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Safeguarding Your Future
Aerospace and defense professionals protect the country and the future in myriad ways.
With the economy heating up in the U.S. and the country’s role in global politics in the spotlight, the aerospace and defense industry is sure to offer many excellent career opportunities for STEM professionals.
According to AeroWeb, a leading aerospace and defense market intelligence website that’s used by the U.S. military and Department of Defense - among others - the 20 publicly traded companies in its index employed approximately 1,313,060,252 people, including STEM professionals, in 2016.
A study done by Stanford University indicates there were 51 U.S. defense companies, and the three largest defense companies in the world, employing 400,000 people, were in the U.S.
These numbers demonstrate the possibilities that exist within aerospace and defense. For more insights read what the four STEM professionals profiled here have to say about this industry and their careers within it.
Engineering & Finance Degrees Spell Success for Chase at Orbital ATK
With a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering earned in 2011 and an MBA earned in 2016, Teran Nicole Chase, who’s currently a principal finance analyst at Orbital ATK, knew what she wanted to do.
“My ideal job was to work at an engineering company, but to be on the business side of it,” she explains.
Orbital ATK, with headquarters in Dulles, VA, and a reputation as a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies that designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation-related systems, was the perfect solution for her.
She came to Orbital ATK through “a professional contact of my sister’s,” who told her sister about a job opening in the finance area of the company. “My sister forwarded all of the information.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Chase came on board at Orbital ATK in June 2016.
She’d had prior experience as a test engineer at a packaging company before coming to Orbital ATK. Although the companies are in unrelated fields, Chase says, “similar testing was required for the packaging as we do with launch vehicle parts, such as shock, environmental and vibration testing.”
But aerospace and defense is where the latest, cutting-edge technology exists, so that’s where her interest lay. She adds that an aerospace and defense career gives you a sense of fulfillment because you’re working on projects that have a direct impact on protecting your nation.
Initially, Chase was hired as an associate finance analyst, a temporary position, where she provided pricing support for proposals and requests from existing programs, and created a process to update specific estimating system items. She remembers that her responsibilities remained relatively the same when she was hired full-time. When she was promoted into a senior finance analyst role, she began to have responsibilities that included “pricing support for larger proposals with business development, as well as Orbital ATK’s Next Generation Launch system, which is the largest rocket we’ve built to date.”
In her current position as a principal finance analyst, she provides cost volume lead support for business development, continued support for proposals from on-going programs, and does regular maintenance activities for cost-estimating systems.
In addition to attending seminars related to her department on a periodic basis, Chase has also received training specific to finance and cost estimating, and was part of a finance mentor program.
To get the next generation interested in STEM fields, Orbital has a large, hands-on interactive STEM exhibit requiring the support of many engineers. Chase is an active volunteer of Orbital’s STEM outreach program. She’s also been a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) since she was an undergraduate.
Log onto orbitalatk.com for careers with and more information about the company. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram.
Pesce-Rodriguez Solves Mysteries with Chemistry at DOD
A government career is something Rose Pesce-Rodriguez always pondered. “I always had a vague idea that working for the government would be a good thing for me,” she acknowledges.
But it wasn’t until she was recruited by a scientist working in government who she met at a job fair at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), that she received any advice about government employment and any concrete ideas of what she would do in a government job.
Pesce-Rodriguez, who has both a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in chemistry, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Russian, first came to the Washington, DC-headquartered U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) as a post-doctoral research associate in 1988 and became a full-time employee in its Army Research Laboratory (ARL) a year and a half later.
She began as a research chemist. “While I’ve been promoted since joining the lab, I’m [still] basically in the same position, just working at a higher level,” clarifies Pesce-Rodriguez, who made a conscious decision to remain in a technical position and not to go into management.
“My motto: ‘A bad day in the lab is better than a good day in a staff meeting!’” she shares with a smile.
Her work, as she explains it to non-scientists, especially young people, is to “solve mysteries with chemistry.”
