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CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine, established in 1986, is the nation's first and only career-guidance and recruitment magazine for people with disabilities who are at undergraduate, graduate, or professional levels. Each issue features a special Braille section.

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 Aiming High

From engineers to sales professionals, accountants and D&I officers, professionals working in aerospace and defense help turn sci fi dreams into real-world possibilities.
People’s romantic notions about space exploration have long been fodder for literature and the silver screen. The reality is that putting humans in space is only one fraction of the aerospace industry.
There’s also development and deployment of satellites for military and commercial communications. There’s research into unmanned aircraft for national security purposes, as well as local law enforcement intelligence gathering. Of course, airlines continue to upgrade aging fleets, too.
The multifaceted nature of the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry makes it one of the most prolific manufacturing sectors in the country. SelectUSA, a U.S. government-wide program within the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce, reports U.S. aerospace companies generated $147 billion in export sales last year along with producing one of the largest trade surpluses of nearly $91 billion in 2016.
What’s more, organizations, including the myriad vendors and original equipment suppliers, adapt tech for other purposes or specialize it for military applications. So, as evidenced by the five individuals highlighted here, you don’t have to be an astronaut to have a soaring A&D career.
Daquila & Esterline Technologies Count On Each Other
According to Choose Washington, which is within the Office of Economic Development & Competitiveness (OEDC) of the Washington State Department of Commerce, approximately 1,400 new aircraft and unmanned aerial systems fly out of the state each year, representing nearly 90 percent of all commercial aircraft.
Additionally, the Pacific Northwest hosts numerous businesses and manufacturers associated with aviation, such as Esterline Technologies Corporation.
Based in Bellevue, WA, Esterline features three core competencies: avionics and controls, sensors and systems, and advanced materials. The majority of services caters to aerospace and military applications, including interface systems for aircraft and land- and sea-based vehicles, as well as cockpit displays, flight training and simulation equipment. Those services also secure communication systems.
Throughout its history, Esterline has made several notable acquisitions, such as assuming ownership of Criton Technologies in 1989. Back then, Greg Daquila had been working with Criton for only two years, and he was unsure what the transaction meant for his employer and himself personally.
The young accountant decided to stick with the new organization, at least until the dust settled. Almost three decades later, he’s still with the company, which continued under the Esterline brand.
“They’ve allowed me to complete 30 years of a challenging, never boring career,” he notes.
Job security probably served as a primary motivating factor for Daquila’s decision to stay, but as he observed leadership guide the reorganization, he embraced their business philosophy. In fact, Daquila realized just how much he appreciated the code by which the company did business when examples of less-than-ethical practices hit the headlines.
“When Enron and Global Crossing were in the news manipulating their figures, I realized Esterline walked the talk and let the numbers stand on their own,” he recalls.
“Integrity and honesty from the top down was made apparent when the CEO expressed discontent over an operating unit reporting a loss against inventory. The CEO demanded the unit’s loss be reported properly on the profit-and-loss. Manipulating the numbers was a mortal sin and never to be tolerated at Esterline.”
While it may be commonplace for professions to move around in their careers in today’s competitive job market, Daquila has been happy to commit his career to Esterline. Not only have executives set an example he values and he’s been granted latitude on department projects, but Daquila has also counted on company support to accommodate his work-life-health balance needs.
Due to multiple sclerosis, his mobility has become restricted over the years, and he’s relied on a wheelchair since 1997. And because his condition will require more medical intervention as the disease progresses, he must find time for appointments or to take days off to tend to his health. However, this rarely raises concerns.
“Flexible scheduling of my time has never been an issue,” he insists. “Esterline has always been supportive of my abilities.”
Of course, when one’s career spans three decades, you’re bound to accumulate nuggets of knowledge to share with younger generations.
To aspiring accountants, the current staff accountant says: “Do not assume anything and always check and double-check your work.”
For general career advice, Daquila suggests all anyone has to do is ask. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. No one knows everything, and if they do, now you can be part of that knowledgeable group.”
Want to be part of Esterline Technologies? Apply at esterline.com/careers/en-us/AboutUs/EsterlineHistory.aspx. Also follow on Twitter @Esterline.
Lee: Readying GKN to Meet Inclusion Goal
Sometimes the best way to build a reliable talent pipeline is to establish a committed and positive community presence. And when a company operates on a global platform, that means engaging in the unique cultural norms for the region.
So when GKN set out to support services for special needs students in China, company leaders partnered with the Danyang Special Education Schools and encouraged local GKN employees to get involved, both with financial resources and with their time and presence.
“There are approximately 80 students currently studying at this school who are either deaf-mute or [have] a mental disability,” says Carmalita Lee, PHR, SHRM-CP, diversity and inclusion project manager.
“In India the GKN Livelihood Resource Center is a dedicated space where disabled and underprivileged young people can learn different skills and improve their employability. The center has the capacity to impact 700 primary and high school children.”
