Meet Monique, a microelectronics engineer, working in Linthicum, Maryland in the Northrop Grumman Advanced Technology Laboratories. She was named “Most Promising Engineer in Industry” at the 2020 Black Engineer of the Year Awards Gala.
How’d you find yourself at Northrop Grumman?
I started at Northrop Grumman immediately after finishing my PhD in materials science and engineering at Norfolk State University. During my last semester in graduate school, I interviewed with several companies. Northrop Grumman was the only company to see my potential to work and contribute outside of my dissertation work on protein-based biosensors.
I remember my interview like it was yesterday. In 2017 I flew to Kansas City, Missouri for the 43rd National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Convention. During my interview I was asked the question, “Well what do you want to work on? How about quantum computing?” At the time, I had no direct background in quantum computing or semiconductor processing; but was shown several career opportunities in these subject areas anyway. My mind was blown. From that moment, I knew I’d be valued as an employee because of my diverse background and not in spite of it. A couple of months after graduating I began working as a materials process engineer, co-responsible for one of the most critical steps to device fabrication (E-Beam lithography). To me, one of Northrop Grumman’s strengths is its demonstrated commitment to evaluating the current capabilities of prospective employees, but more importantly seeing their potential and supporting them to reach it.
With semiconductor processing as your focus, what do you get to work on at Northrop Grumman?
At the Advanced Technology Laboratories, I lead innovative solutions crossing departments, facilities and sectors. I am responsible for maintaining product quality for critical device fabrication steps, while collaborating with senior engineers, technicians and cross-departmental personnel to produce devices based on customer requirements. On a daily basis, I balance those customer requirements with cost and schedule limitations to create new and robust E-Beam lithography fabrication methods in support of current and future Northrop Grumman discriminating technologies. Some of my projects range from employee safety and yield to technical writing projects to better communicate fabrication needs and status updates.
What advice do you have for someone pursuing an internship or career at Northrop Grumman?
For anyone pursing an internship or career at Northrop Grumman, I’d encourage you to stay motivated. When you get the internship or job offer, the work is just beginning. Continue to stay proactive in expanding your knowledge and your network. Remember it’s not just who you know, it’s also who knows you.
How does the company help nurture and develop early career talent?
Northrop places a great deal of emphasis on developing early career talent through a number of mediums including formal mentorship programs, engineering resource groups, rotational programs and continuing education. As a new employee, my management supported me in attending conferences, completing my project management certification and going for my black belt in Lean Six Sigma.
We’ve heard that “defining moments” are all around us at Northrop Grumman. Can you share a personal example of how this has been true for you?
One of my defining moments occurred this year when my lead engineer was out of office for almost two weeks. During this time I was pushed to develop my risk management and decision making skills. I also oversaw the scheduled preventative maintenance of several critical components needed for tool performance. It was a great opportunity to execute the knowledge I gained over the past 2.5 years while supporting production and leading the E-beam lithography team. After a defining moment, it’s always a good idea to participate in some type of self-reflection activity. After overcoming my “defining moment,” I took some time to write down the things that went well and some key areas of improvements for myself. I think there should be an intentional balance between acknowledging the things you did well and taking the time to have the hard conversations about areas of improvements.
How do your personal passions intersect with your work here?
I absolutely love teaching and mentoring, especially when it comes to academic and professional development. Working at Northrop Grumman allows me to fulfill my passion as a knowledge sharer with opportunities to teach Lean Six Sigma content to green and black belt candidates. I also enjoy building connections with college students and “up and coming engineers,” so supporting summer interns and co-ops with meaningful lab experiences has been a joy for me.
Northrop Grumman has a reputation of being an Engineering company. Can you share a specific endeavor where science, technology and engineering came together?
To push the limits of performance for one of our products, we turned to scientific literature to better understand how the physics and chemistries of our systems behaved. Once we better understood this, we created a new process using engineering design considerations. We are now inching closer and closer to production of the processes and techniques which we built from the science. The culmination of this learning and application will be developed into a new and high impact technology.
Solving what’s never been done, exploring the limits of possible. Is that real and true for you in your time at Northrop Grumman?
Testing the limits of physics and science is what I do on a daily basis. Much of my work focuses on continuous improvement initiatives which require novel approaches and solutions. I always explore thoughts like, “Can this material be used in a different way? Are we looking at the problem from the correct angle? How can we push this technology further into a higher performing and safer plane?” One of the projects I spearhead will change the way we fabricate several of our devices, increasing manufacturability while reducing chemical safety concerns. Here at Northrop Grumman, we first understand the limits and then we blow past them. We are defining possible.
Northrop Grumman microelectronics engineers are Defining Possible every day. Click to see microelectronics engineer job openings and apply today.
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