What does your job involve? In 2003 we won a contract to develop a field upgrade to the explosives detection scanners used in the checked baggage area. We are essentially improving the ability to find threats. This business area started as a response to the 9/11 attacks. We use computed tomography (CT) scanners that are not much different to those used in hospitals, but we have leveraged the technology to find explosives. Current detection machines are working well, but the Transportation Security Administration has a continuous improvement programme of which this programme is a part. Our enhanced detection system, which has been developed with Analogic, is scheduled for field tests in US airports this year. As a programme manager I look at all the aspects of cost, schedule and risk against the performance requirements. A large part of my job is risk management. We think of where things can go wrong, and try to mitigate the problem.

What skills and experience do you need to get into this line of work? I have a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. I started working at IBM in Owego as a software engineer and then moved to the first line of management for the development of high performance air-cooled mainframe processors. From there I was offered a job in systems assurance of avionics systems in helicopters. This business unit was among the Loral businesses acquired by Lockheed Martin in 1996. I really think you need a strong technical background. You need to remember the fundamentals of engineering and problem solving. You also need to be sensitive to your customers' wants and needs.

What are the rewards and challenges of your job? The rewards are having a great team of people working with me and winning contracts. One of the challenges we face at the moment is working with a new customer whose priorities, requirements and organisation are still evolving.

How difficult is it to get into your line of work? The analogy I would use is similar to flying an aircraft. You need to have so many flying hours before you are proficient. Programme management really ups the ante quite a bit because you are the face of Lockheed Martin to the customer, and bear profit and loss responsibility for shareholders. There are many challenges. You have to show sustained performance over time to earn the right to practice in this area. I look forward to additional opportunities, such as managing larger projects in terms of both value and complexity. The sky's the limit. I'm enthusiastic about the job; it's a good marriage between my technical and people skills.

Source: Flight International