London, U.K.-based GKN consists of several business divisions, including GKN Aerospace, which accounts for more than one-third of sales for its parent’s company as a supplier of airframe and engine structures, landing gear, electrical interconnection systems, and after-market services. GKN Aerospace North America Inc., is based in Hazelwood, MO.
Sustaining a viable pipeline, however, demands employers implement key recruitment strategies that not only identify professionals with specific skill sets, but also seek individuals who will be comfortable and thrive in the established corporate culture regardless of their cultural or ethnic backgrounds, or visible or hidden disabilities.
“We are aware that doing more in our community to attract and retain a diverse workforce is imperative to the overall success at GKN,” says Lee.
To this end, Lee and her diversity and inclusion (D&I) team, along with corporate executives, have challenged themselves with an aggressive objective.
“In 2015 GKN set a goal to achieve a workforce leadership consisting of 20 percent of women and 20 percent of underrepresented ethnic groups by 2020,” she explains.
“Most recently, we’ve updated our careers website and created a portal where candidates with disabilities can apply, including those with hearing or vision impairments,” Lee adds.
Another step is proactively identifying professional and advocacy groups representing different talent pools and establishing relationships with the organizations.
“We are always developing new outreach ideas,” says Lee. “Working with organizations to help bridge the connection is imperative, and GKN is always looking to partner with local programs to support and ensure a great working relationship.”
Fulfilling this company objective also demands reviewing and adjusting internal policies. To this end, Lee says GKN has focused on educating its current workforce on a multitude of topics, starting with the human resources department.
“We recently created an internal recruiting team structure that will specialize in getting the best talent for GKN. The new team will participate in a series of diversity and inclusion trainings that will allow them to understand their unconscious bias and make the best decisions throughout the hiring process,” she explains.
Even with a committed D&I program, professional success ultimately relies on one’s own contributions. Lee suggests individuals with disabilities always remember they have something to offer others may not.
“Our advice to young professionals with disabilities is simple: be yourself and let your personality, knowledge and experience shine,” she says.
Want to be part of GKN Aerospace? Apply at www.gkn.com/en/careers. Also follow on Twitter @gknaerospace and Facebook, facebook.com/GKNplc.
Vin’s Career Follows the ULA Trajectory
Designing, constructing and launching rockets is a lesson in patience. Project completion doesn’t occur within a few months. Rather, engineers dedicate years to devising these complex machines, including testing them under various conditions to ensure optimum performance.
Bunthen Vin became a student in this lesson in patience from the very outset of his career. Assigned to the Atlas V project in 1996 - which, at the time, was a partnership between Lockheed Martin Commercial and the U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program - the entry-level electrical engineer had to wait seven years before he witnessed its inaugural launch in 2003.
“Activating the Space Launch Complex-41 pad and launching the first Atlas V rocket is the project I’m most proud of,” he says.
Since those early years, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has assumed directive of the program. In 2006 Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company collaborated to found ULA, based in Centennial, CO, and Vin followed the Atlas team to the newly formed business. In fact, he’s still very involved with the legacy program.
“I also do design work to support recurring updates and new electrical ground support equipment projects on our new Vulcan rocket program,” he says.
Even after 20 years of contributing to technology that propels crafts into space, Vin still finds the work exciting. What equally impresses him, though, is the caliber of talent with whom he’s been associated, and how colleagues have helped him develop his own skill set along the way.
“The company and senior coworkers provided me the necessary assistance and the support to complete my assignments. The overwhelming assignments forced me to grow up very quickly, and I became an experienced engineer by the time the [Atlas V] project was completed,” says Vin, who still serves as an electrical engineer.
He’s also taken advantage of institutional opportunities. “ULA has been supportive with expense reimbursement for my endeavors to acquire training and higher education in order to equip myself with skills to accomplish tasks, ranging from designing systems to managing multimillion-dollar projects.”
What’s more, management respected his decision to postpone a promotion after he suffered a spinal cord injury while snowboarding in 2015. The accident left Vin in a state of tetraplegia, but four months later, he was back to regular hours on the job with some restrictions. His office was retrofitted with a still-stand workstation to accommodate safe, positive ergonomics, and he continues to utilize voice assistive technology.
It was six months after his accident when Vin was offered a management position. However, he wanted to concentrate on his physical recovery at the time rather than take on a new professional role. Today, though, Vin would welcome the chance to become more invested in the aerospace industry.
“At this point in my career, ULA has prepared me with great options to either continue with designing tasks and technically leading engineers, or challenge myself with a management position when available,” he states.
“With that being said, I will continue with my engineering responsibilities and technically lead and mentor other engineers throughout my career.”
Want to be part of United Launch Alliance? Apply at ulalaunch.com/careers.aspx. Also follow on Twitter @ulalaunch and Facebook, facebook.com/ulalaunch.
Johnson Puts His Military Knowledge to Work for Donaldson
Spending the first 12 years of his professional life with the U.S Air Force (USAF) taught Jeff Johnson a great deal of technical skills, first as an engineer, then as a pilot. The military also defined for him a clear idea of the type of character expected on the job, including a sense of duty to those he worked alongside. Johnson has carried that training into his civilian career and personal commitments.
