Finding inspiration everywhere
Thousands of Electronic Systems employees come to work each day motivated to do their best because of a devotion to the company’s missions, its customers, the technology or their fellow coworkers.
Somit Mathur has not experienced full-time employment outside of BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems sector. A project technical lead for the sector’s Survivability, Targeting & Sensing Solutions business area, Mathur started his career with the company two weeks after graduating from Stanford with a master’s in Electrical Engineering; he will celebrate his 15th year with Electronic Systems (ES) in April 2017.
“What surprises a lot of folks is the tenure here; there’s a lot of folks who have been here for decades,” Mathur said. “It’s a fun, dynamic environment.”
One would be hard-pressed to find individuals who say their dream job is working on monotonous assignments with uncooperative coworkers in a company about which they care little; luckily for ES employees, that is not the case at BAE Systems.
ES employees can always find something to galvanize them into working hard for something bigger than themselves. For some, it is knowing what they do goes to saving the lives of military servicemen and women or helping commuters safely get to where they want to go. For others, it is working on complex and innovative technology and equipment or having the opportunity to give back to their local communities.
For Mathur, it has been the people with whom and the programs on which he has worked.
“When you’re working with a group of people who you enjoy working with personally and professionally, you’re going to put your best foot forward,” he said. “I also have the opportunity to interface with customers directly. A lot of engineers, in many situations, don’t interface with the customer directly, but, when you do, it puts a lot of gravity and context behind what you’re doing.”
Last July, Mathur was part of a team conducting a maritime situational awareness demonstration on a Navy test platform. With Naval science advisors onboard, Mathur’s team demonstrated the capability of an ES product with results better than they had predicted.
“It was, by far, the best-quality demo I’ve ever seen us do; that demo was pivotal for the Navy in its evaluation to award BAE Systems with a program called CESARS,” Mathur said. “What you’re doing, in terms of [ES’ defense mission] ‘We Protect Those Who Protect Us®,’ is helping them define the requirements that are going to protect them. Last year, there was a lot of risk on how we were going to do, but what that showed them is what is ‘the art of possible.’”
Working at ES has also afforded Mathur the ability to stay local to his home base of Austin, Texas. The idea of working for BAE Systems actually came from Mathur’s father, who was working for the company – called Tracor at the time – when Mathur graduated from Stanford and still lives in the area, as does Mathur’s brother; Mathur worked for his father as a technical contributor for his first five years with the company.
Much like Mathur, Priti Shah, a senior manager for Import/Export compliance, has spent her 35-year career in the same company. Shah began her career with ES’ legacy company General Electric aircraft in Cincinnati and transferred to Fort Wayne, Indiana, three years later. While still conducting many of the same tasks as she was in Cincinnati, but without an on-site Import/Export team, her original manager offered Shah the opportunity to establish a full-fledged Import/Export function at Fort Wayne. Using best practices from the first location and her own insight, she stood up the organization at the site and now has four people reporting to her.
“What I really enjoy is that, on a daily basis, it’s interesting, challenging and diverse,” Shah said. “There’s never a dull day – it’s like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle. It’s very nice to be able to reach out to people in different functions and ask for help.”
Shah was raised in Japan and said the philosophy in that country is that “you have undying loyalty to the company you work for; the thought of leaving a company was unheard of.” At ES, that loyalty goes both ways; Shah’s longevity within the company has helped her win the confidence and trust of company leadership, allowing her to move forward on initiatives that are being mirrored company-wide, such as the establishment of “technical data focal points” – Engineering employees who act as an extension of the Import/Export function within Engineering, ensuring that Engineering practices keep in mind key Import/Export policies.
Initially, Shah’s Import/Export role in Fort Wayne was part-time, which allowed her to learn more about the products worked on at the site.
“I have been truly blessed to tinker with the non-Export part of the world, and I’ve met some really great people and used that expertise in my day-to-day Export stuff,” she said.
