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Government Seeks Top STEM Talent
Candidates with STEM skills are in demand in government and military.
Seeking a satisfying career? One that puts science, technology, engineering and math skills such as critical and creative thinking and problem-solving to work?
Then look no further than the federal government or military sectors. Government agencies, military branches and companies that contract with the government have ample opportunities, and they’re seeking top STEM talent.
So whether it’s a career with a government organization that helps former military men and women, one that helps current members of the military, or one, like the two companies featured here, that helps by providing equipment to the military, you’re likely to find a satisfying career.
Following are four professionals who did just that. Read their stories for a glimpse at jobs in government and military.
Alaigh’s High-Impact Solutions & Sound Leadership Spell Success at the VA
Because math and science were Dr. Poonam Alaigh’s favorite subjects in school, and she had an interest in bettering people’s lives, it was only natural that she should choose a career in healthcare and become a physician.
A graduate of medical school in India, she did her residency in the U.S. Then, wanting to improve her business and management skills, she earned a master’s degree in healthcare policy and management here, as well.
Dr. Alaigh came to the Washington DC-based U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) because its mission statement: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.”
It was in line with her own desire to help people. The VA provides medical care and benefits to military veterans and their families. Dr. Alaigh had held a number of senior roles in both the public and private sectors, and was a senior advisor in the VA before assuming her current role as acting under secretary for health in May this year.
Today she directs the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system, which has an annual budget of approximately $68 billion, employs more than 300,000 (approximately one third are veterans themselves) and receives support from 76,000-plus volunteers.
She credits her previous experience, which includes solving complex problems, refining systems and processes, exploring and implementing opportunities, and charting new paths to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of large organizations with influencing the way she leads, nurtures and works to empower teams now under her supervision.
She’s particularly proud of one initiative, the VA Quality and Access website, which provides comprehensive information about wait times and quality for patients in all of the VA facilities. “There’s not another site like it in healthcare,” she notes.
In addition, for the past 10 years, Dr. Alaigh has been doing clinical work as a weekend nursing home physician at the VA.
Dr. Alaigh says the mission of the VA, caring for those who’ve sacrificed and served for us, is a noble one. There are hundreds of career opportunities available to help veterans, including the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA).
There are roles available at the VA in STEM disciplines such as IT, logistics and engineering, as well as in such areas as healthcare, finance and facility management.
General information about careers at the VA is available at vacareers.va.gov. Connect with the VA on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, VAntage Point (blog), Flickr and Instagram.
Garcia’s Career at Pratt & Whitney Begins with a Visit to an Air Show
An air show he attended while still a college student studying for his bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering was what initially got José Garcia started at Pratt & Whitney, the East Hartford, CT-headquartered manufacturer of engines for military, commercial and general aviation aircraft.
The company had a presence at the air show, and Garcia talked to its representative. “I was advised to visit the co-op office [at my college], which put me into contact with an engineering manager in Pratt & Whitney’s hot section module center,” he recalls.
As a result, Garcia was hired as a co-op in Pratt & Whitney’s manufacturing department, which produced and assembled combustors for the PW-F100 engines. These powered - and still powers - military fighter engines across the globe.
He adds: “My junior and senior years at school were paid through United Technologies Corporation’s (UTC) employee scholar program.” Pratt & Whitney is a division of United Technology. He was hired full-time upon graduation. And now he’s earning an MBA via that same UTC program.
In the 15 years since his graduation, Garcia has held seven different positions, beginning as a continuous improvements coordinator, where his focus was on manufacturing departments. He became a continuous improvements client manager next, and focused on manufacturing and business processes globally.
He continued to grow in his career, and took on additional roles and responsibilities. He says that none of his previous roles, nor his current one require government clearances.
Today, Garcia is the associate director for affordability in the F135 program office. “In this role, my main responsibility is to work with our engineering, manufacturing and purchasing groups to find ways to reduce product and lifecycle costs for the F135 engine.”
Garcia works closely with Pratt & Whitney’s government customer - the joint program office - to ensure Pratt & Whitney focuses on areas critical to its military customers, partner countries and all potential end users of the F35 Lightning II fighter plane, which is powered by the F135 engine.
Pratt & Whitney employees receive on-the-job training to ensure they’re working in a safe and ethical manner, Garcia notes. This includes courses online and in-person training.
“Our continuous improvement processes allow departments to produce standard work to aid employees in their day-to-day tasks, while ensuring the quality of our products is at its best.” Mentoring is offered, as well. Garcia acknowledges the mentoring he’s received has contributed enormously to his development and success at Pratt & Whitney: “I’ve found the advice from my mentors, both inside and outside of my department, ensured feedback from a variety of angles and positioned me for success.”
Garcia is a member of the Hispanic Leadership Forum within the company, too. “The group is a self-empowering support system, open to all employees, organized to address opportunities to attract, develop and retain Hispanic professionals across Pratt & Whitney.”
He describes how the group has given him the chance to meet employees of different backgrounds and learn from the experiences of others.
Pratt & Whitney is an excellent company to be part of, he says, because it allows employees to either concentrate in a certain field, or create a diverse experience.
“Engineers and statisticians can choose to work in positions that only pertain to engineering or statistics. However, through mentoring, networking and training, they can move into jobs outside of their field, into different areas of the company. If the employee needs further education, then the UTC employee scholar program can help with that.”
For more information about Pratt & Whitney careers, go to www.pw.utc.com/Careers. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram.
A Degree in Computer Engineering Brings Diaz to the USAF
As technical director, Raul J. Diaz provides the guidance and direction for current and future technical requirements to meet the U.S. Air Force’s operational needs for its space architectures.
