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Managing

Allan Walton manages people and projects at L-3

His BSEE prepared him for design work, and he’s stayed on track despite personal challenges. The challenge he focuses on now is his rewarding career


At L-3 Communication Systems-West, analysis and algorithms group manager Allan Walton leads a team of three managers and about thirty engineers.

L-3 Communication Systems-West (Salt Lake City, UT) is a government contractor that provides wideband real-time communications systems for surveillance, reconnaissance and other airborne intelligence collection systems used by the U.S government and allies.

“Each of us has our own team, but the management of the entire group is relatively flat. We work closely with each other to address needs and apply talent where it’s needed,” Walton explains. “Most of our projects are for military programs where real-time communications can make a real difference and save lives. We report to the manager of the advanced communications and signal processing functional group.”

Walton has a multifaceted role. He staffs and monitors projects, works on and reviews engineering proposals, and provides technical reviews of the engineering approach to solve problems. He also recruits and interviews candidates, assists with promotions, salary planning and training, conducts employee reviews and handles personnel concerns.

“I have three supervisors who report directly to me,” he says. “Their responsibility is mainly technical, as design engineers and/or technical leads for many of our projects. Their main supervisory roles are to compile weekly status reports and participate in yearly performance reviews.

“I would like to think these supervisors would describe me more as a co-worker with managerial tasks than as a boss,” he says. “My management style is to set expectations and deliverables, and then to be quite hands-off. The people in our organization are very intelligent and responsible and perform well without much intervention.”

A natural engineer
Walton still lives in Woods Cross, UT, the town where he grew up. “I always liked math and science, so studying and practicing engineering turned out to be a natural progression,” he remembers. “When I was growing up, both my dad and my brother were my role models. Although neither of them have an engineering or technical background, they are both very intelligent and hard workers who excelled in their careers. They taught me hard work and accountability.”

He chose the University of Utah (Salt Lake City) because it was a good school that was close enough to commute to campus. He received his BS in electrical engineering in 1990. He also has a 2004 masters degree specializing in communication systems from Walden University (formerly National Technological University, Fort Collins, CO).

After he finished his BSEE, he went to work for Motorola in Austin, TX as a design engineer, helping design test cards for the company’s new microprocessors. “The hiring manager at Motorola contacted one of the professors at the University of Utah and asked about students who might be a good fit for a position he was looking to fill,” says Walton. “I was one of the students recommended. I flew out to Texas, interviewed, and was offered the job. I accepted.”

Staying on course after a life-changing event
Just a year later, Walton broke his neck in an accident playing ice hockey. He has what is clinically diagnosed as complete C7 tetraplegia.

“I use a wheelchair for mobility and have very limited dexterity with my hands,” he explains. “For the most part I can perform my duties without any special accommodations, assuming I can get my wheelchair into the workspace. I do, however, use some items for convenience and efficiency, for example, a trackball and a typing aid.”

He stayed at Motorola until 1993, when he decided to move back to Utah to be near family. In January 1994 Walton joined L-3 (a division of Unisys at the time) as a design engineer working on digital logic designs. “I began implementing designs in programmable logic devices, generally field programmable gate arrays. I eventually designed circuit card assemblies too.”

He progressed to technical lead for many development efforts along with some systems engineering roles before he moved into his current managerial position in 2008.

“Ever since I earned my BSEE I have worked as an engineer,” Walton muses. “Engineering lines up well with my aptitudes and interests and has proven to be a very challenging and rewarding career choice. I hope to continue to grow technically and gain a better understanding of the business operation and programmatic side of this industry.”

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