Work force: Lockheed Martin
Knowledge is the best line of defense
Lockheed Martin, one of the nation's leading defense contractors, is more than fighter planes. It is missiles, three-dimensional design software, even accident investigation.
And almost 1,300 UTA graduates.
More than 4 percent of Lockheed's employees, from software developers to research leads to corporate vice presidents, are University alumni.
"This is a strikingly interesting group of young kids," said Randy O'Neal, the deputy vice president of production operation and a 1979 chemistry graduate. "The preparation today is quite extraordinary. These kids come with very few inhibitions about their abilities. They step in and immediately contribute. They come in and make a difference."
Which is precisely what management wants.
"What we look for in all of our employees are people with a lot of drive," said Steve Graham, vice president of the PAC-3 Missile Program. "We're looking for self-starting individuals, people who can get in and do it with little supervision. UTA grads certainly fit that mold. Having a college of the stature of UTA that's close makes it very good for us. It gives us a good base to fall back on."
Over the years, Graham has seen his share of former UTA students come through Lockheed's Missiles and Fire Control division in Grand Prairie. He joined the company fresh out of the University in 1968, when he earned a bachelor's in aerospace engineering. He completed a master's in mechanical engineering seven years later.
He earned his second degree while working full time, and that's not atypical.
Robert Fuentes, an engineer at Lockheed Aeronautics, works on the three-dimensional software programs that facilitate tasks such as aircraft design, mishap investigation and analysis of battle scenarios. He graduated in 2002 with a master's in electrical engineering, and he's currently a doctoral student at UTA.
Though it may be a while until he graduates again, he said that both his company and his school have been out-of-their-way cooperative.
"There seems to be a good benefit for someone working," he said. "And for a student who's interested in furthering his degree, Lockheed reimburses your fees and they're willing to work with you in coordinating your schedule. At UTA, the professors are in tune with the local environment."
That's a big reason Lockheed hires UTA graduates so often, Graham said.
"One of the things I've always been impressed with is the degree of industrial expertise that most of the professors have," he said. "They're able to impart to the student their background and what it means when you really go to work. They're not just academicians; they know the industry."
The relationship between the University and Lockheed has become symbiotic over the years. While UTA provides the company a stream of employees, the company offers alumni a great place to work.
"I like the culture here," said Ann Ni, an engineer in Lockheed's EODP Development Leadership Program and a 1999 bachelor's graduate in electrical engineering. "Everybody is very nice and very nurturing. They're willing to help you out, and that's the biggest plus I've seen here."
The pipeline from UTA to Lockheed stays open, in part, because Lockheed management takes a role in the University. O'Neal is on the advisory council for the Automation & Robotics Research Institute. Lockheed also actively recruits at UTA.
No doubt about it, O'Neal said, the company has a certain appeal.
Lockheed Martin is "leading-edge technology," he said. "There's a lot of excitement and a lot of interest. Across the board, it's pushing the edge every day, and that's pretty attractive."
– Danny Woodward