In this new 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.

Jacqueline (Jackie) Schmoll is senior director of strategy and growth for the Space Systems sector within the L3Harris Technologies Space and Airborne Systems segment since 2019. Space and Airborne Systems provides mission solutions for space and airborne domain with defense, intelligence and commercial applications. In this role, Schmoll is responsible for new business revenue growth, driving the Space Systems strategic growth plan, as well as leading a team of more than 40 business development professionals representing end-to-end space mission capabilities. Along with other managing roles within L3Harris’ Government GEOINT and ISR portfolios, Schmoll previously worked at Lockheed Martin and a.i. solutions, Inc.

Schmoll is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and supports the Modeling and Simulation Technical Committee. She successfully completed a Harris leadership development program from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Schmoll was awarded the Spacecoast Business 40 Under 40 Award in 2019.

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

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to go to the Moon. My high school in Rockland County, New York, had an amazing science program that included a planetarium where I learned about the constellations and I wanted to get closer to the stars.

I also knew as a daughter of a single parent, that I wanted a career where I could live independently. When it was time to choose a college, I went to the library to look up careers/degrees (we didn’t have Google yet!) and I chose to go to University of Maryland for aerospace engineering. I graduated with my B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and started working at a.i. solutions where I performed flight dynamics and mission analysis for NASA and U.S. Air Force space programs. I moved into new business capture roles and was hired into Lockheed Martin to win programs that provide training systems to our warfighters.

I now work at L3Harris Technologies where I have held multiple leadership roles across program management and business development. I currently lead strategy and growth for our space systems sector.

What are some challenges you faced working through your career?

Over the past 16 years, I have faced some interesting and ultimately beneficial technical, management and personal challenges.

Technical: As a flight dynamics mission analyst working the NASA Aqua program in 2004, the thrusters on the Aqua spacecraft  did not perform as expected during a drag makeup maneuver. I worked closely with my team to perform multiple types of analysis to determine that the thruster firing was being impinged. We were able to use software code modifications to pulse the thrusters in future maneuvers to avoid the same type of behavior. This was an interesting problem to solve because once a spacecraft is launched, you can’t see it. For me, this was the first opportunity I understood the power of software and coding. I co-authored a paper with the results of this analysis.

Management: In my previous role, I was pulled into a general manager position to lead a business area. There were multiple challenges that I faced, including a program that was not performing to cost and technical expectations. I had to leverage learnings from my Masters in Business Administration, as well as my years of experience leading teams, to pull a team together to develop a plan that allowed us to systematically improve our cost performance while ensuring that we were delivering improved capability to our customer.

Personal: As a mother of three kids (elementary school and below), I have had to manage the balance (or integration) between work and home life. In 2010-2013, my husband went back to school in another state.  During that time I was working a large strategic capture for Lockheed Martin. I remember evenings where I would fall asleep with my laptop working after the kids went to sleep. I made it through that time because I had a great team working with me and my supervisor was extremely flexible. But this was personally a trying time that I believe made me more resilient. It also allowed me to better appreciate people’s situations, specifically those that have young children, elderly parents or family members to take care of in addition to working full time.

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

I have been blessed to have had wonderful mentors and sponsors in my career. Early on, Paul Noonan at a.i. solutions guided me as I moved from a technical role into customer facing roles. At Lockheed Martin, Bridget Medeiros — now with NCI — provided me with an understanding of capture management and the importance of shaping large business opportunities. She was also an extremely inclusive leader that built a diverse team. Next Michele Evans — now the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin — mentored me. She taught me to not just think of my career as a linear projection and introduced me to a tool she called “Career Circle” that I still use today for my own development, as well as with my mentees.

Finally, at L3Harris Technologies, Erik Arvesen — now with Ball Aerospace — was my mentor and ultimately a sponsor that took a chance on me to hire me into a general manager role. Most recently, Bill Gattle, president of space systems, and Kelle Wendling, president of mission avionics, are providing leadership in mentorship as I work at a sector level and have to think more strategically than ever before.

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

I have several formal and informal mentees. My approach is to first understand the person’s background, career and personal aspirations and then to build up a relationship through 1-2 meetings per month. I typically will ask my mentees to work through a career circle (as cited above) so that I can provide coaching and sponsorship support as they think through their potential career path.

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

Success in my career field is delivering to the customer a mission capability that fills a gap. Our space capabilities provide PNT, intelligence and communications to our nation. Making sure the people that keep us safe have the right capabilities to accomplish their mission is what drives me every day.

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?

At L3Harris Technologies, we rely on mission architects to help solve a technical challenge and we use our business development team to open the door to new customers. I think the capture and proposal teams are often unsung heroes because they are leading the teams that win new business for a company. New programs are the lifeblood of an organization.

How can the industry improve in promoting these individuals and building them up?

Specifically, for mission architects, I think it’s important that undergraduate and graduate programs train technical specialists and engineers in communications, marketing and business. If an engineer cannot communicate the value of the technology to a customer, the customer may not understand the value. The engineers that can also communicate are priceless within the aerospace and defense industries.

Industry can offer engineers rotations within sales, marketing and business development, as well as program management, across their career tenure to allow them to hear directly from our customers and develop “voice of customer.” Additionally, industry should continue to find unique ways to incentivize engineers with these critical capabilities.

How has the culture changed around diversity within your career?

Over the last five years, the industry talks about diversity and inclusion more openly. As a woman, I have been afforded many opportunities by the companies I have worked for to have a seat at the table. However, there is still much more to do.  There are simply not enough diverse candidates coming into the workforce to get to workplace equality. We need schools, from as early as elementary school, to speak about STEM careers as viable options for all people.

Additionally, this industry needs to continue to push for workplace flexibility to attract and retain the diverse candidates that stay in the system. There are not enough c-suite members and executive staff in general manager and business leader positions across the industry. It is motivating, however, to see people like Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Kathy Warden of Northrop Grumman, and Leanne Caret of Boeing Defense in the top-ranking positions at their respective companies. We are making progress!

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