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Twenty-second anniversary: speaking out

STEM and diversity: important across sectors

Leaders in three different organizations speak out about the need for diverse technical talent

For this yearís anniversary Q&A;, leaders from the corporate, military and academic worlds talked to Diversity/Careers about aspects of diversity. John Lucas, a senior VP at Lockheed Martin, told senior contributing editor Dan Margherita about his companyís longstanding commitment and outreach to veterans. Margherita also spoke with Lt Gen Thomas Bostick, who heads the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about diversity and technology in the USACE. And editor in chief Kate Colborn heard from Dr Katia Passerini of New Jersey Institute of Technology about that schoolís efforts to attract and support women researchers and faculty members, especially in STEM. Here are excerpts of their conversations.


John Lucas of Lockheed Martin

John Lucas: Weíve had a military recruiting team in place since 2005, almost ten years. Nearly 25 percent of our 113,000 employees served, and 37 percent of our external hires in 2013 were veterans. For the first quarter of our fiscal year 2018, 38 percent of our external hires were veterans.

When you think about whatís important to us and whatís important to people who have served, we have a lot of things in common. Our commitment to mission is a big part of why a transitioning service member will look within the aerospace and defense sector. And they look to Lockheed Martin because weíve done this for a while.

During 2013, our military recruiting team went to more than 250 job fairs. Weíre on track to do over 250 again this year in all of our major markets: Dallas, Philadelphia, Orlando, even Arkansas, everywhere thereís growth. Our commitment last year was in excess of $1 million to veteran hiring and veteran support programs.

The military relations team started doing biweekly online chat sessions a couple of years ago with transitioning military. They can sign up to talk with one of the folks on our recruiting team. Typically they ask, ďHow do I take this skill set that I have in the military and make it apply to Lockheed Martin? What jobs might I qualify for?Ē

Diversity/Careers: So these are people who havenít been hired?

Lucas: No, theyíre still in the military. Theyíre generally looking at a separation date thatís three or six months out.

The same Lockheed Martin military recruiting team has a monthly online chat for wounded warriors. If somebody has been disabled in the service and is looking for employment, they can send an e-mail or call us. Weíll reserve time to have that conversation with them to see how we can help. Contact information is posted on our website, and thereís a lot of outreach at job fairs and in advertising.

D/C: Do you partner with other companies or organizations on initiatives for veterans?

Lucas: We work with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the Hiring Our Heroes initiative. Weíre also involved in the initiative that JPMorgan Chase spearheaded, the 100,000 Jobs Mission. We participate in Virginia Values Vets and the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families. We really do focus on a wide array of programs.

D/C: For a returning veteran, what would tip the scales in favor of Lockheed Martin?

Lucas: Twenty-five percent of our workforce has served, so thereís a ready-made community for these transitioning veterans here. We have internal support groups Ė employee resource groups Ė for veterans in all our business areas. The groups help them get connected within the community and find them support, mentorship and sponsorship.

For the last two years, weíve held a Military and Veterans Leadership Forum. This past year we brought together about 130 of our veterans from across the corporation for a multiple-day session on career development, where they can also make connections with other veterans across the organization. As part of the forum, we send out a survey to all our veterans to ask what we could do to better support them. Then we take their feedback and act on it.

As the largest defense contractor, I think itís a natural for us. Many veterans have worked with our products and services in the field. So when an HR person at Lockheed Martin sees that resume come across our desk, it holds a special meaning for us.

D/C: Are there certain jobs at LMCO that veterans are particularly well suited for?

Lucas: For transitioning military, some of the biggest areas would be around avionics, whether they are test pilots or maintenance personnel.

IT is another terrific one, and work on intelligence systems. We have a pretty significant presence globally around security. We love people who have that background.

People who have served also bring important soft skills. These men and women have worked together in a team. They make decisions under pressure, and they have leadership skills.

Bob Stevens, the former LMCO chairman, has talked about where he learned leadership, and it wasnít in any graduate or undergraduate class. It was when he looked into the eyes of his colleagues on the battlefields in Vietnam. Thatís another reason it became important to us.

D/C: What about the general level of hiring at LMCO?

Lucas: Our overall workforce has gotten smaller year over year, but we hired almost 8,000 people in 2013. There are several growing disciplines. Cybersecurity is an emerging market, and we donít have nearly the talent that we need to sustain that as a growth area, so weíre in the marketplace for cybersecurity folks.

Mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science Ė really any kind of engineering are all big areas of recruitment for us.