“This includes technology, information, risk, finance and cyber, including project prioritization,” he says.
“I’m responsible for all processes and policy in the group, and oversee all complex and sophisticated engineering and operations analysis.”
From its headquarters at The Pentagon in Arlington, VA, the Air Force (USAF) has bases in three continents. The men and women of the USAF fly military planes to keep deployed Americans safe around the world.
Diaz had an affinity for software programming and an interest in electronics and microchip architecture. It led to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) scholar to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s in operational art and science, which focused on the application of solutions to military and defense issues.
A friend told him about the USAF’s phone hotline, which explained the career opportunities available at the time. An open position for engineers with experience in the Ada software programming language was just what Diaz was seeking. He sent his resume, waited to be called for an interview, and was hired.
“My initial job was to act as the engineer for a specific system, and for only one project,” he says. “In time I was put in charge of multiple projects for that system. Eventually, I was in charge of multiple systems.”
In his current post he oversees others working on those systems: financial planning, requirement forecasting and hiring personnel. He feels having an engineering degree has instilled in him a methodical process for approaching problems: “By using logic, mathematics and physics, any challenge can be solved.”
Diaz says the USAF provides opportunities for formal education and certifications in areas that include engineering, acquisition and logistics, as well as professional military education. “So, whatever discipline you start in, the Air Force has resources for you to change career fields or broaden your skill sets.”
For example, MyVector is an online mentoring resource designed to help people find mentors. “I’ve assisted several people in planning their career path, as well as received support in building my career goals through this [resource],” Diaz notes.
He underscores how the USAF provides many diverse opportunities globally, and that working with the military by supporting the Air Force mission is a unique experience not found everywhere else. Diaz suggests that USAJobs.gov as a good place for STEM professionals to search for job opportunities.
For more information about USAF opportunities, go to airforce.com/careers and usajobs.gov. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Air Force Live (blog), Instagram and Flickr.
Rainey’s Career Path Leads to Site Manager Post at BAE Systems
It was Kenita Rainey’s passion for aerospace that led her to apply for an internship at BAE Systems, which topped the list of 20 companies that she researched.
“I was seeking a highly reputable corporation in the aerospace and defense industry with a global presence,” she explains.
She sent her resume, and a hiring manager contacted her for an interview. She was hired as an engineering intern in the summer of 2008. “[The internship] allowed me to gain early experience in the field and apply the theory of my studies to ‘real world applications,’” Rainey notes.
While working on her bachelor’s degree in electromechanical engineering, Rainey had three internships; her final one was at BAE Systems, where she designed trainer systems for naval submarines. Each internship required engineering design for different applications.
“The engineering design [experience] came in handy at BAE Systems when I was hired on full-time, with the various design, development and production efforts for military aircraft modifications. The focus was avionics equipment, which utilized both my electrical and mechanical knowledge.”
BAE Systems, a subsidiary of a British company whose American headquarters is in Arlington, VA, is a multinational defense, aerospace and security company that provides products and services for air, land and naval armed forces.
Rainey was hired as a full-time engineer upon her graduation the following year. Because she works on upgrading military aircraft with systems to help protect military men and women, Kenita Rainey, PMP and site manager for BAE Systems, has needed security clearance in both her previous and current positions with the company.
“I recognized early [my relationship with BAE Systems] was a two-way investment, where BAE Systems invested in me up front, and I invested in the company for my future,” she points out.
She also learned about the rotational leadership development program the company offered, which, even before she came aboard, she felt could be “extremely instrumental in shaping the careers of young talent” like herself.
She concludes: “The opportunities and experiences I’ve been able to find and have at BAE Systems are the reasons why I joined the company and stayed.”
A few years after her initial full-time position, she “began to take on more of a project and program manager role, where I was responsible for all aspects of the modification and upgrade programs I worked on.”
She advanced from mechanical engineer to lead engineer, then from project manager to program manager. Today, as a site manager, she functions as the site lead program management authority, as well as “capture” manager that acquires new business for the site. She manages profit and lost (P&L) for the business, overseeing the cost, schedule and performance of each individual program at the site.
Rainey found an array of tools that helped coach her through the various stages of her career at BAE Systems.
“I’ve been afforded the opportunity to be a part of an early career development program, leadership and development trainings, a few special assignments, and sponsorship programs. All of these provided challenging stretch roles to help prepare me for the next level.”
Looking back, she also recognizes how all of her previous positions allowed her to gain so many tools and served as stepping stones to her present position.
BAE Systems has several employee resource groups (ERGs), including the African Americans Continuing Excellence (AACE), of which she is a member. The group holds various webinars and support conferences, offering its members a way to connect with their professional community.
Outside of the company, she’s involved with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Women in Aerospace (WIA), the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP).
Rainey tells up-and-coming STEM professionals there’s value in internships as a way to help identify a particular focus in their field of interest. She recommends they subscribe to some of the popular industry magazines to keep up with what industry leaders are doing.
“Technology is ever-changing; therefore, as a young professional, staying current is important,” she emphasizes.
Reaching out locally to current employees of a company in which they’re interested and identifying a strong mentor within their field are also important pieces in the puzzle that will make up the mosaic of their career.
For anyone considering a career at BAE Systems in the future, Rainey confirms it’s a good choice, since BAE Systems is a global company with offices in many locations around the world.
She suggests: “If a young professional is interested in BAE Systems, then it’s a great advantage to reach out to a local site and find a point of contact to connect with.”
Go to baesystems.com/en-us/careers for more information about BAE Systems jobs. Connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
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