From Bicycle to Life Cycle: Engineering a Career in Sustainability


Lockheed Martin employee Devan Tracy bikes 32 miles round trip to work several days a week in support of sustainability practices and rode 108 miles in the Corporation’s Tour de Cure fundraising event this year in Reston, Virginia, on June 7.

Devan Tracy talks about her passion for sustainability in her personal life and her professional life as a mechanical engineer in the second year of Lockheed Martin’s Engineering Leadership Development program.

Sustainability at Lockheed Martin means more than using global resources wisely and protecting the environment. We also consider how our long-term products and systems have broader economic and social impacts. The future will be shaped by those who can deliver transformative innovation in a resources-challenged world and sustainability helps Lockheed Martin engineer a better tomorrow.

Question: What’s your current role at Lockheed Martin?

Answer: With the Lockheed Martin Corporate Sustainability Office, I help advance the corporation’s sustainability program and deepen business-driven sustainability integration.  I contribute to the development of our annual Sustainability Report and related disclosures to customer, investors and industry analysts. I am also a liaison to the engineering and supply chain communities, working to incorporate streamlined Life Cycle Assessment into existing business practices. Life Cycle Assessment helps us create sustainable technology by revealing how we can reduce adverse environmental impact of a product through all stages of development.

I am very lucky to be a part of Lockheed Martin’s strategic vision in a field that I am passionate about, with a blended role as an investigator, collaborator and translator.

Question: How can engineers incorporate sustainability into a career?

Answer: Designing for sustainability is multi-faceted and can be applied to myriad applications ranging from high-performance buildings, aerodynamics, smart grid development, critical urban infrastructure, security of parts supply, manufacturing process improvements, nanomaterials, to cyber security – all of which Lockheed Martin has a hand in.

Because our products often last for decades, it is imperative to engage a telescopic lens: zooming out to understand systemic impacts down the road and zooming in to focus on highest-impact components. Designing from cradle to cradle versus cradle to grave means fully understanding a product’s total economic life-cycle value and resulting environmental and societal impacts like water requirements, land degradation potential and energy source reliability.

Question: What inventions are you most looking forward to?

Answer: I am excited about Lockheed Martin’s waste-to-energy pursuit, utilizing advanced gasification technology to divert waste from the landfill and create syn-gas and other useful byproducts. This is particularly useful in remote locations where getting rid of garbage is an even more costly and resource intensive endeavor. In my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to study similar processes along with Lockheed Martin engineers, converting waste food from the campus dining halls into feedstock for the central heating plant to supplement the woodchips and coal.

Question: How do you incorporate sustainability into your everyday activities?

Answer: I strive to be a force of positive change in all that I do. Sustainability is a personal commitment, embedded into my everyday lifestyle. From utilizing alternative modes of transportation to supporting the local economy, I enjoy the conveniences and simple lifestyle that an urban lifestyle offers. I am also involved with the local United States Green Building Council chapter and volunteer with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate to construct efficient, affordable buildings. To me, sustainability is also about maintaining balance in my life, both in and out of work, and filling my free time with things that I truly enjoy.