As we hire new employees, particularly veterans, mentoring is very important. Many of our businesses call this the buddy system. All new employees get a buddy early on, somebody who has successfully navigated the culture and the environment. It gives them a place to go and feel comfortable.


Lt Gen Thomas Bostick, USACE

Lt Gen Bostick: A little background: USACE delivers engineering services to customers in more than 130 countries worldwide. It provides public and military engineering services to strengthen national security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters.

The Corps was started on June 16, 1775. West Point was started in 1802, and was the first university in the country for engineers. This is why so many of its graduates have helped map the country: build railroads, waterways and the interstate highway system.

There are about 33,000 people in the Corps, but only 700 of them wear a uniform. Most have college degrees, but we have all types of educational backgrounds. Among those with a degree, about seventeen percent are CEs. Another eight percent have degrees in natural resource management or biological sciences. Two percent have MEs and another two percent have EEs.

Half of the civilian workforce, and about ninety-eight percent of the military workforce, are in STEM fields. Many of the uniformed combat engineers who deploy overseas have engineering degrees or backgrounds.

The Army Corps of Engineersí primary missions are the inland waterways, ports and construction on our military installations, which is done primarily by contractors. Many of our civilians with technical talent manage these contractors within the military leadership structure.

Diversity/Careers: How is USACE working to be sure you have the right talent to meet these responsibilities?

Bostick: USACE is aggressively pursuing diversity of gender, ethnicity, cultural background and technical expertise. Our districts, divisions and labs across the country work with high schools and universities through partnerships and memorandums of understanding.

I recently attended the eCyberMission competition, one of several STEM initiatives offered by the Army Educational Outreach Program and run by the Army Research, Development & Engineering Command.

The competition, for students from sixth to ninth grades, started in 2002 and has really blossomed over the years. This year the Corps was recognized for having the highest number of volunteers: 170 people, compared to only seventy-five last year. We helped judge projects from solutions to sea level rise to bridge design, and I was proud to be a part of it.

Another focal point is STEM Ed, established in 2013 as a partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD) Education Activity. Itís like phys ed, but focused on STEM fields. The DoD Education Activity runs schools around the world for U.S. military children and civilians working in the military. We take our engineers into these schools, talk about what we do and try to get them interested. After the program, eighty percent of students say they plan to pursue an undergraduate STEM degree. We know they wonít all do this, but our goal is really just to get them excited about it.

The Corpsís Engineering, Research and Development center in Vicksburg, MS partners with more than ninety engineering colleges and universities: schools like North Carolina A&T;, Cal Tech, MIT and Tuskegee University. We encourage students to pursue internships with the Corps. Many of the people in the Corps today did internships with us.

We also run summer camps for about 7,000 students and 500 teachers that are focused on STEM. Iíve personally participated in these. And Iíve reached out to the Society of American Military Engineers and helped them create a one-week engineering camp for high school students. Iíve worked with the Armyís robotics competitions.

We believe we have a duty, even though itís not our primary mission, to go into elementary schools, high schools and colleges to encourage students to pursue STEM degrees.

Of course, we also emphasize the importance of communication skills and the ability to speak, read, write and process information. You have to understand these because they are what leaders do.

D/C: What brings people into the Corps, and what makes them stay?

Bostick: The wide variety of missions. Thereís nowhere else in the federal government or in the civilian sector that you can have this kind of experience. Most people know that more than 1.2 million soldiers have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan but they may not know that 33,000 civilians have deployed; a third of them are from the Army Corps of Engineers. They work side-by-side with our troops in combat, making a difference every day.

Theyíre the same people who are called upon when events like Superstorm Sandy hit. They came from Hawaii, from Korea, and from other places in the continental United States. They dropped everything and came to New York, and some of them are still there. When I talk with young people, these are the kinds of things that really inspire them.

Itís a real balancing act to recruit and retain good people, and itís even worse for minorities. I remember when I was named Chief of Engineers in 2012, I was the only African American general officer in the Corps. When I went to West Point in 2013 to welcome the new Corps of Engineers officers, there were two African Americans. In 2018, there were eight.

The class of 2017 has just started, and I tell folks, if we donít like the numbers in that class, we better start working on the class of 2043. It takes about twenty-six years to graduate a senior colonel.

In the army, we want diversity at all levels so people can look around and believe they can be successful.

We learn an immense amount when we have diversity in an organization. Having diversity of thought, culture and degrees all lead to an organization better able to meet the challenges that we face today, and I think weíre making good progress in this area.

