Inspiring Engineers, One Project at a Time
When the freedom of knowledge is at your hands, the sky is the limit, and when your ideas have no boundaries, anything is possible. The Aerospace industry saw pioneers of innovation such as Harry Hillaker and Kelly Johnson bring forth ideas that revolutionized the way aircraft are designed. In 2014, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics launched a pilot of the Vega Program to help build a pipeline of future engineering talent, opening the doors to the next generation of pioneers creating technological advancements. Just as the Lockheed Vega aircraft’s name was derived from the name of one of the sky’s brightest stars, “Vega,” the Vega Program seeks to identify “stars” in the form of ideas and individuals who are willing to pursue them. The program gives early career employees the freedom to conceptualize new ideas, follow their passions and collaborate with subject matter experts to pursue groundbreaking technologies with the potential to revolutionize the industry.
“In today’s world, innovation is our product, so we need talent focused on innovation. The Vega Program is all about knowledge continuity; it’s giving early career employees a unique opportunity to learn from some of our brightest folks,” said Dr. Jennifer Byrne, Vice President of Technical Operations for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “Ultimately, we want to energize our team to pursue their passions and create innovative products that add value to our company, and ultimately, to our customers.”
Lockheed Martin launched the Vega Program this year, selecting 21 early career participants across the business to complete 15 unique projects in partnership with a subject matter expert. Participants chose a technical project that piqued their interest, and in some cases, teams were formed with multiple participants interested in similar topics. Project topics ranged from researching the feasibility for parking lot shade power generation, to solving fusion problems with quantum computing, to studying 3D printed material properties. Participants managed their own projects, tracked their budget and took time to research and discover new knowledge in their field of interest.
Emily Eells (pictured left), an Electronics Engineer in Fort Worth, partnered with Dr. Mei Graham (pictured right) to develop an infrared (IR) material coating process and modeling techniques that will ultimately have many applications for future programs.
“This project brought together existing lab capabilities that will allow us to design, test and manufacture infrared coatings that are developed in house,” said Eells. “The enthusiasm for what this project could mean for the future of the company continues to encourage me to bring my best to the table every day.”
After a year’s work and completion of the project, Eells’ team had developed optimized modeling techniques for the desired infrared performance. However, the benefits of the program extended far beyond the project’s end result.
“Not only does this project have many applications for the company, but it also gave me the opportunity for personal growth, being tasked with hands-on development, program management, high visibility presentations, and collaboration across the company,” Eells said. “I enjoyed learning about how infrared coating works during the program because it caused me to step outside of my comfort zone, think differently and it opened my eyes to other disciplines that I was not aware of prior to Vega.”
The Vega Program not only enables early career employees to gain experiences outside of their normal disciplines that ultimately benefit the company, but it provides an opportunity for collaboration across Lockheed Martin locations and with experts in their field.
“One of the greatest benefits of the program is that it provides an opportunity to interact with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics technical experts that I may not have had the opportunity to meet or work with in my normal role,” Eells said. “The program allowed me to foster relationships with people outside of my normal group and to learn new skills that I would otherwise not have been able to learn.”
Given the program’s success in its first year, Lockheed Martin plans to continue in 2015, allowing a new group of early career employees with the opportunity to pursue ideas that could potentially lead to the industry’s next big technological innovation.
“Our early career workforce is full of talented individuals who have good ideas all the time, and the Vega Program is a way we can show them that we are interested in those ideas,” said Conor Bingaman, who developed the Vega Program. “We want to foster those ideas because we believe that the ideas of our young workforce can really do big things for our future.”
Jan. 5, 2015