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Aerospace and Defense Still Flying High

Computing professionals playing an increasing role

By PEGGY ALBRIGHT

The aerospace and defense industry is one of the world’s healthiest, kept robust by the manufacturing of commercial and military aircraft, ships, and tanks, as well as professional services and research and development.

Aerospace and defense have experienced tremendous growth over the past decade. While there are talks of budget cutbacks, it will remain a sizeable part of US business and a reliable and steady source of employment. Furthermore, up to one-third of the business is commercial contracts not at potential risk from government cutbacks.

Continued need for technology pros

The industry has always needed talented IT professionals. Today, as in many industries, government and defense contractors are putting effort into increasing computing power and networking systems to create broad architectures that allow information to pass between nodes and systems. The linking of systems and has transformed the industry and continues to represent one of its most important trends, according to Rich Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group.

“It is important to create elaborate networks of systems that talk with each other,” Aboulafia said. “That is unquestionably one of the biggest threads and, of course, all of that is driven by computers.”

Leading aerospace and defense firms encourage IT professionals of all experience levels to consider their companies for rewarding and satisfying employment opportunities. While these firms are known for heavily recruiting new college graduates, they welcome new employees who are in the mid-stages of their careers as well. The firms promise employees many ongoing opportunities for training and advancement, the flexibility to change specialties within a company or to relocate to different geographies, if desired, to pursue work on programs of personal interest.

With 72,000 employees, Raytheon is one of the leading aerospace and defense contractors. Most are in the US, but 6,800 employees in other countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, and the UK.

Raytheon’s business emphasizes electronics and computing systems used in defense equipment and platforms rather than design and construction of physical equipment like fighter aircraft, ships, or satellites. The world’s largest missile manufacturer, Raytheon builds computer systems, sensors, and radar systems, and performs support services for these various types of equipment.

William Kiczuk, Raytheon vice president and CTO, said computing’s role in the aerospace and defense industry is increasing and the company welcomes computing professionals. “There’s more and more of a need for computing professionals, because more and more of the functionality of an airplane or tank or ship, submarine, radar system or satellite, whatever you’re building, is in software now,” he said.

Kiczuk said the computing systems and projects underway at Raytheon attract engineers and other professionals who thrive on challenges and who want to be involved in initiatives that have vital importance to the country or society.

One of Raytheon’s big projects is the Patriot Missile System, which was used in the Iraq War to detect and intercept incoming, hostile missiles or aircraft to protect US troops. The high level of real-time performance and controls needed for this type of system requires substantial computing capability. Software engineers who work on these types of systems must understand the relevant software and know how to apply it in ways that consider the specific need at hand as well as the overall environment in which the software program is performing.

The company’s sensors and computing products are also used in non-military applications, such as satellites that track weather for the National Weather Service. The company’s technology played an important role in tracking the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Need engineers from all disciplines

Raytheon attracts engineers from all disciplines, including electrical, mechanical, computer, software and IT, and it seeks new employees who are straight out of college as well as established professionals. While the company in years past would have used proprietary and internally developed computing systems, its computing technology now is generally based on off-the-shelf computers that use Intel processors and standard operating systems. Thus a computing professional from another industry should find that their skills can be applied to Raytheon’s products and projects.

Kiczuk emphasized that the company is eager to hire people who come from outside the industry. It welcomes new employees from academia, other technology-centric industries, and other backgrounds who can bring their experiences and new ideas to the company. The large, complex systems Raytheon works on demand this type of diversity and thinking. “It is a large team and all of those viewpoints make it better,” he said.

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, manufactures commercial jetliners and military aircraft and produces satellites, weapons, electronic and defense systems, among other products. The company has 158,000 employees in the US and in 70 countries, and it is expanding in the US, the UK, China, and India.

Boeing encourages computing professionals to visit its jobs portal at http://jobs-boeing.com/engineering.The company has about 500-600 jobs available for IT specialists in a range of programs, including cyber and information solutions; defense and government services; intelligence, surveillance and recognition; digital receiver technologies; mission operations; mission systems; and global security systems.

“There’s interesting, challenging work here for people who have IT skills,” said Bud Fishback, senior manager for recruiting at Boeing Global Staffing. “It’s a great place to work and the technology that our folks work with is some of the most advanced in the world, on the cutting edge of technology.”

Growing role for cybersecurity

Fishback said that cybersecurity and related roles are an important area for IT professionals in the company today. Within the last five years, the company created a new information solutions group to pursue contracts and build a new core business in the growing field of cyber security and intelligence. The company has won some important contracts and is bidding on others, and is seeking IT professionals for these programs.

Aside from cybersecurity, one of the most exciting projects the company is working on now is the 787 Dreamliner, a new, high-performing and highly efficient passenger airplane that breaks new ground in design and construction approaches. It promises to reach new levels of energy efficiency and improve the indoor air environment and other factors that are important to passengers. Computing professionals who work on 787-related projects are involved in all phases of the project, from design to production, and from testing to delivery of the airplanes to airline customers. (CW) (3 January, 2012)

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