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 STEM Fuels A&D

Each successful rocket launch or spacecraft docking at the International Space Station (ISS) represents humans conquering the intimidating and unpredictable environment of space.
Each satellite signal relay between command centers and troops in theater and every intercept of an enemy communication represent a strategic advantage in military missions.
These and every other accomplishment in aerospace and defense (A&D) technology represent a massive collaboration of talent, investment and financial impact on related industries. According to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the A&D economic output in 2017 totaled $865 billion. More than half of that resulted from sales of aircraft and space systems, along with land and naval systems. An estimated $348 billion, however, was derived from sales of value-added goods and services. Plus, engineering, testing, logistics and information technology services added another $113 billion.
In addition, according to AIA, direct jobs in the A&D industry are pretty evenly split between commercial aerospace and defense, and national security. But as the five seasoned professionals featured here attest, they share goals of advancing national interests, pushing technical and scientific boundaries, and expanding diversity.
Behl Processes Growth for Woodward, Inc.
Throughout her 14-year career, Divya Behl has trusted the efficiency of systems to prevail over difficult circumstances. Complex engineering required to design and problem-solve high-tech products and solutions nearly always consists of systems. Operations and manufacturing processes are essentially series of systems. Even management practices incorporate systems in various forms.
As director of the development program management office (DPMO) for the aircraft turbine systems business area of Woodward, Inc., Behl brings together systems across disciplines and business units.
“The way we create better opportunities cross-functionally within our organization is to use systems thinking to create lasting change,” she says.
“One trait of systems thinking is having multiple perspectives, which then leads to better decision-making. Research shows that diverse teams make better business decisions 73% of the time. I’m constantly looking for ways to make sure our group creates teams that are diverse in make-up and diverse in thought. That gives Woodward a high emotional intelligence.”
Headquartered in Fort Collins, CO, Woodward creates technology for multiple areas within the aerospace sector, including controls and components designed to optimize fixed-wing and rotocraft aircraft. Its industrial operations apply to turbines, engines and various industrial equipment.
Among her duties in the DPMO, Behl guides programs from conceptualization through the maturation process, mitigating risks along the way. It’s her responsibility to keep the rotating teams on track within their assigned duties, on budget, and focused on delivering quality for customers.
This broad scope requires her to interact with different personalities who have varying systems, communication styles and skill sets. In fact, that applies to vendors and clients, too.
“Our definition of team used to be thought of as within our four walls. Our industry is really at a high growth and volume, from supply chain to customers; we’re all in this together,” says Behl.
“We have to count on each other, and we need to lean on each other because we’re going through it at the same time.”
The different functions are so interconnected that her department is purposely designed to promote collaboration and interaction.
Behl explains: “We’ve built a facility with a new mindset and strategy - working to create less of a ‘me’ environment and more of a ‘we’ environment. This collaboration allows the teams to have direct contact and line of sight to our in-house operations; streamlining our development and production processes literally and figuratively. This cross-functional constant collaboration creates efficiencies every step of the way.”
And when it comes to implementing complex systems, efficiency is critical. That pressure to deliver also happens to ignite Behl’s competitive side.
“I love the competitive nature that’s needed to beat ourselves at our own game; every new program better than the last. I love the challenge to ensure every new program hits world-class status,” she states.
Explore career opportunities at Woodward, Inc. Go to woodward.com/careers. Follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.
Mays & Ball Aerospace Imagine New Expectations
Last year year introduced “polar vortex” and “bomb cyclone” into our weather lexicon. In January, daily forecasts became paramount when temperatures and wind chills fell to dangerous lows. Then, in March, a “bomb cyclone” rolled through, warming the air, dropping rain, and triggering a quick thaw and severe flooding.
Extreme weather incidents always grab headlines, but the importance of tracking environmental and atmospheric conditions extends far beyond preparing for tomorrow’s temps or precipitation. Pilots, the military, and space operations all depend on precise weather data.
As a senior systems engineer for Ball Aerospace - a division of Ball Corporation, headquartered in Boulder, CO - Catrina Mays defines the technical specifics for next-generation weather satellites that will send even more definitive images and key readings than what’s received today.
