Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



June/July 2011

Diversity/Careers June/July 2011 Issue

African Americans in tech
NYPA: Women engineers
BDPA plans conference
ABI's Women of Vision
Atam Dhawan of NJIT
Argonne & Native students

Energy M/WBEs
News & Views
VMX: environmental WBE
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

Sandia Intel


GMV Space Systems president Theresa Beech: set clear goals

A leading global supplier of satellite ground systems, GMV Space Systems employs flexibility and individual responsibility in working out solutions

Theresa Beech is proud of the accomplishments of GMV, and what she likes most about the company is its culture of providing high-quality products and services to customers while leading in R&D.

"Even though GMV has been providing satellite ground systems to satellite manufacturers, commercial operators, integrators and space institutions around the world for more than twenty-five years, there's still a lot of flexibility and individual responsibility to provide high-quality solutions," Beech says.

GMV Space Systems is a leading global supplier of satellite ground systems and other highly technical products and services. Forty-five percent of the commercial telecom satellites launched in 2010 used GMV technology. More than 280 space missions have selected GMV technology, and the company's operational systems are currently installed on six continents in twenty-five countries. GMV Space Systems' U.S. HQ is in Rockville, MD; European HQ is in Madrid, Spain. The company is privately owned, and the U.S. operation was set up in 2004.

All aspects of business
Beech is GMV Space Systems' president. She oversees all aspects of the company's business development and contractual arrangements, as well as coordinating all GMV business strategy worldwide.

She has a 1992 BS in physics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a 1996 MS in atmospheric sciences from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA). Her background is essential to her current role on the business side of GMV, she says.

"If I did not have an engineering and technical background I wouldn't be able to do my job as adequately as I do. Although there are plenty of companies where it is possible to be a manager and not have actually worked in the trenches, that is not the case with GMV," Beech says.

"In fact, a big part of what I do is explaining GMV's process and products in a thirty-second summary that is relevant to our customers. At GMV it's important to fully understand what we do, which would be nearly impossible without past engineering experience."

Responsible for the launch
Beech is jointly responsible for the set-up, launch and successful growth of the company in the U.S. and its expanded presence worldwide. Since 2004 GMV has seen a revenue growth to more than $125 million in U.S. dollars and has secured a significant number of new contracts in North and South America as well as Asia.

"I have always had a very clear business strategy for how we should approach GMV's expansion in the U.S.," Beech says. "In addition to strategy, business success takes a lot of really hard work combined with some good luck. I also think it's important to adapt and change as you learn lessons along the way."

Her team is in the process of expanding to forty-five employees, five of them her direct reports. "Good management is clearly understanding what and who you are managing and having a vision of what you want to accomplish. Then you set clear goals and priorities, give people the resources and let them go to it," she says.

Modernizing a satellite
Recently GMV Space Systems was selected as part of a team led by General Dynamics C4 Systems to modernize the ground system for NASA's tracking data and relay satellite (TDRS) constellation. The project is known as the Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment program.

"It's a large contract for GMV in the U.S. and very exciting to work on," Beech declares. "I've been involved from the proposal stage to the strategy stage, and now it's in the development stage."

First in engineering
Beech grew up in Kalamazoo, MI, the first in her family to go into engineering. "As my mother would say, everyone else in my family is either a preacher, a teacher or a farmer," she says. But Beech got interested in science because of the challenge and hard work ethic required. When she was in high school a great chemistry teacher motivated her. "I went from there to physics, space physics and atmospheric sciences, but it's difficult to get a job in those areas, so I ended up in engineering," she says.

After college Beech worked as a grad student at the applied physics lab of the University of Washington for a year, then as an orbital mechanics engineer at the Boeing Company in Kent, WA from 1996 to 1997.

GMV in Madrid
Beech's husband is from Spain and was interested in moving back, so she looked for a job there. She took one at GMV and worked as an engineer, tech lead, project manager and account manager for GMV in Madrid from 1998 to 2004.

Beech was involved in the definition and testing of GMV's suite of flight dynamics products, as well as the business analysis and commercial development of hifly, GMV's real-time system for satellite command and control. She was also deeply involved in the initial phases of the ground segment architecture definition and trade-off analyses of Galileo and the Galileo system test bed, collaborating with both ESA and the European Commission. She moved to her current job in 2004.

One thing that's been very clear in her career: women are a minority in her field. "It's rare for me to walk into a meeting and see another woman, and because of that people tend to remember me," Beech says.

Another part of working in the field, she says, is that there typically is an unwritten, unspoken competency test when discussing engineering work. "Everyone goes through it, but if you're a woman the threshold tends to be a bit higher."

Maintaining balance
As a mom, she has to balance her demanding job with home needs. "It's truly a balancing act. I am very practical and clear about my priorities. Like many working moms I outsource housekeeping and have assistance with childcare in the afternoons. I do most of my shopping online. But I do make some time for my hobbies, which include running, reading and dancing: salsa, ballroom and swing."

As she looks over her career she notes that she hasn't yet accomplished everything she thought she might do. But she has thoroughly enjoyed everything she has done!

"My advice is to know yourself, know your priorities, be open to whatever comes your way and plan to work hard to be successful," Beech says.


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