Mitch is an Engineering & Sciences Operations Manager in Northrop Grumman’s San Diego site. After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, adjusting to civilian work was a new challenge he faced. Hear from Mitch and learn about his career journey from active military duty to civilian life.
Tell us about your path to Northrop Grumman. How did you get hired here?
My journey to Northrop Grumman began in 2013. I had just been medically retired from the Marine Corps and I didn’t have a plan for my future. I had been a Marine since I was 17 and had all intentions of completing a 20-year career. I had to adjust to the civilian world quickly and realized that I would need to have a degree in order to find viable work to support my family. I started my educational journey at a community college in San Diego, California with the intent of transferring to a local university once I had completed my core courses. While enrolled in school full time, I was also working part time at a Best Buy near my home. I didn’t know much about technology other than how to turn on a computer but learned about the specifications of the devices and moved from working in the warehouse to working in the computing sales department. I found that I was good at selling and had a better understanding of technology than I previously thought. I applied for a role with the Geek Squad and became a “counter agent” doing on-site diagnostics and troubleshooting of customer computer issues.
I left Best Buy and took a full-time job with a company that provided IT services to McGraw Hill Education’s sales force. It was around this time that I realized I would like to pivot my educational pursuits to align with my newfound passion. I found a college that was career centric and allowed me to complete a degree in an accelerated manner. In 2018, I completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Science with an emphasis on Computer Programming and sought to find an industry that I could apply what I had just learned. I applied to several roles with various companies for software programming roles and didn’t receive a single interview.
I contacted the Wounded Warrior Project and worked with their Warriors to Work program to help me find a role within a company I would be proud to work for. While pursuing various opportunities, I participated in a lunch and learn that helped me understand that my degree and my previous experience in the Marine Corps could be used in the Cybersecurity field with regard to system hardening and secure code analysis.
With that new knowledge in my tool belt, I reached out to a Northrop Grumman employee who was in Cybersecurity and whom I was in the Marines with. I asked if he had any suggestions for someone who wants to break into the field – he told me about a need that Northrop had at the time and encouraged me to apply. I was contacted shortly thereafter by the hiring manager and accepted a role as a member of the Cyber team and a lab manager for one of the testing labs on site.
How do you describe your role, what you do here, and what you are working on?
My role at Northrop has varied since being hired. I have been a lab manager and cyber engineer, but I have experience as a functional manager, the operations manager for Engineering and Sciences in San Diego, and most recently the program manager for the Weapons Data Link IRAD. Through all of my roles, I have had unique opportunities to gain valuable insight into how the company operates. In my most current role, I ensure the project maintains the necessary schedule to complete our objectives all while staying within our budget. I also ensure we have the staff needed to complete the objectives. As a program manager, I also have the opportunity to interact with customers to ensure our progress is in line with the requirements they have.
We’ve heard that “defining moments” are all around us at Northrop Grumman. That people are pushed to learn and advance through tech, projects, and challenges daily; solve for things that have never been done; and you have an opportunity to make a positive impact. Can you share a personal example of how this has been true for you?
Northrop Grumman has helped me see what was possible within myself on several occasions; I have been encouraged to try new things and seek out new opportunities. I have been able to participate in endeavors that change the world in a positive way and in ways I never thought I would be a part of. Whether it be helping find new talent in the veteran community, on college campuses or more program specific tasks, I think everything I have been a part of at Northrop Grumman is going to make a positive impact on the world.
We have self-professed space nerds, RF geeks, scuba divers who love mapping the undersea, and people who just want to be around airplanes at Northrop Grumman. How do YOUR personal passions intersect with your occupation/work here? How is working at Northrop Grumman “personal” or “purposeful” to you?
I was 17 years old when I joined the Marine Corps, I have always felt compelled to serve my country and when I could no longer serve in that capacity, I was devastated. I view my work at Northrop Grumman as a continuation of my service to my country. I know that everything we design and engineer will make the Nation’s fighting forces more effective and safer. I feel passionate about working for a company that dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces and their families. To me there is nothing more important.
Northrop Grumman has a reputation of being an Engineering company. So it would be especially interesting to understand how you would articulate the inter-relationship and intersection of science, technology AND engineering here. Can you share a specific endeavor where all three came together?
In my current role, I have had the opportunity to see and be a part of an amazing effort that incorporates science, technology and engineering. I am currently working with a team to create a small form factor radio that must withstand various environmental conditions. We incorporate thermodynamics, tolerance testing and other scientific means to assess the conditions our product will be subject to. We do this through modeling and simulation, which allows for agile engineering practices to be used in the design and testing of the product.
Solving for what’s never been done, exploring the limits of possible. Is that real and true for you in your time at Northrop Grumman? If so, can you share an example from your time here?
From the day I began with Northrop Grumman to the second these words are being typed, I have been a part of groundbreaking and exciting work that pushes the boundaries of the impossible into the realms of possibility. I have the pleasure of being part of a project that is researching innovative technology that will change the way we communicate on the battlefield and am getting a front row seat to the innovation and ingenuity it takes to make the impossible a reality.
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