In reality, this means analyzing or characterizing materials to understand how they work, how they could work better, or why they aren’t working as they were designed to do. She says that while the work can be maddening and frustrating at times, it’s also exceedingly rewarding and actually quite fun.
As part of her job, Pesce-Rodriguez volunteers as a “peer neutral” for an ARL program called Resolving Employee Disputes Swiftly (REDS). Volunteers for REDS like herself serve on review panels for employees who contest performance evaluations.
She’s active in STEM programs offered by ARL, too. “I typically do about 50 presentations each year, and work with approximately 1,000 children and adults,” notes Pesce-Rodriguez, who further serves as an ARL Fellow that mentors and contributes to technical and policy decisions, which affect the organization. In the past, she’s served on ARL’s Diversity Advisory Board and was its chair for two years.
Outside the lab, and for the past 15 years, Pesce-Rodriguez has been engaged in mentoring, running a STEM outreach program in several Maryland public libraries called Chemistry in the Library under the auspices of ARL and ACS. Its programs focus on themes for National Chemistry Week and Earth Day celebrations.
A whole range of training is available, according to Pesce-Rodriguez, and most of the training she’s undergone has been in the areas of leadership, diversity awareness and mentoring, all of which have been helpful to her.
As far as technical development is concerned, Pesce-Rodriguez feels her STEM outreach has benefitted her most. Colleagues and supervisors have also mentored her.
“There’s no shortage of folks in our organization and across DOD labs who are willing to advise me on career, technical and personnel issues,” she points out.
As a researcher working in the ARL, she needed government clearance, which was handled via the organization’s security office.
The DOD employs more than 138,000 civilian scientists and engineers. Pesce-Rodriguez explains they have the chance to perform exciting, innovative and game-changing work, and give American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines a technological edge in protecting our country.
She suggests students interested in coming on board at DOD in the future consider educational opportunities offered by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach program, usaeop.com, including the SMART Scholars program.
To learn about open civilian positions at the DOD, visit godefense.cpms.osd.mil, usajobs.com and federalgovernmentjobs.com. Log onto defense.gov for more DOD details. Connect on Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, DefenseTV, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Ramos Rodriguez’ Career at AAR Begins with an Internship Opportunity
Roxanne Ramos Rodriguez, who graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering with a concentration in management, is a process improvement manager at AAR Aircraft Services in Miami, FL.
She also has a Lean Green Belt Certification, having mastered a set of techniques and tools for process improvement, and is currently completing a Master of Business Administration. Ramos Rodriguez describes herself as having “always been analytical, process-oriented, a problem-solver and efficient in my day-to-day life.”
She explains her current role: “As the process improvement manager, my major responsibility is to drive continuous improvements in everything we do and eliminate waste.”
To do that she produces time studies and data analysis to define problems and areas with improvement opportunities. She also provides professional advice, such as the measurement of work, key performance indicators (KPIs) and detailed layouts to optimize production flow, to the executive management team in the area of industrial engineering.
“My typical workday involves running improvement projects and handling customer concerns regarding safety, quality and production efficiency,” she details.
AAR Aircraft Services is the aftermarket division of AAR Corp., based in Wood Dale, IL. AAR supports commercial and governmental customers through two operating segments, Aviation Services and Expeditionary Services, in more than 100 countries.
In 2013 Ramos Rodriguez came to AAR Aircraft Services, Miami, which provides airframe maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for aircraft components. Her arrival there dovetails with the passion she’s had for aerospace since childhood, the way she was always amazed at how airplanes flew and her appreciation for their beautiful designs.
When the AAR process improvement director came to the University of Miami during her senior year offering a Lean internship opportunity, Ramos Rodriguez sent in her resume and was interviewed shortly thereafter.
“When I first arrived for the interview, I was shocked to see the enormous hangar floor filled with gorgeous Boeing and Airbus aircraft,” she remembers. She knew, immediately, that it was a place where she wanted to be.
Initially, Ramos Rodriguez came on board at AAR as a Lean specialist reporting to the process improvement director and focusing on data analysis. “A year later I was promoted to industrial engineer and given a project to complete,” she says.