“I have an opportunity to influence customer requirements, including design, analysis, test, and operation of space vehicles and ground systems for commercial, government, and civil customers,” she says.
“I also train spacecraft engineers and online operations engineers, and coordinate specific project or pursuit engineering activities across all technical disciplines.”
The history of Ball Aerospace dates back to the launch of the modern space age. In addition to creating sensors, satellites, and spacecraft, it aids the defense and intelligence communities with advanced data services.
“I appreciate the unbounded opportunities available at Ball Aerospace - opportunities that range from high-resolution imagery satellites to sustainability options with space,” she notes.
With each decision, Mays is constantly reminded of the responsibility to protect information, proprietary and otherwise.
“With the advancement of technology, we must remember the basic rules of discretion and data integrity while also building a strong infrastructure for the protection of the great ideas we’re creating today,” Mays maintains.
As much as she enjoys tackling engineering challenges, she cautions STEM professionals against getting caught up in the minutia of problems and projects. Those details can overwhelm and end up consuming one’s time, creating an imbalance.
“The most important skills required on the job today are the soft skills, such as emotional intelligence. Possessing self-awareness and the ability to develop interpersonal relationships are vital,” she emphasizes.
Indeed, engineering rarely is an individual sport, but some of the most influential relationships form outside the job.
“During a speaker series held at Ball, some of the panelists highlighted the importance of engaging students at the elementary and middle-school levels to inspire them to join the tech workforce, thus continuing to expand diversity within companies. Diversity begins at all levels within the company, recruitment activities and community STEM outreach,” she comments.
To that end, Mays volunteers with several groups dedicated to diversifying the future STEM talent pipeline, which gives her both personal satisfaction and a professional credibility.
“Companies desire candidates who will create value, and those with the capacity to inspire others around them,” she notes.
Explore career opportunities at Ball Aerospace. Go to ball.com/aerospace/about-ball-aerospace/careers. Follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Long Represents MITRE on Multiple Fronts
Since Michael Long graduated in 2008 with a degree in computer science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technology State University, a historically black college and university (HBCU), technology has undergone several reconfigurations. Twitter debuted. Television streaming services cut the cable cord. The Internet of Things (IoT) has proliferated across industries and platforms, producing inexhaustible quantities of data.
“Data is beautiful, but my focus is how can I leverage that data to get ahead of an attack,” notes Long. “We can understand the benefits of technology, and now we have to create an awareness about potential malicious activity.”
The senior cybersecurity engineer for MITRE not only calls attention to the fact that computers possess vulnerabilities, but also assists in protecting the government’s cyber assets. A non-profit organization, MITRE serves the public interest at all levels of government, as well as in industry and academia. It houses offices and research centers on campuses in McLean, VA, and Bedford, MA, with other sites across the country and around the world.
“I work with government sponsors on their tactics, techniques and communications,” says Long. “I use my knowledge in cybersecurity operations to allow our sponsors to understand how to conduct a threat hunt or identify adversaries. I work with them on how to build up defense mechanisms for their organizations and understand what their weaknesses are or where gaps may exist.”
When he’s not detecting and protecting government computer systems, Long seeks opportunities to create a more diverse pipeline to fill the estimated 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs expected to be left unfilled over the next few years. To make a short-term impact, he’s returned to his alma mater on multiple occasions to discuss malware and career possibilities with students.
“I talk with them about why we need their minds, and how what they’re studying can help organizations. I share with them my experiences, and try to engage them to increase the pipeline with students from HBCUs and other underrepresented populations,” says Long.
He’d like to leave a long-term effect, too. Long has instructed elementary students about protecting their online profiles, and partnered with local Girl Scouts troops to earn their cybersecurity badge. Long also supports internal efforts recognizing diversity, and sits as the outcomes chair for MITRE’s Multicultural Council.
“We make sure people know we have these groups and can help identify various cultures [represented at MITRE]. We want people to know that we acknowledge their presence and the contributions of those cultures,” says Long.