D/C: Of course youíre also competing for STEM talent with engineering companies in the private sector.

Bostick: Absolutely. But we have a number of folks who left for the private sector and came back because they like our camaraderie, our teamwork, and our missions. They like having a sense of purpose, knowing that they are doing something greater than themselves, that they are able to serve their nation in a way the nation appreciates.


Dr Katia Passerini, interim dean, Albert Dorman Honors College
at NJIT


Diversity/Careers: Your involvement in the Advance program has something to do with your own experience trying to get grant money, correct?

Dr Katia Passerini: I had a couple of grants before Advance, but thatís the one where my heart is. It looks at ways to deal with a complex issue: promoting women in academia, especially in the STEM disciplines. The project started at NJIT in 2006, under the direction of principal investigator Dr Nancy Steffen-Fluhr. I came in 2010. In the first years, the investigators brought together new female faculty with mentors. The second cycle focused on giving visibility and information access to faculty to help them connect with others.

Our team included faculty from CS and the humanities, plus me from the business and IT area. We built a tool specifically for academic networking. Itís housed on the NJIT Murray womenís center website. It runs like a social network, with no password required. At the moment itís just people within NJIT, because we chose NJIT for our experiment to see who is collaborating in which areas.

The concept seems simple enough, but unfortunately itís not that easy to get the information unless you do it manually. We looked at who was publishing with whom, and how people were connected based on their work on joint publications, and we captured their interests and their co-authors. For example, you might find that if Iím publishing with Professor Wong, and you need to connect with Professor Wong, you can connect through me. Kind of like LinkedIn.

D/C: Is it just for women researchers?

Passerini: No, itís for the whole university. We wanted to study how female faculty advance over the years in their careers at NJIT, so we included males for comparison.

What the study found was that career progression happens in both cases, often in the same amount of time, but women need more service hours or, in some cases, grant funding. Thatís good news on one front, but itís really not so good because it says that to get the same results, women have to work harder.

D/C: Thatís certainly consistent with what we know about women in tech fields. To get the same results, they must try harder, be louder, work at it more.

Passerini: Unfortunately itís still an issue for women faculty. Advance wasnít just the networking tool, it was a complex series of programs and interventions. I was specifically involved with a mentoring program we created for junior faculty, finding ways to connect them to junior and senior mentors. In industry, I always got a junior mentor who was easier to talk to, because the senior mentor was usually very busy, like a VP, and you canít have the same kind of interactions. We match them by interest, and also match them to people in disciplines different from their own, to give them an opportunity to expand beyond the boundaries of the department.

So Advance helped create an environment where if a new woman faculty member came into a discipline where there were no other women faculty, we would give her ways to connect to others within NJIT. We realized that if you start seeing female faculty publishing a lot with collaborators outside NJIT, it probably means they are going to leave.

The grant is finished now, but it created a series of suggestions and the institutional knowledge to move forward. Each department now will continue or put in place a mentoring program. In our new strategic plan for NJIT, 2020 Vision, there is a big section on making sure these mentoring programs are set up and departments are accountable.

D/C: Thereís been a lot of press recently about the lack of women at high-tech companies. What can a university like NJIT do to change representation and make things more equitable in the tech workforce?

Passerini: I think the programs at the honors college show there are some things we can do. I spend a lot of time interviewing for pre-professional programs, especially in medical fields.

We have a series of articulations with Rutgers medical, dental, physical therapy and physician assistant programs, and another with St. Georgeís in Grenada, five or six in all. An articulation means that we agree to facilitate studentsí access to the professional program. A student is an undergrad at NJIT, but they are pre-admitted to the medical school. If they do everything right and keep up their grades, they will have a seat in a very competitive environment. Itís usually an accelerated program, where the first year of medical school completes the requirements for an undergraduate degree.

The pre-professional articulations have really helped the honors college increase the number of women that come in, because pre-med attracts a lot of women. The fall 2018 honors college class is almost forty percent female.

I think we can continue to work on programs that cater directly to women. Many disciplines within engineering are already woman-friendly Ė environmental engineering, for example. We want to grow those programs and build others that are interdisciplinary. Women tend to have interests across many areas.

And of course we need to hire more female faculty. Research shows that the more female faculty a university has, the more likely it is to grow the next generation of women scientists.

In my own career, I applied to the GWU PhD in information systems because I met a professor in IS, a woman, who was interesting and caring, and I wanted to work with her. I found a woman role model, and that became my reason for pursuing a PhD.

D/C


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