An airman finds purpose and mission in his job at Northrop Grumman
By Andrew Meyer
Growing up, I was that kid who was always looking up at airplanes, dreaming of flying. It was in my blood, as my dad flew in the U.S. Air Force before I was born. I also knew that I wanted to be an engineer. After earning my mechanical and electrical engineering degrees from the University of Illinois, opportunities led me to the automotive and commercial products industries instead of aviation.
To fuel my aviation thirst, I joined the Air National Guard and served for 22 years — flying jets and deploying worldwide. It could be a challenge to juggle service with my civilian jobs, but my employers often saw my service as a burden, not a benefit.
Automotive was fun and challenging; it allowed me to push the edge with technologies and develop new things. Then, with family and job market changes, I ended up working on commercial products —appliances, to be exact. For several years, it was a reliable job that gave me the family time with my three kids at home and the flexibility to continue as a member of the Air National Guard. I was “comfortable.” But part of me wanted more.
Around four years ago, I was bored, so I started applying for new opportunities that would be a step up from where I was. I remember the interview discussion with Tom Hamilton—now my current manager — about Northrop Grumman, its products, and a job opportunity there. My wife told me I couldn’t skip the chance to be a “rocket scientist.” I knew of Northrop Grumman from my time flying F-16 aircraft, and suddenly a fire was lit to explore this opportunity — the chance to lead a team really pushing the boundaries of what could be done. I remember calling my wife after the interview to tell her how it went. “So, we’re moving to Maryland, aren’t we?” she asked.
We did. I was energized about the opportunity and what we — the Northrop Grumman team as a whole — do. It was incredible seeing a team pushing the limits every day, solving challenging problems and working together across many functions to support the warfighter. About three months after starting as a system integration and test manger, I overheard my neighbor ask my wife how I liked my job. She explained how great it was seeing me come home every day, passionate about my work.
Just over a year ago, I retired from the Air Force. One my good friends in the unit, who was also close to retirement, talked about how hard it would be to hang it up after more than 20 years. I’d been struggling with this feeling as well. “Andy, you’re still serving with Northrop,” he said. He was right. Flying jets, my role then was always to ensure that the soldier or Marine had air cover, or that the fighters and bombers had gas. Now, our job here is to ensure that they have the best equipment, best support, best information and the ability to win any fight.
The transition from a comfortable career and simple life to the challenges and opportunities that Northrop Grumman brings is one that I’ll never second guess. My kids draw me rockets to hang on the wall. In fact, I’ve got instructions on how to build a rocket from my son, just in case I forget. And an American flag that I flew over Baghdad hangs in my office to ensure we never forget what this is all about.
Return to Life at Northrop Grumman home page.