Functioning on so many fronts presents interesting choices for Long, who admits it’s sometimes hard to decline opportunities that could expand his professional and technical skill sets.
“The most challenging thing for me is to be able to set guidelines for myself and not taking on too much,” he admits. “There are so many cool projects, and I love learning and growing. I have to focus as opposed to being greedy and asking for more projects.”
Explore career opportunities at MITRE. Go to mitre.referrals.selectminds.com. Follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.
The Aerospace Corporation Models Diversity for Otake
The Aerospace Corporation, which was established in 1960, was an integral contributor to the early space program. In the years since its founding, the El Segundo, CA-based organization has continued adapting and developing technology for space endeavors. It’s also continued partnering with corporate and public entities.
“I wanted to broaden my experience across different industries, and that’s why The Aerospace Corporation drew my attention,” recalls Lesli Otake of her decision to join the organization 15 years ago.
Today the director of modeling and simulation manages a staff of 14 engineers and scientists, concentrating on communications and utilities analyses.
“I also serve as a technical leader to the U.S. military,” she adds.
Although not a veteran, Otake serves by assessing risks and benefits of various technologies the armed services may incorporate into combat and other situations.
“We insert different types of technologies within a conflict context to measure and quantify the impact. We look for ways to use that information to make improvements,” she explains.
Computational speed and capabilities have both sped up and broadened the scope of what Otake and her team can model and simulate. But, as a leader, she believes humans are the distinguishing component to their work. As such, humans always represent variables, and it falls to Otake to guide her team toward consensus.
“Engineers tend to be very adamant about their technical proficiencies,” she says. “Sometimes when there are opposing positions on a topic, discussions can get pretty lively. That’s challenging, but also invigorating.”
Fostering camaraderie is also critical when making personnel decisions. Not only does Otake look for a personality match along with technical acumen, but she also seeks candidates who display an inquisitive nature.
“Young scientists and engineers accept the current technology [as a template for future]. They think future mobile devices, for example, should look like iPhones. I want them to think outside the box. Maybe it should be holographic. Maybe it’s an earpiece. We need to think of other ways to communicate,” she explains.
Otake also recommends that professionals build up non-technical skills, even if that means seeking opportunities outside the workplace.
“I encourage my staff to volunteer for animal shelters and other local community events where they can teach or learn valuable skills, from communication to leadership, collaboration or project management,” she notes.
Of course, Otake follows her own advice. She volunteers for the New Out West Club, a welcome committee for staff who have relocated to Southern California. Members share their insights on local activities and community resources so new employees feel accepted and at home.
“The Aerospace Corporation has been a huge support of encouraging connections between people who may not find themselves meeting across the corporation,” states Otake. “The Aerospace Corporation has helped me develop a family away from my family in Hawaii.”
Explore career opportunities at The Aerospace Corporation. Go to https://aerospace.org/careers. Follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
Hossain Pushes Perceptions at Eaton
Anyone who has built anything knows the guiding principle of “measure twice, cut once.” Kishwar Hossain and her team employ the same mentality by engaging models and simulations to measure the success of a technology to see if it’ll cut it in various physical environments.
“The models we generate provide predictions of the structural robustness and performance characteristics of products, such as pumps and valves, before a physical prototype is built. This allows us to be agile in our development process because it’s much easier to implement and evaluate a change in the virtual realm, and allows us to reduce development time and costs,” says the engineering manager for modeling and simulation in the fluid and motion control division, aerospace sector for Eaton.
Based in Cleveland, OH, Eaton designs, manufactures, and integrates products and systems in several areas of the aerospace industry, including fuel, hydraulics, motion control and engine solutions.
“The most challenging aspect is that we’re working in a very dynamic environment with many variables, and we have to make frequent adjustments to our modeling and simulation strategy,” adds Hossain.
Of course, tools such as computer-aided engineering (CAE) have elevated and expedited this process, as well as opened new realms of outcomes to test. Still, Hossain says her best, and frequently tested, tool is patience.
“Patience is a skill I use often. For anyone planning to specialize in modeling and simulation, I would highly recommend honing their ability to wait. Because the complexity of our models is increasing, they can be time-consuming to set up and run,” she explains.
