laurel, MD)
|Lockheed Martin Corporation
|Research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced
technology systems, products and services
|Moog (East Aurora, NY)
|Designs, makes and integrates high-performance motion control products and systems
|Northrop Grumman Corp
(Los Angeles, CA)
|Global security: systems, products and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information and
technical services for government and commercial customers worldwide
|Raytheon (Waltham, MA)
|State-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in sensing; effects; command, control, communications and intelligence systems; mission support services
|Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA)
|Design, production and support of innovative solutions for customers in aerospace and defense
|Science Applications International
Corporation (SAIC, McLean, VA)
|Science, engineering and technology
applications that solve critical problems
|SRA (Fairfax, VA)
|Full-range IT services and solutions
|Textron Systems (Wilmington, MA)
|Unmanned aircraft systems, advanced marine craft, armored vehicles, intelligent battlefield and surveillance systems, intelligence
software, precision smart weapons, piston engines, test and training systems, total lifecycle sustainment services
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