In this monthly column, Defense Daily highlights individuals from across the government, industry and academia whose efforts contribute daily to national defense, from the program managers to the human resource leaders, to the engineers and logistics officers, to defense entrepreneurs.

Chandra Marshall is the Vice President of Radar and Sensor Systems in Lockheed Martin’s Rotary and Mission Systems business line, where she oversees all radar-related business operations, as well as site operations in Syracuse, N.Y. She’s been at Lockheed Martin for 20 years and prior to the company worked at the New Jersey Department of Management and Budget and spent time at the Federal Economic Development Administration.

How did you get involved in the defense industry or community?

Having grown up in a family that served in every branch of the service, this is in my DNA. Protecting and supporting our armed forces and bringing them home safely to their families will always be a priority to me. After several years working in state and federal administration, it was time to put that mission into action. When a position opened at Lockheed Martin, I jumped at the chance to be a part of the organization. Working in the defense community is my way of supporting the men and women risking their lives for our freedoms.

Did you feel like you always had sufficient mentors and leaders to help guide you? Why/why not?

Mentorship is a priority at Lockheed Martin and a guiding principle in how we run our business. We recognize that if we don’t nurture our own talent, they won’t be here long. Investing in our teams – whether through our formal mentorship program, apprenticeships, continuing education, training and leadership programs – is a given here.

I’ve had great mentors along the way, most notably my dear friend and colleague, Michelle Evans, who recently passed away. An admirable executive, wife and mother, she provided so much advice and counsel on how to balance work and life. She created a clear distinction between what she could and would take on professionally, when it was time to be with her family and when it was time to take a break. Michelle helped me set expectations early on and to be true to myself with how much I could handle. I’ll always remember her advice to “be honest with yourself and your leaders about what you can and cannot take on.” Set your personal guidelines and stick to it!

How do you work to be a mentor yourself to younger counterparts?

In my newest role, I have the exciting opportunity to meet even more up-and-comers. I never turn down an opportunity to talk to anyone about their career, especially those interning or coming into the workforce for the first time. I’ve found that I always learn something from them, too! We started hosting “Coffee with the GM” and “Chat with Chandra” where employees can ask anything! Topics range from growth priorities and current events, to family vacations and holidays.

Advocacy is really important to me – making sure our leaders focus on our top talent to ensure each individual is feeling challenged, being rewarded & fulfilled, and creating a mutually beneficial growth plan for each of them. In an organization as big as Lockheed Martin, it’s critical that we pay attention to all those who are working on our customers’ missions as if it were their own.

What does it mean to be successful in your career field?

For me, it’s all about the customers. Making sure we deliver a quality product when they need it. It’s that simple. We have a few key programs that have excelled recently – our U.S. Army Sentinel A4 program, the very first of which was just unveiled at AUSA, months ahead of schedule. The TPQ-53 radar – also with the U.S. Army – was touted as a critical life-saving system. The Long-Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) for homeland missile defense – designed, built and at full capability in a five-year timeframe and is currently being integrated at site. Today’s warfighting environment and rogue threats are evolving every single day, and we help our customers bring solutions to the warfighters that will ensure safety and wellbeing. What we do is critically important and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

What are some of the under-appreciated positions in the defense field, the unsung heroes or essential cogs in the machine that help the job get done with less recognition?

I can think of one very important position imperative to ensuring success – the folks on the manufacturing floor. These teams put in extra hours, weekends, holidays, and odd shifts to make sure the product is built. This past year and a half was hard on everyone both professionally and personally, but our manufacturing teams didn’t skip a beat – operations ensured a safe environment for our manufacturing team to work, and they powered through a global pandemic to meet our contractual demands. Our adversaries didn’t stop creating new ways to threaten safety – and we continued creating products to protect our armed forces, our allies and our citizens.

How has the culture changed around diversity within your career?

Today’s environment is a breath of fresh air! We have come so far over the course of my career in terms of awareness, education and embracing – but there’s still a long way to go. Today, we have Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that focus on so many diverse perspectives and background – we leverage the expertise in these groups to shed light on how we can improve across the enterprise on everything from operations to recognition and career development. New BRGs are recommended and implemented several times a year, creating even more depth to our ongoing efforts to grow personally and professionally. These groups also ensure we bring diversity of thought to solve our customer’s challenges. I’ve also seen a lot more diversity in executive leadership over my career, and with that, has come improved organization, growth and perspective. I’m so excited about the direction we are moving!

What is your advice for new entrants to the defense/military community?

Take your time, and bring new ideas! Digest the information, listen deeply to understand the customer’s problem and their mission, and make it your own. Lockheed Martin’s history stems from creative solutions, and we cannot rest on our laurels. Our adversaries are constantly innovating and because of that, our customers rely on us and others in the defense community to stay ahead of those threats. Find your own “why” – what drives you to show up to work every day? Challenge yourself and others – do not settle for status quo. It’s so easy to get stuck in a box – in our industry, things do not have to be slow to change. We need to prioritize staying ahead of the curve and thinking forward – what will we be facing in five, 10, even 20 years from now that we can begin to lay groundwork to future proof our solutions.  When the threats are evolving as quickly as we’ve seen, our customers don’t have an appetite for solutions that require ongoing investments of money and time to update framework and hardware.

What do you see as the future of your sector in national defense?

System of systems. Layered networks to enhance our detection and protection of today’s and tomorrow’s threats. It is imperative that our systems continue to talk to each other and elevate how we collect data, and how we use that data to predict and respond to what’s coming next. Our technologies and solutions are core to the Homeland Defense mission. The speed of relevance is what will keep our homeland and our allies’ homelands safe from adversaries, and the Lockheed Martin radar and sensor portfolio is already a center of excellence, prepared to meet and exceed those demands.

Who are the Force Multipliers in your community? Let us know at [email protected].