The Anatomy of a Skunk


What do the world’s first stealth aircraft, the world’s most advanced fighters, and the world’s fastest manned aircraft have in common? They were all imagined by “Skunks” – some of the most innovative, strategic and visionary thinkers around.

Since the development of the XP-80, the United States’ first fighter jet in 1943, employees at the Skunk Works® in Palmdale, Calif. –affectionately known as Skunks – have been quietly designing and developing some of the world’s most advanced aircraft and other related technology.  It takes a special kind of person to work at Skunk Works – one who is willing to take risks, focus on the future and propose out-of-the-box ideas on a near daily basis.

“As a Skunk, you need to take risks, innovate and not be afraid to contribute to the team and throw out ideas, no matter how out there they might seem,” said Cameron Miller, a member of the engineering leadership development program at Skunk Works. “We’re working on cutting-edge technology every day. You have to use your imagination, work through challenges and learn to overcome failure to come up with the right solution.”  

Inherent in Skunks is their absolute drive to get a project done. At the Skunk Works, people are expected to think freely, work in teams and focus on efficiency – most of the time while working on classified projects that they cannot talk about in public.

“We’re willing to do what it takes to find the right answer,” said Steve Justice, director for Advanced Systems Development at Skunk Works. “That dedication, forward thinking and willingness to do what it takes, despite not being able to talk about it with anyone outside of the organization, is really what makes a Skunk, a Skunk.”

And while Skunks come from varying backgrounds, there are characteristics, qualities and skills that are common in all Skunks.  

How do you know you’re a Skunk?

We polled Skunk Works employees and they said you know you are a Skunk when…

  • You look forward to work because you know you are working on the next cutting-edge design and technology
  • The Skunk logo is plastered on your car and clothing
  • You care more about getting it done than getting credit
  • You know it’s about the airplane, not about you
  • You can’t tell your family what you are working on
  • You know all about Kelly Johnson
  • You know that negativity is the greatest killer of creativity
  • You continue to be amazed that you get paid to do what you do
  • You don’t always follow the accepted rules of engineering

Learn more about what it takes to be a Skunk and what we’re doing at the Skunk Works.

April10, 2014

The Anatomy of a Skunk

Skunk Works® Magic

Something magical happens when a group of people unite in the pursuit of a common purpose and challenge what's thought to be impossible. At the Skunk Works®, magic happens every day in the form of technological innovation and thoughtful solutions driven by our customers' mission.  

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