Meet Lisa: A systems engineering manager in Dulles, Virginia. She has worked for Northrop Grumman for 15 years, supporting deep space, commercial satellites, mission operations and career development.
I recently heard someone say that life isn’t about balance —it’s more like an orchestra. I grew up in an orchestral swell of support, surrounded by people who were big advocates for women in STEM — including my father, a self-employed mechanical engineer who is still one of my biggest inspirations. I felt that same support when I joined Northrop Grumman as a thermal engineer in the mechanical engineering department.
During my 12-year stint on that team, I developed a relationship with a brilliant mentor, who I have lunch with each week to this day — though, due to the pandemic, today’s lunches are over FaceTime. The wide range of experiences I gained from working with my mentor, as well as my other wonderful colleagues in thermal engineering, more than prepared me for my transition from thermal to systems engineering in 2016.
I was eager for a challenge in my new role — and that’s exactly what I got! I joined a phenomenal team building the mock-up for NextStep-2, the precursor to HALO. We spent many nights and weekends working to deliver an excellent product to NASA.
In the middle of completing this project, I became an early career systems engineering manager, which was a great opportunity to help early career engineers become well-equipped for their careers. Meeting one-on-one, I learned about their goals, then helped connect and encourage them with career development opportunities, such as public speaking engagements and mission and launch operations. I was able to create an environment that promoted professional growth, camaraderie and safety.
This role is truly one that brings me happiness and has become one of my passions. Seeing others succeed and accomplish challenges is incredibly rewarding for me — I love that I get to be a small part of their success, and I am always cheering my team on as their biggest supporter and advocate.
A lot of my former direct reports call me their “work mom.” They know how much I care for them and that their leadership understands that their success as individuals is just as important as the success of our company.
Earlier this year, I stepped into a new role as a GEO communications systems engineering manager, allowing me to expand my passion for career development beyond early career employees. Every day, I am surrounded (virtually, in recent months) by incredibly bright and experienced engineers who leverage multiple viewpoints, ideas and methods to productively approach any problem that arises.
Today, our biggest challenge is learning to work remotely in the COVID-19 environment, where the lines between work and personal life tend to blur. While we all miss the connection of seeing each other face-to-face, we’ve added new forms of communication to help us adjust, such as Zoom calls and group chats where we discuss home life and show off what we’re going in our free time. My favorite conversations have included sharing photos of our pets, discussing hiking trails, new foods to try and the new chicken coop and chickens I have at home.
At the end of the day, I truly believe we’re all dancing through a beautiful classical piece and, in my score, support has been a repeating chorus — whether I was receiving career encouragement from my own mentors or creating a supportive environment for others. While there are crescendos and decrescendos in all of our lives — and, right now, many of us may be pushing through a more difficult part of the song — I know we are still working together in harmony.
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