Shah, who works primarily for the Controls & Avionics Solutions and Power & Propulsion Solutions business areas, can relate to ES’ commercial mission, “We Innovate for Those Who Move the World,” anytime she looks to the sky and sees an airplane, knowing products manufactured at her site are most likely onboard; Gerard Quintanar, who has spent the majority of his 30-year career working on defense-related programs, has a more-personal connection to the defense mission, “We Protect Those Who Protect Us.®”
Along with his family, Quintanar grew up taking care of a national cemetery on evenings and weekends; his father was in the U.S. Air Force, his uncles served in the U.S. Army, and his father’s first cousin was a POW in Bataan during World War II.
“Working in the cemetery and recognizing at that time – as an 11-year-old boy in the early ‘70s – that some of the most-recent burial sites were for those returning from Vietnam, and the sacrifices of those young soldiers… anyone would be influenced by that,” Quintanar, a director of ES Engineering, said. “Those experiences in my youth made me admire and respect all who have fought and died in defense of our freedoms. It made me want to spend my career in the defense industry. I’ve worked on a lot of programs, on a lot of products, and I am thankful to know that what I have worked on has helped the warfighter. I’ve never served in the military, but I’ve served my country my way as an engineer and putting my time and energy into products that will make a difference.”
Like Quintanar, Ron Waugaman, a geospatial product lead, has former military in his family – his brother served in the U.S. Marine Corps and volunteered to deploy in Iraq early into Operation Iraqi Freedom, right when Waugaman started with the company 14 years ago.
“Our company mission, ‘We Protect Those Who Protect Us,’ means something very special to me - knowing that the services we provide and the products we produce are being utilized by the U.S. warfighters who are protecting us every day, that’s all the inspiration I need,” he said. “It’s a job with a lot of purpose.”
Quintanar spent his first 19 years with BAE Systems’ legacy companies in San Diego. Learning early in his career as an electrical engineer that his true passion was in software engineering, Quintanar studied at the University of California-San Diego. It was at this time, stuck in traffic one day trying to make it to an exam, that he thought there had to be a better way for employees to get the training they need to advance their career without interfering with their work responsibilities. As the director of Software Engineering in 2003, he started fulfilling his vision by bringing in classes from the University of California-San Diego and San Diego State University on-site for the benefit of employees. Years later, this would lead to Quintanar establishing ES University, a broad resource for ES employees to enhance their job-related skills in a number of ways, including internal courses and university-provided degree programs.
“My role has taken quite a number of twists and turns from very technical to running projects to managing large organizations and now to running a variety of different programs that comprise our talent pipeline,” he said. “With the breadth of technologies and opportunities that are afforded to people in a company like this, one person could have 30 careers here and never get bored.”
Beyond the challenging, rewarding work and working side-by-side with “individuals who are at the top of their game,” Quintanar appreciates how the company and individual employees provide their time and talent to community outreach programs “without wearing it on their sleeves – just involved and focused on giving back to the community and the younger generations.”
One such employee is Happy Tkacz, an administrative assistant and activities director for the downtown Nashua, New Hampshire, facility.
“I’m inspired because of knowing that all of what we do here as a whole makes a difference for our servicemen, servicewomen, the environment, our families and our friends” Tkacz, an eight-year employee said. “I really think that’s exciting knowing I’m a part of this.”
There is a great deal of gratification, as well, when a group’s diligence during a bid proposal – working long days and through weekends – results in a contract award, but the real satisfaction has come from the extra-curricular aspects of her roles.
“We’ve been able to do many fundraisers that support the troops and veterans; in the past, ‘Stockings for the Troops,’” she said. “We would hand-write letters that would go into stockings we had filled, and, to hear back from the troops thanking us – saying they arrived Christmas morning for their deployment, and, when they arrived, they were given a stocking that was done by us. This year’s focus has been on Building Homes for Heroes and NEADS [National Education for Assistance Dog Services] to raise funds for service dogs for Veterans and helping build homes for veterans. I feel blessed to be able to help others and to know that all the things we do are appreciated.”