Another challenge is corralling her team across locations. “Given the global footprint of Eaton’s engineering resources and my immediate team, it would be very difficult for us to form relationships, collaborate, and work effectively together across continents and time zones [without multifunctional audio/video conferencing technology],” she notes.
Logistical challenges aside, Hossain appreciates the multicultural aspect of her team’s make-up.
“Engineering thrives on innovation, and workforce diversity is a critical element in driving technological advances,” she says. “Including diverse perspectives in the development of products and processes not only gives us an advantage in the race for technological superiority, but it also increases efficiency.”
However, she’s concerned the A&D industry isn’t perceived as diverse by new generations of STEM professionals. And in an era of staffing shortages, such perceptions could be detrimental to future recruitment efforts, and potentially stymie technological progress.
“With global emphasis on information technology, it can be a challenge to attract new talent to the aerospace industry. Aerospace companies, and manufacturing companies in general, have a reputation of being traditional and less flexible than the ‘Googles’ and ‘Amazons’ of the world, sometimes seeming like a less attractive option in comparison to new grads and younger talent. We need to find ways to connect with fresh, diverse talent to show them we have a great culture, too,” she concludes.
Explore career opportunities at Eaton. Go to jobs.eaton.com. Follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
By the Numbers: A&D
$865 Billion: Total 2017 A&D economic output.
$348 Billion: Estimated amount derived from sales of value-added goods and services.
$113 Billion: What engineering, testing, logistics and information technology services added.
Source: Aerospace Industries Association (AIA)
A&D Gains Altitude
Gaining speed and altitude, the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry has intensified in the last few years, and is poised for even stronger global growth, according to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Aerospace & Defense Outlook.
“The industry is expected to continue its growth trajectory in 2019, led by growing commercial aircraft production and strong defense spending. In the commercial aerospace sector, aircraft order backlog remains at an all-time high as demand for next-generation, fuel-efficient aircraft continues to surge with the rise in oil prices,” explains Robin Lineberger, global and U.S. aerospace and defense leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP in discussing the report.
“With the aircraft backlog at its peak, manufacturers are expected to ramp up production rates, hence, driving growth in the sector.”
In the defense sector, he further points out, “heightened global tensions and geopolitical risks, recovery in the U.S. defense budget, and higher defense spending by other major regional powers such as China, India and Japan are expected to drive global defense sector growth in 2019 and beyond.”
Going back even farther, Research and Markets’ Analyzing the Global Aerospace and Defense Industry 2018 report shows that 2017 saw the recovery of the global aerospace and defense industry worldwide. Revenues of the global A&D industry crossed $686 billion by the end of 2017, according to the study, after experiencing weaker growth in 2016.
Global A&D further experienced an improvement in the operating margins in 2017 as compared to 2016, notes the report. This improvement was led by the U.S. A&D industry, which saw nearly 13% growth.
At the same time the global defense industry recorded a bump of 4% as governments abroad increased their spending on defense. By the end of 2017, the worldwide defense industry posted revenues of more than $362 billion, according to the data in the report.
This translates into a strong, positive job outlook for STEM professionals seeking to launch a career in A&D.
For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of aerospace engineers is projected to grow 6% through 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
“Aircraft are being redesigned to cause less noise pollution and have better fuel efficiency, which will help sustain demand for research and development,” says BLS.
“In addition, as international governments refocus their space exploration efforts, new companies are emerging to provide access to space beyond the access afforded by standard governmental space agencies.”
This cumulative A&D growth, a strong economy, a competitive job market on the hunt for STEM talent, and a rising number of large, global corporations, along with branches of the military and federal government agencies, tapping all sorts of STEM skills and creating a diversified workforce that yields innovation, productivity and competitive edge all combine to create a favorable atmosphere for STEM majors, grads and professionals who are members of minority groups and diverse cultures within A&D.
Sources: Deloitte’s 2019 Global Aerospace & Defense Outlook, Research and Markets’ Analyzing the Global Aerospace and Defense Industry 2018 report and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook.
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