Northrop Grumman women share stories of success

Northrop Grumman women share stories of success

 November 05, 2018

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Northrop Grumman believes that creating a work force and a workplace that values diversity and fosters inclusion is pivotal to promoting innovation and increasing productivity and profitability. Northrop Grumman's goal is to continually support and nurture the large number of Northrop Grumman employees whose backgrounds, characteristics and perspectives are as diverse as the global communities in which it resides.

Find out about three women whose diverse backgrounds and experiences all help contribute to the great work of Northrop Grumman.

Helen, Director of electrical design technology for Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems sector

Helen can recall the moment her college roommate banged on her door as the tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001 unfolded. A student at the University of Texas at Austin at the time, Helen felt helpless as she turned on the news. This tragic moment changed the trajectory of her career.

“I immediately thought about my good friend who was set to join the United States Marine Corps,” says Helen. Helen started working at a defense company to help support American soldiers. Helen, who previously interned at Dell, at first intended to pursue an engineering career at a commercial company. When she realised that she had the skills to defend and contribute to the country, she changed her career focus.

“The defense sector was in the back of my mind, but having someone close to me personally caused me to divert my attention to the defense industry,” says Helen. “I think it’s awesome to have and develop the newest gadget such as the iPhone, but iPhones are just fun; they’re not saving lives.”

Northrop Grumman pushes its employees to succeed 

Helen worked as a systems engineer at different defense companies before taking on a systems engineering role with Northrop Grumman. Helen had an idea of what to expect because of her past experiences.

“Northrop Grumman provides enriching leadership and technical opportunities to challenge its employees, and they back up their values with action, which makes the company much different from my previous employers,” comments Helen. “I think we do a much better job at challenging employees and making them feel uncomfortable – in a good way.” Helen has had her share of being pushed outside of her comfort zone at work. Through Northrop Grumman’s vast scope of opportunities and stretch assignments, she has been encouraged to grow and learn new skills with the help of her company.

“They never put me in a position to not succeed; but, instead, they put me in a position to grow and lead," says Helen.

Never a boring day at Northrop Grumman

Not only does Helen push the boundaries of physics at Northrop Grumman, but she can never get bored with all the opportunities to work on different programs and projects. “If you want to learn about development, there’s a program. If you want to learn about verification and validation, there’s a program. An employee can also learn about hardware and production, which are both going on right now at Northrop Grumman,” says Helen, adding that Northrop Grumman makes it easy to transfer between different internal locations, sectors and programs.

Helen has also contributed to Northrop Grumman’s efforts to professionally advance its workforce. Helen works with managers to find opportunities to grow employees’ skillsets and encourage them to pursue unconventional directions. “Employees are sometimes uncomfortable taking on new assignments for a bit, but they should be uncomfortable or they won’t learn,” she says.

Pride in her work and her company

Helen’s continued success and strong work ethic at Northrop Grumman is driven by her purpose to support the aims of the defense industry and work on projects that help make the country safer. “I’m so proud of the work we do every single day,” Helen says. “The longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve really noticed how the company takes ownership and diversity to heart.”

Lauren, Manager at Northrop Grumman

Lauren, a manager at Northrop Grumman, has the recipe for innovation

Knowledge leads to innovation...

She imagines that knowledge is like the contents of a pantry, where a slice of knowledge is represented by a kitchen ingredient. Lauren believes that if we use this analogy to envisage knowledge, we can come to view it more strategically. For example, we can quantify and categorise knowledge. "This is important because if we want to create innovative ideas, we need to consider what we are using to come up with those ideas. It’s difficult to create an enjoyable and nutritious meal with a sparse pantry, or one that’s full of only one type of ingredient," says Lauren. "However, when you have a pantry full of many types of ingredients, you’re more likely to succeed in creating a meal." Lauren adds that innovative ideas are the same way. You need knowledge to create innovative ideas, and when the knowledge available is limited in either quantity or scope, this also limits the possibility for innovation.

...As does experience...

However, Lauren believes that knowledge is not the only key to developing innovative ideas: experience plays an important role, too. "Let’s say you have a fully stocked kitchen, but you’ve never cooked before," comments Lauren. "Experience can help connect the dots. If you have cooked before, you can determine what you can create with the ingredients that you have, just like with innovative ideas. If you have more experience, you can determine what can be done with the knowledge available to you or your team."

Lauren knows that diversity plays an important role here. In fact, diversity plays a larger role overall than it's sometimes given credit for. Lauren believes there are endless categories of experiences in which you can be an expert, but the breakthrough moments come when these different kinds of experiences come together to create something completely new.

...But you also need a dose of fearlessness

Lauren cites a final way to generate innovative ideas: fearlessness. "A full and diverse pantry combined with experience is still limited by one thing: fear of the unknown. Experience tells us how connections have been made in the past; innovation happens when connections come together for the first time. We have to be fearless enough to test and discover new things," says Lauren.

"To create innovative ideas, you need to have everything in place — knowledge, experience and diversity — and then you need fearlessness to bring it all together. And that is the recipe for innovation."

Krystal, Spacecraft Systems Engineer at Northrop Grumman

Going into the STEM fields isn’t easy — especially if you don’t have role models. Mentors can help, and Northrop Grumman has employees on both sides of that equation. One mentor is Krystal, a Spacecraft Systems Engineer for Northrop Grumman.

Inspiring the next generation 

Generation 1st Degree–Pico Rivera is an outreach programme that aims to inspire students to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by helping students prepare for higher education. The programme held its inaugural “A Day in Space” event at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, Calif. The event was sponsored by Northrop Grumman and saw an attendance of more than 2,000 people. NASA astronauts José Hernández and Mark Kelly shared what it’s like to be in space. Northrop Grumman hosted an information booth and activities with support from volunteers such as Krystal.

One goal of the event was to demonstrate the importance of the STEM fields and how to apply them to aero-space careers. During breakout sessions, Krystal explained how the James Webb Space Telescope will explore the universe in search of the very first light, observe the pattern of stars and galaxies and study planets for signs of life-supporting atmospheres. Students had the opportunity to build their own CubeSat (miniature satellite) with an Arduino microcontroller and space sensor board — an activity that highlighted how astronomers detect exoplanets. When students asked if engineering is difficult, Krystal gave them an honest answer: “Yes, engineering is hard, but it’s worth the effort!”

A Hispanic role model

Krystal was the first in her family to attend college. She earned a Bachelor of Science in engineering physics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a Master of Science in astronautical engineering from the University of Southern California. Her passion for STEM initiatives led her to found both the Northrop Grumman High School Innovation Challenge and the STEM High School Internship Program.

“Growing up, I did not personally know any Hispanic professionals who could mentor me,” says Krystal. “This event was specifically designed to engage the minds of first-generation students and provide them with Hispanic role models, and I was honored to serve as a mentor to these kids.”

Join talented women like Helen, Lauren and Krystal at Northrop Grumman

If you want to be part of a team of talented women who are passionate about their careers at Northrop Grumman and are encouraged to make a difference in the industry, find out about Northrop Grumman's current job vacancies and see where your career might take you.


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