She was then promoted to process improvement manager, handling multiple projects in multiple MRO facilities at the same time. “Even after several promotions I definitely still have a lot of opportunities to continue to grow within AAR,” she adds.
As examples of career development opportunities, she says AAR has its own training department and MyLearning (CBT) online, which offers continuous education in multiple areas such as communication, Lean, leadership development, MRO finance, and Microsoft.
“I was chosen to be part of a leadership development program called STRATA, which is comprised of various group sessions and workshops,” Ramos Rodriguez points out. She adds that AAR also provides its employees tuition reimbursement, which she’s currently using to complete her aforementioned MBA.
Within the company Ramos Rodriguez is part of AAR’s events committee, where the goal is to provide multiple networking activities to AAR’s employees and to create aviation awareness in the community.
“I also volunteer with SAFEE Flight, sflairexpo.com, and Kids and the Power of Work (KAPOW), two organizations that focus on teaching students about the aerospace industry,” she says, adding that, in 2016, KAPOW named her Volunteer of the Year.
Outside AAR, Ramos Rodriguez is a director at the University of Miami’s alumni association and at the Association of Cuban-American Engineers (ACAE), where she was honored for her dedication and devotion to the organization.
More information about the company is available at aarcorp.com. Open positions are posted at aarcorp.com/careers. Connect on LinkedIn, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Boone’s Career Expands into Management at Northrop Grumman
Justin Boone says his first contact with Northrop Grumman Corporation occurred in October 2012, when, at a career fair, he met one of its HR recruiters.
In fact, he and the recruiter hit it off so well that Boone joined the company the following September, and he and the recruiter became friends who are still in contact with one another on a monthly basis.
“To me, [he was] what Northrop Grumman represented as an employer; a place filled with great people who care about the success of your career,” shares Boone.
The systems engineering manager has earned three academic degrees: a bachelor’s degree in 2009, a master’s degree in 2011 and a Ph.D. in 2013. All are in electrical engineering. Boone first became interested in the discipline when his older brother studied electrical engineering, and he became fascinated with the complexity of the equations, terminology and course material.
He decided on a career in aerospace and defense because he “believed it would provide me with the opportunity to design and develop technologies that would empower our armed forces to ensure our security, safety and protection.”
The caring people he met, beginning with the HR recruiter, brought him on board at Northrop Grumman.
From its Falls Church, VA headquarters, Northrop Grumman is a global security company that provides systems, products and solutions to its government and commercial customers that enable their applications undersea, in outer space and in cyberspace.
Boone initially served as an antenna systems lead, and was responsible for all aspects of the antenna subsystem performance. He also provided technical opinions/judgments to program contributors. In this role he received technical training in a variety of subjects.
Subsequently, Boone was promoted. In his current role as a systems engineering manager, he manages a team of a dozen engineers with various levels of experience.
“In addition to my management duties,” he details, “I serve as a technical contributor on two programs.” A typical day for him involves one-on-one meetings with the engineers he manages, and performing technical duties on the programs he supports.
In his current position Boone also has a dozen or so mentors with whom he meets regularly on a monthly basis. “They are, by far, one of the main contributors to my success since I joined Northrop Grumman,” he explains.
Within the company Boone is a member of two employee resource groups. Although they’re not STEM-related, he says, “they’ve been great for exposure and networking.” He also participates in events with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
For those engineering students thinking of a career in aerospace and defense, Boone suggests seeking internship opportunities with companies in the industry, and by attending job and career fairs whenever possible.
Alternately, he advises, “look for research opportunities relating to aerospace and defense in order to demonstrate your technical abilities.”
And if you’d like to come aboard at Northrop Grumman in the future, then he recommends “researching the company to learn more about what we do. Make every attempt to be present at events where we’re represented.”
For more information go to northropgrumman.com. Look for open positions at northropgrumman.com/careers/pages/default.aspx. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Glassdoor and YouTube.
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