Perhaps this is most evident in his activities with the Arlington, VA-based Air Force Association, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting public understanding of aerospace power. Johnson currently serves as president of his local chapter, and has made it a mission to support disabled airmen and -women in the area.
“We have a Wounded Airman program through which we work in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force to provide financial aid and caregivers. My company is very supportive of me being in this organizational role,” says Johnson.
Johnson’s employer is Donaldson Company Inc. The Bloomington, MN company is best known for its nanofiber technology applied to filtration systems to remove particles, gases and humidity in critical applications, including sensitive manufacturing environments. Johnson is the OE sales manager for the aerospace and defense group.
“Within Donaldson there’s a distinct difference between aerospace and defense. To put it simply, aerospace is anything that flies, and probably 80 percent of that business is in the commercial sector. We’re working with aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Gulf Stream and various airlines,” he explains.
“About 20 percent of our business is more of a military focus. In those instances, we work directly with roto-craft manufacturers and support U.S. military programs.”
Although Johnson specialized in flying while in the service, he’s been able to apply his knowledge of aircraft operations to this position.
“Everything from my background in mechanical engineering to flying provides a deeper understanding of customers and some of the issues they face,” says Johnson.
Plus, his years in the Air Force taught Johnson about the military mindset and how to communicate within that modality, which helps him deal with defense-sector clients.
“We work directly with vehicle manufacturers and support U.S. government programs,” he explains. “I have a feeling that, with my military background, I can better appreciate challenges they face and better serve our customers. Also this provides a connection back to the military, and in a small way, I still get to support airmen and soldiers.”
As a manager, Johnson splits his attention between sales calls with clients and planning corporate strategies.
“Part of that is assessing what the market looks like - what external situations are impacting the market and how can we get ready on where the business is going. Internally we examine our resources, training, and processes and procedures, and decide what needs to implemented,” he says.
It’s on the internal side that Johnson imparts his military sense of duty to those he leads on the sales team.
“In addition to addressing the different issues and challenges the team encounters, I manage my own accounts, which keeps me current with some of the challenges and issues my team faces. It helps with my credibility with my team because they know I’m working on the same issues,” he comments.
Want to be part of Donaldson Company Inc.? Apply at donaldson.com/en-us/about-us/people-careers. Also follow on Twitter @donaldsonco.
SRC Strengthens Tipton’s Commitment to Service
At Scientific Research Corporation (SRC) Anthony Tipton’s official job title is field service engineer III, but that does little to explain the breadth of technical tasks that land on his desk.
According to Tipton, he assists fellow engineers with a variety of activities, such as creating simulations and schematics for electronic and electrical assemblies. He also travels to various sites to troubleshoot and test products and equipment.
“I’ve provided technical support to customers on operational or maintenance aspects of system equipment,” he adds. “I’ve developed test procedures, test plans, test reports and procedures to maintain lab facilities and calibration of test equipment.”
But that’s not all. Tipton participates in administrative and policy development, too.
“I establish procedures for the maintenance of laboratory facilities and equipment, including cable diagrams, equipment schematics, and configurations to support various system arrangements. I also evaluate bids, and selected and recommended suppliers, and negotiate price, delivery, quality and service,” notes Tipton.
Since 1988, SRC has been aiding and supplying the federal government and the private sector with some of the most advanced technology in intelligence systems, radar and electronic warfare, command and control, plus aircraft electronics and air traffic control elements.
The company is based in Atlanta, GA, but operates offices throughout the country, including the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a U.S. Army facility in Maryland where Tipton has been tasked with establishing a support network team. In fact, he’s very excited to lead this effort because the work goes directly toward aiding military service personnel.
“I’ve always had the drive to support the warfighter in any capacity possible,” he states.
As a current member of the U.S. Army National Guard, Tipton is a member of that warfighter team, too. In 2011, while on active duty in Iraq, his convoy struck an improvised explosive device (IED), and he incurred a moderate traumatic brain injury.
“I had an extreme hearing loss and lower back dislocation, and was medically evacuated back to the United States for treatment,” Tipton recalls.
Six years later, he’s made significant inroads in his recovery, however, still requires medical supervision.
“The company has always placed my doctor follow-ups, as well as my treatments as a first priority over everything else,” he notes.
Indeed, the corporate support for his personal and healthcare needs combined with on-going opportunities to advance his professional development is what convinced Tipton to return to SRC last year.
He first worked with the company from 2010 to 2014 before trying out another employer. But he is very happy to be back in step with SRC.
“There’s a total commitment [to] supporting the warfighter and field service representatives, as well as training, which advanced my career with SRC,” Tipton concludes.
Want to be part of Scientific Research Corporation? Apply at www.scires.com/Join-Us/How-to-Apply. Also follow on Twitter @SCIRESCORP and Facebook, facebook.com/ScientificResearchCorp.
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